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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


They are volunteers, too!
Look here for infomation and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ June 2003 ~ Topic


Your executive director just announced he/she is going to retire or take another job. There are 3 ways to react to this situation. Which of three that follow do you think is the best way?

  1. Look for a clone. “Our executive director has been absolutely perfect. We need to find another just like him/her. We know that will be difficult, but we will try.”
  2. We know what we don’t want. “Our executive director had a couple real weaknesses. We need to find someone who does not have those weaknesses. Let’s get going!”
  3. Let’s look at this as an opportunity for growth. “This is the time for the board to get involved. Let’s review our strengths and weaknesses and our strategic plan. Then let’s design a profile and search for the executive director with the qualities we need to implement our plans for the future. The person we had was great (or at least fine for yesterday) but we have a challenge and opportunity now to find the person who will be right for tomorrow.“

Yes, (3) is the way to go. If you go with (1), you will be disappointed because you will dangerously restrict your vision of the future. Besides, no two people are exactly the same and searching for a clone doesn’t work.

If you go with number (2), you will also be disappointed because you will limit your search by living in the past rather than in the future. You will confine your search to two or three qualities and lose the big picture. You will probably end up with someone who may not have the weaknesses you worry about but who also may not have the strengths you need.

It’s important to remember that change is a constant, and boards need to focus on what has changed and how to deal with the opportunities and challenges that those changes offer. An executive director search is an important time to do this. It involves the board constructively and brings themtogether to envision an even brighter future. This will empower them to work with the new executive director as full partners. Remember, no matter how good an executive director is, he/she can’t do what needs to be done without the help of the board!


See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: "The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary", "Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today" and "Passionate Volunteerism." Board Member's Guide Image" Board Member's Guide Image Passionate Volunteerism Image Leading Volunteers Book Image Passionate Volunteerism Book Image Board Member's Guide Book Image

Other good sources for information on boards and committees:

Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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