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Keep Your Chapter Running Smoothly When Facing a Board Vacancy

Keep your chapter running smoothly when facing a board vacancy

Down a board position? More than one? Whether you expected the opening, or it was a surprise, a vacant position can throw off the balance of the entire board. Board vacancies can lead to backlogs and frustrations as you put it into overdrive to get everything done – both board members’ regular responsibilities and those of the open role. 

But, keeping your chapter on track while filling an open position doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. Here are a few things you can do, to make everything a little smoother while you’re simultaneously trying to find the right replacement. 

Remain calm. Your board members are volunteers, and they’re already pulled in countless directions, between the chapter, work, and home. They may feel overwhelmed and assume they’ll each have to take on a significant amount of extra work, regardless of the number of tasks and the criticality of the tasks that person was actually responsible for. If one member is stressing, there’s a good chance the entire board is feeling the stress. Acknowledge the discomfort early on and talk about putting plans into place to manage things in the short- and long-term.

Get everyone on the same page. Before you can do any planning or implement temporary fixes, the board needs to understand the potential downsides of not doing this person’s work in his or her absence – unhappy members, loss of revenue, etc. They also need to understand that everyone may need to take on some extra work while the position is open. Some on your board may not be happy; address these issues in the beginning, to help avoid potential problems and disagreements. Remind board members why they joined the board in the first place and ask them not to let this temporary setback keep them from continuing to work toward meeting the chapter’s Mission and Vision.

Strategize and prioritize. Hopefully you have a job description for the open role and can easily pull together a list of tasks. If not, brainstorm with other board members and committee members to create that list. Then, prioritize it. Let’s say this person was your VP of marketing. Which marketing activities must be completed, even with the position vacant, like updating web content, marketing your end-of-year event, and managing your PR? Are there things that can wait until the new person comes on board, like overhauling the website and reviewing your Mission and Vision? Share this list across the board and get agreement on what must be done, what can wait, and the order it will all be accomplished.

Assign the “must do” responsibilities. Each of your board members has their own responsibilities; be mindful of that when asking people to take on additional work. Perhaps the critical work can be done by the other board members, or perhaps you’ll need to look for non-board volunteers. To shorten the learning curve, assign the tasks to someone with the skills to easily complete them.

And yes, all this needs to happen while you’re actively recruiting to fill the open position, or if you have a replacement, waiting for them to come on board. With the crucial, open tasks covered, the absence will be easier to manage and less stressful for your board and ultimately your members.


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