This past year, I had the opportunity for an amazing experience. I joined the Paris-Brant Kiwanis Club. I knew it would be a short term commitment, as I had a new work opportunity beginning in September that would prevent me from continuing with this service club, but I didn’t want that to stop me. I admired the initiative of Kiwanis clubs all over the country for a long period of time. The work they’ve done on local poverty issues, support for children’s art and recreation programs, community building and even international children’s health is nothing short of astounding.
When long-time Kiwanian Paul Thompson approached me about joining (later writing a piece on his own Kiwanis experience in the January 2012 issue of this very publication) I was hesitant because I knew I could not commit for as long as I’d like. We talked about it and something in the conversation struck me. Not enough of us twenty and thirty somethings are joining service clubs and volunteer boards.
The younger adults I know who do actually commit to service clubs, do so proudly, but most of them were introduced to the values of their club by their parents who were also members. The number is dwindling. When it comes to board memberships, it seems to me that those of us younger adults who serve, do so on multiple boards. We’re the usual suspects and that needs to change. I love the dedicated Gen X and Gen Y folks I meet on boards and executives, but I want to see more of us. We have to turn this tide and if we don’t, the generations ahead will lose something very valuable to our communities. The twenty and thirty somethings are there, but not as there as we need to be. Let’s correct that and let’s start with some education.
What is a service club?
A service club is a voluntary non-profit organization. Members meet on a regular basis and perform charitable works through volunteering in their communities and/or by raising money for worthy causes. Examples would be groups like Kiwanis, Rotary, Shriners etc.
What is a board?
According to Volunteer Canada, just about every non-profit organization is governed by a board of directors who “are responsible for providing leadership and strategic direction to [an] organization based on the organization’s mission/mandate; and governing the affairs of the organization on behalf of…its members.” Most boards ask for at least a one-year commitment. Some ask for a longer term of 2-3 years. Most boards also have a limit on how many terms you can serve.
How can I help?
What drives volunteer and non-profit organizations is the knowledge, resolve and work of dedicated individuals like you. There are many boards and service clubs right here in our community that are itching for someone like you to help provide input, support and guidance to their work. You might think you don’t have anything to offer but you are wrong. Board members are invaluable and there just aren’t enough people willing to step up to fill the vacancies of many local and worthy organizations. You might be able to help with the day-to-day operations, partnerships, policy development, fundraising and direction of a not-for-profit.
How do I start?
Most boards and service clubs can appoint new members who are interested to fill a vacancy as soon as their next meeting. Most usually have monthly meetings but take a month off in the summer and another near the winter holidays. If you know of a board you want to join, just get in touch with the organization and ask. Maybe you have a favourite not-for-profit. Call them and ask if they have any vacancies. Keep reading this article for the websites of some organizations I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer for and can personally vouch for.
How will I find the right fit?
A very good question! It depends on what your interests are but I can confirm that you won’t ever find it by staying home. If you aren’t feeling “it” after a few months you can resign. It happens, but in order to prevent poor fit I’ll make you an offer. If you’re on the fence, or have more questions, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll personally get in touch to try and see if I can find you something you might be interested in.
One of the points of creating this publication was to encourage more participation in the community, and I can’t think of a better way than by increasing the level of community support for some of the great service clubs and organizations we have here.
Next month I’ll write a follow up piece including tips for getting the most personally, out of your service club/volunteer board experience. Until then, here is a list of just some of the organizations I have been fortunate enough to volunteer on and can personally vouch for:
The Paris-Brant Kiwanis Club
Canada Without Poverty
Arts After School Kids
The Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre
The Brantford Arts Block/Brantford Centre for the Arts
The Brant-Brantford Roundtable on Poverty
The Brant Community Garden Project