Volunteering: What’s In It For You?

Research will likely validate what personal experience has taught me: People who volunteer their time and talents for what they deem to be a worthy organization do so largely because they want to give back. Individuals who choose to volunteer are often those who have experienced some level of success in their professional lives and want to share lessons learned with others or “repay” an industry that has played a major role toward their professional victory. So it was the same with me.

After practicing law in Chicago for more than 20 years and after more than five years in business in another industry, I joined HALO Branded Solutions. I had already been introduced to the promotional products industry as HALO’s outside counsel before leaving the practice of law. After a few years I was fortunate to be invited to serve on the board of trustees for the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF). That led to my election to PPAI’s Board of Directors.

I understand the importance of an effective trade association in assuring the health and growth of an industry. I have seen the highly beneficial role many trade associations have played in protecting many industries. I volunteer with PPAI because I believe that PPAI can and should be highly relevant and valuable to our industry’s participants, and I wish to support the Association’s efforts for the benefit of all of us.

Volunteers are at the heart of all associations. Volunteers are particularly vital in an industry as large and as fragmented as ours. They bring a core value to the equation by supplementing a professional staff with expertise from those who work on the front lines of the industry every day. Volunteers also create a connection at the grassroots level that is unique to associations because it continually infuses the organization with vibrant energy and fresh insights.

Nearly 450 members currently serve PPAI on committees, advisory groups, task forces or within the volunteer resource pool, and they do so for an average of about seven years depending on where their volunteer service began. For example, if they began volunteering at a regional association and worked their way to service with PPAI, they will likely spend more years volunteering.

In recent years, PPAI has worked to make it even easier for volunteers to get and stay involved. In 2010, we created Volunteer Central, a comprehensive online resource including sections for documents pertaining to each committee, action group or task force. Through ongoing promotion that continues today, interested members are invited to fill out a profile about themselves to be included in volunteer communications, projects and surveys.

In 2012, PPAI again illustrated the value of volunteers by establishing a Member Engagement department. Its key role is to create positive interactions and experiences between PPAI and volunteers, develop ways to expand the pool of volunteers and maximize their involvement, and recognize the contributions of volunteers.

As has become a tradition, PPAI annually recognizes and applauds the efforts of outgoing volunteers at the Volunteer Luncheon at The PPAI Expo in January.

Just a couple of months ago, staff updated the Volunteer Central site to provide a consistent experience when accessing minutes, agendas and project documents. Additions include a volunteer engagement model, which explains all areas of available volunteer service groups, FAQs about volunteerism, a monthly volunteer poll and the Quarterly Volunteer newsletter. You may have received the first edition that was emailed to volunteers in late May.

One thing I’ve learned from my 30-plus years in business is that people do things for their reasons, not for yours, but when people volunteer because they believe in the cause of an organization, they come to it with a passion. And that is what has propelled PPAI forward for the past 110 years.

Volunteering with PPAI and/or your regional association is the best way to become engaged in the industry and work with peers who will help us drive the organization to its next level of effectiveness. Volunteering also allows you to plug into a community of like-minded industry colleagues and work toward common goals.

I encourage those considering volunteering with PPAI to contact anyone who has been a part of our community of volunteers for a while and ask them three questions: Why is volunteering important? Has volunteering had an impact on your career or business? Would you recommend volunteering with PPAI to other industry members? I can almost guarantee the answers you hear will make you go to Volunteer Central and fill out your profile to get involved. Do it today.

 

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