PAMP’s identity as a volunteer-led organization has been (and continues to be) a defining organizational value as well as our “Achilles’ heel.”
We hold volunteerism as an essential ingredient that ensures a diverse and representative leadership team. The fact that all of our volunteers are also members cultivates an authenticity that trickles down to every aspect of our programs. We also see volunteerism as a vehicle for building friendships and connections that empower and gel our community. However, we have grown so large and become so complex that our greatest challenge is volunteer recruitment and retention. This is particularly true among Board positions, which can be time-consuming, demanding and difficult to fill.
In the past we were satisfied when there was a Director in place; matching the candidate’s qualifications and skill set with the position was a secondary consideration. Our recruitment “strategies” include begging and cajoling. The pressure to fill spots sometimes results in miscommunication about roles, responsibilities and time commitments. As expected in many such cases, Board members resign before their term is complete or they stay on, bound by guilt and pressure. Because PAMP’s work is so tenuously dependent on Board positions, too often our leaders have been stretched thin trying to fill in gaps during months-long Board vacancies, leaving them burnt-out and overwhelmed, and further exacerbating retention issues. Turnover within the Board, as well as Board vacancies, undermines morale, interrupts Board development and contributes to inconsistency in programs and services.
In the last year, as discussed in previous Letters from the Board, PAMP has gone through significant changes. Like so many other non-profits we have really had to look to our own sustainability, especially as it relates to volunteer recruitment and retention. One of the main focuses of our strategic plan is to ensure continuity and accountability among our leadership team, specifically by:
- Defining processes and creating infrastructure to support volunteer recruitment;
- Establishing and implementing best practices for volunteer management and appreciation;
- Restructuring Board positions and terms to reflect the current leadership needs identified in the strategic plan;
- Formalizing guidelines for Board nomination process; and
- Creating a Membership Committee and formal mechanisms to ban members who egregiously violate our terms (in cases such as misrepresentation).
However, we are currently facing a legal and logistical roadblock. As a membership organization we are required to have 10% of the membership vote on these updates to the bylaws. This is a big reason why the bylaws have not been updated since 2006! For years we have consistently struggled to reach the minimum 2% member vote required by our bylaws to elect the Board into office. You are probably familiar with the forum threads that pop up year after year, debating the point of “voting” Board members into positions when there’s only one choice–when we are hard-pressed to put a slate together in the first place. To effectively manage our organization, we need our members to go beyond just posting a forum thread about voting. We need our members to become engaged in the voting process and cast their vote when called upon to do so.
We will soon provide more specific details of the proposed bylaw amendments and ask you to vote on those amendments. Our hope is that members will participate in voting for and supporting the proposed changes to the bylaws. We are eager for the membership and all of PAMP’s future leaders to experience the best we have to offer! We feel that the revised bylaws will pave the way for PAMP to truly live up to its potential.
Parents’ Club of Palo Alto & Menlo Park
Board of Directors