Volunteering...WHAT"S IN IT FOR ME?
or, How to Give my Business a Bump
By Barbara Jacobs, FASID, Life Member
ASID California Central / Nevada Chapter Director at Large
Who are the decision makers, at each of these media outlets and their phone numbers? The opportunity for you, the volunteer, begins when you pick up the telephone to contact each of these people, personally. They will take your call, when you say you are calling on behalf of ASID. After you have introduced yourself, you will ask them to send you their publication calendar for the coming year. This calendar calls out which issue is planned for each subject; i.e. bathrooms, great rooms, etc; every publication has this. Now that you have gotten your foot in the door and had a real conversation with each of these people, they are likely to remember you, or will, when you remind them!
Early in my career, I was told by a journalist, who was writing a feature about me as ASID president, "We need you, as much as you need us." What he was telling me, was that designers want to get their work published and media wants to publish it; but they need our help in identifying that work. Since you already have these contacts established through your volunteer work with ASID....use them! Make that call, submit your work!
Remember the local journalist who said, "We need you as much as you need us?" Nationwide, journalists need information also. Who are they going to call to get the names of designers and manufacturers who can help them? They call ASID Headquarters in Washington, DC. Yes, your national organization! And from what pool of names does the Headquarters Support Team select these referrals? From the people they know, of course. While a national volunteer, I was quoted and published in media throughout the USA. Not only do we have the opportunity to keep these people in our databases, they also have the same opportunity.
Recently, I received a phone call from a freelance journalist, based in Massachusetts, whom I knew from previous referrals from ASID. She was writing an article on design trends, and found me in her database. During the interview, I asked where this article was going to be published. She told me it will be in Sunday Supplements of local newspapers, nationwide. Then I asked her what she was using for photos. She said she wasn't sure. So I said, "I have a project I am sure you will be interested in; may I send it to you?" To my delight, it became the cover story of a magazine supplement in the San Jose Mercury News, my neighborhood, titled, Silicon Valley Home, interiors, furnishings, landscaping and lifestyle, 2006. This woman had kept me in her database for more than 15 years!
About 8 years ago, while attending yet another ASID National Conference (I have attended more than 20, mostly on my dime,) I was standing in the hotel check in line. As I glanced over at the line running parallel to mine, I spotted a familiar face. It was Carol King, former Editor of Designers West Magazine, whom I met through ASID events. After the usual hug, hug, kiss, kiss...I asked her "What are you doing these days?" She said she was publishing coffee table books. "What are you working on now?" I asked. She replied, "Feng Shui in the Home." And I said, "I have a project that I am sure you will be interested in; may I send it to you?" Is this beginning to sound familiar???? My project got 8 pages in her hard cover coffee table book.
In addition to media contacts I have found myself sitting next to the CEO of Steelcase at lunch, the CEO of Schumacher for cocktails and the CEO of Donghia, among many others, at dinner. I have met these people in informal, as well as work settings and have enjoyed learning from these smart, important executives, and when I needed a contact at that level, I did not hesitate to pick up the phone ....Anything I learned as a volunteer could be used in my personal/professional life.
The years I was sitting on the National Board were the years that ASID committed to delivering training to members, in a wide range of skills. Training became a benefit available to all members, but those in leadership, that is, Chapter Presidents and higher, had the opportunity to participate in additional trainings with a deeper content level than the workshops available to the general membership. ASID valued training as a member benefit for all members, but especially for leadership. Starting in 1991, each national officer not just the president, was given a training budget! As national vice president, I was allocated $5000.00, to spend on training and expenses. For myself! I could choose any course, as long as it would benefit me as vice president. How could I personally benefit from this generous gift? While choosing my courses, I looked at what would enhance my ASID job performance, as well as what would benefit me in the real world as a business owner and professional interior designer.
I had already participated in numerous training sessions on Strategic Planning sponsored by ASID, for leadership. It was a whole new skill set for me and I was very excited to have the exposure and knowledge. This excitement drove me to select Strategic Planning & Management as one of the three, in depth courses in which I enrolled. After completing the course, I volunteered to write a training module on strategic planning to be given by the training committee, to presidents-elect at national meetings.
I presented this training for about 5 years, while also being included on the list of facilitators available to chapters nation-wide, at their request and expense. As I continued to help troubled chapters with their plans for several years, I learned many things to take back to my chapter and my business. ....Anything I learned as a volunteer could be used in my personal/professional life.
While delivering these trainings to leadership, members, and also facilitating strategic planning at chapters, I had several moments of personal satisfaction when volunteers taking the class for ASID purposes, had that "aha moment" when they realized they could take this skill back and use it in their own businesses!
Ask a past president what was the most valuable benefit realized by volunteering for ASID, and most of them will say, contacts and training. Volunteering for ASID will put many opportunities in your path; how you use them will be up to you.
The next time the ASID nominating committee calls you, before saying NO, I encourage you to truly think about the opportunities being offered.