From the Grassroots
The Volunteer Ethic
BY DIANNE GROTE ADAMS
During AIHce 2009 in Toronto, I heard the
same complaint I have been hearing for
the past several years from our local section leaders—that no one is willing to volunteer as an officer. This complaint is not
unique to the industrial hygiene community. Participation in most professional associations, on both the national and local
levels, is down. Churches and charities are
short of personnel to carry out their missions. I find this very disappointing.
AIHA, however, should be different.
Statistics show that AIHA members volunteer more often than the general public. According to a 2007 study conducted
by the American Society of Association
Executives and The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE and The Center),
AIHA members volunteer more hours and
support more organizations than the average American volunteer. (For more information about the survey, see “The
Volunteer Experience” by Beth Gazeley in
the January 2009 Synergist.)
Of the 1,800 AIHA members who responded to the survey from ASAE and The
Center, 65 percent reported that they contribute more than 50 hours volunteering
per year—the average yearly commitment
for all American volunteers. One-third of
AIHA respondents said that they contribute
100 hours or more each year. And while
the vast majority of U.S. volunteers support just one organization, 25 percent of
AIHA respondents support four or more
Leaders in Training
These statistics suggest that the volunteer
ethic is strong in AIHA members. So why,
year after year, do I hear the same complaints about lack of volunteers from
local section leaders?
It turns out that most of our members’
volunteer activity occurs for charities.
Only 30 percent of the AIHA members
who responded to the survey from ASAE
and The Center reported that they had
volunteered for AIHA. Forty percent of
respondents say they contribute fewer
than 12 hours per year to AIHA.
Of course, our members’ commitment
to charities is inspiring and commendable. It also suggests that our members
may feel overcommitted already. I often
share this feeling.
However, I have found considerable
value in volunteering for my AIHA local
section. On the surface, volunteering is
about giving, helping others, and improving the community. But in practice, what
you get from volunteering for AIHA may
be more valuable than what you contribute.
Volunteering enhances your reputation. It brands you and sets you apart
from the masses. These benefits will help
you achieve objectives in your career and
your personal life.
A natural byproduct of volunteering is
networking. We all know that networking
is essential to advancing your career,
building a business, and finding assistance
from people you can trust. I find networking during volunteer activities much easier
and more rewarding than attending events
supposedly dedicated to networking.
Volunteer activities in AIHA enhance
your leadership and communication skills.
Motivating unpaid volunteers is a skill
that will serve you well in your career,
and learning how to manage your time
so that you can volunteer and meet other
obligations is invaluable. AIHA provides
these leadership opportunities.
Take the Plunge
Volunteering is a long-term commitment,
and it isn’t easy. But if you’re one of the
AIHA members who has not yet given
time and energy to an organization, I encourage you to put your toe in the water
and begin to participate in AIHA.
If you have time limitations, communicate them. Take on only a piece of a
project, or find someone to share the position or workload with you. But don’t
let your time constraints prevent you
from volunteering. In the long run, your
influence in our professional community
will help you grow in ways you never
(614) 890-0800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.