By Suzanne F Stevens | March 8, 2017
Do you volunteer for your professional association or do you professionally contribute?
Volunteers at professional associations often vet me to speak at their conferences, I proudly have served on several association boards and presently serve on National Board of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS).
I can tell you, there is a big difference between Volunteering and Professional Contributing. It is all in the attitude and the execution.
After spending significant time in Africa, I’ve come to refer to a ‘volunteer’ as a person that builds houses or schools in rural communities, or partakes in similar type activities not specifically related to their profession. Without a doubt, an admirable task. The expectation is limited, and your performance is not equated to your professional ability.
‘Volunteering’ is often associated with giving of your time when it is convenient for you to do so. Often we hear: “Remember, we are all volunteers.” That comment, or excuse, seems to give permission for the lack of performance or accountability to perform to expectation.
Expectation may change, however, when we volunteer to our professional association. Fellow members make decisions about you, whether they like you, trust you, or will refer you. This judgment is made, consciously or subconsciously. Everything you do, consciously or subconsciously, is helping to form someone else’s perception of you professionally.
Due to my experience and occasional frustration of working with ‘volunteers’ in various capacities, I’ve coined a term that I feel all professional associations should consider and adopt: Professional Contributors. Unlike the connotation of ‘volunteering’, a ‘professional contribution’ suggests implementing an attitude that is professional, accountable and delivering on promised tasks.
Who would you rather donate your time working along side: ‘Volunteers,’ or ‘Professional Contributors’?
Regardless of your attitude and approach, I do feel those who raise his or her hand to volunteer or professionally contribute should be commended. However, I also think that if you are going to raise your hand, you really should consider why you are contributing and how you can create impactful results.
So let us consider for a moment, some reason why you may in-fact raise your hand to contribute to a professional association?
• Develop a new skill
• Expand your Network
• Feel part of a community
• Heighten your profile
• Demonstrate leadership
• Add to your resume
• Serve your industry
When looking at the variety of reasons why you would choose to contribute most will have an impact on the impression people will form of you and/or your organization. So make that contribution count.
How do you move from being a Volunteer to becoming Professional Contributor?
To be a Professional Contributor you should have a clear objective of why you are contributing. Objectives will assist you in making several decisions on your time allotment. For example, when something else you perceive as ‘more important’ is scheduled at the same time as your professional contribution time, your decisions will become easier. Another consideration is how you conduct yourself in a professional contribution environment. Many people volunteer to enhance their professional careers, while their interactions with other volunteers may actually jeopardize the professional impression they wish to create.
Points to consider as a Professional Contributor:
• Am I on time for the meetings?
• Do I actively participate and contribute?
• Am I being open to others’ perspectives?
• Am I just offering advice or am I offering to implement?
• Do I continuously demonstrate respect for other Professional Contributors?
• Do I see my task(s) through to completion?
• Do I just bring up ideas, and never execute?
• Do I take things personally, or in the context of the overarching association objectives?
• Do I communicate to fellow members like they are family or my professional colleagues?
• Do I always need my voice to be heard, or my way to be had, or can I move past some issues in order to move forward on others?
The best advice I can provide to becoming a Professional Contributor is to treat the opportunity as if you were dealing with your client, and that each fellow contributor is a decision-maker. This will ensure that you continue to respect the process, put your best forward, and not take anyone person’s role for granted.
Imagine if everyone in your professional association was a Professional Contributor, don’t you think you would be able to move the association and the industry forward more efficiently as you are all respecting others’ time, insights, and objectives?
Also, it’s easier to be a Professional Contributor when there are limited demands on your time and energy, but when it gets tough, would you just quit? Remember, that decision will in fact create an impression of you, if you want it to or not.
Why professionally contribute? It can be an efficient way to grow your network, to learn and gain new perspective on the industry, and achieve a sense of belonging to the industry community.
Ignite Your Edgeness™
(An enhance version of you realized when pushing your edge.)
Should you accept the task to Professionally Contribute, create a clear objective for yourself of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally as a result of your participation. Treat the opportunity like a job that can enhance or hurt your career. This will help guide you in every interaction and decision. Changing your attitude to consider making a professional contribution will maximum results for everyone in exchange for your time, insights, and actions. Lastly, communicate what your objectives are to your fellow professional contributors so they will have clear expectations of you and they will have context for your contribution.
Want a more meaning in your life? Join the YouMeWe Movement where we discuss, share and celebrate conscious contributions™ locally and internationally. Make your contribution count, be part of the Movement.
About the Conscious Contributor
Suzanne F. Stevens, CSP, Conscious Contributor™ Cultivator
Social entrepreneur |International Speaker | Pioneer | Host |Philanthropist | Author
Lead tomorrow’s legacy today.
#YouMeWe Group of Initiatives | Cultivate, Celebrate, Co-create conscious contributions
Book launch coming soon: YouMeWe: lead tomorrow’s legacy today
2017 National President: Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS)
Awards: TIAW World of Difference Recipient for women economic empowering
*Accreditation: Suzanne is one of 61 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is in the exclusive 15% of speakers who have this designation internationally.