May 20, 2017

Waking the Tightrope Betwen Volunteers and HBA Staff

Once in awhile I will write a blog article about "things" that bring my inside voice out. I know you are suppose to exercise patience and always allow intelligence to reign over emotions. I get it, I truly do. Yet there are other times where I have to let out those thoughts and go with the "ready, fire, aim" approach...

Pre-2008 was a time where membership in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) hit an all time high and members were enthusiastically volunteering their time to help the local home builder associations (HBA) and state home builders associations with event planning, gaining sponsorships and everything else needed to help make each event or initiative be a success. Granted, not every HBA enjoyed a robust volunteer pool but quite a few had. During the housing depression quite a few volunteers withdrew, focusing on their businesses and careers with focus really meaning survive. Volunteerism at the HBA dwindled but didn't disappeared, however it certainly was way off the needed mark. HBA staff had to pick up a lot of the slack. When that happened, the way we volunteer changed. Staff became so involved, again out of necessity, that volunteerism morphed into a group that just gathers and is being updated on what will happen as opposed to volunteers once setting everything in motion. I am not saying this is happening everywhere but it certainly is happening in quite a few HBAs. 
This new era of volunteerism is so used to staff handling events and making decisions that our volunteerism ranks are well on there way to atrophy. This is the fine line; when do the old guard active members stand up and say enough? I'm old school when it comes to volunteering; if it's legal, moral, within the bylaws, in line with the HBA's mission, and within budget let the volunteers run with it. Staff needs to let volunteers ease back into being volunteers and. more importantly, HBA leaders. The atrophy is already happening as committee participation is dwindling and potential future leaders are becoming more scarce.

I don't have a fix as I'm just pointing to the 800 pound gorilla in the room and knowing the beast will crush us and our HBA creativity. I will make sure that I do my part in making staff well aware that I am quite capable to volunteer and I hope my fellow "old timers" who are wondering what the hell has happened to our association will take the same stand. It's the only way to rebuild our lifeblood of volunteerism. 

  • Young professionals take note; do and don't accept what you're being told as "this is the way we've always done."
  • "Old timers" work with the young professionals, guide them as to what a volunteer should be; passionate about success and volunteering for the betterment of the HBA not to better their business opportunities.
  • HBA staff; please keep remembering that the success of your association depends on successful events and initiatives. If you have volunteers that are amped up and ready to roll, as long as "it's legal, moral, within the bylaws, in line with the HBA's mission, and within budget" do not curb the volunteers enthusiasm. Embrace it, enjoy it, revel in the fact that you have others who care. Please don't interrupt the flow of conversation or interject counter to the discussion! Why alienate when you can alleviate. 
If we rely on a staff driven association the days of an engaged association will be a distant memory. Maybe that's already started.

Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP

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