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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 100
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2011 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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In This Issue
  1. Featured Article: The 100th Newsletter: What is the Same and What is Different?
  2. Check this Out: Report from last month newsletter: Are Your 2011 Volunteer Numbers Down?
Featured Article: The 100th Newsletter: What is the Same and What is Different?
Today you are receiving the 100th issue of Volunteer Power. In skimming the past 99 newsletters, I was challenged with three questions about recruiting and leading volunteers.
  1. What is the same, will stay the same, and probably won't ever change?
  2. What has changed that is impacting how we recruit and lead volunteers?
  3. In light of those changes, what is the strategic challenge we face today?
To answer those three questions, let me give you some background as to why I even write about this topic, or why you should read on.

"Tom, how and why did you get into this business?"

That was a question that I was recently asked. My answer to that question was, "Volunteer power. When I experienced the collective power of volunteers, I was hooked."

Nine years ago I walked into a meeting with 40 directors of volunteers in Wichita, Kansas. At that time in my career I was speaking and writing on the topic of managing transitions in the private and public sector. My clients included government agencies such as the IRS and the U.S. Air Force and international corporations such as Intel and Hewlett Packard. Those who were attending my leadership development workshops were managing the non-stop changes of the 90's.

All of that changed that day when I spoke at the Wichita AVA (Association for Volunteer Administration) meeting. I had been asked to speak to about 40 directors of volunteers on the topic of change and how it was affecting the recruitment and management of volunteers. In my research I noted some of the changes that I had observed in the business world and how it could affect the non-profit world of volunteerism. I knew I had good information and that the day would be profitable, but I had no idea that it would impact me on two levels.

I had one of those aha moments when I realized that the people I had been training for the past ten years are the volunteers who are going to be recruited for the non-profits. These future volunteers are leaders. They are strategic thinkers. They are entrepreneurial. They are movers and shakers. If directors of volunteers can somehow mobilize the collective power of these professionals, they can change their world. I had a new mission and I was excited.
The first level of impact was a common factor that would mark the success of each person at that meeting. That one factor was "passion." Passion was the common dynamic of those leaders who represented the Girl Scouts, environmental groups, several churches, a soup kitchen and hospitals. If those leaders could capture and harness the passion of their volunteers, there was no limit to what they could do. I began to sense the challenge to give them the tools to help them develop that kind of leadership, and I was excited by that challenge.

The second level of impact happened as I was flying home after the workshop. I thought about the leaders of national and international companies who were my clients. I had one of those aha moments when I realized that the people I had been training for the past ten years are the volunteers who are going to be recruited for the non-profits. These future volunteers are leaders. They are strategic thinkers. They are entrepreneurial. They are movers and shakers. If directors of volunteers can somehow mobilize the collective power of these professionals, they can change their world. I had a new mission and I was excited.

On that plane ride home I created Volunteer Power. Thirty people from that group signed up to receive a follow-up newsletter, so I had my first e-mail list for what would become the monthly Volunteer Power newsletter. The last nine years I have written 100 monthly newsletters, hundreds of articles for non-profit magazines, spoken to thousands of leaders of volunteers and co-authored The New Breed with my son Jonathan.

The past nine years have been exciting for me as I have had the opportunity to work with many of you. Although some things have stayed the same, we have experienced many changes together. Those changes offer us a huge strategic challenge.

What is the same?
  • It is still about passion. Volunteers don't get involved because they are paid. They get involved because they care. Our job is first to awaken their passion for our cause and then to empower them to use their talents and professional skills. For more about keeping the passion alive, see When Our Volunteers Quit Buying Green Bananas-Keeping the Passion Alive.

  • It is still about change. Back in the 1980 when I used to talk about changing an organization, we used the metaphor of turning a huge ocean liner. Today that metaphor has changed. We now talk about turning a school of empowered minnows. It takes a whole different set of skills to turn empowered minnows. Although the metaphor and methods have changed, the issue is the same, change. The old adage is so relevant, "the only constant is change." I'm sure most of us feel that. For more on how to manage change, see "Building Successful Volunteer Teams through a Transition."

