Guerilla Volunteering – Hunt or embrace?

It’s a given that today’s members have the ability to go “guerrilla” – thanks in part to social technologies – to make significant contributions in unconventional ways. And we in associations can react one of two ways: channel our inner Jane Goodall or act like poachers. Lindy Dreyer and I called on our best Jane “impersonations” to encourage association pros in our #MMCCon session to think of guerrilla volunteers as extensions of our communities. Download our handout.

We offered up a few examples of how members operating just outside the box can benefit the association:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers‘ LinkedIn Group begun by a member outpaced the “company” group yet with a delft hand, the association merged the groups while maintaining the member-ownership and kept growing.
  • Financial Planning Association provided much-needed support to a grassroots mentoring program that members today give high marks.
  • YAP (that rouge young association professionals group which throws awesome meet-ups) was given a nod by ASAE which led eventually to the more formal young professionals committee. The original group was a catalyst in helping ASAE dip a toe into these waters.
  • Association Networking Exchange, (now also known as the Columbia Idea Swap) an informal group in Columbia, MD, provided ASAE a no-cost outreach channel into an underserved area.
  • Many associations have experienced the unofficial blog or member blog which competes with and in some cases lauds the association. What is cool is to see how this drives conversation which drives interest in the association.

In each of the situations, associations benefited from members taking things into their own hands. It encourages engagement which in turn drives renewals. It allowes the organization an opportunity to explore new ideas without the commitment of a formal program (think BETA programs). And associations have used bloggers to help promote their shared agenda, a product or service, or facilitate a conversation from another point of view.

So how do you help these good things happen? Be open to guerilla volunteering. Be watching and listening, and when you see it in action, reach out. That could mean simply reaching out to find out more so you express interest and an openness for dialog. It could mean facilitating the activity as ASAE did in offering to promote events. It could be providing infrastructure for a test as FPA did. It could be seeking ways to collaborate as ASCE did.

For us to be successful in embracing guerrilla volunteers we need to nurture our member fans who are innovative so they serve as a bridge, we need to empower staff to work with these members, and we need to be member-centric.

Do you know who your guerilla volunteers are?