by Kristin Brighton on June 8, 2017
In 2017, New Boston Creative Group is conducting a national research study about volunteering, community leadership, and chamber of commerce membership. The survey explores topics such as:
- Why do people choose to volunteer in their local communities?
- What inspires people to step up and lead?
- What hurdles keep people from getting more involved?
- Why do working professionals participate in their local chamber of commerce (or not)?
- How could chambers and other nonprofits evolve to better meet the needs of today’s working professionals?
Co-founder Kristin Brighton’s own personal journey as a volunteer and leader in the Manhattan (Kansas) Area Chamber of Commerce inspired this project. In addition to being a mom, spouse, and business owner, Kristin has been very involved in several community passion projects, and in 2016, served her local chamber of commerce as the chair of the board of directors. Co-owners Lisa Sisley and Susan Religa are also very involved in their local chamber, and encourage their entire New Boston team to participate in chamber activities.
However, in her volunteer role as chair, Kristin found it ironic that it is still notable in 2017 for a youngish woman (she was 41) to serve in a community leadership role — especially in a small-town business community. She was asked multiple times during her year as chair, “How do we get more people like you to step up and serve?”
She couldn’t answer that question. So she has decided to use her market research skills to try to find the answers.
In the legendary 2000 book Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam points out that since the 1950s, America’s engagement in politics and community activism has steadily declined. He links the decrease in people’s willingness or interest in joining social, religious and civic organizations to the rise of technology and entertainment (television/internet).
Not everyone agrees with Putnam that our newfangled technologies are the cause of our disengagement, but when you consider that the average American spends four hours per day watching TV and nearly six hours a day consuming digital media — with many hours spent doing both simultaneously! — it’s easy to see how there is little time to do anything else besides eating, sleeping, general hygiene, commuting, and working.
American organizations must find ways to engage citizens locally and evolve to meet the needs of their constituents, so that organizations such as local chambers of commerce can continue to thrive in the years ahead.
Our goal in this study is to:
- Lend our talents to help the nation better understand the behaviors and attitudes of working professionals when it comes to volunteering and leading in their chambers and local communities,
- Recommend specifically what chambers can do better to recruit and inspire people to lead their organizations and communities, and
- Explore whether Generation X professionals respond differently than Baby Boomers and Millennials.
If you have any additional insights or questions on this issue, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.