Do you volunteer for your professional association or do you professionally contribute?

I’m often vetted by an Association Board of Directors to speak at conferences and I serve on the National Board of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS).

I can tell you, there is a big difference between volunteering and professional contributing. It is all in the attitude and the execution.

After spending significant time in Africa, I’ve come to refer to a ‘volunteer’ as a person that builds houses or schools in rural communities, or partakes in similar activities. Without a doubt,an admirable task. The expectation is limited, and your performance is not equated to your professional ability.

‘Volunteering’ is often associated with giving of your time when it is convenient for you to do so. Often we hear: “Remember, we are all volunteers.” That comment, or excuse,seems to give permission for the lack of performance or accountability to perform to expectation.

Expectation may change, however, when we volunteer to our professional association. Fellow members make decisions about you, whether they like you, trust you, or will refer you. This judgment is made, consciously or subconsciously. Everything you do, consciously or subconsciously, is helping to form someone elses perception of you professionally.

Due to my experience and occasional frustration of working with ‘volunteers’ in various capacities, I’ve coined a term that I feel all professional associations should consider and adopt: Professional Contributors. Unlike the connotation of ‘volunteering’, a ‘profession contribution’ suggests implementing an attitude that is professional, accountable and delivering on promised tasks.

Who would you rather donate your time working along side: ‘Volunteers,’ or ‘Professional Contributors’?

Regardless of your attitude and approach, I do feel those who raise his or her hand to volunteer or professionally contribute should be commended. However, I also think that if you are going to raise your hand, you really should consider why you are contributing and how you can create impactful results.

So let us consider for a moment, some reason why you may in-fact raise your hand to contribute to a professional association?

  • Develop a new skill
  • Expand your Network
  • Feel part of a community
  • Heighten your profile
  • Demonstrate leadership
  • Add to your resume
  • Serve your industry

When looking at the variety of reasons why you would choose to contribute most will have an impact on the impression people will form of you and/or your organization. So make that contribution count.


How to move from Volunteer to becoming Professional Contributor?

To be a Professional Contributor you should have a clear objective of why you are contributing in mind. Objectives will assist you in making several decisions on your time allotment. For example, when something else you perceive as ‘more important’ is scheduled at the same time as your professional contribution time, your decisions will become easier. Another consideration is how you conduct yourself in a professional contribution environment. Many people volunteer to enhance their professional careers, while their interactions with other volunteers may actually jeopardize the professional impression they wish to create.

Points to consider as a Professional Contributor:

  • Am I on time for the meetings?
  • Do I actively participate and contribute?
  • Am I being open to others’ perspectives?
  • Am I just offering advice or am I offering to implement?
  • Do I continuously demonstrate respect for other Professional Contributors?
  • Do I see my task(s) through to completion?
  • Do I just bring up ideas, and never execute?
  • Do I take things personally, or in the context of the overarching association objectives?
  • How do I communicated, as if members or my family or my professional colleagues? (Think about it)
  • Do I always need my voice to be heard, or my way to be had, or can I move past some issues in order to move forward on others?

The best advice I can provide to becoming a Professional Contributor is to treat the opportunity as if you were dealing with your client, and that each fellow contributor is a decision-maker. This will ensure that you continue to respect the process, put your best forward, and not take anyone person’s role for granted.

Imagine if everyone in your professional association was a Professional Contributor, don’t you think you would be able to move the association and the industry forward more efficiently as you are all respecting others’ time, insights, and objectives?

Also, it’s easier to be a Professional Contributor when there are limited demands on your time and energy, but when it gets tough, would you just quit? Remember, that decision will in fact create an impression of you, if you want it to or not.

Now why professionally contribute? It can be the fastest way to grow your network, learning and sense of belonging.


Ignite Your Edgeness™
(An enhance version of you realized when pushing your edge.)

Should you accept the task to Professionally Contribute, create a clear objective for yourself of what you want to achieve both personally and professionally as a result of your participation. Treat the opportunity like a job that can enhance or hurt your career.This will help guide you in every interaction and decision. Changing your attitude to consider your are making a professional contribution will maximum results for everyone in exchange for your time, insights, and actions. Lastly, Communicate what your objectives are to your fellow board members so they will have clear expectations of you and they will have context for your contribution.

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Suzanne F Stevens CSP*, Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Chief Edge Optimizer for Ignite Excellence Inc. Group, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host & Co-producer. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013 – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment international.  To find out more visit:

Suzanne is one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is included in the 10%of individuals who have this designation internationally.

Suzanne F. Stevens - YouMeWe
Suzanne F. Stevens - YouMeWe

Conscious-Contributions™ Cultivator: Author, Professional Speaker, Moderator, and Social Entrepreneur. Founder of YouMeWe Social Impact Group — igniting a culture where your contribution counts for you • your company • your community. |