1. Oakes, Christy MSN, RN, ONC
  2. NAON President, 2012-2013

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Our immediate Past President Mary Jo Satusky's last article was about volunteering particularly for NAON. In our May Executive Board meeting, we discussed volunteer recruitment, retention, and reward efforts. As your current President and a NAON volunteer, I wanted to expand upon Mary Jo's last message to our membership.

Christy Oakes, MSN, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowChristy Oakes, MSN, RN, ONC President, 2012-2013

Nurses were actually instrumental in forming the first professional association and in publishing the first professional journal for women. NAON and our own journal are one of many representations of specialty nursing associations: certainly an example of nursing's strong values and strength in practice.


Generally, organizations emulate the membership they represent whether those members are part of the organization for employment or on a voluntary basis. Volunteer nursing associations encompass and depict the multifaceted nature of the profession and those represented. Created with a specific mission and purpose, associations operate to provide members with some type of tangible return on their investment. Professionals join volunteer associations for numerous reasons such as advocating or promoting influence, collective action, and maintaining a level of knowledge or expertise. According to Stein (2001), professionals join associations to enhance their personal learning, satisfy a need for collegiality, participate, determine policy, gain status or fulfill a duty to the profession, or meet an educational need required for practice. At this time the membership totals for NAON continue to increase with our numbers moving in a positive progression. Finding volunteers, however, to maintain our association's success is another subject and one of the primary reasons for the discussion at our May board meeting and two Presidents' messages.


In their book Race for Relevance, Coerver and Byers (2011) detailed six different outside forces that pose challenges to professional associations and their ability to attract volunteers. Those changes are time, value expectations, market structure, generational differences, competition, and technology. Time alone is an interesting phenomenon. Several years ago, a professional colleague stated in a meeting, "Is it we don't have the time or we don't have a purpose for the time"? I still consider his thought-provoking question when I answer; I did not have the time to.... Clearly, time is an issue for many; we have more two family wage earners and our children are involved in more activities. A 2008 report regarding working in the United States stated that Americans worked 568 more hours in 2006 compared with 1979 (Coerver & Byers). In lieu of this information, NAON and other professional associations appear to have a challenge ahead, recruiting and retaining the volunteers needed to maintain our viability into the future.


According to a report compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), the volunteer rates in the United States increased 0.5 percentage points in the time frame ending September 2011. Data in the same report indicate that approximately 64.3 million people volunteered between September 2010 and September 2011. Women's rates of volunteering increased slightly, and the report showed a correlation between volunteers' educational achievement and the number of hours volunteers completed. There was not a large difference between the percentage of volunteers (41.9) who became involved after being asked by someone in the organization and the percentage of those who become involved (41.6) on their own initiative (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012). While these data are a small snapshot of the current state of volunteering, it is hopeful for professional associations and their efforts to improve volunteer efforts.


What motivates members to volunteer for their primary association? For most people, the desire to volunteer is a matter of motivation. One of those factors may be a self-need of the member or volunteer. Some reasons people volunteer are as follows: a need to give back, meet new people, try something new, make a positive difference, or have knowledge and experience to share. As a NAON member, are you motivated by any of these reasons? If so, please consider volunteering for NAON. Volunteers are also motivated by their friends and/or the relationships they develop during their experience. I am consistently amazed by the contacts and bonds of friendships I have developed over the years through NAON. I really enjoy participating as a NAON member in the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons playground build; however, the best part of the day is working beside my orthopaedic nurse colleagues and learning something about their work, family, and just getting to know them. Commitment and belief are pivotal purposes for members to volunteer in an association. People who understand the mission, vision, and goals of their association are able to develop a passion for the work being done and then assimilate it into a high level of motivation. The extra effort or work is not as difficult because achieving the ultimate objective overshadows the hardship.


What are the advantages of volunteering for NAON? I mentioned one of the benefits that is extraordinarily valuable: the enduring friendships. Another benefit is the networking and connections developed through volunteering. In nursing, we are frequently challenged by the complexity of patient care delivery. We are asked to consider new solutions and different approaches, compare, and benchmark our work with other organizations or systems. When we volunteer in our professional association, our world is broadened, networking with colleagues becomes easier, and finding comparable data from trusted sources is indispensable. Volunteering in NAON enables members to gain new skills. As a volunteer, you have the possibility to be part of work vastly different from your daily professional experience. The additional knowledge obtained may expand your talents such as increasing your leadership potential. Not to be confused with the desire or ability to manage people, it is learning to get the work done through others while developing consensus and a "win-win" solution. Getting involved in NAON may provide an opportunity for a new employment or participation in a different project within nursing. These activities add to your abilities, keep you abreast of new trends or technology, and make you more marketable to potential employers. The association also gains from volunteer members who add different points of views, professional expertise, and quality to programs or committees.


So this leads me back to the question: "Is it we don't have the time or we don't have a purpose for the time"? How would you answer? Volunteer opportunities for NAON are available at the local or national level. Does everyone have purpose for his or her time? Can NAON be part of that purpose? Consider giving some time to NAON, our professional association.




Coerver H., Byers M. 2011. Race for relevance. Washington, DC: ASAE, The Center for Association Leadership. [Context Link]


Stein A. M. 2001. Learning and change among leaders of a professional nursing association. Holistic Nursing Practice 16(1), 5-15. [Context Link]


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012, February 2). US Department of Labor: economic releases. Retrieved from :[Context Link]