By Laura Taylor
In the association management world, there are basically three types of associations. First, there are trade associations that bring together professionals in an industry who work together to advance legislative causes, support research within their trade, and promote sound and ethical business practices. There are also professional organizations that have individual memberships who come together to network and exchange information. The third type of association is philanthropic or charitable in its emphasis, working to advance a particular cause. There are of course a number of commonalities across the different types of associations, and there is often overlap in terms of their missions, values, and key initiatives.
One feature that is nearly universal across effective associations is the leadership and operational support provided by volunteers. The success of almost every association is dependent upon the willingness of stakeholders to step up and get involved. Having more volunteers who understand and care about the organization obviously strengthens the organization’s capacity. Aside from feeling good about being of service and supporting a cause, there are also other benefits to volunteering. Understanding and effectively communicating those benefits is critically important when it comes to recruiting and retaining impactful volunteers.
Volunteering connects a person to others. Building relationships through working together on a common cause can be a very beneficial personal experience. The networking opportunities that come with volunteering can lead to career advancement. Gaining support and learning from others are potential outcomes when giving time and energy to a mission-focused organization. And simply acquiring new friends along the way is always a positive outcome worth mentioning.
There are also health benefits to volunteering. Giving to others is good for the spirit, mind, and body. According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering combats depression, assists in decreasing stress and anxiety, and increases self-confidence. A sense of accomplishment and a feeling of fulfillment are common side effects of volunteering.
All of these internal motivators and rewards go a long toward explaining why individuals continue to serve as volunteers. Providing opportunities for external recognition for those who volunteer is also appreciated. The expertise and dedication that volunteers bring to their associations, foundations, and coalitions are extremely valuable but sometimes taken for granted. In many cases, these volunteers are employed full-time and have home and family commitments, but they still manage to give countless hours to a cause in which they believe. Take the opportunity to celebrate the impact of volunteer service during National Volunteer Week and recognize and honor those who give year round.