When your association’s members are already bogged down with the responsibilities of their own careers, families, and communities, how do you convince them that committee work is worth prioritizing? The process needs to be multifaceted and focus on the benefits to your organization as well as to the candidates themselves. Here are five crucial elements to help you get the “yes.”
1. Advertise when your association committees have openings.
To encourage volunteering on association committees, you first need to let them know that opportunities are available. Associations are filled with people who care about their professional communities and are invested in making connections, but they might not have time to take the initiative on their own.
One of the most efficient ways of reaching your membership is through your association’s website. Online communities and message boards, if you have them, are great places to post notifications of service opportunities. Announcements in newsletters, emails, and other membership communications can also work well.
2. Welcome candidates to an open meeting.
People sometimes have a hard time committing to something if they aren’t sure they would do well. To ease these fears, identify those committees that are in need of members and consider hosting an open meeting. If candidates see the committee in action, it becomes less intimidating.
This kind of meeting often works best when it happens a few months before committee selections take place. After the open meeting eases people’s fears about serving, their minds are more open to the possibility when it’s time for appointments or elections to happen.
3. Invest in promoting your organization.
If your association takes its committee members from the general membership, strong committees require a membership with diverse skills and talents. Increase your pool of candidates and you will have a better chance of getting great people to serve.
Be visible at industry events
One of the foundational concepts of marketing is to go where your customers are. This holds true for association membership as well. Your future members, and in turn your future committee members, are at industry events and conferences.
Sign up to give a talk or host an information booth. Be present in whatever way makes sense for your business and your industry. That way, you can put your association in front of people who are proactive about making connections within their fields.
Invest in publicity for your organization
To have a broad selection of committee members, you need a diverse membership. Give your association a presence in a number of places, from industry publications, and relevant websites to the professional websites of your members.
Once you’ve drawn people into your association by getting them on board with your mission, you can take advantage of that new connection and ask them to further your mission through committee work.
Host a social event for committee members, family, and friends
Never underestimate the power of an in-person connection. If your current members have family, friends, or colleagues that might work well on one of your committees, and if it makes sense for your organization geographically, ask the committee to invite potential candidates to a networking event. Serve food and beverages and let your committee members network for you.
4. Seek out people with the skills you need.
When numbers are low, it’s tempting to take anyone up on an offer to serve. In the case of committee service, however, this strategy is risky at best. A committee has a specific mission or task to accomplish, which means that the people on the committee need to have the skill set and experience to make a positive contribution.
Know why you’re looking
Before you look for something, you have to know what you’re looking for. It’s difficult to know who would be a good fit for your committee unless you have determined what specific function that person would serve. Some committees just need a fresh perspective, while others have a particular skill deficit that needs filling. Still others have vacancies left by departing members.
Identify specific needs
Before you start the recruitment process, identify the purpose of that committee and the skills of its existing members. Talk to the committee and find out what skills gaps there are, if any, then think about who within your membership would be likely to fill those gaps. This ensure that your committee has the capability to fulfill its purpose and ensures that the committee membership has an effective blend of skills.
Be specific with your ask.
If you approach a member or even the membership at large with the question, “Do you want to serve on X committee,” they might not have a lot of information on which to base their decision. A great many people, even within a particular industry, don’t know what a development committee, management committee, or event committee does. Similarly, unless they know someone who is already serving, a candidate might not know crucial factors like time commitment and responsibilities.
The person or group issuing the invitation needs to present this information as part of the ask. Include as many details as you can about:
a) how often the committee meets
b) whether meetings are in person, over the phone, or online
c) what tasks the member would be expected to perform
d) if there is a donation or fund raising component
e) if there are any other responsibilities, individual or shared
The more information a person has, the more likely you are to find a good fit.
What’s in it for them?
Remember that no matter how committed a person is to your association, he or she likely has numerous other commitments and responsibilities already on his or her plate. Be sure to communicate to them how committee service would benefit them as well, either professionally or personally.
As an example, the Austin chapter of the International Live Events Association publishes a list of “Top 10 Reasons to Join a Committee.” This list shows that committee work opens up opportunities for the candidate to network, expand his or her professional brand, and boost his or her résumé through leadership and service. It even offers personal benefits such as early access to conference amenities.
About the Author
Katie has a passion for marketing and writing. She enjoys learning about all aspects of events and sharing this knowledge through the Expo Logic Blog.