As the new year begins for IABC boards and committees, there will be lots of calls for volunteers. This is, after all, an association that is largely run by volunteers. It has to be. There’s no possible way to do all that we do around the world with only 30 or so staff members. So at every level of the association, we send out emails imploring members to fill the need. But why would anyone give up their scarce free time to meet the needs of an association that they already give money to?
It’s not as if we’re finding a cure for cancer or saving disaster victims. If it were about selfless giving, there are loads of other places we could be volunteering. This is a professional association. We’re members for professional reasons. We want to advance our careers, be successful, whatever that means at whatever stage we are.
And the secret is that volunteering is one of the most effective ways of achieving your own professional objectives.
So instead of approaching volunteer recruitment from the perspective of IABC’s need, I try to start with the question, “What do you want out of your IABC involvement?”
Are you just starting out and need to develop skills and knowledge? Want a new job, so need to expand your network? Need to gain some management experience in order to make the leap to your first management-level job? Already very senior, but looking to raise your visibility within the profession? Or a freelancer looking for potential clients?
All these have applied to me at different stages of my career, and there’s been a volunteer role that met my needs every time. I have said many times that I owe my career to IABC — but not in a passive way that the association just dumped success in my lap. It took work. In fact, it was the work itself that created the opportunities.
My first IABC volunteer role was on the Bronze Quill Awards Committee for the Central Florida chapter. I was just a pup, serving on a committee with people with far more professional experience. I learned event planning and organizational skills that I later used on the job and in my own consulting business. I met someone who I later recruited to work for me (who also became one of my best-ever friends). I gained a mentor who helped me over the next several years every time I needed support as I climbed the career ladder. The benefits far outweighed the number of hours I put in as a volunteer. And over the nearly 20 years since then, I’ve probably put in thousands of hours. I never bothered to count, but there were even times when IABC work was more than a full-time job. If I added it all up and gave it a financial value, it still could never come close to what I’ve gotten back. Jobs, clients, salary increases, promotions. And that doesn’t even take into account the fun times and great friends I’ve made.
So what do you want from IABC? There’s a volunteer role that will help you achieve your objectives. If you want to get involved and need help figuring out how or where to focus, get in touch with me.
And if you’re already one of the serial volunteers, please chime in and share your stories of why you do it and what you’ve gotten from your involvement.