Monday, May 14, 2012

I Don't Want to Serve on Your Committee

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This may come as a shock, I know, but I don't view it as an honor. I view it as a timesuck, and it's not clear to me what kind of value (if any) I'm going to get out of the experience. I barely even know who you are, and the blanket way you approached me tells me you barely know who I am either.

Do you want me to volunteer? Do you want me to get engaged with your organization? Here are some quick DOs and DON'Ts for your consideration:

DON'T send me a list of committees that have openings and tell me I have to respond by a deadline if I want to serve on any of them.

DO tell me what one specific committee is trying to accomplish in the coming year and why it matters to our community.

DON'T send me to some online database I've never visited before and ask me to scan through a list of volunteer opportunities. Especially if I have to create a profile in order to do so.

DO tell me why you want me. Why my knowledge, experience or perspective would help the specific committee you referenced earlier complete its task.

DON'T assume I read your email--and that if I didn't reply I'm not interested. I get hundreds of emails every day. I don't read them all.

DO follow-up by phone. It's best if it's done by someone I know (I'm more likely to pick up the phone or return the voicemail), but it's okay if no one in your leadership has yet to meet me personally. When you do get me on the phone, speak directly to what's in it for me. Networking, education, leadership skills development--every volunteer task is an opportunity to gain at least one of those three things, and they may mean more to me that the task your committee needs to complete.

This advice is based on real experiences I've had. Remarkably, it was the same organization that first did all the DON'Ts, and then did all the DOs. The DOs worked much better.


  1. DO design collaboration with purpose and intention to achieve shared individual/organizational outcomes.

    DO offer meaningful, enriching and convenient opportunities to co-create value with other stakeholders.

    DO help contributors participate successfully on their terms.

    DON'T have committees.

  2. I would assume when more than one person joins a team, we strike the word committee and call them innovation teams?

  3. Nice list, Eric. Most of the time, I've encountered the "Don'ts." I've found that the "Do's" are only used (if at all) when a small group of "selected" people are desired for a specific task.

    Some associations will tell you they get more volunteer signups than they need - on their online databases. So, they may feel that their systems work.

  4. Tom, I would argue it's less about what you call them and more about the value they deliver to their members and the actions they are able to take.

    Thanks, David. I recognize that different approaches work for different people--and for folks at different stages of their careers.