In addition to a hard-working staff, associations are most often run by a board and committees made up of volunteers. These volunteer leaders are association members, and are no different from the rest of the membership.
I am a volunteer radio DJ at a campus radio station, which is run by a small staff and a dedicated board of directors. We recently held our AGM and elected a new member of the board. After a 2-year period with minimal contact between our campus radio community, I was inspired during our meeting by the revived connectivity and positivity among our volunteers. Now, I am working and learning more about how I can give back to this community by volunteering on the board of directors.
The gift of volunteering goes both ways. Board and committee members give countless hours to progress and improve their association. However, these efforts are also extremely rewarding for the volunteer leaders themselves. Most board members would agree that they find great satisfaction in being able to give back to their association.
Read my colleague’s article Recognizing the Value of Association Volunteers to learn more about how volunteer leaders make a difference.
Pay It Forward
Most volunteer leaders will attest that they have received numerous benefits from being a member of their association. Whether those benefits come in the form of networking, professional development, or exposure, being apart of an association significantly returns on its investment. However, one of the biggest draws of joining a membership is the camaraderie.
Togetherness is one very important aspect to all associations. Creating a space where like-minded individuals can share ideas and experiences is a priority for volunteer leaders. Making connections goes beyond professional networking. Sometimes you make lifelong friends. For association leaders, providing these professional and personal opportunities is rewarding in itself, as they get to take part in bringing people together for a good cause.
Passion for the Community
I work with volunteers from several associations, and it is very clear that they love the work they do and the industry they are in. Their reason for volunteering is that they want to continue to serve their community outside of their professional work.
For instance, what inspired me to learn more about volunteering on the board for my Campus Radio Station was my passion for radio broadcasting. Even though we can’t always get into the station to broadcast live due to the pandemic, I love producing and recording my radio program each week and researching new topics to discuss on the air. I want to be apart of the team that helps others who share this passion to enjoy creating their own programs.
Growing Into a Leader
If, like me, you are not ready to take on a leadership role on the board of directors, there is much you can do to get involved and begin giving back to your community. Most associations have several committees that coordinate to organize various operations, such as member engagement committees or professional development committees. Getting involved with these committees is a great way to start contributing without taking on too many responsibilities.
If your organization doesn’t delegate work through committees, don’t be afraid to ask how you can get involved! Let your association know how you want to help and what your areas of expertise are. You never know, they may not have known they needed your help until you offer it.
It Pays in Different Ways
If you are prospering, the best thing you can do is help others prosper as well. An association is a community; one where dedicated members give their own time and energy for the rest of the community. The payment for this time and energy is the spirit and joy of giving. Think deeply about how an association serves you. You may find a sudden inspiration to serve your fellow members as well.
To learn more about how to inspire volunteerism in association leaders, read Creating Board Volunteerism and Engagement.