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Taking on a new role at our nonprofit organization

February 18, 2013

Wade Kwon

I have served various causes over the years. Some made me happy, some wore me plumb out.

We are starting on Year 3 of the Alabama Social Media Association, and I like to brag (or threaten) to people: I can talk to you for hours about our humble nonprofit organization.

For the past 2 years, I have served as chair of the finance committee. Our main task has been to find sponsors for our educational and social events.

This year, I have the privilege of serving as chairman of the board. I am here to guide our newest board members and continue our efforts in holding events, recruiting volunteers and keeping the ship on course.

It is an honor I take seriously, as this group is near and dear to my heart. My unswerving goal aligns perfectly with the organization’s goal: to educate people in social media. As a Boy Scout growing up, I’ve been trained to leave something better than I found it. We are getting there.

To that end, I believe lessons from the first 2 years will help us continue to build ALsocme into a sustainable and thriving group that expands beyond its Birmingham borders.

1. Communicate intent. This applies to letting stakeholders — internal and external — know what’s happening and what’s next. It seems straightforward, but I have seen volunteer groups (including this one) stumble in keeping people apprised of updates, setbacks and accomplishments.

We must agree to overcommunicate and overshare.

2. Hold people accountable, including yourself. Rightly or wrongly, I have almost always taken failures personally. What could have I done differently? What could I change for next time? I am far from perfect, and my reigning fault is holding people to very high standards. I will work on this. A lot.

But I also aim to help my colleagues set up projects, break them down into tasks and deadlines, and keep them pushing forward.

3. Find the right people for the right roles. One of our earliest decisions as a new board of directors was what to do first. I had suggested we spend time finding more volunteers to fill specific roles: court sponsors, write media releases, coordinate with partners, locate event venues and a dozen more tasks.

Alabama coach Nick Saban puts personnel first in the Process. He recruits nonstop to find the most talented person for each position, whether on the offense, the defense or the coaching staff. We as board members and committee chairs are recruiting nonstop, talking with many potential volunteers and working hard on filling out our roster.

4. Maintain continuity of service. We had a gap of 8 months of events and service. I share in the blame, but I promise that will not be the case going forward.

ALsocme is a group that serves the public. We cannot serve our friends and neighbors by sitting around. Our members have been patient and kind, as have our sponsors and partners. But we have failed them by not fulfilling our promise to educate people in social media.

If we are truly to shine by example, we must continue to bring great speakers and sponsors to our audience. We must show loving hospitality and timely responses as well. We must do so in a transparent and authentic manner. Always.

Our goals are lofty, but through a diverse and well-coordinated team, we can accomplish them and more. I share these lessons, because they might also apply to your service group or your startup or your employer or your company.

I think of my role at the Alabama Social Media Association as my other full-time job. No pay, but the benefits are fantastic.

Photo: Arik Sokol

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