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How to transition a nonprofit organization from a volunteer-led model to a staff-run model

To transition a nonprofit organization from a volunteer-led model to a staff-run model, follow these steps:

  1. Recognize the need for change: Volunteers may be reluctant to give up control, but they should be aware of the necessity for change as the organization grows and its activities expand.

  2. Bring in diverse expertise: Recruit board members with diverse and professional expertise, such as legal, financial, and marketing backgrounds, to support the organization’s development.

  3. Invest in staff: An effective board should accept the responsibility of investing in staff as it makes critical choices about control, operations, money, and mission impact.

  4. Focus on governance: With staff leadership more formally in place, strong boards should concentrate on their governing role while continuing to engage in both tactical and strategic decision-making activities.

  5. Keep the dream alive: Nonprofit staff leaders should ensure that the organization’s vision remains at the forefront, inspiring both volunteers and staff to work towards the mission.

  6. Embrace a participatory system: Educate yourself thoroughly before embarking on this type of change effort, articulate the guiding principles of the new management model, and seize learning opportunities for yourself and your staff.

  7. Develop a leadership transition plan: Engage board and staff in a commitment to manage transition intentionally, identify current and future challenges, and draft a timeline for leadership successions that are planned.

Remember that transitioning from a volunteer-led model to a staff-run model takes time and patience. It’s essential to maintain open communication and collaboration throughout the process to ensure a smooth transition.

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