  • It is still about our mission. Your cause is still the same. You probably have restated it, perhaps even condensed it into a "mantra", but why you exist is basically the same as it was 10 or 100 years ago when your organization was founded. If you want to know the importance of a well crafted mission statement, see "The Difference Between A Mission Statement and A Vision Statement."

  • It is still about "why." People still volunteer for the same three reasons: 1) They want to know, "What's in it for me", 2) they are asked to by someone they respected, or 3) they are passionate about a cause. Those three reasons remain the same. To see the explanation of these three reasons, read Why People Volunteer.
What is different?
  • It is about speed. How quickly do you respond to a shift in culture? Are you even aware of the changes in culture? How quickly do you make decisions? How long does it take for you to respond to your volunteers' requests? These are huge questions because one of the most significant tectonic shifts that have changed volunteerism in the first ten years of the 21st century is "speed." To read about the impact of speed, see Speed a Tectonic Shift that is Changing Volunteerism.

  • It is about a new level of episodic volunteering. Group sourcing and micro volunteering have totally changed how we recruit and lead our volunteers. See Take Advantage of Three Hot Trends.

  • It's about technology. Even the virtual volunteer is last century. Today the hot topic is the social media. Web 2.0 has added a whole new dimension to volunteerism. For more on this topic see Using the Social Media to Recruit and Lead Volunteers.

  • It is about leadership. This is perhaps the most important. The New Breed of Volunteer will not be managed. We used to say, "Don't micro manage." Now we say, "Don't manage-- lead." The New Breed of Volunteer wants to be empowered. See People Don't Quit Because They Are Too Busy.
What is the strategic challenge?

The strategic challenge is this: How do we mobilize the collective power of passionate, episodic, professional, 21st century volunteers?

My mission is to provide you the free resources in our newsletters and website to equip you to be a leader of volunteers in these strategic challenging days.

That is the why and how of Volunteer Power.

Check This Out: Report - How are your volunteer numbers?
Last month I asked you to respond about your volunteer numbers in the article, "Is Volunteering Still Hot-Are Your Volunteer Numbers Down". The report I got from you is all over the board. Here are my observations about what you said:
  1. Out of the people who responded, one third said that their numbers are staying the same. Another third said that they have actually increased and another third said they were really struggling.

  2. One director of volunteers wrote the following. I think that many of you might be feeling this:

    I always enjoy Volunteer Power News and I read with interest the segment Is Volunteering still Hot? We have noticed that volunteer numbers are down, as well, although less dramatically. One reason is that in 2010 we participated in the Disney Give a Day, Get a Day promotion which generated a lot of interest and volunteers, but it was short lived. People volunteered only to receive the Disney tickets. Very few volunteered with us again. Disney promotion aside, our volunteer numbers are still down about 15%.

  3. My response is really too small to make any broad conclusions. It is hard to get a handle on the volunteer rates of 2011 because the year isn't over and groups like the National Service Organization don't report on 2011 until 2012.
In doing research on volunteer numbers, one report that caught my attention was the article in the Huffington Post entitled, "Gen-Xers Are Propping Up U.S. Volunteering Rates." Here is the article:

Gen-Xers Are Propping Up U.S. Volunteering Rates
Posted: 8/16/11 04:09 PM ET

August 2011 report

We often hear how Millennials are the most conscious consumers and that Boomers transition from careers to civic engagement. But according to a new federal report on volunteer trends, the oft-overlooked Gen Xers are becoming an important factor in social good efforts.

Generation X (those born 1965-1981) shines in the latest release of "Volunteering In America," the annual report on service and volunteering from the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2010, overall volunteer participation levels edged lower while the number of hours served nationally stayed flat - a likely indication that the most involved volunteers are putting even more time and energy into giving back. And Gen Xers are the only generation volunteering more hours than years past.

