February 15, 2011
Tom Intven
LO President

tom intven Our volunteers are at the core of Landscape Ontario’s success. These are the members who have expressed their Landscape Ontario Gene — their inherent desire to contribute to our collective goals. They believe that by volunteering their time, effort and resources in a collective way that they are advancing the industry far more than if they worked alone.

People volunteer for different reasons, as I noted in my column in the January issue of Horticulture Review. While our volunteer members help move our overall industry forward, they too are rewarded in a personal way that fulfils some need within them. Anyone who has volunteered would agree that they have grown personally and professionally, developed a network of peers or an advisory circle, and often in the process, developed lifelong friendships.

Volunteerism is very much a two-way street. The benefit often outweighs the contribution. I would argue that the return on volunteer engagement per hour contributed is exponential if you follow a few basic guidelines.

Going the other way, our association receives advancement of its mission in return for this culture or spirit of volunteerism. It is this give-and-take that is the lifeblood of what we are. It is our raison d’être.

One of the biggest hurdles for most of us to become involved in volunteering is the challenge of time. Our time is demanded by our businesses, families and friends, our communities or churches, and our own personal interests. When we do finally make the commitment to give back to our association, it is so important that we make the most of our time.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that. Let’s call it, ‘How to be a Good Volunteer.’
Orient yourself well:
Orientation happens on many levels. First, understand the expectations and responsibilities of your position or task. You may be asked to attend the governance meetings. Get to know your board, the LO staff and organization. LO is an amazing resource. Knowing all the components will help you to become more effective and multiply your efforts. If you are privileged to sit on a board of a chapter or sector, get to know Robert’s Rules of Order to help you be an effective and valued board member.

Plan your success:
Set out goals with a timeline and check back on your progress to ensure that your plan is being implemented accordingly. I am a firm believer that you can PLAN YOUR SUCCESS in three easy steps — Develop the plan, execute the plan, evaluate the plan. Just one more thought here: plan well in advance. Our busy season has a way of creeping up quickly. Start the planning process early, so that enough time is ensured to allow success to happen.

Have a good attitude:
Attitude determines behaviour. Go into your volunteer time with a positive and enthusiastic attitude. I have observed the most successful, well-liked and appreciated volunteers are those who force themselves to be gregarious. They are the first ones to reach out their hand and welcome you with a smile. They bring a spark of enthusiasm to the meeting. Enthusiasm is infectious. You determine your own attitude. Make it a good one, and you will guarantee your success.

Be open to change:
By volunteering, you put yourself in contact with new people, who may challenge you and expose you to new ideas, new ways of looking at the world, your business and at life. Having an open-minded approach will help you grow, both professionally and personally, and make the experience more worthwhile.

Follow through on your commitment: A good golf swing or basketball shot is a function of follow-through. Similarly, you will be most effective and successful as a volunteer if you follow through on your promise to contribute.

Landscape Ontario has a responsibility to make all the training and information available and easily accessible to its volunteers. You have to take the initiative to follow these few guidelines in order to become effective in your role as volunteer, and to receive the most personal and professional benefit from your time. 
Tom Intven may be reached at 519-631-1008, or tintven@landscapeontario.com.