Creating Pathways for Engaging Volunteer Leaders


Nonprofit organizations depend on board members to raise funds and oversee expenses; govern; and serve as the organization’s ambassadors. The role of ambassador includes introducing the organization to friends, colleagues, and government representatives. Board membership is a challenging and rewarding opportunity. Often board members don’t want to disengage after their term expires. Further, organizations continue to look to their former board members for advice and support. How can organizations stay connected and still transition board members?

On the other side of the spectrum, organizations need a steady stream of new board members. How do organizations attract, engage, and explore opportunities with board candidates?

Recognizing the need to recruit and the challenges in transitioning board members some organizations choose to expand their board rather than transition.  Others award special volunteers with lifetime board membership.  Is there such thing as too many board members?

Healthy organizations confront these challenges by building pathways for board candidates to explore board opportunities and for board members to continue to connect with the mission once their term expires. These pathways also create opportunities for current leaders to assess potential leaders and to reach out to former board members.

Volunteer leadership development takes on many forms. Some organizations develop young professional boards to attract candidates to the organization. Often these volunteers do not have access to wealth now but will as they age. Building relationships with people early in their careers engages a new group of leaders and can be converted to larger donations in the future. Often these boards plan fun, inexpensive, and low key events for their friends and colleagues. They use social media to invite and reach out. Organizations staff and support these activities modestly with young staff who are the volunteers’ peers.

Organizations successfully encourage board members to transition by creating other opportunities for engagement. One option is to develop an advisory or alumni board with the mission of raising funds.

Another avenue for engaging potential candidates and former board members includes participating in volunteer committees including finance, fundraising and special events. Often these committees are managed by current board members.

There is a finite amount of energy organizations can focus on volunteers. Developing pathways to engage potential and past board members encourages long-term volunteer involvement. In the next post we will discuss avenues to find exceptional board candidates.


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