Posted in Board of Directors

BACon Blog - Association Leaders: Stop Saying You’re OverworkedMany times over the years I have heard association board leaders say that they have to commit a tremendous number of hours per week to do their work. In fact, I have actually heard a board leader say that they spend over 50 hours a week at their volunteer position!

First of all, if that is actually the case, you need to radically rethink your governance and the role of your association’s volunteer leaders.

But more likely, the board leader was just bragging.

According to a 2011 article in Monthly Labor Review, a Labor Department journal, Americans tend to overestimate how many hours they work in a week by 5-10 percent, either because of faulty memory or because they want to give the impression they are working harder than others.

We all succumb to human nature… and it is sometimes human nature to overemphasize our importance or our role. And that overemphasis sometimes comes in the form of overestimating the number of hours we work.

As an association leader, if you are telling people that you are committing amounts of time to your volunteer position, you are driving away potential future leaders of your association. Who would want to commit to an association leadership position if it’s the equivalent of another full-time job? Particularly when there are so many other opportunities for people to give back to their profession, industry or cause.

And if it is really true that your association requires its leaders to commit dozens of hours a week to their volunteer position, then be a true leader and convince your colleagues that they need to conduct a comprehensive review of your association’s governance so that the proper volunteer roles and responsibilities are implemented at your association.

So… stop saying what a burden it is for you to volunteer for your association. And start telling potential future leaders what a joy and honor it is to be a leader at your association.

John Barnes is President of Barnes Association Consultants. Barnes Association Consultants helps association Boards and CEOs address the wide range of challenges and opportunities facing today’s association leaders. Barnes Association Consultants helps association leaders make their associations better.

John can be reached at or 703.321.6866. For more information about Barnes Association Consultants, go to