Inverse Is True

Why the uptick, when everyone else is slacking? The rise in Gen X service hours reflects the arc observed in the volunteer lifecycle, where individual involvement increases as they feel more connected to communities via home ownership, having children and more stable employment - the exact life stage many Gen Xers are currently in. (Check out the VolunteerMatch group discussion about this on LinkedIn.)

Since retired Boomers and under-employed Millenials have more time outside of the work day, we may expect they spend more of their time serving. But the data show the inverse is true. The reality that these groups are spending less time volunteering speaks to the impact the economic downturn has on nonprofits, as layoffs reduce the ability of organizations to engage skilled volunteers (popular with Boomers) and keep up with multichannel communications (critical to engaging Millennials).

Corporate Investments Paying Off

Corporate investment in volunteerism is driving overall volunteer participation. Whether it's encouraging employees to get involved in a corporate program or putting out a call to consumers to get on board with service, it takes commitment, perseverance and drive to engage volunteers.

Within our network, much of the push is now coming from companies. Last year alone 45% of the volunteer activity across our network was generated through corporate channels. (We wrote about the overall impact of corporate engagement last year.) Much of that effort is targeting civically engaged Gen X workers.

Small Caveats

It may be tempting for companies to focus on the Gen X super-volunteers. But we will caution organizations not to put too many eggs in that basket.

Gen X has a small generational population, and at some point the number of service hours will plateau. One person can only give so many hours, while engaging more people to take part has greater potential. Corporations have an excellent opportunity to increase impact by increasing the capacity of nonprofits to better engage Boomer and Millennial volunteers, and encourage these groups to be more active participants within corporate volunteer programs.

Building a broader base of volunteers and streamlining how nonprofits manage new recruits is the only way we will see real growth for volunteering in America over time.

My observation about the article:

I found this report interesting because in my experience Gen X is the most difficult group to recruit because of their life stage. Most Gen Xers (in 30's and 40's) are parents of children and/or teenagers. They are so busy taking their kids to activities (sports, music lessons, church groups, scouting, after school clubs, etc.) that they don't have time to volunteer. And because of their children, they are what I call the "non-volunteer volunteer." They have to volunteer because of the requirement for parents to volunteer if their kids are going to be a part of the group. I don't know if this is reflected in this report, but it could be a factor. To read more on the non-volunteer volunteer, see: How to Manage the Non-Volunteer Volunteer.

Volunteer Power Key-Notes, Workshops, Or An Education Day
The New Breed of Volunteer
A Volunteer Power Workshop
Recruiting and leading the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Workshop Content

The questions: Volunteerism is hot. From American Idol, Disneyland, Glee, Lady Gaga, President Obama to Wells Fargo, Intel and Wal-Mart, giving back is the rage.

  • How do we take advantage of this trend in our organization?
  • How do we mobilize the passion and power of volunteers in a culture that sometimes stifles passion and professionalism because management only allows volunteers to stuff envelops?
The answer: A 21st Century leadership strategy. We need to know how to impact our volunteer culture so that we can recruit and empower a whole new breed of volunteers.

The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of tectonic shifts that have changed volunteer leadership. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore, how we recruit and lead the New Breed of volunteer is a whole new game. The tectonic shifts include the following:

  • Twitch Speed - The core characteristic of Lady Gaga is speed. She is doing in 10 minutes what it took Madonna ten years to achieve. How nimble is your organization in responding to today's volunteers?
  • Generations - Gen Y and retiring boomers-the new frontier of volunteers
  • Technology - The addition of social networks as a leadership tool
  • Empowerment - The knowledge worker demands to be led - not managed
  • Slacktivism - Getting involved with the click of a mouse
  • Episodic Volunteering - Sign up for only short-term projects or only when unemployed
A LEADER OF VOLUNTEERS STRATEGY: In this workshop you will learn ...
  • How to manage change: How to interpret a changing culture
  • How to empower the volunteer without dropping the ball
  • How to coach your volunteers instead of manage them: The four stages of coaching
  • How to frame your recruiting message in order to transition slactivists and episodic volunteers into valuable non-paid staff
Contact us to book a workshop or key-note.

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