Let us be honest. We let some of our finest and most distinguished volunteers leave way too early in their lengthy golf course careers! Each chapter knows the individuals I am talking about – those key and unwavering superintendents that will always accept the task that no one else wants to do as a volunteer. These same individuals have a tendency to be: newsletter editors; scholarship, research and fundraising chairs; and the “I’ve got nothing better to do with my time than become a legislative liaison for the turfgrass-type kind-of-guy!”
Dynamic individuals blessed with free time on their hands are hard to find. Respectfully, and especially today, that time is pretty precious for anyone who serves as a volunteer. Thus, why do we typically take our best, motivated, and talented type of individuals and watch them run through the chairs, honor them with a well-deserved and memorable plaque, and then allow them to venture out gracefully into pasture?
The Vermont GCSA started to experience a lack of volunteers who would be willing to run for open slots and serve on the board of directors. When it became impossible to find a quorum of candidates and draw nominees from the floor during our annual meeting, the board opted to take things into its own hands, find a cure, and fix the system. After all, we were only looking for key individuals willing or crazy enough to accept solid peer pressure, good fortune, and the honor and grace that is always bestowed upon most volunteer organizations!
In 2000, the board opted to reduce the number of directors by two positions as required by the bylaws and implement specific criteria to appoint three new executive positions to be designated lifetime trustees of the Vermont GCSA.
The program was adopted from a concept experienced with my tenure as past chair of the National Institute of Golf Management. I spent six years witnessing first-hand the benefits of career-motivated professionals eager enough to provide the absolute form of volunteerism. This was a great learning experience, and one that the National Golf Foundation (NGF) used to its full potential by tapping these career motivated individuals with “no free time on their hands” and designating them as trustees!
Today, the three lifetime trustee appointments represent 33% of the board members for the Vermont GCSA. The criteria for appointment was relatively easy:
- Individuals who served as two-term past presidents of the organization were candidates for the lifetime trustee appointment. At the time of implementation, we had three two-term past presidents serving on behalf of the board.
- Trustees receive all voting privileges and serve in the same capacity as directors of the chapter. The trustee may also serve as committee chair if selected by the president of the board. Trustee attendance at board meetings is not mandatory.
- The individual nominated as trustee serves a life appointment on the board unless the individual chooses to resign. Only three trustee positions are available and are appointed by the board of directors whenever a vacancy or resignation surfaces.
Has the program been successful and benefited the Vermont GCSA?
We have in place trustee members who are willing to serve on external affair committees that directly influence the game of golf in Vermont! We have had only one request for resignation as a lifetime trustee, and the position was easily and eagerly filled with one of two candidates (who were eligible two-term past presidents of the association).
A more recent and significant outgrowth of this program has allowed the chapter to hire an executive director to assist the board and general membership with expanded programs necessary to run a more successful statewide organization. After celebrating 25 years as a GCSAA-affiliated chapter, the board approved the streamlining and process of communication under the leadership of a new executive director, and by establishing our chapter web site.
How are the trustees doing?
- One of the two original trustees continues to serve as the chapter newsletter editor (a position he has held nearly 12 years). He also serves as a representative for the External Affairs Committee of the Vermont Golf Association, is a past Leo Feser Award winner, and most recently was awarded the 2005 Excellence in Government Relations award.
- The second original trustee serves as the chapter voting delegate, GCSAA liaison, and is a member of the Integrated Plant Management Task Group. He also serves on the External Affairs Committee of the Vermont Golf Association and has been attending to these assignments for the past 25 years.
- The newly appointed trustee serves on behalf of the chapter membership committee and has been the lead coordinator for the Silent Auction program and most fundraising initiatives developed by the chapter.
- All trustee members serve as external directors for the Vermont GCSA.
How can your chapter enlist the support of experienced leaders?
Why not appoint them, anoint them, support them and recognize them? Thank them and honor them, and go ahead and present them with a well-deserved plaque. However, about the time they think they are heading out to pasture, appoint them as a trustee. Remember that trustees are easy nominees.
Just don’t forget it is an appointment for life!
Submitted by Michael J. O’Connor, CGCS,
Vermont GCSA trustee
To share your chapter's success stories, please email them to Leann Cooper.