Creating A Pipline To Succes

As I meet with various women’s groups across the Unites States, I find so many commonalities.  The struggle to grow membership, transition leadership and the documentation/retention of important procedures seem to be repeated themes resulting in a colossal waste of time and energy as we recreate the wheel – yet again!

Volunteer groups and Boards often miss the memo about the importance, and necessity, of constantly cultivating new blood. Memberships age themselves (and their ideas) out, Boards have difficulty segwaying in effective ways and volunteers may do a fabulous job but forget that best practices will die on the vine if not documented and effectively transitioned.

The most important long-term gift anyone can offer an organization is to not only do an outstanding job, but to replace yourself along the way. Just like in any business, cross training personnel and volunteers is critically important to your sustainability. Your long-term goal for your organization involvement should be replacing yourself on a yearly basis. This isn’t to suggest that you move yourself OUT of the organization but to move yourself ON while assuring the place you left is filled. This is the only way to offset the natural attrition that takes place with any organization and it goes a long way toward percolating fresh ideas and preventing burnout, not to mention an opportunity for you to hone a few new skills.  This practice applies to ALL members of your organization from the Board to the members at large!

(Least I should digress but isn’t it fun when new words like sustainable and vetting come onto the horizon? Did we ever use these 5 years ago???)

Boards and leadership need to constantly be grooming their replacements as well, but NEVER change out a board by 100%. Keep newcomers in the pipeline at the top as well as at the committee level and you’ll see fresh ideas and energy carry you forward! Keep the wisdom of the elders available, but step back and make space for the new girls on the block. And for heavens sake, remember that just because an idea failed in the past doesn’t mean it can’t work in the future!

Whether you’re doing hands-on service work or producing a fundraiser, as soon as the project is finished you need to glean the good and the bad and document your procedures while it’s fresh in your mind. Not doing so only results in that wheel reinvention mentioned earlier and who wants to do that? If you have no appetite for spreadsheets then find the right person that loves to assign numbers or put order to your systems. Thankfully everyone has different gifts to share and isn’t it awesome when we give someone else space to shine? Remember how ecstatic you were taking over the Widget Committee to have the previous Chair hand you her 3 ring binder! Help subsequent committee members hit the ground running, paving the way to success with new ideas and contacts.

Professional Women’s groups are generally demographically the same: women in their 20’s and 30’s focus on career, the 40’s focus may be on children and then the 50’s and 60’s hit and women are finally ready, willing and able to give back.  But you need a mix of all these groups and their talents to continue to grow in numbers and in community recognition. Say your group is knitting caps for kids in the winter, a good cause for sure but are there bigger needs you can be addressing, like a coat or blanket drive for the homeless shelter? Is knitting caps enough to attract the professional young women or wise retired women whose expertise and circle of contacts can take you that extra mile? Groups can certainly focus on whatever resonates with their membership but if you want to create a legacy or a tradition and assure your organizations longevity, you best come up with an idea either with service or fundraising that attracts and retains younger women.  I always tell groups they should try to recruit 20 years down. A 30 year old will hang with a 50 year old but not so much with a 70 year old!  Attracting a broad range demographic is the best way for women to truly mentor each other.

Visual – 3 glasses of water. The first glass of muddy water represents your past. The other two glasses of fresh clean water represent your present and future. Would you ever carry the dirty water forward to contaminate your glasses? NEVER!  Not in life, not in business and not in your volunteer world! It’s a new day – START NOW!