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Volunteerpower News August 2003


Volunteer Power News - August 2003

Author: Thomas W. McKee

"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

©2003 Advantage Point Systems, Inc. Publishing



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This month I want to share with you two requests that you have asked for. I am constantly being asked, "How do we recruit and manage the younger volunteers?" This is the number one question I am asked at our workshops. Secondly, we are being asked about past issues of our newsletter. We have just put these on our website for those of you who missed earlier issues.

August Newsletter Content

§ Building Community - It doesn't just happen
§ Facilitating Effective Volunteer Meetings
§ Virtual Meetings - What are they?

Building Community - It doesn't just happen

One of the most important roles of the volunteer leader is to build team community. In my early years of leading volunteers I was very naïve and I thought that community would just happen if we just spent time working together. I was so wrong. Fortunately, years ago I discovered that a deep sense of camaraderie and unity does not happen spontaneously.

One way to build community is to use community-enhancing exercises. I have used all of the following in two formats: Meetings and board retreats:


One way to build community is to start every meeting with an icebreaker. Need an icebreaker for your next volunteer committee meeting or board meeting? Try this one:

Volunteers often don not really know much about each other. We can help by using a "disclosure" question to break down the masks that people often wear at meetings. When people get to know one another at a more personal level, they have more fun when working.

1. What was your most prized toy as a child?
2. If you could have a T-shirt printed with a message, what would it be?
3. If you were stranded on a desert island . . .
· What three items would you take with you?
· What three people would you take with you?
4. If you discovered that you only had one year to live, what would you do differently?
5. What one thing that you are not doing, if you would do, would have a great impact on your life?

Retreats Every year I would take our board of directors on a retreat and we would spend a weekend together visioning for the coming year. We always started out Friday evening with a dinner and then an activity like the following:

The Hot Seat

Everyone sits in a circle and one by one each of us take the hot seat. Sitting in the "hot seat" we had to answer a series a questions asked by another board member. Some of the more memorable questions were:

1. What were your greatest disappointments in the first third of your life? Second third? Recently?
2. What was the greatest achievement you experienced before the 12th grade?
3. What would you do if you won the lottery ($1 million a year for the next 20 years)?
4. If you could have dinner with any person who has ever lived, who would you choose and why?

It is impossible to listen to the honest reflections of another board member without being drawn to that person.

Facilitating Effective Volunteer Meetings

The goal of a meeting is not just communication, decision making or problem solving. The meeting process should send members away with a sense of energy and commitment. How do you do that? Americans hold over 15 million meetings a day and spend over $30 billion a year on meetings; however, most Americans consider meetings a waste of time and boring. The committee or team meeting with your volunteers is one of the untapped resources for energy, enthusiasm, communication, education and synergy. Let's face it—meetings are one of the most important part of volunteer management; however, it is where leaders often just "wing it."

Check the following "agree disagree" statements and check your answers with article.

Agree Disagree

______ ______ Meetings need an inclusion activity to set the mood.
______ ______ Meetings need official minutes.
______ ______ If you consider a meeting a waste of time, you should not attend.
______ ______ Volunteer team meetings should be held on a regular basis.
______ ______ If you want to make a point at the meeting, sit next to the leader.
______ ______ You should mix meetings and meals

Meetings need an inclusion activity to set the mood.
Agree: A mover and shaker (often the one running the business meeting) likes to get to the business at hand immediately. However, the mood of a staff meeting is set in the first few minutes. Ice breakers are a great way to start the meeting. This can be as simple as giving everyone 30 seconds to express their expectations of the meeting. For ice breakers see www.volunteerpower.com/archives (#7).

Meetings should include official minutes.
Agree: Board meetings need official minutes. But the minutes should be very short with only three sections: Part I: Date and attendees. Part II: Decisions made Part III: Follow up action steps with designated owners.

If you consider a meeting to be a waste of time, you should not attend.
Disagree: If you are invited, attend. Try to figure out how you can get the most out of that meeting and how it can be of value to you. Look at every meeting as an opportunity to fulfill your dream and build relationships with other team members.

Volunteer team meetings should be held on a regular basis.
Agree: Without regular communication, team members lose momentum, confidence and focus. They become distracted and diverted. Regular meetings provide great potential for a focused staff. The meetings may be tele-conference meetings, or e-mail. To see information on tele-conference meetings see our article on The Virtual Meeting.

If you want to make a point at the meeting, sit next to the leader.
Disagree: Sit opposite the leader so that you can talk directly to the leader and other members of the team also.

You should mix meetings with meals.
Agree: Milo O. Frank, in his book How to Run a Successful Meeting in Half the Time says you should mix business with meals if your objective is to establish a social as well as a business relationship. But what meal?

"Breakfast is best, lunch is longer, at dinner you're dimmer!" -- Milo O. Frank

Frank says that breakfast is best because everyone is fresher and has something else to do; therefore, the meeting is usually short. He feels that at luncheon meetings you have a tendency to waste a lot of time ordering food and traveling. Dinner can be the best or worst – the best for the social approach and the worst for a specific business objective because when you are tired, it is hard to think clearly.

Tips for meeting planning:

Facilitating meetings is fun, energizing and rewarding work. Improve your ability to facilitate meetings by making sure that you follow this check list.

1. Before the meeting:
Determine the purpose—the meeting objective
Develop and distribute the agenda.
Invite only those who need to be there

2. During the meeting:
Start on time
Use an ice breaker to set a positive and expectant mood
Open with a review of team goals and objectives
Keep it moving, ask for feedback, and be results-oriented
Stick to the agenda: resist the tendency to stray
Take notes on the following items:

-Attendees, decisions made and action items
-Schedule the next meeting

3. After the meeting:
Get action-oriented minutes out within 24 hours
Evaluate the last meeting, "What can we do to improve?"

Virtual Meetings What are they?

The best possible way to have a meeting with our volunteers is face to face. These meetings provide the base arena for camaraderie and community building. However, in today's world of fast paced, high-tech communication we need to consider virtual meetings.

What are virtual meetings? The four most popular alternatives are videoconferencing, web conferencing, tele-conferencing, and extranet. For a basic description of these four and their advantages and disadvantages see http://www.volunteerpower.com/articles/virtual.asp


Is your organization part of a larger professional association, or a statewide, regional or national organization? Does that group have local, regional or national meetings and conferences? Would you like a Volunteer Power Session presented at one of those meetings?

Our fast paced 1.5-hour session is a stand-alone training designed to introduce staff, board and volunteers to a systematic model for building the volunteer team. Participants learn a practical, effective approach for dynamic volunteer teams.

For more information, or to recommend an organization looking for such a program, please go to our Web Site at:

http://www.volunteerpower.com/ and fill out the form.