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BLUF - Does "Fit In" apply when taking the helm of a community service organization?

In July I will become the president of a local community organization with about 60 members. There are 12 people on the board. I have been President-Elect for 9 months, will be 1 year this July. I have been a club member for 6 or 7 years. Most club members are older than I am. Most club members have been in the club longer than I have.

The club suffers from apathy and attrition. This apathy extends all the way up into the board. I believe this is the result of lack of activities for people to be involved in. There are one or two big fund-raising events, semi-annual highway cleanup, and a Christmas party. Other than that it's lunch once a week.

Each member of the board is the chair of a committee. Currently there aren't any members on any of the committees, with the exception of 1, so the chair is responsible for whatever gets done. Nothing gets done.

The past couple of presidents have been very good people who haven't had a lot of time to invest in the club. Let's say that not only did I run unopposed, but people were tickled that someone was willing to be president without too much arm-twisting.

The club has several layers of organization higher up (club - district - zone - international) all of which are very supportive.

I really think everyone wants things to change. I was planning on using a board retreat to brainstorm the committee structures and fellowship opportunities in the club.

Does it make sense to do the same 90 days of fitting and and not making changes? Or is this a different situation because of the long lead-in period?

BJ_Marshall's picture

I've had similar experiences being the President of two Homeowners' Associations. I was frustrated with the long-term apathy and fondness for the stagnant status quo. I think I can empathize with you.

I suppose my view was "First, Break All the Rules."

I had a Board Meeting within the first two weeks where we brainstormed areas for improvement, narrowed our focus to a manageable four topics, and really got to work. They were probably so enamored by the fact that I actually [i]wanted[/i] the position that they were lulled out of their drudgery.

I think community associations might have a different sense of time, and the volunteer aspect begs for clear leadership. The immediate sense of urgency was a healthy shock. Maybe I was just lucky.

Cheers,
BJ

jhack's picture

Will,

You still need to fit in, and the survival of the organization isn't at risk in the next 90 days, is it?

Is there a single cause that could engage a significant percentage of the members/board? Something like building a new playground...

Often the lack of shared mission / vision is a problem for "community organizations." If you can give them a reason for being, they might rise to the occasion.

John

jwyckoff's picture

I would agree that the "fit-in" rule applies to community organization, but as a President-Elect -- sounds like you've been "fitting in" for almost a year!

During that time as President Elect, as long as you have been aclimated to the current processes, built relationships with your "directs", etc -- you can start your changes once you take office.