What to Do When Main Street Managers Leave

Marc Cittone, from Colorado Main Street, posted a good question on the Main Street list serve, which was echoed by other people.  He asked how to make the transition easier between executive directors.  Staff turnover can be disruptive so reducing that organizational stress is a good idea.  Here are a couple of great ideas shared by people on both sides of the transition.

After seven years working for Main Street in Cambridge, Maryland (three years as a volunteer followed by four years as the Executive Director), Jim Duffy will be succeeded by  Mari Stanley.  Duffy followed the first director so he appreciates the challenges of the transition. He helped the organization implement three projects to make the changeover easier. 

  1. Two directors for one month.  The Organization Committee raised extra money so that Duffy and Stanley could both work for Cambridge Main Street full time during January 2012. 
  2. All donor records have been moved into a cloud database. Lois Colaprete, who helps raise money for Cambridge Main Street, is a fund-raising professional.  She recommends eTapestry to create a cloud.  Cambridge Main Street had 85 donors in 2008 and now has 185.  This program is unusual in that all of its revenues come from private sources—55% annual donations and 45% event revenue.
  3. Updated bylaws. This project ended well before the staff transition but everyone hopes that an updated set of policies, which changed the way board members are elected, will also help with the transition. The organization had outgrown the original bylaws due to raising funds from more diverse sources. Under the new bylaws, new board members are elected by the existing board.  Originally, they were elected by all donors. 

Duffy was most surprised by the number of applications for the job.  Most applicants found the position through social media and word of mouth.

Moving to sunny Florida, Thondra Lanese began her Main Street career as a volunteer for East Stuart Main Street and then became the part-time executive director in 2008.  Stuart Main Street snagged the other half of her time last August.  Lanese overlapped with the previous manager for five months. In a similar move to Cambridge Main Street, the municipal government contributed funding to have two directors at the same time. 

Lanese cautions organizations who are considering overlapping tenures to establish a definite exit date or else it can be tempting to linger and confusing for volunteers. During the overlap, Lanese learned both what to do and why.  She recommends creating an organizational calendar, checklist, and event binders to identify what needs to happen, when, and by whom.
Lanese is still amazed every day that she gets to work at her dream job.  Aren’t we all? 

Additional Resources on Staff Development and Transition