Honoring PMI Volunteers on International-Volunteer Day

PMI’s social impact continues to grow thanks to the untiring efforts of thousands of PMI members, volunteers, and employees around the world. As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, Joanne DeSantis examines the impact of our collective efforts and explores some of the motivations behind our volunteers’ commitment to service.

Written by Joanne DeSantis, Director, Community & Volunteer Engagement | PMI • 5 December 2023

Honoring PMI Volunteers on International-Volunteer Day

Honoring PMI Volunteers on International-Volunteer Day ‘Tis the season – to give thanks. In just the past few weeks, we’ve commemorated International Project Management Day – “going big” with our thanks for all you do to advance the project management profession. And here in the U.S., we’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, a day specially dedicated to giving thanks for the many blessings that we have received over the past year.

And now, on 5 December, we’re wrapping up this “thanks-giving” season by observing International Volunteer Day (IVD), when, in the words of the United Nations, we give thanks for “the power of our collective humanity to drive positive change through volunteerism.”

A Volunteer-Driven Organization

Volunteerism has always been an essential part of who we are at PMI.

There are more than 11,000 PMI volunteers worldwide. And volunteers are involved at every level of our organization. The Board of Directors partners with the CEO and Senior Leadership Team to set our vision, mission, and strategic direction. Board Reporting Committees, Insight Teams, and Stakeholder Working Groups oversee areas such as Code of Ethics enforcement and academic accreditation, carry out specific projects, and provide key insights based on their backgrounds or industry experience. Volunteers also contribute to standards development and serve as award evaluators, translators, reviewers, certification exam writers, product testers, and SMEs that co-create thought leadership and innovative products—making this an organization that is truly by project managers for project managers!

In addition, many volunteers contribute to the PMI Educational Foundation, which is dedicated to putting youth on a path to success by incorporating project management skills into their daily lives.

Touchpoints Around the World: PMI Chapters

I’d be remiss not to mention that more than 3,500 of the 11,000 PMI volunteers lead and run over 300 chapters that span the globe. PMI Chapters serve as a local touchpoint where project management professionals can connect with and support one another, develop professional skills, and give back to their communities. These are truly the “face” of PMI around the world!

But I’m convinced that there’s a deeper, more altruistic reason why members of our community volunteer their time. It has to do with this description of volunteering that I found on the IVD home page: “Volunteering is where compassion meets solidarity. Both share the same root values – supporting each other from a position of trust, humility, respect, and equality.”

To test my theory, I asked some PMI chapter leaders in different parts of the world to explain why they dedicate a portion of their valuable time to volunteering. Here's what they said:

"I’ve found immense satisfaction in giving back to this community through volunteering and by contributing to its growth and development. To me, the PMI community feels like home – a place where we grow, share, and uplift each other. It’s a bond forged from a shared drive for excellence."

Adeel Sultan, PMP, President, PMI UAE Chapter

"I feel a strong sense of belonging, acceptance, understanding and inspiration, keeping me focused on delivering more social impact in my local community."

Oumar Diop, PMP, President, PMI Senegal Chapter

"As a good project manager, you need to be versatile and add skills to your toolbox. Volunteering with PMI offers a great opportunity to do so in a 'sandbox' where you can give new ideas/skills a try without doing too much harm if it doesn’t work well the first time. Besides that, the PM community for me is sort of an anchor point because in these times almost everything can change, so it is utterly important to have a safe harbour."

Dr. Andreas Berning, PMP, PMI-ACP, DASSM, President, PMI Germany Chapter

"In one word, it’s family…that’s the level of trust. I always look for opportunities where I can give back, and I think I get multifold back when I do that. I’ve always felt I put in so little, but I get back so much more."

Uma Hiremagalur, PMP, Chair Elect of PMI, Washington, D.C. Chapter

"I have volunteered for more than 18 years now in multiple roles at the chapter level. It helps me to connect with my peers and be exposed to new areas that I’d never get to work on as part of my professional day job."

Jay Dholakia, PMP, President, PMI Pune Deccan India Chapter

"It is where I interact with many people beyond the boundaries of the company and find opportunities to objectively evaluate and develop my experience and abilities relative to theirs. At the same time, it is a place to compare the situation in Japan with the rest of the world, understand Japan's strengths and weaknesses, and look for opportunities to contribute to the world."

Takeshi Hayama, PMP, Ph.D., President, Japan Chapter

"My children know their mother as a PMI volunteer. They have attended various meetings with me, first in my arms when they were small, and in person as they grew up."

Eliani Figueiró, PMP, PMI-RMP, President, PMI Santa Catarina (Brazil) Chapter

Using Project Management Skills to Build a Better World

In addition to the extensive amount of volunteer support provided to strengthen PMI and advance the project management profession, our global community of volunteers has logged countless hours undertaking critical projects to strengthen, support, and lift up their local communities. An amazing 81 percent of PMI volunteers give back to their community in addition to volunteering with PMI!

In truth, the hours aren’t “countless” because we do, in fact, count them. As part of the annual Hours for Impact program, we track the many hours that our members, volunteers, and employees dedicate to driving change in support of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the roadmap for achieving a more sustainable future.

The number of hours pledged is significant. This year, for example, we’ve exceeded our goal of 175,000 hours of service pledged, with 43,091 PMI community members worldwide pledging 711,048 hours of service.

The nature of the projects are as impressive as the number of hours dedicated to them.

In rural Kenya, for example, Angela Njeri Mwangi and PMI volunteers have committed 500 hours to develop Co-Shamba, a digital platform designed to help farmers increase their efficiency so they can farm for profit, not just subsistence.

In Guatemala, Ingrid Villaseñor, working with Project Managers Without Borders, has pledged 400 hours to provide vulnerable families with life-changing services to help them break the cycle of poverty.

And in Barcelona, Bolivian architect Yngrid Echalar Gutiérrez has pledged a whopping 8,500+ hours to reinvent a public space as a modern gathering place for entrepreneurial collaboration.

Projects, however, don’t need to be large to be meaningful. In China, for example, Yawei Song and a team of five volunteers have pledged 100 hours to advance chronic disease detection so residents of their community can seek medical intervention sooner. And in the U.S., Steven Bistany and volunteers with the PMI Delaware Valley Chapter have pledged 16+ hours to develop a streamlined, easy-to-use app to support an annual Science Expo serving youth in historically marginalized communities.

The volunteers I’ve worked with during my many years with PMI take my breath away. On this special day of recognition, I am saying thank you for all you do to make our world a better place. Every day, I’m inspired by your generosity, curiosity, commitment, passion, and impact. As we celebrate International Volunteer Day, let us re-commit ourselves to using our unique skills as project professionals to bring about positive social change in the world.

And if you’re not a volunteer but have been considering it…don’t hesitate! There are so many ways to get involved—long-term or short-term, local or global, virtual or in-person. There really is something for everyone. You belong here!

Joanne Desantis headshot

Joanne DeSantis
Director, Community & Volunteer Engagement | PMI

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