Sharing the Workload of Running Your Chapter

By Judy Bacon, Volunteer Mentor, Chapter Leader of WA, Spokane Valley-1, and member of DFW’s Chapter Health and Retention Committee


You are a fantastic and devoted Dining for Women chapter leader. In fact, you’re Wonder Woman! You do it all, and you do it well.  You schedule the meeting, you plan the meeting, you invite everyone, you find a hostess and a presenter, you run the meeting, you deposit the checks– you’re amazing. But wait! You are beginning to feel exhausted, and no one else knows how to do what you do. Your chapter would fold without you. For your own sake and for the sake of your chapter, you need help.

That scenario is extreme, of course, but whenever one person is doing too much, a chapter is in danger. We know that losing a chapter leader is the most common reason chapters close—and we also know that when essential tasks are shared, a chapter is more likely to survive a leader’s departure. The first key to a successful chapter, according to our Chapter Leader Training, is to “Delegate/share the workload so members feel empowered and have ownership in the chapter.” So let’s keep our chapters healthy: let’s get some help!

Our members already contribute mightily by attending, sharing food, and donating—but some of them are ready to do even more if given the opportunity. Indeed, they may be waiting to be asked. Asking for help doesn’t always come easily, but we need to get started.

The process of asking should be gradual — don’t just ask once and then give up! Our Wonder Woman might want to begin a conversation by confessing to her group that she needs help and asking them to brainstorm tasks (beyond the customary hostess and presenter) that could be delegated. She may be pleasantly surprised at the response. Over the course of several discussions at several meetings, ideas can be offered, plans can take shape, and jobs can be filled. Help will be on the way!

Members will want to keep tasks appropriate to the size and scope of their unique chapters. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few ideas from existing chapters:

Co-leader: You absolutely need a co-leader.  The two of you can decide how this will work: whether you will be equal partners or a leader and a backup, and what tasks each of you takes on. If you already have a co-leader, of course she should be part of the process of asking members for help.

Treasurer: Collects and submits checks, keeps records, protects the privacy of donors, encourages recurring online donations, and makes occasional financial reports to the membership. In many chapters, a co-leader takes on this job.

Inviter: Designs, sends, and manages monthly invitations; lets hostess know how many people to expect.

Greeter: Sets up the sign-in table and welcomes guests. Ensures that everyone signs in and wears a name tag. Pays particular attention to new attendees, making sure to welcome them and get their contact information.

Volunteer Coordinator: Makes sure the hostess/presenter slots are filled.

Photographer: Takes pictures and submits them to The Dish.

Membership Chair: Encourages members to invite others to attend; welcomes new faces; finds ways to grow the chapter.

Annual Appeal Campaign Chair: Plans and supervises the annual fundraiser or donation drive.

Many chapters already allocate tasks very successfully, organized in a variety of ways. A large chapter in Boise, Idaho, has a leadership committee that meets regularly to plan the year.  A small Boise group divides its monthly presentations into five-minute segments from several different members, with a timekeeper to keep them all on track. (Segments include: video and monthly grantee; country; food and culture; sustained grantee; updates or fun facts about DFW; announcements from chapter leader.). Members in a Spokane chapter make up raffle baskets to support the 13th Month annual appeal. Your own group may have its own ways of working together. Whatever your format, member involvement strengthens everyone’s sense of community.

Chapters and their leaders thrive when the workload is shared. Every chapter has its own unique personality and format, but the very heart of DFW is sharing. We regularly affirm, “As we share food, we also share something of ourselves.” Let us help ourselves and our chapters thrive as we share food, fun, friendship, philanthropy—and the workload!