Employers are realizing that managing staff who work from home differs greatly from managing staff who only work in the office. Leading or collaborating as a remote team are new skills that many managers and employees haven’t yet learned. They’re also skills your association’s volunteer leaders need too.
When you think about it, volunteer leadership has always involved managing and collaborating as a remote team of board, committee, or task force members. Volunteer leaders have always done the bulk of their association work from a distance, only occasionally meeting in person.
Why it’s time to improve and expand leadership training programs
As workplaces have become remote or hybrid, many members have the responsibility of leading or collaborating with co-workers at a distance. Traditional association leadership training never focused on the remote aspect of volunteer leadership but, given the need for members to learn these skills for work too, it’s time to make that change.
A leadership training program that teaches the mindset and skills required to manage remote teams at work and at the association will attract more members to volunteering and better prepare them for leadership. These programs also help industry employers upskill their staff and give your association the opportunity to create new revenue streams.
Simple to sophisticated leadership training solutions
You know what kind of association-specific governance topics you need to cover for those serving on the board and other governance groups, but the skills required for leadership have changed for people who manage hybrid and remote workforces. Invite member employers, recruiters, HR professionals, remote work consultants, and leadership coaches who specialize in your industry to join an advisory board that assists you with content decisions. They can help you identify the competencies needed to lead remote teams at both the association and the hybrid/remote workplace.
Reading and watching
Think of leadership training as a journey. Early on, with easy-to-digest videos and articles, members get into the habit of learning. On-demand microlearning fits into a busy member’s life.
But where do you get this content? You could produce it yourself, but start by linking to external content.
How do you find external content? Get help. Identify the readers on your staff. Ask them to share good leadership and management articles and videos they come across. Make it easy for them to share these links with you. Get help from members too. Create a new microvolunteering role: content curators.
Leadership training can be a source of CE credits for members, if credentialing requirements allow it. Members of the National Association of Healthcare Access Management (NAHAM) earn credits by taking a quiz on leadership articles they’ve read in NAHAM’s journal. Members can download a discussion guide to dive deeper into the journal's content with co-workers or fellow members—discussing “the articles' pertinence to their organizations and professions as a whole.” They can also join a discussion with the NAHAM community in the Journal Club.
Leadership courses and certificate programs
With an understanding of industry needs and the help of an instructional designer, you can design live or on-demand online leadership courses. The Construction Management Association of America’s on-demand leadership library is an interactive, self-paced, online learning experience, based on the Emotional Intelligence program by Brent Darnell International. Topics include:
• DEI beyond compliance
• Stress management
• Time management
• Workforce development
Group online courses together into a leadership certificate or digital badge program. With digital badge metadata, employers can see exactly what competencies the badge holder has mastered.
The American Society for Clinical Pathology offers a pre-course self-assessment with each of the courses in its leadership certificate program. Upon the completion of nine courses, the learner earns a certificate. Courses cover topics such as:
• Performance coaching
• Interviewing and onboarding
• Time mastery
• Team dynamics
• Listening with purpose
• Conflict resolution
Leadership conferences and short-term programs
Many associations host virtual and in-person leadership conferences where members learn the skills required for national or chapter volunteer leadership positions. We also see associations hosting more intimate leadership training events for emerging leaders, typically younger professionals.
Only 25 members attend the ASAE NextGen Association Summit. NextGen scholars gain “the tools, visibility and network necessary to advance [their] executive career goals within [their] association and throughout the broader association community”—leadership training with a dual purpose.
NAFA’s Leadership Experience is a four-module virtual program that meets every other week in the summer. After each session, attendees participate in online community discussions and activities related to the module. The program culminates at NAFA’s Legislative Summit, where participants can apply what they’ve learned to the advocacy and legislative aspects of NAFA’s mission.
Long-term leadership programs
We also see associations offering a one- or two-year leadership program, usually for aspiring leaders, but sometimes for those further along in their career too. Participants must usually apply for these programs. If the program isn’t subsidized by sponsorship, the fee can be several thousand dollars.
ASAE’s Diversity Executive Leadership Program (DELP) program is “an accelerated leadership program of education, mentoring and volunteer service in the association community” for “individuals from under-represented identity groups [who wish] to advance into the ranks of leadership in the association management profession.”
ASAE is introducing a new leadership program this summer: ReadyMe Program. This virtual and in-person training will “build resilient and adaptable leaders by unlocking essential traits and the career management acumen that are critical for advancement and success in association management.” It consists of seven online modules along with virtual mentorship and culminates in a one-day, in-person bootcamp.
Leadership training revenue opportunities
Although you would never charge members to attend governance-specific training that’s required for volunteer service, you can earn revenue from other leadership training programs. You could offer a selection of programs for free to entice members into the leadership pipeline or reward loyal volunteers (and promising leadership prospects) with free or heavily discounted leadership training.
If you design leadership training programs that teach members and non-members the soft skills required for leading remote teams, remember, these programs have value for employers. Consider selling licensing for these programs at member and non-member rates to industry employers.
Cover some costs of your leadership training programs with sponsorship revenue. Participants in ASAE’s DELP don’t have to worry about affordability thanks to the long-time sponsorship of the Detroit CVB.
We often see sponsored scholarships offered for leadership development conferences aimed at early-career professionals. You could combine scholarships with several hours of one-on-one coaching, like the American Society for Clinical Pathology does.
For its three-day leadership training program, the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT) offers scholarships that cover registration, travel, and accommodation expenses. Since the event serves a dual purpose of enhancing skills for professional progress and developing future leadership for CAMRT, scholarship recipients must be willing to volunteer within one year of completing the program.
If your leadership training event attracts a more advanced audience, one with purchasing authority, you could plan a modified version of a hosted buyer program. In return for committing to meet two or more hours with sponsors (solution providers) and attending a networking reception with sponsors, program participants get their expenses paid by sponsors.
Think beyond governance training for volunteer leaders. Offer dual-purpose leadership training programs that focus on the skills needed both for work and association service. By expanding your portfolio of leadership training programs, you will attract a larger audience and gain the support of employers.