Planning for another 100 years

Passing on the genetic code that has defined AIGA for more than 100 years is not something the professional design association leaves to chance. The president, vice president, and directors of each AIGA chapter are responsible for succession planning.

During February’s Presidents Call, current AIGA Arizona President Liz Magura and its previous President Niki Blaker shared their thoughts on succession planning. Together, Niki and Liz have have been involved with AIGA for more than 20 years. Niki is currently the Incoming Presidents Council Chair*. Below are some highlights from their presentation.


Reach and engage: One thing we’ve preached for years now is engaging with other organizations. This has been such a great channel to meet people, who, for one reason or another, didn’t even consider AIGA as anything they might be interested in, until they started seeing us everywhere.

Mandatory townhalls: Townhalls provide the opportunity for everyone from the community to meet the board. We make it mandatory for all board members to attend–it’s the one meeting of the year they can’t miss. That way, when we talk about new positions and recruitment, everyone is available to answer questions and explain what his or her role is, in detail.

Culture building: Culture is extremely important to AIGA and its chapters. For the last several years, the goal has been to lead a democratic board, and for the president to act more like a coach. We want to create a culture where everyone feels empowered. Directors are accountable for initiatives they want to pursue, and given support every step of the way, but ultimately, it’s up to them to make it work.

Many ideas: We also encourage a culture where we try to support as many ideas as possible. If someone on the board says, “Maybe we could do XYZ,” the answer is always, “Yes, let’s try it.” Sometimes those ideas flop, and that is totally fine. We learn from it, and talk about what we can do differently the next time.

Show gratitude: Everyone on the board is volunteering their time and they’re doing this because they want to make a difference. The role of the president and vice president is to praise and support all the volunteers as much as possible.

Share national resources: I (Niki) had no idea there was a leadership retreat. I didn’t know anyone from the national board. It never occurred to me to find out these resources for myself, especially since everyone was so busy volunteering. Perhaps, the chapter could have also done a better job at communicating what national resources were available to the rest of the board, so when I became President, I vowed that I would help the board become familiar with the resources AIGA National has to offer, and encourage each member to reach out to our national staff whenever they felt it could be useful.

The little things: 

  • Talk about the leadership retreat. It’s not a secret. And share what you’ve learned from it.
  • Change up who represents the chapter at national events, so as many members as possible can experience a national event at least once.
  • Share what you’ve prepared for the retreat.
  • Be diligent about Basecamp, Google Docs, and other collaborative tools.
  • Have clear documentation, so new members don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
  • Stagger board terms so you don’t lose your entire board at once.

At the end of the day, much of the success of recruitment and succession planning comes from others seeing that board members are having a great time, love doing things together, and love spending time together.

– Niki Blaker and Liz Magura

Slideshow used with the presentation: AIGAAZsuccessionplanning.

* The Incoming Presidents Council Chair: AIGA’s governance structure follows a federation model. The chapter presidents, more than 70 throughout the USA, meet several times a year in person, and via a monthly web conferencing call, also know as the monthly Presidents Call. These calls provide an opportunity for information sharing and communication among chapter presidents. The Chair of the Presidents Council is the presidents’s representative on the AIGA national board. The Incoming Presidents Council Chair assumes the Chair’s responsibilities after one year.

By Communications
Published February 8, 2016