DillianWaldron, one particular meeting when she was with the Human Resources Planning Society (now called HR Peo- ple&Strategy, or HRPS) stands out. That year, HRPS was holding its Global Conference in Las Vegas—and the volun- teer committee charged with putting together the conference program included a number of former members of HRPS’s board of directors. And that,Waldron would soon discover, turned out to be the perfect recipe for a volunteer committee run amok. “It turned out to be a real budget-
buster,”Waldron said. Because the commit- tee included former board members, it had a lot of power, and thus was able to get away with a lot of things that were over-budget, and not in the best long-term financial interest of HRPS. “There were lights, camera, action, a lot of things that…were great,”Waldron said, “but some [elements] were just really over the top.” The show also did not bring in the amount of revenue that HRPS expected—and needed—it to. “It was just really a lot of fluff,” she said. “I think that there were a lot of lessons learned from that, but it was an expensive lesson learned.” Waldron’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for meet-
ing professionals who have been tasked with working with volunteer committees—which is pretty much a given for every association planner. Of course, asWaldron says, “vol- unteers are the lifeblood of an association,” and you don’t want to crush the enthusiasm of anyone who is willing to serve. But the impulse to encourage volunteers’ eagerness must be balanced by realistic goals and expectations, communicated clearly. It’s a fine line to walk.
Choose Wisely When Jennifer Tomb, CAE, CEM, CMP, first started work- ing at the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), where she now serves as director of convention and meetings, it seemed to her that the association’s volunteer committees
were made up primarily of senior-management types from NPGA’s company membership. And that was great, Tomb said —“I think the leadership is important” —but “when it came down at the end of the day to breaking up the tasks and sending them [out], they didn’t always have the time, because they are running the companies.” That’s one problem with having volun-
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teer committees composed entirely of the most experienced and influential people in your industry. Another, asWaldron experi- enced in Las Vegas, is the fact that volun- teers with more clout could throw their weight around in ways that may not benefit the association.
The solution to both problems seems clear: Take a more
active role in choosing the make-up of your volunteer com- mittees. “In the past it’s been a ‘y’all come’ [mentality],” Har- rison Coerver, co-author of Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations, said in an interview with Convene. “You know, whoever shows up—qualified, unqualified, knowledgeable, clueless—that’s who we put on commit- tees.” (See p. 50 for an interview with Coerver and p. 52 for an excerpt from Race for Relevance.) But in today’s competitive environment, you not only have
to understand the expertise or knowledge that your commit- tees will require to perform their tasks well, but also must be
“In the past, it’s been a ‘ya’ll come’ [mentality].You know, whoever shows up—qualified, unqualified, knowledgeable, clueless—that’s who we put on committees.”