The Fridays@4 Society
Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organizations and in order to succeed association professionals must embrace working with volunteers to meet the mission and vision of their organization. In new organizations, the volunteers are often the staff managing the operations until there is enough funding to hire staff. And sometimes, we need an expert to help us with our volunteers and that is where Heather Story comes in.
Heather began her association career with an international organization where she worked in their publishing, marketing and membership departments. During that time, she was given a challenge of “revitalizing staff support of [the] association’s societies and divisions”. It was during this time she discovered her passion and talent for working with volunteers. After spending several years with the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE), Heather left the Atlanta area to move to Knoxville, TN where she decided to build her own business, Volunteer Strategies.
So how does Heather help volunteers in associations and nonprofits? “Volunteers have great ideas about what they want to accomplish, but frequently get bogged down in the operational aspects of how to achieve their goals. My passion is developing systems and processes to help volunteer leaders in associations thrive so they can focus on being the experts in their industry.” Building processes and systems is something Heather definitely helps with in her service to Fridays@4. She is one of the founding members and currently serves as Treasurer. In addition to overseeing the finances, she is responsible for ensuring there is a solid structure to support the vision of the organization. Heather also helps research technological tools and identifies innovative solutions that will help the organization continue to grow.
“When the four of us got together and started Fridays@4, I had no idea our weekly Zoom calls would turn into a full-blown association. Born out of a need we saw during the 2020 ASAE virtual conference for people to find a way to actually connect with one another while navigating pandemic lockdowns and layoffs, it has been both exciting and challenging to start up an association from scratch,” she shared. The organization has definitely grown and continues to expand thanks to Heather and a few others for taking an idea and running with it. She mentioned that Fridays@4 has been a learning experience by providing a broader understanding of how important your team is to the success of an organization. Focusing on individual strengths and challenges while taking time to build the team is mission critical to any organization.
Her biggest piece of advice for those who are between opportunities or may be thinking about changing careers, “build and nurture your network.” People often stay focused on their network as it ties to the association they are currently involved in, but we need to expand that base through outside networks. Organizations like Fridays@4 allow you to network with individuals that work in associations and nonprofits and gives you a base to seek advice outside of your internal organization. Heather shares that she has made some great friends through her connections with Fridays@4. “You need people in your life who not only understand your professional world, but also know you personally. It’s been a fantastic outcome from my Fridays@4 involvement.”
While working with volunteers can sometimes be a challenging part of any association role, they are crucial to the existence of associations and nonprofits. They provide the expertise, passion and support needed to achieve the mission and vision of the organization. Heather’s one piece of advice she would share with all associations is, “Make supporting, recognizing and developing your volunteers a priority. With all of the day in and day out pressures of running an association, it’s easy to let volunteer support fall to the bottom of your list. Don’t let that happen. The payoff will far outweigh the effort.”