Be a do-er, not a lurker: Get the most from your memberships

In every professional or business organization there are what I call do-ers and lurkers. If you want to get value from the dues you pay to your local chamber of commerce or to a professional association, you definitely want to be a do-er.

Being a do-er means you volunteer to serve on committees and help the organization get things done. In the course of doing so, you form valuable relationships and, more often than not, get to showcase your talents to fellow volunteers.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people tell me they joined an organization and got no business benefit from it. Invariably, when I ask how involved they were with the group, they say something like, “Oh, I went to three or four networking meetings, but nothing happened so I quit going.” That was it. They expected to show up every few months and be able to form meaningful business connections over a glass of wine. I call them lurkers.

When I moved to the Pioneer Valley in 2002, I did not know a single soul in the region. The first group I joined was the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce. At my second Arrive @ 5, I was invited to join the Membership Committee since they felt they could use someone with my communications skills. For the next several years I went to early morning committee meetings once a month; as a night owl, this was painful, but it paid big dividends. I made great connections that led to business and even obtained business from the Chamber itself, which hired me a number of times to write press materials and Web site copy. That never would have happened if all I was doing was going to the networking meetings.

Folks, you get out of an organization what you put into it. It takes effort and it takes time. Nearly every association I’ve ever belonged to was desperate for volunteers to help it achieve its mission. So there is no shortage of opportunities to put you hand up and offer to help out. The payoff may take a while, but I guarantee you it will come if you decide to be a do-er, not a lurker.

2 comments

  1. Shalini Bahl says:

    I agree – taking an initiative beyond attending the meetings is important. For me joining MotherWoman as a board member and being pro active with MSBDC has paid off tremendously. Its about finding creative ways of engaging that are win win for all involved.

  2. Totally. I've been active in the Amherst Chamber for several years, have done quite a bit of pro bono work for them (and even got paid for some), and have been referred several times *by Chamber staff* when people called looking for a marketing consultant or copywriter.

    Ditto with Hidden-Tech. My frequent volunteering as a speaker makes me much more of a known quantity there, and I've done a bit of business.

    One other thing I'd add: do business with some people *you* meet. Pay it forward, in other words.

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