Attract and Retain Great CDA Leaders: 4 Strategies for Success

By Lakeisha Mathews

Serving as an officer in your state Career Development Association (CDA) is a rewarding opportunity. For starters, the experience you gain leading a group of your peers helps fine-tune your management skills and build your leadership skills. Secondly, giving back to the career development industry and promoting the importance of career services within your state helps further the mission of NCDA and other career development organizations. So why are some professionals hesitant about getting involved at the state level? The Maryland Career Development Association asked ourselves this question and committed to finding a solution. Specifically, we decided to become intentional on recruiting and retaining new leaders to reduce turnover on our leadership board.

Our resolution has included tackling four key areas over the course of several years that help attract and retain new volunteers. Due to our efforts we have seen increasing retention amongst our leadership. Below are the four strategies we have implemented to build our leadership team:

  1. Fill all board positions. Filling officer roles starts with filling chairperson roles on your state board. The MCDA President-Elect is responsible for this goal and plays a major role in on-boarding new volunteers and chairs. The results are two-fold, the president is not overburdened and the President-elect is able to establish relationships with chairpersons who they will soon find themselves leading.


Tip# 1: Set a goal to fill all board positions each year. As a result, board chairpersons become your pool of potential candidates for filling officer positions. Over the course of a year, board members learn your organization and its culture which prepares them to lead at the officer level.


  1. Clarify the benefits of leading. There are numerous benefits to leading a state organization. Many professionals are not aware of the possibilities for earning CEUs, increasing exposure and networking, and opportunities for travel. MCDA is helping volunteers and members understand the requirements and benefits of leading. We chose to develop a volunteer brochure, set up a volunteer interest booth at our conference, and make room on the conference agenda to discuss volunteer opportunities. And, we are sure to follow-up with anyone who expresses interest in our committees. As a result, we have had success with identifying a handful of serious volunteers each year.


Tip #2: Communicate the benefits of leading a CDA to professionals in your state, especially your membership. Be sure to develop a system for following up with all potential volunteers.


  1. Orient new members (handbook, guide, retreat). Empowering new leaders is probably the most important step in our model. Training volunteers on the culture, policies and procedures that your state CDA follows helps to build their confidence as they come on-board. To make leadership transitions smooth, MCDA is in the process is developing a volunteer manual and coordinating a leadership retreat. We also have our by-laws and a policy manual accessible to all volunteers on our website. Together, the manual, retreat and procedural documents help to equip new volunteers with the knowledge needed to be effective leaders.


Tip #3: Equip and empower new leaders by providing them with the knowledge needed to be successful.


  1. Expect more from committee chairs: Engage your chairs by requiring them to set goals, submit monthly reports, and recruit and retain their own team members. If your committee chairs do not feel like they are critical to the functioning of your CDA, they may not stick around long enough to become officers. Keep them connected by encouraging them to develop their committee and build their teams. Don’t hesitate to give them goals or request that they develop strategic plans for their committees.


Tip #4: Help your committee chairs become invested by encouraging strategic planning and team development on the committee level.


Of course with any change, implementation takes time and resistance may occur. Expect to experience challenges and do not expect change to happen all at once. Keep abreast of how volunteers are feeling personally by meeting with them individually to answer questions and learn about their professional goals. Lastly, recognition is also important to managing the change and assimilation of new volunteers. Be sure to let volunteers know they are appreciated and when they have done an outstanding job on a task.


Of course, turnover is inevitable and every new volunteer will not progress to the officer level or maintain an ongoing commitment. However, by purposefully seeking to recruit and retain volunteers, state CDAs can help attracts new volunteers, improve their retention rates and ensure that new leaders are assimilated properly into the organization. As a result, CDAs will be healthy and able to spend more time promoting career development with their respective states, and in turn throughout the national organization as well.



Lakeisha MathewsLakeisha Moore Mathews, CPRW, CPCC, GCDF, is a dynamic professional with a passion for the field of career development.  She brings a unique outlook to career development having assisted students with college admissions, academic advising and career development. Lakeisha is a CCE Certified Global Career Development Facilitator, a Certified Professional Career Coach and Certified Professional Resume Writer.  She is the Assistant Director of Career Services at University of Maryland University College and holds a M.S. in Human Resource Development from Towson University and a B.A. in Communication from the University of Maryland at College Park. Lakeisha is also the current President of the Maryland Career Development Association, serves on the NCDA Membership Committee and is a 2011 – 2012 NCDA Leadership Academy participant. Mrs. Mathews likes to say she has helped students get admitted into college, remain in college, and transition out of college! She can be reached at email:Lakeisha.Mathews@umuc.edu

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Michelle Waguespack   on Tuesday 04/03/2012 at 07:36 AM

Thanks for reminding us of the value of promoting the benefits of leadership to our members. Are there opportunities to earn additional CEU's for leadership in your state CDA?

Marilyn Maze   on Tuesday 04/03/2012 at 08:47 PM

I think you have used these strategies to good ends with MCDA this year. We certainly have expanded our core of involved people under your guidance.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.