The IEEE is one of the world’s largest volunteer organizations and it is through the work of the local chapter officers that the work of the IEEE and the MTT-S is accomplished. To accomplish its goals, the MTT-S is dependent on the involvement of its members through the local chapter leadership. Your ability to motivate volunteers to help with events such as meetings, seminars and community work is crucial to their success. A few hints on working with volunteers are offered.
Try to involve new members in the work and do not always rely on the same people year after year. Asking for volunteers at the meeting may not be effective. They often are too shy to volunteer, or you end up getting the same people all the time. A one on one request will usually be much more effective, especially if the chairman comments on why that volunteer is the best person for the task. Surveys of our membership indicate that our most loyal members are those that become involved as volunteers.
Asking a volunteer to put on a meeting or seminar may appear to be a daunting task to the volunteer. The chairman can instead form a committee to perform the task. The work should be equally divided among the members such as: lining up speakers, publicity, registration and local arrangements for the meeting place and hotel accommodations for an out of town speaker. While it maybe easier for the chairman to do all of these things, recruiting help from the membership will help strengthen the local organization and encourage participation.
Motivate the Volunteers
Motivating volunteers is an art that is not always obvious to the chairman. What works in business does not always work for volunteers; there is no paycheck or possibility of financial gain in the volunteer organization. It is usually better to allow the volunteer to take ownership of a project and offer advice when asked. Allowing the volunteer to use their creativity in solving problems and issues is usually helpful. Although some volunteers may need to be told what to do in all cases, most will resent too much interference in the work they are doing, or do nothing for fear of making a mistake. Try to work towards a consensus among the volunteers rather than passing down a decision. Recognize that if the volunteer quits, then you will ultimately end up doing their work, and the organization has lost a potential future leader.
Diversify the Organization
The MTT-S serves a diverse group of professional and academic interest. Try to involve people from the different industry and educational organizations in your area. Potential volunteers often feel excluded because they see the local chapter as run by one company or a small group of people they cannot penetrate.
Recognize the Work of Volunteers
Helping the local chapter can involve a lot of hard work. Recognition of that work by the leadership is important. A public recognition at a meeting is nice and costs nothing. Wall plaques, certificates or inexpensive gifts such as a coffee mug or pen and pencil set with the local chapter’s logo will be treasured forever by the volunteer and will help motivate other members to participate in events. The local print shop or trophy shop has some excellent inexpensive ideas for gifts. An array of IEEE merchandise is available for gifts or recognition awards.
Establish a Bank Account
Most local IEEE sections will allow chapters to establish bank accounts. This allows the chapter to have a sense of existence and a motivation put on seminars and meetings. A convenient option available to Chapters is concentration banking. Information on this IEEE program is available at the IEEE Concentration Banking page. Where government & banking regulations permit, all geographic unit bank accounts must provide for the signature authority of the IEEE Staff Director of Financial Services.
Recognize Time Conflicts
Most MTT-S members will have responsibilities other than to MTT. Family, work and community activities will compete for the time of an MTT member. One good question to ask when planning an activity is "will this be worth an evening or a Saturday to my members”. MTT members are often confronted with either going to hear an expert on a topic they are very interested in or coaching their child's soccer team and the member will generally choose the soccer team. Chapter Officers can often schedule meetings times to help accommodate their members by moving the meeting start time or change an evening meeting to a lunch meeting. Surveys of members at meetings will give a good feel for the flexibility of the membership. However talking to members who stopped coming to meetings or who would, but have conflicts may be more helpful in determining a start time for an event. Often business management will complain if events are scheduled during work hours and that needs to be considered in scheduling events also.