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 knowledge and expertise on areas such as regulatory compliance, public relations, human capital management, technology, finance and investments, and business development.
And with Palmer and her committee spreading passion for supporting the credit union, 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 an opportunity to make a real impact on the credit union’s operations.
“Volunteers are greatly encouraged and enjoy a sense of satisfaction when their input—whether in the form of ideas, suggestions, recommendations, or a specialized skill—become a reality in the actions and decisions taken by the credit union,” Palmer says.
Since getting involved in 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 to run 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 helped in making recommendations to the Volunteer Leadership Program, an education program that helps members of committees and the board develop personal and professional abilities, serve in their roles more capably, and become volunteer leaders.
In 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 where interactive approaches are strengthened,” Palmer says.