The First Staff Member

One of the first and most exciting organizational growth stages is adding the first staff member. Since it is a big jump forward, there are many challenges and opportunities. How can leadership successfully navigate these challenges and propel the organization forward?

Begin by developing a strategic plan. The plan will develop, prioritize, and communicate specific reasonable expectations to fellow board members and the new staff. Working together to develop this plan will encourage buy-in of all board members and a strong understanding of the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The plan should include a “SWOT” analysis identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. At this stage, it is easy to create a plan that is beyond the capacity of the organization. Although it is important to dream big, it is essential to build a plan that is achievable given current capacity. Focus on the low hanging fruit and who is responsible for harvesting it.

This is an opportunity to launch the new staff person as well as the organization. Develop a Program and Personnel committee with the main role of supervising staff. The time commitment of these leaders’ will grow as they regularly check in and provide guidance to the new staff member. Supervision by committee can be difficult and the strategic plan will help.

The Program and Personnel committee is the staff person’s connection to the board. Checking in is essential but it takes away momentum. The more latitude staff has the more that gets accomplished. Additionally, there will be times a leader will take on another’s roles, expect the fluidity and develop strong avenues of communication to facilitate cooperation and avoid duplication.

Since the script is fluid and supervision is through a board committee, the new staff person should not be someone new to the field. The title of this role is immaterial. Although they may be responsible for administrative functions, they will also have day-to-day responsibility of the organization. Further, the new staff person will need a strong understanding of the strategic plan and the ability to identify the opportunities as they present themselves.

The board may consider a fellow board member as a candidate.  In this case, both candidate and board should be aware of the special challenges related to the transition from board to staff. See:

If the new staff member is not coming from the board, explore opportunities for them to be mentored or receive guidance from a board member that is an expert in the field. Additionally, create strong partnerships and collaboration opportunities with other organizations and leaders to facilitate organizational and staff growth.

Connected to this stage are new expenses from unemployment insurance to technology. The strategic plan should identify the amount of revenue that will be needed as well as potential sources. Further, fundraising is most successful when everyone is involved.

Transition is possible when there are new leaders to step up and strengthen the organization. Finding new leaders is the responsibility of all current leaders. We will discuss how to identify new leaders in future posts.


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