We invited a half-dozen past presidents of AIA San Francisco to lunch, asking them to share governance tips with the new board members.

The first advice was, "please don’t call me past president. It sounds like I am deceased," he said. Their insights were eagerly accepted by directors.

Post-Presidency Rest

Take a break after completing the association presidency, "but don’t abandon the association." You will need a rest after the role of chief elected officer, but your skills and value remain essential in the association.

Vision and Voice

You have a voice and a vision. Use the authority granted by the bylaws to do good for the organization and the public.

Model of Excellence

Approach your volunteer service with an intent to make the organization a model of excellence. Remember that others are judging your actions and words as a leader.

Have Fun

Don’t be too serious with your responsibilities. Celebrate every milestone and achievement. Demonstrate respect for each other.


Whether it is in-kind, personal contributions, or working with staff to generate new revenue, fundraising is a role of directors.

Know the Community

Understand the external environment. Programs can be stronger by collaborating with allied interests.

Role Models

Be a board member who earns and maintains respect. You want to be known for your integrity.

Stay Engaged

Board meetings are infrequent; remain engaged between meetings through member outreach, reading and preparing reports, and asking questions.

Show Up

Each director is vital to the board team. A quorum may depend on you. "Ninety percent of life is just showing up," according to Woody Allen.

Done That, Seen That

Don’t be surprised if your “good idea” is greeted with, "We tried that once before." Chances are nearly every idea has been heard or tried before. That doesn’t mean your idea is bad; be innovative when offering solutions.

Strategic Focus

The association has a road map called a strategic plan. Focus on the plan’s mission, goals and priorities. Resources are limited. Be strategic and less tactical.


The board is a team. Your efforts are more effective when there is a culture of trust.


Don’t be afraid to stand up for your ideas and for the association. You may feel alone at times, but if you are committed to an idea, stand up for it.

The advice from former presidents was invaluable to the incoming board of directors.