What’s remarkable about volunteerism is that you can volunteer at any age and at any point in your life. As you increase your knowledge and develop your skills, your ability to contribute increases. I fondly remember volunteering experiences from Cub Scouts to church activities as a child, to serving in the U.S. Army as a young man, to volunteering to serve organizations in my community and the profession as an adult. Each opportunity led to an experience that made me the person I am today.
As I reflect on my almost 50 years of IMA® volunteer experiences, including serving as IMA Chair, my active engagement in seven chapters and six councils as well as numerous global committees, from changes in accounting education to leadership development and the establishment of the Leadership Academy, the chances to serve and make a difference have been plentiful. Chances to volunteer abound for everyone, and if we don’t see them it’s because we aren’t seeking them. Rather than seeking only opportunities you desire, consider taking on one to meet a need that others aren’t filling.
It was volunteering in a role that others seemed reluctant to take on where I often felt the greatest satisfaction. I was a council president (Virginia, 1977) before I was a chapter president (Virginia Skyline, 1978), and I’ve served as a secretary/treasurer for quite a few years in the Austin Chapter after having been IMA Chair.
To those who seek volunteer opportunities, go where you’re needed. Great servant leaders often lead from behind as they fulfill organizational needs, doing the job as they set an example for others and develop others to step up to their opportunity.
The joy of serving others is exceeded only by the pleasure of engagement with the people you’ll meet along the way. From enthusiastic volunteers to the dedicated IMA staff, who in 2009 made me an honorary global staff member because of my engagement with them, the experiences have been phenomenal. Strangers have become colleagues, colleagues have become friends, and friends have become family.
I especially cherish my many volunteer experiences of being a mentor as well as a mentee. Knowing you’re making a difference in the lives of others and the profession is priceless.
Volunteerism has been a cornerstone of IMA’s success and a competitive advantage. We have been fortunate to have had dedicated volunteers for 100 years, and I’m sure we will continue to do so for the next 100. Whether you volunteer for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, don’t forgo this opportunity. Do whatever you can, for whomever you can, wherever you can, for as long as you can! Volunteerism is the opportunity of a lifetime.