On Being a Volunteer
One of the rewarding experiences for every IFT member is involvement in committee activities, whether it is at the Section, Division, or National level. Volunteering should be an integral part of your IFT member experience.
Getting involved for two or three or more years should be on everyone’s to-do list. What better way to meet your fellow food professionals from different companies, government agencies, and universities, different work experiences, and different perspectives to a particular problem. It will expand your circle of friends and acquaintances (useful if one is looking to change employment), and, even more important, it will provide an opportunity to acquire new skills that otherwise might take much longer to learn, if at all. Skill in problem solving, strategic thinking, and diplomacy are all part of that experience.
In recent years, many of you have been unwilling to volunteer because of time constraints related to work responsibilities or some other issue. Yet, there have been some changes in the way committees are functioning these days that should make you reconsider.
Of the many changes, the most important has been the means by which we communicate with each other and with our constituencies. The use of e-mail (a blessing and a curse) makes it much easier and quicker to share information, so that when conference calls and face-to-face meetings occur, they are much more productive and take less time. In addition, video conferencing has improved and the cost is dropping, so some of the communication problems have been minimized. You should find it easier to make a contribution than in the past.
I believe that the best place to start your involvement in IFT is at the Section level. If you do not belong to a Section, you might consider joining—for a minimal investment, you can derive many benefits. Sections are the grassroots of our Society; their members are a microcosm of the food industry, and their problems reflect national (and global) problems. Involvement at the local level will better prepare you for involvement at the National level; however, one is not a prerequisite for the other. The Sections could use your help, so why not get involved? You will probably discover that the Sections are open to different ways of thinking about a problem and willing to try something entirely new. Also, National issues are a reflection of local issues; your involvement in Sections will strengthen local activities and that will, in turn, strengthen National. To get involved, contact any member of your local section’s Executive Committee. To find out more about your section, visit www.myIFT.org.
Another place to volunteer is National committees. The Request for Committee or Jury Assignment form can be found on the IFT Web site at www.ift.org/cms/?pid=1000389. Appointments to committees are made in February/March period by the Three Presidents, with input from the IFT staff and committee chairs. This is an all-day affair, sometimes lasting into the evening. This past year, we began using a new operating system, called TIMSS, at our office in Chicago that enables us to see your past committee activities and your request priorities. Once a decision is made, an offer to serve on a particular committee is sent to you. Within another year, the process will be less challenging and more time efficient.
Some of you accept your proposed assignment, some reject it, and some forget to reply. In the latter situation, we wait a decent interval, confirm the lack of interest, and offer the appointment to another person from the list. As you might expect, this process can take several months. Some of you may have been disappointed that your request to serve on a committee has not resulted in an appointment to the committee. Don’t be discouraged if your first request is not satisfied.
Some changes relating to National committees are under consideration. One is a potential reduction in the number of standing committees; another is increased reliance on Task Forces to take on the activities previously handled by committees; and a third is more consideration given to appointment of newer/younger members.
We welcome and encourage your participation in IFT.
by HERBERT STONE
IFT President, 2004–05
President, Tragon Corp.
Redwood City, Calif.