NATO Involvement a Two-Way Street
And Good For You!
by Belinda Judson
Executive Director, Mid-States NATO
As I write this column I am getting ready
to serve a year’s
term as president of The Ohio Society of Association Executives
(OSAE), an organization comprised of association executives,
convention and visitors bureau executives, affiliates from
the hospitality industry and suppliers.
While this is an incredible honor, it is
also going to be very challenging. My predecessors in this
set the bar very high and have left impressive legacies.
They have done so through their own hard work and dedication
to the organization, but they did not accomplish what they
did alone. Serving on their committees were committed volunteers
whose invaluable work contributed to their terms’ successes.
In light of this I have been giving a great
deal of thought to the importance of volunteerism. I have
at it from two perspectives, both as someone about to assume
a volunteer leadership position and as someone who relies
on volunteers for the regional NATO associations I serve.
So why, when everyone seems to be so busy
and stretched to the point of being “totally stressed out,” would
people continue to commit time to volunteer? Why is it
important for the association? And why can it actually
be beneficial to you?
People volunteer for different reasons.
A few do so because it “looks good on their resume” or they enjoy
the recognition it brings to them. Some volunteer with
all good intentions of contributing but don’t follow
up. The majority of the volunteers, however, volunteer
because they are committed to a certain cause or organization.
The benefits that NATO and its affiliate
associations derive from committed volunteers are many.
While all the units
have dedicated, hard-working employees who get a great
deal done, their staffs are small and budgets limited.
Without our volunteer boards and committees we would not
be able to accomplish all of the many tasks set before
us each year.
This past year alone NATO volunteers helped
examine digital cinema issues, establish a group buying
a survey on moviegoing habits, even as they served on the
many other NATO committees (Codes, External Factors, Independents,
Marketing, Product, Technology, Regional and Membership)
dedicated to enhancing and protecting the interests of
This is to say nothing of the invaluable
role volunteers played in the legislative arena. Many came
and visited national legislators to talk about association
health insurance. Many worked with NATO’s coalition
partners to educate federal lawmakers on the necessity
of camcorder legislation – and cinema owners’ need
for the kind of liability language that would allow exhibitors
to enforce anti-camcorder measures.
In 2004, 14 states passed camcorder legislation.
This was due in large part to the efforts of the volunteers
when called upon, wrote to their legislators, made calls,
or even testified before legislative committees.
As you know from previous columns, last
year there were other state and local legislative issues
to list here) for which we called upon the help of volunteers.
Because of our volunteer exhibitors’ participation
on both state and federal levels, our success rate in fighting
back onerous legislation and getting
favorable legislation passed was very high.
While the benefits that our associations
get from volunteers are obvious, what the volunteer gains
back from his or her service is often overlooked. I have
always been a believer that the benefits you derive from an association are
in direct correlation to what you put into them. Almost immediately upon
NATO of Ohio I found myself serving on committees. Before long I was chairing
committees and serving on the association’s board. My involvement with
NATO and OSAE followed similar paths.
By contrast, I have joined other associations
in which I was not nearly as involved. And the funny thing
is I usually end up not renewing because
see the “value” in my membership. Hmmm!
So what does a volunteer get for all of
When one volunteers for NATO and its affiliates
one inevitably gleans valuable information during committee
meetings and other industry
This information, which keeps one “in the loop” and up to date
on industry-wide issues, is much harder to obtain piece by piece on one’s
Involvement in these associations also offers
the opportunity to meet and network with peers. It’s
always nice to know that, if one needs help or information,
one can call on these friends in the exhibition community.
Participants can themselves additionally
gain a greater presence in the industry. Chairing or serving
on committees or boards will cause
to be recognized
by others as someone committed to NATO and exhibition.
From all of these opportunities one will
have acquired tools that will be invaluable in operating
I know from experience that my involvement in NATO enables me to
represent my regional association members much more effectively.
And my participation
in OSAE allows me to be a better association professional.
When looking at the gains I cannot see how
I can afford not to get involved and volunteer. Can you?