Todd’s Note: As June ends, many organizations are transitioning to new leadership. I get asked frequently, whats the role of the past presidentheres how I would answer that questionending with sincere thanks for their service. As anyone who has been a president will tell you, its the not the most glamorous job…but without them, organizations would fold.

You are almost through your term as President of your organization. It’s been a great year but a long year (or two) at that. Working with staff, and guiding a board, essentially made being a president a second job. You want to start counting the days until your term ends and you can detox from all the years you spent on the Board. There is still work to do, even though a new President is about to take office. The Past President is an important role, filled with freedom and the opportunity to make a different, yet equally important, impact.

Your key role is to keep an eye on the big picture, to be a lifeguard of sorts. You are a guardian of past practice and someone who can help remind the current board members of institutional history and why things are the way they are, especially regarding how the organization navigated opportunities (and challenges) while you were President. You can provide clarity on which practices have benefitted your organization in the past and which practices could use an update. In your transition from current president to past president, you are in the unique position to use your accumulated experience to set the next generation of leaders up for success.

As a past president, you also have the ability (and the freedom) to dive into places of your choosing. You can now take on projects that were not typically in your job description as President but have always been near to your heart. As you think about what you might do, it’s essential to make sure that you talk through things with the incoming President. You want to make sure the next President is set up for success. Not only are you helping them get off to a good start, but you are also ensuring that you can comfortably leave your previous responsibilities and focus on your passion projects. It would be best if you also considered projects that will be shorter in duration (e.g., a year) unless you want to add years to your service and slow down your transition into volunteer retirement.

Your experience with the staff is also invaluable. You are a resource with significant experience who is now removed, to a degree, from the current officer corps. You are different – you have served in all of the critical positions, and most likely, you are winding down your service. That makes you a great resource to staff, someone they can talk with “off the record” on sensitive challenges, especially ones that might include navigating the Board, and especially the officers. You can serve as a third party that can give key insights on how to approach the Board, tips on what has worked for the organization in the past, and weigh in on options moving forward, all from the comfortable role as an advisor.

These same factors make you a unique resource to the current President. You are a step removed from the current Board Members and officers and the only person on the Board who can say that they’ve been President. Not only do you know the tremendous effort that goes into being President, you know firsthand the benefits and hardships tied to the role. That makes you an asset to the current President. You can be an “off the record” resource to the President, giving them a place to turn for conversation before they are ready to take an issue to the Executive Committee or Board.

Congratulations on your time as President. Undoubtedly, your organization is better because of your service. Your “job” now is to keep up with what’s going on within the organization you just finished leading. When the call comes, whether from staff or the current President, make sure to take it and have a conversation; you can’t underestimate how important it may be to the person on the other end of the line.