Ongoing Relationships with Past Presidents Can Pay Dividends
When a president’s term ends, it does not mean his or her services are no longer wanted, needed or valuable. Associations can benefit from leveraging the key attributes of most past presidents: historical knowledge of the board, association and industry/profession; robust networks and connections; and influence with members, vendor partners and other industry contacts. The key is to engage past presidents in a way that allows them to continue their connection with the association and contribute in meaningful ways without impeding current leadership.

The following suggestions are designed to foster long-term relationships with past presidents:
  • Create a structured group of past presidents, such as a council, panel or advisory board. This group can meet on a regular basis and be a sounding board for the current president or board. It is important to define the past presidents’ roles so that they support the current board and not distract it.
  • Engage past presidents ad hoc by asking for their feedback regarding strategic initiatives. This effort – which is less formal than an organized council – can be accomplished by conference calls with past presidents, the current president and the executive director/CEO, or through one-on-one calls with select past presidents based on their competencies, skill sets and availability.
  • Honor past presidents and their contributions when celebrating significant milestones of the organization (e.g., anniversaries).
  • Invite past presidents to annual events and membership meetings. If the event has a dinner or breakfast, reserve tables for just past presidents and their guests. Recognizing them from the main stage is an added touch.
  • Host a past presidents reunion.
  • Ask past presidents to facilitate partner/sponsorship discussions with key contacts within their networks.
  • Invite past presidents to be speakers or facilitate panel discussions at education events.
  • Create a past presidents’ communication vehicle (e.g., e-newsletter) to keep them connected with the association and informed of current happenings.
  • Utilize past presidents on committees and task forces. For example, they could serve on the association foundation board, or committees that help select scholarship winners or industry awards.

Past presidents are often the most knowledgeable, committed and passionate leaders an organization can find. If they stay connected to the association they have served for so many years, they can support the current leadership and enable the board of directors to continue the legacy they built years ago.
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