Guild Succession Planning

Guild members are highly talented and engaged individuals, all donating considerable time and energy to their guilds' events or projects. Guild members do a great job of sharing the multitude of tasks involved in hosting a successful event. However, when it comes to filling a position with more responsibility, such as president, treasurer or event chair, many of our guilds find it challenging to find a successor.

Start Early

Regardless of the details of your succession plan, the most important factor in creating a successful transition is starting early. Debbie Cady, Guild Association trustee and member of the Frances W. Nordstrom Guild, says, "A few weeks after our event, the officers meet for coffee to brainstorm who we think would make a good officer for the next year."

Louisa Malatos, trustee and KC Howard Guild member, adds, "My guild strives to plan more than a year in advance. The transition always works better when the incoming president works side by side with the current president."

As you develop your early succession plan, consider:

  • Recruiting new members. Burnout is always a risk with active guild members. When you invite new members to take on a specific role, they can immediately begin making contributions.
  • Involving other members in the discussion. Call people and ask if they think there are any obstacles to filling the roles. They may have ideas that will encourage someone to step up.
  • Making a personal ask. Cady says "We always invite new officers with a personal phone call. A personal call receives a much better response than a blanket email to all guild members."
  • Reconnecting your members to the hospital. Taking a hospital tour near officer-election time could reenergize your members' passion for Children's and your guild.

Make It Easy

Taking on the role of president, treasurer or event chair can be daunting. Make it as easy for the incoming officer as possible. "When a member calls to make the ask, we also offer to help with the transition," adds Cady.

In addition to ensuring that you have someone to train or help with the transition, keep documentation for every position. "Depending on your event, have books that include examples, instructions, templates, a timeline and position goals," says Malatos.

This level of detail gives the new person a roadmap as guidance in the role. Trustee and Friends of Costco Guild member Laurie Taylor says, "Providing a clear project plan can make the difference as to whether or not someone might agree to take on a new responsibility."

Get Creative

For more than 100 years, guilds have operated with an officer structure. Some guilds have realized that the typical officer structure doesn't work for their membership. The following guilds got creative and found a leadership structure that worked for succession planning and running their events or projects:

  • The Jaquish/Dukelow Memorial Cancer Research Guild has co-officers for every role. Each term is two years, and the terms are staggered. Each year, one person leaves and another joins.
  • The SOVREN Guild has two-year terms for every officer; the vice president becomes president unless that officer declines. All officers are members of an executive committee which includes former officers and a few guild members selected by the president. The executive committee as a whole helps with succession planning.
  • The Star Guild's leadership is made up of a board of directors, and responsibilities are distributed among the group.
  • The KC Howard Guild split the role of treasurer this year. One member took on the banking, and another managed the auction. They worked together on the annual Guild Association reporting requirements. The team structure made the duties much more manageable.

Whatever your guild's structure, having a solid succession plan in place that allows you to start early and be creative will make transitions easier for everyone and ultimately strengthen your guild.