By Brett Christensen

While ISPI relies heavily on its members to volunteer their services, there is another side to that coin: The members rely on ISPI to provide them with a framework that allows them to serve. The numerous volunteers within our Society are effectively the “glue” that holds both the local chapters and the international organization together. That “glue” translates into all of the features, services, and benefits that are shared and enjoyed by the entire community. People generally do not volunteer thinking “what’s in it for me.”  It’s more likely they simply enjoy being actively involved and engaged with a group of like-minded individuals working toward a common goal.

When I joined the Canadian Navy, one of the first things I was taught was that NAVY was an acronym for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself!” All kidding aside, the first time I was approached about volunteering in ISPI, my mind came back with “what could I possibly offer to this group of thought leaders in performance improvement?” I had no idea of the personal benefits I would gain over my next eight years with the Society. I want to share some of my experience with you in hopes that if you are approached you will happily respond with “I am glad you asked me!”

A volunteer is defined as “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking, or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.” Volunteers who freely give of their time, energy, and skills often experience a wonderful sense of achievement and motivation. That in itself is worth more than money! So, let’s look at some more of the intangible benefits of offering your time and talent to the Society.

While volunteering for the Armed Forces Chapter (AFC) of ISPI, my energies were first directed to producing the Chapter newsletter and then to planning and executing the professional development program. Although the newsletter was pretty straightforward, running the Chapter’s webinar series took me well out of my comfort zone, requiring me to reach out to human performance technology (HPT) luminaries and ask them to volunteer their time for us! Being at the center of gravity for the program expanded my network exponentially and allowed me to reach out to many experts for help with my own work. That is just one example of the giving and receiving that result through the act of volunteering.

Interested in learning a new skill? Volunteering may take you down a path you would never have considered. In the case of the AFC webinars, learning the ins and outs of a variety of webinar platforms has earned me the (somewhat incorrect) reputation of a “geek.” Additionally, my skill set in facilitation and online instruction has undergone significant change–all for the better. If you are looking for new skills and are not able to get them through your workplace, ISPI is an excellent place for self-development!

Research commissioned by TimeBank (2010) determined that among the United Kingdom’s 200 leading businesses, 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteer experience over one without and 94% of employers believe that volunteering adds to skills. Additionally, 94% of employees who volunteered benefited through gaining employment, improved salaries, or being promoted. My volunteer experience with ISPI definitely contributed to my recent promotion to lieutenant-commander and it will absolutely be included in my resume when the time arrives for me to leave military life for a new career in the private sector!

So what are you waiting for? The benefits to be had by sharing your time and expertise are untold and unlimited. If you are an ISPI leader at any level, remember that one of the biggest barriers to getting volunteers is not asking for help! If you want to volunteer or you need volunteer assistance, get in touch with the ISPI Volunteer Committee today. See www.ispi.org/content.aspx?id=104 for all the details!

References
TimeBank. (2010). Key facts. Retrieved from http://timebank.org.uk/key-facts 10 Oct 2012