Project Management

Ask PMI Anything: Volunteering at PMI is Different

17 Mar 2022
Dave Garrett
Last year, members of our Board of Directors were informally polled about why they volunteer with PMI and what serving as a PMI volunteer means to them. In this post, Dave Garrett explains what makes the PMI volunteer experience different and how you can get involved.

Image by Amer Mughawish on Unsplash

Updated on 17 March 2022 | Originally published on 1 July 2021

Time is the most valuable asset we have.

When we offer that time, especially when we do it for free, there has to be a pretty compelling case for doing so. I think when people volunteer at PMI, that case has a lot to do with the impact you have on the people within your professional community. It’s also about how easy it is to have that impact.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of PMI. We owe much of our success to the 11,000+ volunteers who dedicate themselves to advancing the project management profession every year. These volunteers are extraordinarily generous with their time and talents. Their willingness to offer their services has made PMI the envy of not-for-profit professional associations around the world.

But why is that? Why, given the wide range of incredibly rewarding volunteer opportunities available, do so many of our members choose to invest their valuable time with PMI? Why PMI versus the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and hundreds of other incredibly attractive options to do good? What makes our volunteer experience different and more attractive?

So, I decided to ask. During a coffee break at a gathering of board members, I asked each person why they had initially chosen to volunteer with PMI rather than some other worthy organization.

There were a wide range of responses, but the common thread linking them all was the opportunity PMI offers to make a difference—not just in general, but making a difference in the lives of people they are directly affiliated with. How members individually made a difference varied, of course. Some talked about teaching, others about networking and still others about community building. But in each case, they were driven by a desire to make a personal difference. Tony Appleby, our Immediate Past Chair said it best. He talked about helping people one-on-one—“making a difference with a real human being, someone you can put a face and a name to.”

Tony’s statement is not surprising in that, as project professionals, we are, by definition, “doers.” It’s our job to get things done, to create impact, to make a difference. For our volunteers, it’s about helping others, “make ideas a reality.”

I find that so meaningful. People that you help one-on-one often see that interaction as a real “moment that matters” in their lives—one that they may never forget. This is important as we at PMI continue to move to a more regional structure, helping neighbors help neighbors drive change. As Joe Cahill explained, the whole purpose of the regionalization effort is to get closer to our members and volunteers—and allow them to get closer to one another—to increase not only our global reach but our collective local impact.

Another stand out comment came from board member LuAnn Piccard who said, “PMI makes it easy to make a difference.”

How cool is that? And what a differentiator!

One way we try to facilitate making a difference at PMI is by offering a wide range of volunteer opportunities. As a volunteer, for example, you can contribute to the development of our professional standards, help manage a local PMI chapter, review project management manuals and books, contribute questions for a PMI exam or mentor younger professionals. There are also volunteer opportunities through various PMI committees, including the PMI Educational Foundation, Insight Teams, Standards Committees, Board Support Committees and the Board of Directors itself.

Finding the volunteer opportunity that’s right for you is so important. It can be a powerful moment. As I like to say, when people who need help connect with those who can help, things have a way of working out.

My own experience reflects this truth. In 2007, I was attending the PMI Global Congress. Up to this point, most of my volunteer activities were exclusively with charitable organizations. But while having drinks with several colleagues at the Congress, they asked for my help thinking through some of the challenges they faced as directors of PMI’s Information Technology and Telecom Specific Interest Group. Within a week, they had invited me to be part of their board of directors.

That invitation changed everything. I had found a community where I fit—that shared my hunger for “purpose” and that was willing to engage in a shared struggle to make things happen.

There are, of course, many reasons to volunteer at PMI. It can help build your professional network, identify advancement opportunities, maintain your certification and sharpen vital professional skills—leadership skills, in particular.

At their core, however, most of our volunteers are motivated by more altruistic impulses—in the words of our board members: “to support the growth of others,” “to be helpful in any way possible,” “to make a difference with a real human being.”

Why do you volunteer with PMI?

Dave Garrett Dave Garrett

As Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Dave will craft and drive the execution of the PMI strategy to create a clear growth path. He works across the organization to define, test, and deliver "new products that matter," to deliver dramatic increases in value to our customers. He is charged with assisting PMI to build teams that are aligned and integrated seamlessly across the organization. Dave will continue to be responsible for mergers, acquisitions, and strategic sourcing partners for PMI to address the emerging new work ecosystem.