Make your ideas a reality - volunteer on a committee!

Committee volunteerism is the the corner stone of The Mountaineers' courses, activities, and overall organization. Learn more about the benefits of supporting a committee and consider getting involved!
Sara Ramsay Sara Ramsay
Education Manager
September 20, 2017

Did you know that The Mountaineers club didn’t have a paid employee until 1984? Tired of all of the paperwork, the growing organization hired a part-time administrator to help with waivers and dues so that volunteers could focus on the fun stuff: developing courses, providing instruction, leading trips, and running committees.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of The Mountaineers. The club is 2,300 volunteers strong, serving 12,000+ members. Together, our volunteers lead an average of six activities a day and hundreds of courses every year. They teach people how to connect with their outdoor dreams. I may be biased, but I personally can’t imagine a more rewarding type of volunteer work.

Cheryl Talbert has been a member of The Mountaineers since 2009. As the chair for the Foothills Hiking and Backpacking Committees, as well as the co-chair of the Global Adventures Committee, committee work hasn’t been a transition away from trip leadership, but rather a rewarding addition to her volunteerism.

In reflecting on her committee volunteerism, Cheryl wrote: “I've been able to use my skills to make a big difference in the support and recognition that we can offer to our volunteer leaders, and in the programs that we've been able to build to serve our members. Now I can look back and see that the classes that I helped to start and the ideas that I helped to promote are benefitting many people - and that's enormously satisfying. By serving on a committee, I also have the ability to have much more impact in fixing the problems and roadblocks that have made my time as a leader and instructor more difficult.”

Since its founding in 1906, The Mountaineers has always been a volunteer-run organization. Our volunteers get to see the impact of their work every single day. In order to uphold The Mountaineers’ legacy and to assure that our members remain in a community that continues to thrive, we need people like Cheryl to step up as a volunteer - specifically, to consider participating in the club at the committee or branch leadership level! Of our 2,300 volunteers - nearly 1 in every 5 members - 500 serve in an administrative role and 280 sit on multiple committees in some capacity.

Matt Palubinskas - known throughout our community as MattyP -  has been a part of The Mountaineers for nearly 10 years, and he has been supporting a number of Seattle’s Climbing Committees for just as long. He finds committee work rewarding, for many of the same reasons as Cheryl.

“Committee work is a social thing, it's fun. You’re never operating on a committee of one,” he said. “That social aspect is something unique to The Mountaineers. It is a great community. But there is also a selfish component to committee work. You get to lead people guided by your vision, and you can get some really cool things done! If you have an idea, you have a lot of power to make change. The Mountaineers staff are really supportive of volunteer initiatives. Imagination and hard work leads to new courses and seminars. As a committee volunteer, you have a special opportunity to see the process come full-circle: from an idea hatched at the bar to brand new course.”

That said, MattyP noted that it took him a number of years to find the right balance. It's something he’s still sorting out.

“Initially, I took on more and more, I was a “yes” person. But it is tricky. You become good at being on committees, and you become good at getting things done so people want you to do more. If you keep saying yes, it will eventually become too much. This year, I’m taking a step back and identifying three priorities, and one of those is to lead some more climbs.”

In a day and age where we’re all being pulled in so many different directions, it can be difficult to think about any additional commitment. Many of our volunteers work full-time jobs, have families, and they want to spend their time with The Mountaineers outside, without additional meetings and computer work. But committee work doesn’t need to be a forever thing - in fact, it shouldn’t be! To keep things fresh and evergreen, we need a continual commitment from our membership. We need a fluid succession plan to keep our beloved courses growing and thriving, to inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.

As MattyP put it: “Committee work is sinusoidal: sometimes you have the time, energy, and enthusiasm, and sometimes you don’t.”

Committee work resonates with The Mountaineers’ culture of volunteerism, as well as the club’s core value of community. “Anyone who participates in Mountaineers programs should consider volunteering some time helping to administer the programs that they enjoy,” Cheryl wrote. “Beloved programs can and do disappear when the one dedicated volunteer who ran the program gets burned out or moves on. In addition, by being involved with a committee, every volunteer has a real opportunity to change and improve our programs, and to evolve and adapt to what members and volunteers want and need.”

Get involved

Are you feeling inspired to get involved with your committee? Please contact your Activity Chair, Branch Chair, or one of our Education Managers, Sara Ramsay or Steve Smith, to learn about needs, opportunities, expectations and time commitment! We need to keep the 111 year tradition of volunteerism alive, for that’s who we are at our core, as The Mountaineers. Many hands make light work.