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Make a difference: How your association can have an impact on your community, your world

WSAE 2013 Donation

You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give. — Winston Churchill

Last week, I saw a Facebook post by a peer letting everyone know that he and his co-workers had raised over $20,000 in one week for the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee County. His post reminded me again of how thankful I am for the life I lead. Everyone’s healthy and I’ve never had to worry about how I’ll pay the next bill or where the next meal will come from.

I realize that’s not the case for everyone. That’s why I’m proud of our client, the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) – an organization that knows the impact associations can have on the community and the lives of people around us. Through WSAE’s Community Outreach Task Force, we’ve helped build bikes for children that might never have one, collected “wish list” items for a children’s hospital, and supported an organization that provides care packages to overseas troops. In fact, as I was writing this, I received a report that we collected eight boxes and 27 bags of items (see photo) for Support The Troops at our December 2013 meeting. Wow!

WSAE values community outreach so much, that this year they awarded their Visionary Award to a woman whose nominator cited her leadership and involvement in her association’s community service program as the reason she was especially deserving of this award. In 2013, the Wisconsin Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy brought together 1,224 volunteer dental and other professionals to provide 2,072 free patient visits that included 1,450 fillings, 1,846 extractions and 32 root canals. Total services provided represented more than $1.1 million in donated care. Now that was certainly worthy of being recognized!

If you’re inspired to see what your association and its members can do to impact the lives of others, it’s easy. A large budget or staff isn’t necessary. You can start small, for every small act of kindness makes a difference. Here are some ideas to get you on your way:

  • Form a committee to select a worthy organization and ask everyone to bring an item from that org’s “wish list’” to donate at your annual conference.
  • Invite members to share the stories of what their companies do in your newsletter or on your web site. You’ll probably be surprised at how many of your members are already doing something, whether it’s through corporate and individual donations or employee service hours. Give them some applause for their service and let their stories inspire others.
  • Create an award to recognize member organizations that serve. Everyone likes a little friendly competition; and in that competition, everyone’s a winner!
  • Bring your staff together to volunteer as a group. The AMPED staff recently helped manage craft tables at a city-wide holiday party for 350 children from the Boys and Girls Club. It was such fun seeing the kids decorate holiday cookies and get their pictures taken with Santa. We all enjoyed the chance to serve and it helped make the AMPED team even stronger by sharing the experience together.

I always tend to think of volunteer opportunities as my chance to impact someone else’s life. However, what usually happens is that those people I’m serving impact mine much more. Let me know if you do something, I’d love to hear about it!

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