“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”
— David Viscott, psychiatrist, author, businessman, and media personality
In the time serving as ISA President, you are blessed with the opportunity to hear from members. I want to focus my column this month on one of my favorites: “ISA should be run by the members, for the members.”
I recently read an article from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), titled “Be a More Effective Volunteer Manager.” Although aimed at association staff, it had some interesting points that we as volunteers can appreciate.
The article is a synopsis of a survey of association staff and volunteers conducted in 2019. The survey highlights the key requirements for what ASAE calls mutually-beneficial volunteerism. They define this as, “a system in which the volunteer makes a meaningful contribution to the mission of the organization and the management process makes a meaningful contribution to the professional development and personal satisfaction of the volunteer.”
- Strong working relationships - Despite what some might think, volunteers cannot run the Society without the staff. Volunteers have finite time available, and work pressures may interfere with this. Our volunteers may be experts in their technical domain, but the staff are experts in theirs: Event organization, membership development, publications, training, and certification. Strong working relationships allow us to use the best of our staff and volunteers to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
- Committee structures – While it is important to have committees, it is even more important to regularly evaluate them: Adding, removing and amending as needed to suit the Society’s strategic objectives. We recently updated our bylaws and are working through our various policies and charters to ensure we have the right structure in place to achieve our goals and provide for a meaningful volunteer experience.
- Clearly defined roles – This is related to committee structures in that volunteers should know they have contributed to the Society in a meaningful way. This is also where the collaboration between volunteers and staff becomes important. Volunteers and staff provide unique and essential elements to make ISA successful: The volunteers have the subject matter expertise to make ISA's products and services valuable to the profession; the staff have the knowledge and experience to produce, deliver, and market these products and services professionally.
Another point from the article mentioned why it is important that volunteers understand how their work fits into the Society’s larger context. ISA was founded from a collection of independent groups, but if we are going to grow and increase our international footprint, we have to ensure that everything we do fits with our strategy.
We recently held our Strategic Leadership meeting (virtually, of course), where the extended group of Society leaders collectively discussed priorities and plans for the next few years. These meetings were well-received, with the attendees overwhelmingly confirming by survey that the meetings met their expectations, that we brought the right group of people together, and that they had a clearer understanding of and feel involved in the strategic direction of the Society.
We continue to host the bi-monthly webinar Connect Live with the Presidents where you – yes you – can talk directly with your Presidential Chain, ask questions, and make suggestions. There are so many ways to engage, just ask me.
Rather than focusing on phrases like, “by the members, for the members” let’s focus on, “mutually-beneficial volunteerism,” where we all work together to make meaningful contributions for the greater good of the Society and the profession.
I look forward to our continued work together as we create a better world through automation.