Recruiting volunteers can be a tough sell, but not for Margaret Palmer.
As chair of the nominating committee for $237 million asset OAS Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C., and a volunteer herself, Palmer has revolutionized the volunteer experience for the global credit union that formed in 1962 to serve employees of the Organization of American States.
Every year, nearly 60 volunteers from 22 countries serve on various committees to provide the credit union with expertise in areas such as regulatory compliance, public relations, human capital management, technology, finance and investments, and business development.
With Palmer and her committee encouraging volunteerism, the credit union recently increased the size of each committee from five to seven members. Some committees even have a volunteer waitlist.
Palmer says the secret to engaging volunteers is providing opportunities to make a real impact on the credit union’s operations.
“Volunteers are greatly encouraged and enjoy a sense of satisfaction when their input—ideas, suggestions, recommendations, or specialized skills—becomes a reality in the actions and decisions taken by the credit union,” Palmer says.
Since getting involved with the credit union as a volunteer in 2014, Palmer has led many special projects to support the success of the credit union by improving the volunteer program. She challenged the nominating committee to commit to finding two additional candidates for vacant board member seats to make sure there is never a shortage of diverse and qualified candidates for the board and credit committee.
“One of our achievements has been the ability to attract and retain young volunteers—a current challenge within the credit union movement—who can provide the credit union with value-added perspectives for the future,” Palmer says.
She also made recommendations to the Volunteer Leadership Program, an education initiative that helps members of committees and the board develop personal and professional abilities, serve in their roles more capably, and become volunteer leaders.
During the rigorous program, participants attend workshops, seminars, and discussions over a period of 16 months to two years. It’s now a highly sought-after opportunity for development among OAS volunteers.
“The Volunteer Leadership Program can be viewed as a tool that embraces innovation, change, risk-taking, and open sharing of ideas and opinions—and as a place where interactive approaches are strengthened,” Palmer says.