State Leadership Teams: Nicety or Necessity?
By Brian Soliday, Colorado State Leadership Team
If you are an RMEF volunteer, you probably have heard of State Leadership Teams. Many states have developed a leadership team; however, not every state has one. A leadership team is a group of highly motivated RMEF volunteers from within the state who have stepped forward from their local chapter support to provide assistance and leadership to all chapters within the state, as needed.
Although there is a significant sharing of best practices and other information nationally across the leadership teams, no two teams are structured or operate in the same manner. While each leadership team is tailored to its state and its unique culture and needs, every team (1) functions as a leadership element for statewide volunteers and (2) establishes and accomplishes statewide goals in support of national RMEF goals.
Why your state needs a leadership team
A leadership team can be viewed as a conduit between RMEF headquarters and the network of volunteers across your state. There are volunteers in every state who provide significant value at the local level, but can be encouraged to share their knowledge and success with other chapters across your state. The sharing of best practices from volunteer to volunteer provides a great way to help chapters become more effective, while enhancing the RMEF’s ability to achieve its mission. It is also one of the best approaches to making RMEF more visible at the state and local level.
How to put together a leadership team
Organizing a leadership team is a collaboration and likely will take more time than you think. The core organizing team, at a minimum, should consist of the state chair(s), regional director(s) and other state-based staff, such as RMEF lands program manager(s). This group should put together an initial plan, including six-month, one-year and two-year goals. The plan should include a rough outline of the number of members you want and the organizational structure of the team. This has to be a very simple overview of the goals (in bullet form is best) so that they can be easily shared during the leadership team recruitment/building process. Communicating this plan at the local committee level is the best approach in setting a baseline and in getting your lead state volunteers interested in participating.
Who can be on a leadership team and what are their roles?
Most leadership teams are comprised of volunteers who already play leadership roles at their local committee level. The state chairs and regional directors have a pretty solid idea of who the initial targets are. However, you should be open to recruiting volunteers who might not play a significant role at the local level, but could provide value for the team.
Leadership teams can have a central leadership team, or can consist of many sub teams such as:
- Public Relations/Communications
- Conservation Education
A good starting approach is to create a leadership team that includes volunteers with diverse skill sets, with each one bringing some key capability/interest that makes them unique for team. One of the most important, and probably the hardest skill set to find, is communications. To be effective across your state, every leadership team has to have someone who is skilled at communicating with your membership, especially in these days of electronic communication and social media. Don’t underestimate the value of this role in your leadership team!
How to make your leadership team work effectively and efficiently
When starting a leadership team, be very focused on a few achievable goals. You don’t have to do everything you want in the first couple of years. Create a plan, communicate the plan broadly to your statewide membership, execute your plan’s goals, and then communicate the successes to your membership. Evaluate what the team wants to see completed in the short term and focus on those items. Also, encourage everyone on the team to contribute ideas. Brainstorming sessions are a great way to pull ideas from your team.
The leadership teams should have conference calls every other month at the least. These can be short, but it is critical to have regular discussions with the team. Have a pre-defined agenda and a dedicated note-taker. Get the notes out to the team within five days of the call. Regular communication, whether via email or calls, will help your team succeed.
There are a number of ideas that you can take on that even a new leadership team can support. Remember, pick one or two (max) and make them wildly successful before expanding. Here are a few ideas:
- Put on a one-day state workshop—keep the information fresh to get repeat customers/volunteers.
- Hold an annual weekend camping rendezvous.
- Put on a Habitat Partner recruitment event.
- Organize a one-day field event for volunteers, such as a fence pull, or support a local youth event like SAFE, archery or Scouts.
If only a few members of your leadership team take on all the work, you will have a difficult time getting everyone else motivated to participate. Remember, these volunteers are probably very active in their local chapters. So make sure to spread the workload evenly across the team. It will prevent burnout, and bring everyone together as a team, pulling for elk country.