Rob Wenger returns to the role of Chief Executive Officer. Wenger, who co-founded Higher Logic in 2007, previously spent more than a decade leading the company. He is re-joining as the strategic opportunity for the business shifts to product innovation and strategic partnerships. Read Full Press Release

Getting the Most Out of Volunteering with an Association

Associations // Volunteering to serve an industry association in a leadership capacity presents an opportunity and a commitment. In a recent episode of our podcast, The Member Engagement Show, we explored how rewarding it can be and how it helps you in...

Kelly Whelan
Follow Us

Volunteering to serve an industry association in a leadership capacity presents an opportunity and a commitment. In a recent episode of our podcast, The Member Engagement Show, we explored how rewarding it can be and how it helps you in your “day job.”  


The Guest  

Member Engagement Show guest on the episode was Dominick “Dom” Mondi, Executive Director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, and President of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives  

The Northeast Spa and Pool Association is a four-state regional trade association for companies engaged in building or servicing residential and commercial pools and spas. Prior to his role at NESPA, Dominick managed some smaller state associations and has been doing association management for about 15 years as a volunteer. He’s been with MASAE for almost 10 years.   

Why Volunteer?  

Dom volunteers with his association primarily to give back. The association management industry has been good to him and he enjoys the work. 

If you have the opportunity to do something to make the industry that’s been good to you better, you should try and make the time. You should put yourself in the shoes of the people you work with most. – Dominick Mondi 

There are 18 people on the board of directors with Dom, and every one of them runs a business and has demands on their time. But they’re there because they’re committed to making their industry better. Volunteers also find that they learn things in their volunteer role(s), or make connections, that can serve them in their day-to-day career.  

The Unique Perspective of Both Managing and Volunteering at Associations  

Dom finds it interesting both managing and being on the volunteer side of an association. It’s a perspective he believes makes him better at both roles. Unless you’re involved in an association, you might not realize how important they are and everything that goes on behind the scenes to keep them running and providing value to members. And unless you’re a volunteer, you might not have a full understanding of the challenges that come with balancing your work, personal, and volunteer commitments.  

Volunteering with MASAE has given Dom an understanding of and appreciation for the time crunch his own volunteers face. Finding time to keep up with industry trends and best practices and making time for meetings can be difficult.  

Because Dom can put himself in his board members’ shoes, he has added sensitivity to volunteers’ needs. It helps him avoid association-speak and better convey information to people who aren’t in the weeds of the business every day. He recommends that associations approach volunteer planning knowing there’s only so much they can expect from your volunteers. If you keep in mind that your volunteers are balancing competing responsibilities, your association will be better positioned to set (and meet) achievable volunteer goals.  

Think Local or Regional for Higher Engagement  

Dom also talks about the value of regional associations and volunteer opportunities. He’s seen members join NESPA looking for something from the national organization, and then realizing the benefits gained from engaging in one of the four regional chapters. These smaller, local chapters offer the opportunity for members to engage with their local community more closely. Interacting with people doing the same thing you’re doing, and in the same area, gives you common ground to start from. And local meetups are a lower commitment than a large in-person conference.  

NESPA also cultivates virtual, small-group opportunities. They have a program called CEO Forum that they host seasonally, biweekly, and cap at 25 people. During these meetings, a topic is presented, sometimes accompanied by seed questions, and the intent is to spark conversation in a smaller group, allowing for more personal connections.   

NESPA finds that these micro-engagements allow members to connect in a way fits into their lives. And they also see the engagement they cultivate in smaller groups or on a regional level carried into attendance at their two big annual events. It’s the best of both worlds.   

When members show up at the big events, they gain the benefits of participating in a major in-person event, but they’re not going in cold. They have a group of colleagues who they already know and can expand their network with the support of bonds they’ve already formed.   

Which is the Right Volunteer Opportunity for You?  

Each level of an association is a different experience and has different value propositions. And to the extent local, regional, and national arms of an association interact, you can have alignment with volunteers that “move up.” Dom doesn’t really like to frame it that way because it implies there’s a rigid hierarchy to move through, but each level serves different functions, and different functions are going to appeal to different volunteers.  

When you’re volunteering at a national level, you’re meeting less, traveling more, and dealing with high-level issues. You’re operating with a broader point of view, looking out for the many different regional needs. You’re probably also dealing with larger budgets and more resources. Your goals and objectives might be to deliver results for the whole industry you’re representing.  

At the local and regional level, there’s more of an opportunity to get down into the nitty gritty, with a closer view and higher priority on member experience.   

Whatever your talents and disposition, there is a place for you to volunteer with an association. If you’re a big picture, corporate mindset, management kind of person, you might feel most engaged working with your national organization. If you like forming and working with small groups, working with town officials, and trying to make your local codes, regulations, and legislation better, you might enjoy getting involved in your region.  

Cultivating a Broad Volunteer Base  

The more people an association can engage at different levels, the greater the benefit. More volunteers mean more input and a more diverse pool of ideas. If the same voices are always leading, your organization might miss out on different perspectives. Associations and their members are best served when there are more volunteers dividing the effort and sharing their unique experiences.  

The Power of a Personal Ask  

But how do associations bring in those volunteers? It could be as simple as just asking.  

Dom’s NESPA board past president often tells the story of how he was just starting out, working for a pool company and trying to figure out the business. Then he met someone who invited him to the association local chapter meeting with him. He asked once. He asked twice. After the third ask, Dom’s past president finally joined him at the meeting.   

Over time, he got more and more involved and met someone at the regional level who said, “Hey, I think you’d really enjoy the regional chapter.” And from there he went on to become President of the region.   

Someone might already know about your association but might not realize they’d be welcome in a volunteer or leadership role. There is great power in being personally asked to participate by someone who’s known and respected.  

Kelly Whelan

Content Marketing Manager

Follow Us