President’s Message January 2015


It’s hard to believe, but as of January 2015, I will have been a member of GRAVA for eight years. And it’s even harder to believe, for me at least, that I have served on the board of GRAVA for almost six of those eight years! In the summer of 2009, Ron Stilwell, who was serving as the board secretary at the time, asked if I would consider taking over his role. At the time, I had been a member for about a year and a half and I had also been in the profession for about that long. I still had the glazed look of a “newbie” and I remember that his request struck fear into my heart. Who, me?!? On the board?!? Are you serious?!? I don’t know enough! I’m not an expert! I will probably mess up! And anyway, I already feel so busy….how will I have time for this?

In the end, I accepted Ron’s challenge and joined the board. During the four years that I served as the secretary, I did mess up, plenty of times. I wasn’t an expert, and I learned….that I had a lot to learn! And it did most definitely take time. The first thing I discovered upon joining was that the GRAVA board is a working board. Once I had made the commitment, I did have to take it seriously and make time for it in my schedule.

It was my first real experience working within a group and it was a challenge. For a lot of us, volunteer engagement is a one-man show. Our programs consist of one staff person – us – and we learn not to rely on anyone else when decisions have to be made or policies have to be put into place or position descriptions have to be developed or supplies have to be purchased. There is no one else and pretty soon you learn to like the independence. So joining a group like this, in which everyone has an important role to play and there are a variety of opinions about everything, requires a real shift in gears.

But I soon realized that we were all doing it for the same reason – because we loved GRAVA. I remember the sense of relief I felt when I first joined. What a comfort to have access to this group of colleagues whose experiences were similar to mine, who understood the things I was struggling with, and whose determination to get better made me feel excited every time I saw them! Despite the strong personalities and differences of opinion, GRAVA board members never forget how important it is to have a professional network, and everything we do, we do to keep that network alive and thriving!

So what have I gotten out of my time as a GRAVA board member? I can sum it up in one word: inspiration. What a profoundly inspiring experience to work alongside other people who are just as passionate about volunteer engagement as I am, whose commitment to the organization and the profession is just as strong, whose thoughts and ideas are fresh and original and bold and exciting, and who are willing to give their all for the sake of organizational and professional excellence! I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had this experience because I have gotten SO MUCH MORE out of it than I ever could have given. And I am a better volunteer manager, leader, follower, collaborator, supervisor, brainstormer, colleague, employee, and person because of it.

In another few months, three important board positions (membership, PR chair, and program chair) will become vacant and I hope you won’t miss this opportunity to take your professional development to a new level. I know that under (new president) Melissa Gilmore’s leadership, you’ll work hard to meet high expectations. But in return, you’ll accomplish exciting new things, you’ll develop new skills, and you’ll make a contribution to something that genuinely matters. What could be more inspiring than that?

Who, me?!? Yes, YOU!

At Your Service,
Alison Jones-Nassar

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