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Volunteer Power News — Number 25
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2005 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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Cool stuff that you have never heard before - follow up

This newsletter is the third in our "Cool Stuff that you never heard before" follow up. — Networking. The order you selected as the most important are:

Number One: Motivation -- How to keep my volunteers motivated so that they keep their commitments
Number Two: Recruiting -- How to get quality people to join our volunteer team.
Number Three: Networking -- How to build strategic alliances to find volunteers
Number Four: Branding -- How to establish a well recognized brand such as "Habit for Humanity" or "BMW—the Ultimate Driving Experience" for our organization.
Number Five: Retention -- How to keep our quality volunteers from quitting
Number Six: Managing -- How to juggling multiple projects of volunteer management.

This Issue: Networking—How to build strategic alliances to find volunteers

Volunteer Credo—It's not who you know. It's who they know. If it was who you knew, then you wouldn't have any recruiting problems.

I was in the mid-west recently talking with a group of volunteer managers who were very effective in recruiting and managing volunteers. We developed a list on a flip chart of their volunteer networks. The significance of the list was not who was and who was not mentioned. But the significance of the list was a common thread. What did all of these volunteer networks have in common? As you read the list, see if you can figure it out. When you do find the common thread, you have found the key element of increasing your volunteer base 1000%. See if you can find the common thread.

The list of networks represented:

  • Local colleges
  • Local businesses
  • Service clubs
  • Churches
  • Community service court assignments
  • High schools
  • Youth groups
  • Senior groups

What the Common Thread was Not:

Not everyone in the room agreed with this list. Many reacted to some of the network possibilities. For example, many talked about how they received their best volunteers from young college students. Others said that they would never go to a network with a community college again because the students never showed up on time, were not dependable, and usually quit before their assignment was up. One volunteer manager said his best volunteers for social work were business, math and English majors, not social work majors. He claimed that these students were volunteering because they wanted to make a difference, not to fulfill a college assignment.

One person raved about the support they were getting from a local church; however, one manager said, "I get nowhere when I try and interest a local pastor in our volunteer effort. I've given up on working with churches." Another manager claimed that the best source of volunteers she had was from a local judge. The judge would assign people with a DUI conviction to do community service with their organizations.

So, what was the common thread?

The common thread is Bev.

When the person in our group said, "I never work with churches because when I went to the pastor. . ." I responded to her, "That was your problem. Never go to the head of an organization to set up your strategic alliance. Go to Bev. The pastor, or CEO of an organization sees the whole organization and is always looking at the big picture. Their passion is not your organization. That is good because if it was, then they should be working with you instead of their church or organization.

In our church, Bev, has a passion for children who can't read and don't have any help at home. This is her driving passion. She thinks about it, dreams about it, and does something about it. When she approached the pastor with this need, he had other things on his mind—running a church. But he encouraged her to find volunteers. Bev didn't put an announcement in the church bulletin (first rule of recruiting). She looked for people who shared her vision. After she gathered this team, they quietly started finding people who would go to a local school in our area and help tutor young children. Each person began to spend an hour a week tutoring or working in the library. Soon she had 40 adults in our church spending time each week at Earl Warren Elementary School in Sacramento. Then she went to the pastor with success stories of how people in the church were impacting the community, knowing that pastors are always looking for great stories to illustrate their sermons. And when the pastor can get a story from what someone in the church is doing, the impact is always greater.

Soon the pastor began having some of the tutors tell their experiences. One day Bev put together letters from the students thanking the people of the church. Bev began promoting her passion and our church has become one of the most significant sources of volunteers for the Earl Warren School.

The answer to the question is one word: Bev. The key to an effective network is a person who has the following characteristics:

  1. Has a passion for your organization
  2. Is an active volunteer for you
  3. Knows how to communicate
  4. Is a visionary

As we looked at the list of strategic alliances at our conference in the mid-west, the common thread was a Bev who was the contact in each alliance. One person talked about how in Wichita, Kansas, a visionary in a local aero space industry provided volunteers for their organization. For another, her Bev was the judge who was providing workers—sort of mandatory community service.

When you are developing a network, look for a dozen Bevs—one representing each organization. Each Bev is a source of 30-40 volunteers (some even hundreds). Because Bev is who makes the network work. And if you are willing to give Bev all of the credit, instead of yourself, it is amazing what you can do

I hope this helps.

Remember, It's not who you know. It's who they know.

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. Other articles and free resources are available at www.volunteerpower.com.

Next newsletter: Number Four: Branding -- How to establish a well recognized brand such as "Habit for Humanity" or "BMW—the Ultimate Driving Experience" for our organization.

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


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