Recently I was reading a discussion on ASAE’s Collaborate Forum where someone related a story about a group of Past Presidents of their organization joking about forming a group of has beens (their words). They would call themselves “We Used to be Special.” As a Past President of my own professional organization, I had to chuckle, I could identify. I even joked with a previous Board Member that we should make ribbons or buttons that said something to that effect. Then, I thought about it some more…that’s not really funny at all, it’s kind of sad. What are we doing as association professionals to ensure our volunteers feel like they still matter after giving so generously of their time and talent? Do our volunteers feel like we bleed them dry and then relegate them to a has been status?
So, as one who believes if you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem, I decided to take some action. Here are some pretty basic steps that you can take TODAY to make sure that your volunteers continue to feel valued even after they have completed their terms:
- If this is the first time they are hearing from you in a few years, I suggest humility (that is going to be my approach). I am creating a Past President’s Newsletter to keep our rock stars in the loop. We believed in them enough to lead our chapter before, I am guessing they are still pretty awesome. And all that history! Let’s not let that go to waste.
- Now that you have communicated with your lapsed volunteers, really truly connect with them again. I’ve heard from Past Presidents that they still want to be involved, but they really don’t know where to start. Or, they only have an hour or so to spare and aren’t sure how they can still contribute. These are the Rock Stars of your association – it is in our best interest to re-engage these volunteers! Our plan at IMPI is to create ad-hoc task forces and promote our mentoring opportunities to harness all that awesomeness.
- Take the connecting to the next level. Pick up the phone and invite these amazing volunteers to the next networking event or encourage them to serve as a panel speaker at the next Chapter lunch. Either way, make it personal. An email newsletter alone does not say we miss you and value your service. Some of these previous volunteers haven’t been to a Chapter event in years and the faces may look quite a bit different, and that can be intimidating. Ease them back and introduce them to the many members who will likely be star struck by the introduction.
- And I’m not talking about “We used to be Special” badge ribbons. You’ve created an ongoing communication plan, extended personal invitations and begun the engagement process – don’t drop the ball. Announce them at the next Chapter meeting, share their stories in the Chapter newsletter and thank them – early and often.
I can’t say if this equation will work for every organization, I can’t even say if it works for mine, yet. I’ll keep you posted. I plan to implement Operation “You Still Rock” this month for IMPI. Your suggestions on how to make this as successful as possible are always welcome.