VOLUNTEER LEADERS: A VALUE PROPOSITION | May 2, 2005 Issue - Vol. 83 Issue 18 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 83 Issue 18 | p. 40 | ACS Comments
Issue Date: May 2, 2005


Department: ACS News

Thousands of people; tens of thousands of hours. That describes participation by the member volunteers of the American Chemical Society. ACS has an enviable reputation among professional organizations for the degree of involvement of its members. Volunteers run the local sections and divisions and the regional meetings; they also fill the positions on a large number of governance committees, task forces, and related entities. They are engaged in outreach activities such as National Chemistry Week and Earth Day, represent us through Capitol Hill visits, and mentor young scientists. The current member-related activities of ACS would simply not be possible without the impressive generosity of our members.

The benefit of volunteerism to ACS is obvious. Our challenge is to make the benefit to our members clear so as to promote and enhance their volunteer participation in a time of shifting societal values.

The world of volunteerism is changing as workplace and family obligations change in response to business globalization and household work patterns. To address these changes and their potential effect on ACS member involvement, a Presidential Working Group on Leadership Development was established several years ago. The group's report recommended that ACS take action on two areas: leadership pipeline--to enhance the ACS member involvement by increasing the size and diversity of the leadership pool; and leadership skills development--to enhance leadership skills for these ACS member volunteers by providing training and development opportunities.

In the fall of 2004, the chair of the ACS Board of Directors established a Board Task Force on Leadership Development. Members were appointed to a Board Oversight Group on Leadership Development. I served as chair, and Kathleen M. Schulz as vice chair. Subsequently, implementation teams that will be responsible for creation of pipeline and skills development programs were established with Barbara A. Sawrey and Larry K. Krannich, respectively, leading those two groups. The overall goal of this leadership development program is to "create and implement a transformed process for the recruitment, development, and motivation of ACS volunteer leaders."

This new effort does not imply that ACS has been neglecting volunteer leadership development. Our most recent ACS Leaders Conference in January in Baltimore, in which many of you participated, was a rousing success. However, the working group report points out that we must respond to the changing environment that will affect volunteerism within ACS, and that we must adapt our methods of training and motivation. Enhancement of current methods may not be sufficient. New and different approaches will be needed to attain our goals. The process of developing these new programs is now under way.

Initial outreach efforts to encourage participation in leadership development began at the San Diego national meeting through discussions with various ACS governance groups. The task force is also in the process of reaching beyond ACS to those who can bring us their expertise in attracting and training volunteers. Innovation and technically savvy methods of communication and education will surely be a significant part of our final recommendations to the society.

And now, as an economist might say, let's look at the bottom line--that is, What will be the "value added" for these efforts? I have already mentioned the enormous value that volunteers bring to the operations of ACS, our professional society. But what about to themselves (a little self-interest doesn't hurt), their employers, and their communities? Doesn't it seem reasonable that the organizational and leadership skills that volunteers obtain through ACS will prove valuable beyond the society? I have personally found this to be true.

One of the preliminary activities of this new leadership development effort was to survey employers about the benefit to them of ACS leadership training. More than 100 company representatives were involved in this initial survey, representing large and small employers of chemistry professionals. More than 85% responded that they valued or would value leadership training provided to their employees by ACS. Further, they would also be willing to support their employees in these efforts by providing time for volunteer training and the volunteerism itself. This is clearly a win, win, win situation for all participants!

We are just at the beginning of this process of leadership development that will provide enhanced benefit to our members, strengthen ACS's value to employers, and nurture a vibrant, dynamic professional society.

The Task Force on Leadership Development values your ideas and suggestions as the program moves ahead. We will be particularly interested in comments from those of you who have not (yet) chosen to become a member volunteer. Is this because of time restraints, absence of employer or family support, lack of interest, or simply that nobody has asked you? Please contact us at leaders@acs.org. We will keep you informed.


ACS Comments, which appear in C&EN from time to time, are written by society officers and committee chairs. They are available on C&EN Online at http://www.cen-online.org/html/acscomments.html. Comments are archived back to 2000.


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