( Photo courtesy DNO Produce )

With time being an extremely valuable commodity that is in limited supply, why would any individual or company consider donating it for free to a work-related function like an industry trade group?  

Industry trade associations offer a means to generate connections that can have profound impacts on you as an individual and your organization. 

On the individual level, volunteering helps you to grow as a professional, make beneficial relationships, and gain exposure to different parts of the industry.
However, the most important lesson I have learned from getting involved myself is that becoming a volunteer will create opportunities that cannot be calculated or imagined prior to actually getting involved.

I have found through my own experience that more often than not, you get far more out of any volunteer activity than the effort and time that you put in. I don’t mean the satisfaction that you feel in terms of being fulfilled, or giving back/paying forward — that is the cherry on top. 

I mean that more often than not, the return on your investment of time and effort is far greater than your time and effort is worth. 

The return on your investment often comes in ways that cannot be anticipated. In a way, getting involved generates luck — happenstance meetings and collaborative synergies that are not possible to plan or anticipate. They just happen.

One example of such serendipity that I experienced not long ago was at a committee meeting where I had a conversation with someone who had very little to do with my line of work. As it happened, our conversation turned toward her brother, whose company was struggling with a problem that I could solve. Like that — voila — a business relationship was formed.

Some people that I have spoken with about volunteering have told me that they are hesitant because of the time and commitment that is required. But even if what I have stated above is only partly accurate, then the benefits still far outweigh the effort. 

Other comments I typically hear boil down in one way or another to a lack of confidence. I can confidently state that both of these issues are nonsense. Anyone who volunteers is welcomed with open arms, and new ideas and thoughts are continually sought out. 

So how does one go about getting involved? Start by finding an area or an issue within the industry that interests you and contact someone at one of the industry trade organizations that exist to let them know that you are interested in volunteering. Try to look for open board or committee positions that need to be filled. 

Whatever path you choose, volunteering should be one ball to always have in play. Get involved early and often, and jump in with both feet.  

For more information on how you can get involved the produce industry, visit the Produce Marketing Association or United Fresh Produce Association websites.

Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected].