Road Runners Club of America

Growing the Sport of Running Since 1958

Smooth Leadership Transitions for Boards

If your club is a nonprofit organization, one of the provisions for RRCA membership is that the club has a board of directors to make certain the organization functions within a framework that supports their mission and aligns with the RRCA.  At a certain point each year, one or more new members of a club’s board are appointed, elected or installed, most without knowing exactly their role, or that of the board of directors. Some of those board functions include overseeing and making certain the club adheres to local, state and federal laws pertaining to nonprofit organizations, which includes making timely and accurate reports required by local, state, and federal government agencies. The board ensures they follow the organization’s bylaws and articles of incorporation; if circumstances merit a change, the board can follow the approved amendment process.

New board members should have no difficulty complying with applicable laws, adhering to the club’s bylaws, and serving as a guardian of the what should clubs expect of the new board member. Ideally, the board member has been apprised of the duties and requirements during the nomination period, but some recommended points are:

  • Attend and participate consistently in the club scheduled board meetings.  Members in good standing should be invited to attend as well.
  • Remember that a nonprofit club and many of the club’s activities are run by the board and the members. This could mean a temporary hiatus from participating in some events.
  • Act in a collegial manner.  While there can be and are disagreements on what decisions are made, don’t allow personal conflict to get in the way of good governance.
  • Understand Robert’s Rules of Order. Important decisions made by the board are approved in the form of a motion or official resolution and recorded as such in the minutes. Only official decisions recorded in the minutes are binding.
  • If there is a business item that may benefit you personally - a conflict of interest - refrain from voting on it, and remember no board member should ever profit from his or her service on the board.

A small binder with several important documents can make a new board member’s transition less stressful. The binder should include the club bylaws (roles, responsibilities, terms, and provisions for major club functions), minutes from previous year’s meetings, the most recent annual report to membership, financial statements, and more.  Each club can probably think of other documents to get a new board member up to speed, avoid the “toe-stepping” and frustration that comes early in their tenure, and perhaps keep them on for an entire term or longer.

Recommended First Steps for New Presidents

Ideally as a new president, the person has already been a member of the board and is up to speed with many aspects of the organization.  However, there are several key items that the incoming president should be sure to address.  The following is a basic checklist for incoming presidents to help them manage the board transition process.

  • Review corporate documents and club policies. Sometimes leadership transitions can, unfortunately, mean a loss of institutional knowledge.  New board leaders should ensure they have copies of important documents.  If the outgoing leadership does not supply these documents, check with the RRCA first.  Chances are the bylaws are on file with the RRCA, and we can send you a copy of the RRCA’s IRS determination letter.  If the RRCA does not have a copy of your bylaws, the organization’s bank will most likely have a copy on file.
  • Meet with the club treasurer. Take time to meet with or talk to the treasurer in advance of the first board meeting.  Do not be afraid to ask to see the organization’s bank statements, checking account, financial reports, etc.  All incoming presidents should review the RRCA’s recommendations for managing club finances found above.
  • Schedule the first board meeting. It is important that the president or chairperson of the board does not allow too much time to pass between the date of the election and the first meeting.  The first meeting is a good time to have a discussion on expectations of how meetings will be run, how discussions and disagreements will be managed, and other items that will help establish the expectations of the president and the board as a whole.  Each board member should be supplied with a board handbook. Be sure to schedule future board meetings during this meeting and encourage attendance.
  • Reach out to the members.  Reaching out to the members of the club as soon as possible is an important step in keeping the members engaged throughout the leadership transition. The first outreach effort can be a simple email of thank you for being elected into the position.  This is also a great opportunity to put out a call for volunteers.  Then continue to engage with the members by writing regular president’s letters or reports on behalf of the board in the club’s newsletters, emails, Facebook pages, etc.
  • Contact the RRCA.  New club presidents serve as the primary contact to the RRCA, or the club president can delegate this role to the treasurer, or to an RRCA liaison.  It is important that the president contact the RRCA national office as soon as possible to ensure the most-up-to-date contact information for the club is on file with the RRCA if the primary contact will change with the new president.
  • Appoint people to key positions. Work with the board to appoint or reappoint people to standing committees or important volunteer positions in the club such as website, membership, volunteer, races, social, etc.  Unless otherwise stipulated in the club’s bylaws, Robert’s Rules of Order outlines that committees dissolve and should be reappoint annually with each new election cycle of a board of directors to avoid any confusion about committee appointment terms.
  • Plan for the coming year or term of office for the board.  Begin preparing for the next year’s budget.  Work with the board to outline the status of current programs and events and outline plans or objectives for new projects/programs and events.

Smooth leadership transitions should be the goal of each new board of directors as well as seasoned board members.  Many boards will consist of a mix of new board members and members that have served a few years to many years.  An important thing to keep in mind as new leaders come on the board is that they have skills and talents that can be utilized.  The best way to engage them is to ensure that they are up to speed on the inner workings of the organization.  However, seasoned board members should also encourage new ideas from new members and not fall into the trap of that’s not how we do things in this club.

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