By Jasmine Glasheen
Volunteering is a transformative experience. Deloitte suggests that volunteering can help professionals develop the “soft skills” sought out by organizations. These soft skills include leadership, time management, planning, empathy, communication, and professionalism––and 92 percent of company leaders described these soft skills as a “crucial priority.”
Wayne W. Westerholm, CAFM and Deputy Director at the Office of Parking & Transportation at Harding University, explained it perfectly: he says, “Volunteering within an organization permits professionals to display capabilities in ways that may not be traditionally observed by others by using different skill sets or techniques.”
But volunteering isn’t only beneficial to the individual. On an organizational level, volunteering can help fleet agencies stay relevant, connected, and at the forefront of burgeoning technologies. We spoke with four fleet leaders with a rich history of volunteer work to discover how volunteering has enriched their personal and professional lives.
Expand Your Skillset Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Sara Burnam, CAFM and Director of Fleet Management at Palm Beach County, has volunteered with NAFA at both a local and a national level. She has also volunteered to moderate and speak at the I&E educational sessions, served as the Sunshine State Chapter Secretary and as the Sunshine State Chapter Chair. She also served on the national level as Chair of the Arrangements Committee and is currently serving as the Vice Chair of the Editorial Committee.
“Varying experiences are how a person develops as a leader and obtains additional skills, abilities and perspectives,” Burnam says. “It is for this reason I have made it a point to take every opportunity that has ever been offered to me through NAFA.”
“For example,” she continues, “it wasn’t until I became the Secretary of the Sunshine Chapter that I realized what goes into planning an all-day event or meeting for a large group of people. I enjoyed using creativity to identify ideas that would make meetings appealing and also identify relevant information other industry professionals are interested in learning more about.”
Mike Wilson, CAFM and Fleet Manager at the University of Iowa, has also expanded his skillset through volunteer work within the fleet industry.
“As a volunteer for NAFA I get involved in projects that may not be something I deal with every day, Wilson says. “For example, I worked with a fine group of NAFA staff and members looking at computer-based testing for the CAFM. This project had a definite timeline, so we had to plan out our objectives in order to make sure we made a decision by the deadline. Adhering to the timeline required that we communicate among the team members and meet our own deadlines.”
Jimm Vosburgh is Vice President of Corporate Assets at West Valley Construction. He has volunteered at the local chapter level as Vice Chair and Chapter Chair for 10 years. He has also served on the Fuels & Technologies Committee and held volunteer leadership positions with NAFA, CFMA, UCON, and OEJAC.
“Attending the NAFA Board Chapter Leadership meetings has been very beneficial in sharing ideas among chapter leadership,” he said. “Working with other NAFA members at the volunteer days in advance of NAFA’s Institute & Expo was a memorable experience. Building homes for Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte and packing food kits for Rise Against Hunger in Anaheim took us out of our comfort zone, forcing us to find creative ways to complete tasks under a tight schedule.”
Vosburgh adds that volunteering is a great way to expand your skillset and jolt your brain out of autopilot. “Volunteering with other industry peers can break your routine,” Vosburgh says, “allowing you to take on new challenges, in different roles that stimulate professional growth.”
Establish Yourself as an Industry Thought Leader
One of the most challenging, yet most important things you can do in any industry is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field. Wayne Westerholm says that we are all devourers of all the information around us, whether we see it, hear it, or read it, it is relatively easy to consume.
“What is not easy is to ‘get our hands dirty’ and get involved,” he says. “Those professionals who get involved tend to have a much better understanding of a topic or situation and become a resource because of this knowledge.”
Jimm Vosburgh says that volunteering brings out the leader in everyone over time. “Regardless of whether a volunteer is seeking a leadership role or not, they are a leading their community by being a volunteer.” Vosburgh adds, “It is only a matter of time before they find themselves being the most experienced volunteer available to lead the group. Recognition as an industry leader comes as a natural part of the process.”
Vosburgh’s company, West Valley Construction, is employee-owned, so they feel have a vested interest in mentoring future leaders. He belongs to multiple industry related organizations and says that NAFA’s focus on education and collaboration is extremely valuable to their fleet management staff. Vosburgh adds that, “NAFA participation is a culture and the Certified Automotive Fleet Management (CAFM) certification is a requirement to advance in fleet and facilities management.”
In Mike Wilson’s volunteer work beyond his day-to-day responsibilities at the University of Iowa, he’s noticed that volunteering enables him to spend time with the industry’s leadership.
“Whether those leaders are from NAFA, senior leaders at fleet vendors, or consultants, most of them give their time to the industry,” he says. “As you volunteer, spend time with these leaders and discuss current topics, you get a more robust view of the fleet industry. As you develop your knowledge and make more connections people begin to remember you and seek out your opinions.” As this happens more often, Wilson adds, “others begin to see you as someone they turn to for expert knowledge.”
Sara Burnam hadn’t had much experience with NAFA until she obtained her Certified Automotive Fleet Management (CAFM). Through this certification, she says she gained the knowledge, resources, and confidence to take her performance at Palm Beach County to the next level.
“The Certification is made possible by many of the volunteers that assist the organization,” she adds. “Knowing that I can help share information or resources that benefits another person or organization in the industry is meaningful work for me.”
Intangible and Unexpected Benefits
Not all of the benefits of volunteering are easily quantifiable. As Mike Wilson quickly discovered, the opportunity to expand your perspective and help others to achieve success provides intangible benefits, such as a deeper inner life and a better understanding of the world around you.
Wilson lives in Iowa where he helps supply the nation with agricultural products. He says that he never would have expected that hunger would be a problem to the extent it is in his hometown.
“Most of the customers we deal with at the food pantry have jobs and work really hard,” Wilson says. “They just don’t make enough money to afford all of the necessities… If I hadn’t volunteered, I probably wouldn’t have realized that has changed and that many people work 40-hour jobs and cannot get by.”
Jimm Vosburgh adds that, as a volunteer, the satisfaction of realizing your own accomplishments transitions into the joy of helping others to succeed and sharing in their success.
“By volunteering on one of our union’s apprenticeship boards, Vosburgh says, “our company has benefited from exposure to new people entering the industry. This has created a pipeline of hard to find talent, that we would not normally have access to.”
Beyond creating a funnel of top-tier job applicants, volunteering has also helped Vosburgh and his colleagues at West Valley Construction become sought-after thought leaders in their industry. “Due to recognition, as a NAFA volunteer, some of our customers have sought our fleet management expertise. The assistance provided has been recognized as a value-added service by our customers.”
Wilson adds that he feels he owes some give-back time to the industry that has given so much to him. “As I was learning, I asked a lot of questions, read a lot and attended a lot of training,” Wilson says. “The people that I learned from, those who wrote the articles, made the presentations and answered my many questions could have been doing a lot of other things. But they spent that time with me. So, as I’ve developed some experience and found myself on the other end of the question, I try to pay off a little of that debt.”
NOTE: All NAFA members are welcome to volunteer. Stay current and focused on what you need to know when you invest time in helping NAFA committees stay active and innovative. Our committees implement the strategic plan -- from programs and publications to legislative activity, committee members provide the expertise that enables the Association to meet the needs of its members.
View NAFA Volunteer Opportunities
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