So Much to Gain from Volunteering

By Minnie Green, ACIA

This year Canada will celebrate its 73rd National Volunteer Week, paying tribute to the millions of volunteers who graciously donate their time and talent with the common cause of strengthening our communities.

As a new member and volunteer at the CIA, my work with the Committee for Volunteer Initiatives has allowed me to appreciate the incredible volume of work completed by the Institute’s volunteers. Each brings a unique expertise, and their insights are invaluable. Their efforts have given actuaries a voice on the global stage while attracting new talent to the field and preserving the value of our credentials.

In my pursuit of defining what it means to be a volunteer in the CIA, the following individuals provided me with insight and information:
Volunteering in the CIA—it’s never too early to start

As of 2012, approximately 450 CIA members volunteer for 625 positions on CIA committees, councils, and task forces, representing 10 percent of the membership. Three councils, overseeing 26 committees and 12 task forces, offer a variety of work, including policy setting, education/eligibility, and administration.

Creating the next generation of volunteers is one of the CIA’s key goals. While many new members may feel that they lack the technical experience to contribute to a volunteer committee, this is far from true. After discussing the matter with several of the CIA’s most decorated volunteers, I see that there is a common sentiment that new members bring a valuable perspective to the table.

Established in 2012, the New Members Committee (NMC) represents one of many varied volunteering experiences available to CIA members. The NMC’s mandate is to promote education, networking, and volunteering opportunities specifically targeted to new Fellows and Associates. The development of this committee is part of the CIA’s ongoing commitment to encourage its newer members to take part in shaping the profession.

Some of the exciting initiatives on the NMC’s agenda for 2013 include:
An excellent first committee for those new to volunteering, the NMC is currently looking for one new member. No previous experience is required to join this dynamic group. In fact, the preference is for ACIAs and new Fellows, whose distinct experiences can provide the committee and the CIA with a unique and updated perspective.

What is the value of volunteering to the CIA and the volunteer?

Power growth and innovation
Diversified volunteers include a great number of specialized people that the CIA could never afford to hire as permanent staff. Consequently, committees can approach an issue from different perspectives. Chris Fievoli said: "We have a lot to do, and very few dedicated resources to do it. The CIA Head Office numbers less than 20 people. Without volunteers, we would not have the human resources or knowledge to complete all the projects that are important to the profession in Canada."

Volunteers contribute new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking that is critically important to growth and innovation within the actuarial profession. Byron Corner says that the CIA has been a powerhouse for new ideas on the world stage. He believes that it will continue to be at the forefront of delivering innovative solutions to the challenges imposed by the continuously evolving global economy.

Stay current, help the profession evolve, stay engaged in the profession
Volunteering is a great outlet for staying informed on, and being involved with, the future of the profession. Julie Chambers, who describes her volunteer experience as something that has enriched her career, has found that volunteering has helped her to view her membership with the CIA as more than just paying annual dues.

Promote mentorship
Early in his career, Byron Corner developed a lasting mentorship relationship when he presented at a conference in Toronto and a more tenured actuary interested in his perspective came to discuss his thoughts and insights.

More experienced actuaries can have a significant impact on the profession’s future by promoting the culture of volunteerism among new members. For Byron, one of the most rewarding aspects of his volunteer work has been seeing the success of students who he encouraged to pursue a career in the field.

Build a network
For Byron, who started his career in Nova Scotia, volunteering was an opportunity that he otherwise would not have had to connect with a network of actuaries outside of his company. He did not have access to a local actuary club where he could meet other actuaries and discuss common interests. He views the CIA as a forum for actuaries across the industry to discuss issues and challenges of mutual interest.

Angela Jonkhans finds herself staying in touch with people she met 20 years ago. She views volunteering as a great opportunity to network with people from other companies asking the same questions. She is able to call colleagues to discuss how to approach challenging problems, which has proved invaluable. She notes that newer members can benefit from volunteering by gaining increased visibility and making connections throughout the industry.

Career development
The interactive nature of a volunteer committee can challenge the skills that actuaries stereotypically lack, such as public speaking, articulating ideas, and teamwork. Tasks such as running a meeting, writing a formal report, and presenting at a meeting can develop strong communication skills to complement existing technical experience. Leading a meeting can help one to master the art of consensus building when trying to reconcile different perspectives. New members in particular may benefit from building the confidence to voice their thoughts and opinions.

Balancing volunteer and work commitments pushes many volunteers to develop their time management skills. Prioritizing so that you can go well-prepared into conference calls can be challenging. Angela likes to use her travel time on the train to stay on top of relevant readings. Byron found that the unique team nature of the committees he served on required him to plan, delegate, and set goals for a group. Volunteering can have tremendous value on the technical side when you can challenge or be challenged by others coming at problems from a different perspective.

Getting started: All you have to do is say yes!
  1. Go to the CIA website. Log in to the members section. On a page where the left navigation panel appears, click on My Profile > My Volunteer Profile > Update Volunteer Profile. Once you’ve completed the Update Volunteer Profile form to indicate your skills, experience, and general interests, go to the Modify My Committee and Task Force Interests form to indicate specific volunteer committees you are interested in joining.
  2. Press your case. If you have a strong interest in a specific committee, contact the CIA or the committee chair. They will be happy to provide you with more information or to invite you to a meeting. You can also gain a feel for what each committee does by visiting the Volunteer Booth at many CIA meetings.
  3. Make it a priority. Understand the time commitment required for the volunteer position and set aside time in your schedule. Communicate any concerns to the committee chair and allow them to help you in assessing whether the opportunity is right for you.
  4. Get your employer on board. In many cases, volunteering can actually bring value to your employer. Many committees might overlap with your work or provide you with valuable training and experience. In many cases, you may be able to designate work time towards volunteering.
  5. Stay tuned. Look for the inaugural Volunteers’ Corner, coming in the May (e)Bulletin. This new monthly feature will highlight volunteering in the CIA, including tips for getting and staying involved and announcements about current vacancies on CIA committees, task forces, and councils.
  6. Check out the resources for volunteers in the new Volunteer Centre on the CIA website.

The earlier a member starts volunteering, the more opportunities they will have. Volunteering builds a network with whom you can discuss how to approach the issues and challenges that you face. Volunteers are a powerhouse for outside-the-box thinking, and contribute to growth and innovation within the profession. Volunteering can enrich your career, build your skills and expertise, and broaden your opportunities.

Minnie Green, ACIA, is Vice-chair of the Committee on Volunteer Initiatives.