IMA Volunteerism: Low-risk GrowthBy
I relocated to upstate South Carolina from the Portland, Ore., area more than 20 years ago to start my first accounting role in a manufacturing company. At the time, it had been almost as many years since I was in a cost accounting course. Feeling a bit rusty, I took two immediate actions.
First, I enrolled in a refresher course at the local community college. Second, I attended a meeting of my local IMA® Spartanburg Area Chapter. Several caring and kind management accounting professionals greeted me. They convinced me not only to join IMA but also to take on a volunteer role.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to serve at the local chapter, regional council, and Global Board levels of IMA. These have included terms as chapter president, council president, and member of the Global Board of Directors for six years. Currently, I’m the program chair for IMA’s 2020 Annual Conference & Expo and on the IMA Carolinas Council board. In addition to IMA volunteer service, I’ve been a director for the United Way, a member of a joint Drug-Free Workplace Task Force for upstate South Carolina, a director and officer for several homeowners’ associations, and a volunteer for many church and youth sports coaching roles.
Over the years, people have asked me why I volunteer. The answer is easy:
- You get more than you give.When you volunteer, you make sacrifices, typically of your personal time. I often struggled finding the time to serve, and I sometimes regretted my commitment. But I learned that every time I gave of myself, I received more in return—more knowledge, new relationships, and a feeling of immense satisfaction and fulfillment.
- When you volunteer, you grow. In almost every volunteer role, I felt some degree of doubt that I could be successful. My first local IMA chapter role was in the membership area. I remember thinking, “I’m not a salesperson. How can I help promote new members or retain existing members?” What I’ve learned is that hesitancy is a directional sign. It means there’s an area that you aren’t comfortable with, so you should attack it. This has translated into many areas of growth for me.
- Volunteering tests and refines your leadership skills.In our professional careers, our roles typically come with some level of authority, usually delegated as part of our defined position. Your employees or team members are paid to listen to you and act. In a volunteer leadership position, you must motivate other volunteers but without a financial incentive. What better way to develop your influential leadership skills!
- Volunteerism is low-risk.As professionals, we often are judged by our actions, and in some organizations our career success can be impacted by our failures. In every organization where I have volunteered, including IMA, the leaders truly appreciated my efforts. They not only established a safe environment, but they also encouraged me and helped me succeed.
I’m grateful for the service opportunities IMA has provided. I’m even more grateful for the low-risk leadership growth I realized from my small sacrifices and for the lasting relationships I developed through my involvement in IMA.