Associations are hung up on the conversation of member engagement. People join an organization to be involved and engaged. Yet, many associations including those who serve the industry I love, do not understand this basic concept nor train their staff on what it means to SERVE members who are volunteering (working for free) for the organization.
I personally have been a very engaged member with many of the professional organizations in which I belong. One organization in particular, I have spent countless hours supporting for more than 20 years. Yet, this year I will not be renewing dues and will not be volunteering…why you say?!
- I have been asked to put a program together which was never followed through by the staff.
- I wrote an article to be published in the magazine, yet after the publication came out I learned that they pulled it without any communication of the change.
- I have been “uninvited” to programming that I had been included in the past.
- I participated on a committee and the staff disregarded our opinions and decisions.
Unfortunately, I can go on and on….
When I started my career in the association industry, I was fortunate to work with David Martin, CEO of the Society for Critical Care Medicine who was an example for us on how to work with, support and serve volunteers. I then had the honor to work with Brad Claxton, CEO of the American Academy of Dermatology who was a Shapiro Award winner and very well respected leader in the industry. Brad was also a great role model on how to serve volunteers. He was passionate about training staff. We attended Association 101, learned how to work with volunteers and learned from his leadership. I could write for hours on my experience learning from these two but I will keep it simple….
My lesson learned…..Start with the basics! If your volunteers feel they appreciated and respected, they will continue to engage and support your organization. If not, there are a lot of opportunities to engage elsewhere.