By Sally O’Dwyer
“Volunteers form the backbone of our community. Volunteering brings help and guidance to recipients and great satisfaction to the giver. It fills a spiritual void. It builds friendships, creates confidence, and promotes natural leadership.” –Patrick Lindsay, author of Now is the Time
Volunteering for the United States Dressage Federation, (USDF), should be part of every dressage rider’s life.
USDF operates at the local level throughout the US via more than 100 affiliated clubs called Group Membership Organizations or GMOs. By joining your local GMO, you automatically become a group member of USDF. Each GMO is part of a USDF Region—there are 9 Regions that comprise the US. In many of the larger GMOs, when you become a member, you also become part of a local chapter, which ensures good representation throughout the geographic footprint of the GMO.
Basically, your GMO is responsible for making the local dressage community the best it can be, and every serious dressage rider should be supporting that effort.
GMOs are nonprofit and almost completely volunteer dependent. Perhaps it’s time for you to think about increasing your involvement with your club.
SEVEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VOLUNTEER:
No man is an island.
Sadly, far too many people see their GMO as just one more club they must sign up for to compete. Some people may be hesitant to step up and accept a position within their club because they are new to the sport, feel as if they don’t know much about dressage, or perhaps because they are a low-level rider. Please know, you are not expected to know everything. Volunteer experience is diverse, running the gamut from those who are retired from riding to people who are newbies.
YOU ARE WANTED!
GMOs are NOT elitist. There is a place for you—there are many positions to be had, big and small. In fact, your GMO can’t wait to get to know you! Your local dressage community needs you!
Your GMO is a critical part of your circle of support.
Dressage is not an individual sport! For what is competition, but a coming together of lovers of the sport to show our best? Great riders understand this and volunteer to preserve, build, enhance, grow, and foster a community that serves as the dance floor where we all share and celebrate our love of the sport.
“For this network to be strong, the crucial people in the inner circle have to understand your passion at least a little bit, so that they are more likely to uphold and uplift you than drag you down.” -Denney Emerson
Successful competitors have a network that is broad, strong, and far-reaching. Your support circle must include others who share your passion. When you volunteer, you help the organization, and at the same time you create a wider network of people who can help you grow in your sport
Grow a healthy community.
While you might not be able to “see” a community, we all know what it feels like to be part of a vibrant and inclusive platform where we all can participate. Unfortunately, without strong participation from everyone, the same brave, tired people end up shouldering all the work. This is unfair and can lead to cranky and resentful members. An organization can only serve the community well and offer new and exciting opportunities for members if there are volunteers to help implement these activities. No one wants a stagnant organization that only has the bandwidth to keep things afloat, barely managing to keep up with the status quo.
As riders, we put so much effort into dressage, including countless hours of practice and lessons, along with a huge financial investment. But if this is all that you do, you are missing out. You must be invested in your local GMO to truly understand the world of competition. Your GMO is always there for you if you learn how to access their resources, and the best way to do this is by getting to know people at the organizational level.
The satisfaction of giving back and helping others through your GMO community cannot be understated. Your passion should be bigger than just you. We learn best when we share our understanding and passion with others.
Participate at the local level, support the national level.
As an umbrella organization under USDF, the work we do here in our back yard supports the dressage community throughout the entire US. When you become a member of your local GMO, you automatically become a group member (GM) of USDF. As a group member, we are part of the USDF governance. We can attend the annual convention to stay informed and involved and we can provide feedback to our Regional Director.
We are all called to serve:
Think about your gifts and talents and your interests. How might your skills align with your club(s)? Do you have an area of expertise?
You can also reach out to your club (President, volunteer coordinator) and inquire what the needs of the club are and offer to meet the need.
Attend your Board meetings and to better understand the current club situation and where you might be a good fit.
Just raise your hand.
Not sure about how you can help? Just start by offering to perform a small task.
Good luck and happy volunteering.
Interested in joining a USDF Group Member Organization? Find your local club here!