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Volunteer Power!

Volunteer Power News — Number 19
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2004 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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This Issue:

We hear a lot about how people aren't volunteering, and it is so difficult to recruit and retain good volunteers. Many of you are asking me, "Is it just me, or are others struggling with getting volunteers?"

What is the state of volunteerism today?

The California Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism (GOSERV) in California found that just one in four are giving their time freely to volunteering. They are claiming that the survey is typical in national studies.

Where are people volunteering?

Religious activities - 35%
Children's schools and sports teams-33%
Civic groups - 25%
Health causes - 1%
Environmental, educational, recreational or local public safety 1/10 %

Who is involved?

White - 75%
Immigrants or children of immigrants (25%)
Upper-income residents, college graduates (33%)
Lower-income and non-college-educated (20%)

Not Knowing of the Opportunities

The vast majority of people who had not volunteered at all in their communities in the past year said that the reason they had not was that they were not asked and did not know about the opportunities.

So What? What does this mean to me, a volunteer manager who is trying to get people to volunteer?

Be careful how we interpret this information. Although I might find comfort in knowing I am not alone, this information should never be an excuse for giving up and saying, "I'll give up and hire someone to do the work." Perhaps a better response is to take a good, healthy look at our recruiting methods and evaluate our effectiveness. After all, if 75% of people aren't volunteering, that is a wide open territory for us to work.

To evaluate just how effective your volunteer recruiting and management techniques are, look a these three indicators:

  • The Jar
  • The Desk
  • The Numbers 16

Indicator One: The Jar--Look at the Jar and ask, "What is my jar saying to me"

Start with a Mason, wide-mouth jar. Think of the jar as a 24 hour day as you visualize putting some big rocks in the jar. Look at the jar and ask, "Is it full?" Of course not-you always can seem to get more into the day. So now add some sand and give it a shake. Ask, "Is it full now?" It looks full, but I can add some water? After you pour the water in, change the question and ask the most significant question, "What is the lesson of the jar?"

The lesson is powerful for all volunteer managers. The lesson is, "Unless you put the big rocks in first, you won't get them in at all." It is tough to put big rocks in a jar filled with sand and water.

In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won't fit the most important volunteer management items.

So what are the big rocks for the volunteer manager?

The biggest rocks are your volunteers-both current and potential. How much time a day are you spending with potential and current volunteers. The second indicator will tell you.

Indicator Two: Your Desk--Look at your desk and ask, "How much time am I spending here?"

I was having breakfast with a successful developer and he said to me, "I don't make any money when I'm in my office." He knew that to be successful, he needed to be out where the action was-not in at his desk. He needed to be networking and exploring future development sites. We could substitute the words "volunteer" instead of money. We can't recruit volunteers sitting in our offices. We need to be were the action is-with our volunteers, networking or developing future potential volunteers.

One-on-one, face-to-face communication is focused and powerful. If you ask for help in a crowd of 100, everyone else feels that others will get involved. If you ask for help in a group of ten, people will see other volunteers. If you ask for help one-on-one, it is hard to ignore the vision of the leader. Especially when the leader says, "Tom, will you help us? Jon, we need your truck this Saturday. Joan, I need a senior staff position filled and I believe that you could handle it."

Look at your calendar and take note of your appointments with volunteers. How long has it been since you have taken out a potential volunteer for coffee, breakfast, or lunch. Indicator three will tell you how effective you are spending your time.

Indicator Three: The number 16-Look at the numbers and ask, "Am I spending my time wisely or just spinning my wheels?"

The job of a volunteer manager is never done. You can always write one more thank-you note, make one more phone call, or meet with one more person about volunteering. How can you know that you have had a great day?

The magic number 16 is a way of evaluating the jar and your desk. When you reach sixteen points you have had a great day. Keep working until you make the 16 points. Then go home saying, "I have had a productive day."

Give your self 1, 2, 3 or 4 points for the following activities:

1 point for making a phone call to a potential volunteer to set up an appointment and give one point for writing a thank-you note to a current volunteer. Each of these activities earn you one point.

2 points for getting the appointment on your calendar. When you are able to set up an appointment to meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch with a potential volunteer, give yourself two points.

3 points for going on the appointment to either present a volunteer opportunity or meeting one-on-one with a volunteer to thank them for their service. When you meet with the potential volunteer or you meet with a current volunteer for coffee, breakfast or lunch, give yourself three points.

4 points for getting a volunteer to say yes. When you have gone over the job description, explained your vision, and the volunteer accepts the challenge to join your volunteer team, give yourself four points.

Work for 16 points a day. When I would get behind in my volunteering because of busy desk work, I would begin the "sixteen-points-a-day" schedule to refocus my daily activities. I found that by following this routine for one month, not only would I have more than enough volunteers, but my retention rate would always increase. I hated keeping the points; however it helped me to measure just what I was doing-which frankly I should have been doing in the first place. The 16 points was a discipline to be out with the people who were volunteering their services.

Bottom Line

Maybe the most important fact from the recent report on volunteerism in California was the fact that "The vast majority of people who had not volunteered at all in their communities in the past year said that the reason they had not was that they were not asked and did not know about the opportunities." Bottom line: they were not being asked.

Self Evaluation: Ask yourself the following questions

  1. How much time are you spending at your desk working on "stuff" other than being were the action is--with volunteers (current and potential)?
  2. Do you have at least one appointment a day recruiting a new volunteer?
  3. Do you have at least one appointment a day meeting with a current volunteer to encourage them?

Just like a check book can tell you a lot about how you spend your money, your calendar can tell you a lot about how you spend your time recruiting and motivating volunteers.

How is your recruiting volunteer going?

How are you recruiting and motivating volunteers in the 21st Century? Are you discouraged? Are your volunteer leaders discouraged? Let us help you as we spend a ½ or full-day motivating, laughing and learning together so that we all come away energized with new enthusiasm.

The topics for discussion in our workshops are:

  • Passion and power: How to mobilize the power and passion of the volunteer team.
  • Volunteers don't volunteer-they must be recruited: How to recruit today's busy person.
  • Motivation is an inside job: How to create a volunteer culture that stimulates the inner motivation of the volunteer.
  • Gen' Xers get involved and can make a difference: How to recruit and mobilize the Gen' Xer.
  • People get involved in causes--not organizations: How to awaken a passion for your cause.
  • Power communication: How to frame your recruitment message to specific groups.
  • Position driven or people driven-there is a major difference: How to determine the position and fill that position for your leadership team
  • Empowerment is not delegation: How to empower the volunteer, without going amuck (dropping the ball). How do manage visionaries with wild, outrageous ideas
  • The 21st century volunteer: The old volunteer structure doesn't include the new volunteers. What structures need to change in our volunteer management programs.

We would love to put facilitate this workshop for your volunteer managers. Give us a call at (916) 635-0677 or fill out our contact form.

Thomas W. McKee
Volunteer Power

Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at tom@advantagepoint.com

For more articles by Thomas McKee, visit the Articles section on our website.

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