April 1, 2021
Cecelia Nader is senior executive and volunteer administrator for NACE. April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month.
We hear it all the time—volunteers are the backbone of an organization. I know from personal experience that for NACE, this is most certainly true. I’ve had the pleasure of working with NACE volunteers for almost 17 years. I’ve always been struck by the extent of our members’ generosity in contributing their time and talent. When called upon, they are all in—sharing knowledge and supporting fellow professionals.
NACE’s culture is itself one of giving and nurturing. It’s what our members do every day. So, it’s not a stretch that so many have committed to giving back in so many ways. Here are a few:
- Creating podcasts, webinars, and workshops
- Writing blogs or articles for the Journal
- Submitting a proposal for the NACE Conference & Expo or serving there as a volunteer
- Serving as a mentor or mentee
- Participating in Affinity Groups
- Submitting for NACE Awards
- Raising your hand for committee or task force work
In 2019 NACE, added Affinity Groups as a way for members to come together to share common interests and concerns. More were added this year, bringing that number to 17. Affinity Groups have brought together more than 1,100 unique members and more than 3,100 across all groups. The groups have created webinars, blogged, contributed to the NACE Community, and been interviewed for Spotlight articles. Some use their time together to simply create a space where they can feel safe, share personal experiences, and support one another. I’m serving as staff adviser to the AANAPISI Affinity Group this year. I don’t have the right words to describe how it feels to be part of these meetings. I feel the real caring for each other as each person shares their life experiences. Their support of one another is genuine.
Committee and task force members make up a big part of our volunteer force—almost 200 strong this year. The response for committee volunteers has always been stellar. Committees and task forces are often thought of as the only avenue to volunteer, but NACE offers so much more. The number of ways to volunteer, letting you choose how best you would like to express yourself, what comfortably fits into your schedule, and how to take full advantage of your strengths.
In my capacity at NACE, I’ve served as staff adviser to the Honors and Awards Committee. Submitting for awards may not seem like volunteering at first look, but when you consider that you are ultimately adding to the knowledge base of more than 13,000 career services and recruiting professionals then, yes – you are volunteering! The same goes for interviews for Spotlight or contributions to the NACE Journal. Think of the audience that you are contributing to and how you are affecting their day to day lives. A new idea, plan, or program can provide a much-needed solution that can move someone else’s work forward.
Another avenue for volunteering has always been at our annual conference. Whether it’s stepping up to work the registration desk, stuff bags, or distribute and pick up surveys, the response is always overwhelming. Registration volunteers would often arrive at the conference site a day early to be sure they were there in time for their shift. We are all looking forward to the day when we can meet in person again.
NACE has offered a Mentor Program for a number of years. When the “ask” goes out for mentors the answer is never just yes, but how many mentees would you like me to take? I would say these mentors are selfless and generous but those volunteering would argue they get so much more in return. I’m lucky to receive messages from mentors and mentees who report back that their mentoring relationship was not only a professional success but also turned into real friendships. That’s community, and that’s what true volunteerism aspires to. Giving of yourself to bring out the best in those around you.
The legal definition of a volunteer is an individual who performs a service for a public agency for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered. I can attest to the fact that it is so much more than that. Everyone has their own personal reason for volunteering. Many say it’s giving back, others say it’s to expand their network, and others see it as personal and professional growth. I see it as a true generosity of spirit to make the world a better place.
As we celebrate National Volunteer Appreciation month, I want to thank all of you, on behalf of myself and NACE, who have served in a volunteer capacity. And to all of you thinking of volunteering, I hope you’ll check out our Get Involved page to see what would be a good fit for you. My interaction with all of you has been both humbling and inspirational. Through economic downturns, a pandemic, struggles with social injustice, and the challenge of working remotely, we’ve all been there for each other.
Take a bow, volunteers: Kudos to you all!