OK. So you’ve now run three auctions, two golf outings, seven raffles, four school carnivals, over ten spaghetti dinners, and sold 2,000 pounds of cookie dough. Now, however, your youngest child is graduating from high school in May, and you’re finally done. It is time for you golf tournament prize ideas to rest, to pursue your own interests, to follow your children into their new adventures.
The responsibility of ensuring the PTO has enough money for all the “extras” must fall to someone else. Someone with kids that age. Someone who has the energy for all that is yet to come.
But who, you ask yourself, can possibly lead in the way you did?
Let’s take a look at six traits you should consider in picking a replacement leader:
The possession of a personal investment in the cause.
When reviewing possible candidates to take over your leadership role, you should look for a person who has a very important reason for wanting the institution to do well. In essence, this person should have children currently enrolled in the school. Believe it or not, there are many people willing to volunteer for an organization with which they have no personal connection. And while these people may be fine to have as volunteer workers, I would hesitate to put them in the ultimate leadership role. Leadership is often hard and lonely. During these challenging times, it helps immensely to have the inspiration of your own children to remind you of why you are working so hard. It’s too easy to back out if you have no personal ties there.
A refusal to give up in the middle of things.
Far too many people have the tendency to give up when things get difficult. And invariably, things get difficult. Whoever takes over the fundraising leadership role needs to have amazing tenacity. The school can not afford to have its leader start a big fundraising event, only to fizzle out half-way through the planning process. Look at past performance on smaller tasks to judge if your potential replacement has the stick-to-it-ive-ness needed to see things through to the end.
The ability to genuinely listen to others.
If your new leader is so focused on his or her own voice that he or she won’t truly listen to the advice or council of others, your organization is in jeopardy. A good leader seeks to involve many and actively listen to various ideas and opinions. This engagement will make volunteers feel invested in the process. Failure to listen will result in a leader with few people to lead. Ask yourself how your perspective successor has related to others during stressful fundraising tasks in the past.
A willingness to set an example by being the hardest worker in the room.
Some people falsely believe that leaders get to sit back and put their feet up while everybody else does all the hard work. A good leader would never even dream of slacking off, even for a moment! The good leader knows that his or her volunteers will respond enthusiastically when they are inspired by the hard work and dedication of their leader.
Whoever succeeds you as fundraising leader needs to recognize the difference between working hard and working smart. Volunteers don’t expect to see the leader doing the exact same jobs they are; rather they want to see the leader out front, actively blazing a trail, making sure the overall goal is on track. If the leader is spending all of her time stuffing envelopes, a volunteer might wonder who is steering the bus. This can be a difficult line to find for a new leader. I would suggest having this worthwhile conversation with whomever will be taking over for you before you offer the position.
A grasp on the true nature of the group.
Your fundraising successor should be keenly aware of the make-up of the school in which he or she is serving. I know this may sound like an obvious suggestion, but there truly are some people out there who think that local PS 81 is Harvard. In other words, they may mis-judge the socio-economic realities of your particular institution. This misjudgment could become a problem when selecting the types of fundraisers your school will undertake. If your crowd wants Fritos, don’t give them foie gras.
A vision for what the group can become.
While it is important to understand who the crowd is now, it is also vitally important to be able to see what the crowd can become. I’m not talking about cultural evolution, but rather a gradual growth in how parents support the school. If the annual school carnival consistently brings in $2,500, a new leader should be thinking of ways to get the same carnival producing $4,000. If 15 people regularly show up to a PTO meeting, the new leader figures out a way to hit 25. This vision is necessary to growth, and it is a trait your successor must posses, or else your organization will have serious problems.