What do the AMA, PRSA, IABC and countless other trade groups have in common? They all require volunteers to make them run. For many years now I’ve been a member of the AMA. And like all membership organizations, the value I receive from that membership is directly proportional to the investment I make in it… hence the idea of volunteering.
Many moons ago, the New Orleans chapter of the AMA decided to build it’s brand around “Great Speakers.” We committed to a sponsorship program to raise the funds required to bring world-class speakers to each and every luncheon we have. Now someone had to step up to start the sponsorship program and find speakers. At the time I was in charge of Business Development at another agency. So of course, I jumped at the chance.
Over the next 4 or 5 years I invited marketing directors, vice-presidents of advertising, authors, and pretty much anyone that tickled my fancy for a free trip to New Orleans. The contacts I made were invaluable and the knowledge I (and the rest of the attendees) gained would have cost me a fortune in conference fees.
Even now that I’m no longer directly in charge of that effort, I routinely use the program as an excuse to meet really, really smart people. Last May it was Peter Shankman. I got to spend pretty much an entire day picking his brain and forming what has turned out to be a nice relationship. And today, I’ll get to hang with probably one of the finest Social Media Experts in the country — Mr. Chris Brogan who will be speaking tomorrow. And while everyone else will get a few fleeting moments of his time/attention after his talk, I his lowly driver will have a good 30 minutes while we shuttle him back to the airport. And this evening, one of my co-workers will enjoy the same as he picks Chris up from the airport. So for the 30 minute ride into the city, a young, just starting out social media strategist will get to pick the brain of a master. All because he volunteered to help.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think there is something with this volunteering stuff. What about you? Ever get a big break or form a valuable relationship because you volunteered for something?