How Do We Choose the Best Chapter Leaders?
Leaders are selected from among a chapter’s membership through regular elections. Ideally, these elections should be held every year or every other year at minimum.
Leadership succession is critical
It is essential that your chapter's electoral process is transparent and encourages participation by all members. While arguments can be made for the value of retaining an experienced leader who has held a top leadership position for an extended period of time, research consistently shows that the longer the leadership remains unchanged the less likely others will seek election. This stagnation leads to a stale chapter in which few, if any, fresh ideas surface and volunteer energy evaporates. Eventually, members walk away leaving the few remaining leaders with no one to lead.
What leaders do we need?
There are a wide variety of leadership structures a chapter might select, ranging from a project-oriented chapter with task-oriented roles to a more traditional arrangement with a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, etc. or some combination of these two models. For most associations the key leadership positions are spelled out in the bylaws.
Regardless of the structure, certain roles must be filled in order for the chapter to function properly. These include:
- One or more persons designated for the most senior positions. These roles frequently have the title of president or vice president.
- One or more persons who are responsible for administrative duties. This role frequently has the title of administrator or secretary.
- If the chapter has financial resources to manage, there must be at least one person responsible for the financial duties. This role frequently has the title of treasurer. Note that the roles of secretary and treasurer are often combined.
All of the above roles may be filled by one or more individuals; however, it is essential that the chapter define the specific authorities and responsibilities of each.
How do we choose our leaders?
The election process need not be complicated. The following can be used as a guide:
- Members are sent a call for nominations and may self-nominate or nominate others.
- A nominating team—typically a combination of the immediate past leader, one or two current leaders, and one or two active volunteers—reviews nominations submitted by the membership and may offer additional nominees. All nominees should be advised of their nomination and should confirm their willingness to serve. Their review can produce either a contested ballot or an uncontested slate. A slate provides one person per position and is in voted on in its entirety.
- A ballot is sent to the membership allowing them to vote for those who have accepted a nomination, indicating a specific date by which their vote must be received. Please note that ASPEN will help you develop a ballot and send it to your membership. Contact a staff person on the membership team for assistance.
- Upon receipt of all ballots, the nominating team tallies and announces the results.
Note: State nonprofit laws do vary and in some cases may dictate the requirements for balloting and elections that may preclude, for example, using a slate. Be sure to check with your state and consult your bylaws.
Click here to see how ASPEN conducts elections.
What do the chapter’s leaders do?
Typically, the chapter president:
- Works with other officers to develop long-range plans and set priorities for the chapter.
- Works with chapter members and officers to develop an annual operating plan, which includes an annual budget.
- Plans, schedules, and presides over chapter business meetings.
- Calls special meetings when needed.
- Appoints members to committees as the chapter deems necessary.
- Oversees chapter operations to make sure essential tasks are getting done.
- Serves as the chapter’s primary contact with the ASPEN national office.
- Acts as the spokesperson for the chapter.
Typically, the chapter secretary:
- Attends all chapter meetings.
- Notifies members about upcoming meetings.
- Records and reports on all business meetings.
- Ensures that all membership applications received by the chapter are sent to the ASPEN national office.
Typically, the chapter treasurer:
- Keeps the chapter’s financial records.
- Reports financial information to officers and members.
- Prepares operating budgets and monitors spending.
- Collects revenues.
- Pays bills.
- Files appropriate tax forms and reports.
Note: For many chapters,the treasurer and secretary roles are combined into one position.
The above list is just a general guide. Each chapter is encouraged to develop a structure that best fits its mission (see our advice on Planning)
See also Leadership Styles and Leadership Development for additional discussion of chapter leadership.