We Volunteer, We Lead



This past weekend, an incredible group of marketing leaders from across North America converged in Chicago. The organization that brought us together: The American Marketing Association (AMA). We talked about why we volunteer and about how to build teams, communities, and future leaders. When we volunteer, no matter the cause or organization, we sacrifice.

Let’s break down that word, sacrifice. The first part of the word comes from the Latin root word sacrare, which means, “to make sacred or holy.”

As leaders in our community, the sacrifice we make for the AMA is not about our love for marketing, though that part is important. Industry alone doesn’t signify enough for one to treat it as sacred or holy. Rather, it’s our love for people and one another that drives us to sacrifice. Our desire to make our communities better, and more importantly, to give of ourselves to make others better.

Industry alone doesn’t signify enough for one to treat it as sacred or holy. Rather, it’s our love for people that drives us to sacrifice.

During the event, the organization recognized two inspiring leaders from Cincinnati. The first, Ric Sweeney, who has contributed so much to the organization as a volunteer that the Volunteer of the Year award was official named after him. That’s a legacy he’s leaving as a result of building into other people, including me.

The second, Dennis Devlin. Dennis has contributed to the AMA for more than 30 years. He was the first to receive the Ric Sweeney Volunteer of the Year award, and I had the great pleasure of introducing him. My intro is below:

This is such an honor to introduce Dennis. Yesterday we got to celebrate and recognize Ric Sweeney by naming this award after him. Ric and Dennis, both great marketers from Cincinnati, have been a great inspiration to me, and important mentors and friends. So, to be able to introduce Dennis Devlin, the first to receive the Ric Sweeney Volunteer of the Year award is an incredible experience and honor.

There is much to be said about Dennis. He and I have shared many conversations over the years. Some where I was able to absorb his professional advice, leveraging his experience in his current role as CEO of Consumer Clarity, or his previous roles at marketing research and strategy consultancies such as GFK.

Most of the time, though, it was about the AMA. Working with him on new initiatives, or getting his perspective. This man, as you’ll soon see, is passionate about the AMA. Some others can claim their passion. But few have truly demonstrated their passion in the way Dennis does.

Dennis has been an AMA members since his sophomore year at the University of Kentucky. In recent years, he has changed the trajectory for the Cincinnati chapter. Breathing new life into the team, the chapter, and the broader marketing community. There are far too many details about these achievements (and Dennis’ other achievements) to fit into this intro.

I once heard about the three forces that drive volunteer engagement – agenda, peer support, and a hierarchy of achievement. To me, this sums up Dennis’s tenure with the AMA. A path he both followed and created. While this award may feel like the pinnacle of that hierarchy of achievement, I know Dennis isn’t finished. I have a feeling his work has only just begun…


Will Krieger