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Volunteer Power News — Number 29
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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In this Issue: The Long Term Volunteer is No Longer a Trend...It is a Fixed Reality

Are you still trying to recruit the long-term volunteer and missing the great opportunity of the short term volunteer. Susan J Ellis of Energize writes,

I hereby officially proclaim that this (short term volunteering) is no longer a "trend," but a fixed reality! Most new volunteers seek assignments with a clear beginning, middle and end. One-time-only volunteering opportunities, such as those coordinated by "Hands On" or "City Cares" organizations, continue to expand. The good news in all this is that, after people have gotten their feet wet in a successful volunteer effort, they often turn around and say: "What can I do next?" So volunteer program managers might start thinking of "retention" in terms of an ongoing sequence of short-term assignments."

Here are my thoughts on short-term volunteering:

1. The Retention Factor: The short-term assignment is a significant retention factor to 21st century volunteer management. People want to know the end date of the volunteer commitment.

2. The Perspective Factor: Many volunteer leaders react to the short-term volunteer because they only see "endings" and "beginnings" instead of excited, passionate volunteers working on projects. Change your perspective.

3. The Assignment Factor: We lose valuable long-term volunteers by long-term assignments. (What on earth does that mean?) Just last week an active volunteer in our community revealed to me that she quit an organization she loved very much because they would not replace her as chairperson. She kept telling the volunteer manager that she wanted to stay on the committee, but she could not continue to be the chair. They kept saying that they would find a chair, and three years later she resigned the committee with a made-up excuse. She admitted to me, "I really miss that committee, but I hated being the chair. I wish I could just serve on the committee." This organization lost a dependable, long-term volunteer because of a long-term assigned that she hated.

4. The Gen X and Y Factor: Recognize that we have a whole new generation of volunteers (Gen Xers and Yers) that do not respond to 20th Century Volunteer management methods. The question is:

  • How do we recruit, manage and motivate a new generation of workers that . . .
  • Have been raised on video games that create the expectation that when you win you automatically are promoted to the next level?
  • Are knowledge workers? (Peter Drucker claims that the most significant change facing the workplace is not technology, but the fact that people are making decisions by themselves, and managers are not prepared for that.
  • Are use to working alone, not in teams? (In 2001 the Army changed it recruiting method to recruit individuals who want to work alone. It worked and recruiting soared; however, they didn't know how to work with the new recruits when they got them. Today Army recruitment is at an all time low.

So what do we do? Here are some ideas. (For added information on these ideas, see article: Why Volunteer Teams Don't Work:

  • Communicate expectations by using generational communication frames
  • Hold accountable by using the levels of empowerment carefully
  • Motivate through short term projects
  • Recruit for a position (See the seventh Sin in the 7 Deadly Sins of Recruiting)

See also article: Recruiting The Younger Volunteers.

I hope these thoughts help you rethink long term vs. short term. I like Susan's suggestion of thinking of "retention" in terms of an ongoing sequence of short-term assignments.

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.

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


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