BOARD CHAIR UPDATE (4/10): THANK YOU TO AORE'S VOLUNTEERS!
Greetings, AORE Community!
When I was asked to write a short piece about volunteering, I was immediately brought back to my first year as a member of the association. At the time, I wasn’t directly working in outdoor recreation programming—I was working in marketing. In 2012, I submitted a proposal within my department asking to attend AORE’s annual conference even though it seemed like a long shot. My *very understanding* supervisor ended up humoring me and I was allowed to go to the conference.
Upon my arrival, I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of attendees at the conference that already seemed to know each other—everyone seemed so collegial and the friendships I witnessed between members were genuine. Other than traveling with a few FSU students, I wasn’t there with any other coworkers—I didn’t know where to begin when it came to making “conference friends.”
I probably spent the first full day of the conference awkwardly walking around and making small talk. I’m sure many of you can relate to this situation when you think about attending your own first major conference. Fortunately for me, I was strongly encouraged (and possibly dragged?) to an AORE committee meeting shortly after that with the assurance that it would be a great avenue for meeting more people and getting to know the ins and outs of the association better.
In my personal experience as a member of AORE, joining a committee as a volunteer was an absolute game-changer. From the start, I found specific projects to which I could contribute, and through these projects, I had consistent face-time and interactions with AORE members that very quickly became my good friends.
One of my favorite AORE volunteering stories is what I refer to as my “conference presentation blind date.” In 2013, I was asked to put together a presentation for the Professional (formerly Student) Development Committee on “Personal Branding.” I was paired up with a member named Chris, who I previously didn’t know. Even though we spent hours on the phone prepping for the presentation in the months leading up to the annual conference, the first time I ever actually met Chris was on the first day of the event in Maryland. I had looked Chris’ picture up on his organization’s website beforehand so that I could find him when I got there, but it was a tiny photo and all I could mostly see was an enormous beard. So, I literally asked every bearded person who walked through the door if his name was Chris until we found each other. Luckily for me, our presentation went extremely well later that day and Chris became one of my closest friends (and remains so to this day).
I attribute much of my professional success to the network that I developed through my time volunteering with AORE at the conference and on committees, and now I am forging connections with members and partners in a new capacity as I fulfill my role as Board Chair. My point being is that if you’re willing to make a commitment and invest your time, energy, and expertise into AORE and its members, this association can and will provide you with a multitude of personal and professional benefits, just like it did for me and continues to do.
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer year-round and at the conference. You can visit our volunteer page online to learn more about where we’re currently looking for support.
I encourage you to reach out directly to AORE’s National Office to find ways to get plugged in as a volunteer.
In closing, I’d like to take a moment on National Volunteer Week and to thank all of our wonderfully dedicated volunteers! We couldn’t achieve all that we do for our members and for the larger outdoor recreation industry without the insights, time, and resources of these inspiring individuals.
AORE Board Chair