Planning for your term in office


By Louis Kuchnir, MD, PhD

In many ways, running a state society is like building a new house. Before construction begins, a budget has to be developed, blueprints need to be drafted, and a crew has to be selected. Advance planning and a healthy dose of flexibility will help the process to run smoothly. Likewise, advance preparation is key to helping your society run smoothly. Here are a few things you can do to make the most out of your time in office.

Know your numbers

Having a good understanding of your society’s financial and organizational capacity will help your leadership team to know what you can realistically accomplish during your time in office. Reviewing the society’s current budget is typically the best way to get a quick snapshot of its available financial resources. To get a more complete picture of the society’s budgetary needs and overall financial health, you may also want to review the budget from the last few years. It’s helpful to review current bylaws and any other administrative guidelines to get a better sense of your society’s organizational structure and capacity. This is also a good way to assess whether there’s a need to update the bylaws during your term.

Draft your blueprints

Developing a plan for the year ahead will help your leadership team to stay focused on the society’s key objectives and will ensure your society’s forward progression. To avoid the plan-as-you-go approach, you may want to consider holding a leadership retreat so your team has a chance to work together to develop a list of priorities and outline an action plan for each of those priorities.

Meet with your crew

In order to be an effective leader, it’s important to understand the priorities of the members you serve. Two of the most common challenges encountered by state society leaders are increasing member engagement and increasing or maintaining membership recruitment and retention. Knowing what it is that members (and potential members) most want and value from your society will help your team to meet member needs and identify issues that need to be addressed. To get feedback from members, your team could conduct a brief survey, send a representative to local society meetings and journal clubs, or solicit informal feedback at society meetings or from individual members.

Talk to the neighbors

Each state society has a unique culture and identity and no two are identical. However, we have found that state societies often face very similar challenges. By sharing experiences — the good, the bad, and the ugly — society leaders can learn from each other. Before you start a new project or initiative, talk to your fellow society leaders; they are likely to have valuable insights to share and may be able to help your society avoid reinventing the wheel. If you’re not sure where to start, the Academy can help connect you to other leaders.

Get a handle on your toolbox

The AADA has made several tools available to you and your leadership team. Familiarizing yourself with and using these resources can save time and help you maximize your impact. Resources are available to help with governance, leadership development, policy and advocacy planning, and organizational structure. If you’d like to know more about these tools, visit the Academy’s state society resources page or contact Abigail Osborne at

Dr. Kuchnir is a board-certified dermatologist, currently practicing in Massachusetts at Kuchnir Dermatology. Since September 2009, he’s served as president of the Massachusetts Academy of Dermatology and is currently a member of the AADA’s State Society Development Task Force. Dr. Kuchnir is on faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis and earned  a PhD in physical chemistry at Harvard University.