Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Women filling up more of USA's volunteer ranks: Questions for Associations

Early in my career, I served as the PR director for a woman’s college, one of two men in the administration. Later, I served/worked with two associations when the first woman was elected president.

So, I wasn’t totally surprised with the USA Today story about the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on volunteering in America:

  • Looking for volunteers? The person most likely to say yes is a married white woman between 35 and 44 who's a college graduate, works part-time and has at least one child under 18, says a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.
  • In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, the rate at which Americans volunteer rebounded by half a percentage point to 26.8%, after falling the year before. The volunteer rate for men is 20.4%.
  • The reason for the uptick: women.
  • "Women step out in faith, and guys hang back."
  • He also said the key to getting anyone to volunteer is to ask them, and women are asked more frequently.
  • The BLS report found the greatest variation in volunteer rates was based on education. The volunteer rate for people without a high school diploma was 9.8%. It was 42.4% for people with a bachelor's degree.
So, perhaps there is no “glass ceiling” in association volunteer circles?

Some look at the data and ask “where have all the men gone?”

But, seeking volunteers and board members extends beyond gender.

Our association governance model assumes people in the industry or profession will step up and volunteer for board and/or committee work.

Over the last decade, I’ve been involved in one way or another with more than 25 association boards. My observation: board members are aging. And, many boards are struggling to find volunteers to serve. Are you seeing the same thing in your organization?

If so, what is going on?

  • Are time pressures keeping people from volunteering to serve their organizations? 
  • For trade associations, is industry consolidation shrinking the pool of potential leaders?
  • Has the recession restricted the ability of industry leaders and professionals to volunteer?
  • With Boomers retiring at escalating rates, are they dropping out of trade associations and professional societies.
As association management professionals, we know that the future of our organizations depends on great boards.

So, how do we help our association volunteers recruit their replacements?

1 comment:

  1. Great stats, insights, and questions, Steve. I also wonder how membership struggles in general are reflected in the difficulties of recruiting volunteers.