The first time I attended the Annual Meeting for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), I was as nervous as a new kid in town on the first day of school. I was geeked out to meet many people from the association industry and ASAE list serve whose posts I'd read. I was especially excited to attend the Component Relations Section Council meeting. I had recently been chosen to sit on the council and I felt like good things were on the horizon.
At that point, I did not really know anyone from the association community. I followed the association blogs, association list serve and applied new ideas within my workspace, but had never really built relationships with other association professionals. I think it was my zeal for building up member communities that persuaded the Section Council to choose me to sit on the council, in spite of the fact no one really knew who I was.
I had energy, passion, and a desire to add to the compendium of knowledge in the association world. I felt I had something to offer - something I was learning from working with difficult chapter groups on how to turn relationships around and how to build unity and excitement within an organization. However, it took my volunteer placement on the council to bring me far enough into the association world to truly engage.
Volunteering for an association has the power to create mega-members. I know from talking to other high profile ASAE members that their experience is much the same...they became part of a volunteer effort and then an active and vocal part of the association's community.
We know (from studies like Decision to Join and Decision to Volunteer) that higher engagement leads to higher member satisfaction and retention rates. So what can we do to bring that experience to more people? And if volunteering for a council seat isn't an option, in what other ways can we provide that high level of interaction to build familiarity between association members so that the people become the biggest benefit and resource for belonging in the first place?
- Do you make it easy for people to volunteer?
- Do you follow up with people who volunteer?
- Do you provide multiple ways for people to volunteer?
- Do you treat your volunteers well (say "thank you")?
- Does your AMS/CMS support your members' volunteer efforts?
- Do you make it easy for people to meet each other at events?
I am writing this as I prepare to attend another ASAE Annual Meeting (in LA this year). It has been a few years since my first meeting and I am now incoming chair of the Component Relations Section Council, member of the Foundation Development Committee, an association blogger/web show host, and cannot begin to count the number of friends I have in the association world. For years, I preached to member groups about the energy spent on volunteering paying off in the energy returned and I can happily say this has been the case for me. I have received much in the way of education, support, and unique experiences because of my membership.
If you are new to associations or have not really met many people from the association community yet, let me be the one to say, "Hi! My name is KiKi. Let me tell you how you can make the most of your association membership...it will rock your world!"