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Volunteer Power!

Volunteer Power News — Number 36
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2006 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

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

In this Issue:

1. Is the 21st Century volunteer really that different?
2. Find out why your volunteer recruitment numbers are down and take action

3. Do you need an executive coach or training for your organization?

Is the 21st Century Volunteer Really That Different?

Yes, Yes, Yes. The world has changed, and it is as radically different from the last century as the 20th century was from the 19th century. Just as the invention and mobilization of electricity and transportation changed the 20th century, the invention and mobilization of new technologies are radically changing our volunteers.

A whole new cast of “new volunteers” will get involved and be committed to our organizations. But they will become involved according to their rules, not ours.

No longer primarily the stay-at-home mom or retired senior, today’s breed of volunteer has become more eclectic. In this transition, a two-fold shift has occurred:

1) A trend toward high-impact, no-nonsense, hi-tech efficiency, with a need for quick results and loads of recognition and autonomy, summed up with an attitude of “give me the ball and let me run!” coupled with

2) A central willingness to go somewhere else if all else fails.

If organizations and associations are going to tap into these vital human resources without losing them, they must be willing to open new doors and pave new roads to make way for the 21st century volunteer.

The new volunteer looks something like the following:

  • The new volunteer has many obligations and often is volunteering for multiple organizations.
  • The new volunteer wants flexibility—“I will volunteer around my schedule.”
  • The new volunteer thinks outside the box of the organization—new hi-tech ways to get the job done.
  • The new volunteer will not tolerate incompetent volunteers—particularly committee chairpersons who don’t know how to lead a meeting.
  • The new volunteer does not want to make a contribution. The new volunteer wants to make a difference.

For more on the new volunteer see the article, “The 21st Century Volunteer Isn’t like Your Father’s Oldsmobile”

Find Out Why Your Volunteer Recruitment Numbers Are Down

When the number of our volunteers declines, all kinds of fingers get pointed. Most people blame it on the fact that people are too busy, when, in fact, busyness has little or nothing to do with it.

Here are some possible strategic factors to look at:

1. The mission and brand of your organization is losing impact.

If your volunteers have begun to quit, it may mean your mission is losing its appeal. How long has it been since you revisited your mission statement? Do you have a brand that is appealing?

A brand is what identifies and attracts volunteers to your organization or event. Girl Scouts have a brand. Habitat for Humanity has a brand. However, your brand does not need to be national or international. In fact, often a local brand is the most powerful. Three pizza stores that stand side by side put out signs. One sign reads, "Best Pizza in the state." The second one reads, "Best Pizza in the Nation." But the third one reads, "Best Pizza on the block." Where would you eat?

Read more on branding

2. Other organizations with a similar mission are undercutting you and trying to steal your volunteers.

If your volunteers perceive little or no differentiation between your organization and other organizations with a similar mission, you have a problem. We don’t like to use the word competition, but in essence we are competing for the same volunteers who have a passion for your cause. Ask yourself, “How are we unique?” “Why should the volunteer work for us instead of them?”

3. Your volunteer managers are being outdone by other volunteer managers from other organizations.

If volunteer managers are losing because they’re not strong enough to recruit the 21st century volunteer, that can be remedied by enhancing the volunteer manager’s skills. Yet too often we expect the volunteer manager to keep up with changing demographics without any updated training or skill development.

If your budget is limited, you can update your skill development by copying the articles or archived e-zines on Volunteer Power and passing them out to your volunteer recruiters for discussion and training. However, money spent on great training for volunteer managers is money well spent. How long has it been since you have provided training for your volunteer recruiters?

4. Your hours of volunteer service are not in sync with your volunteers’ availability for service.

The two hottest groups for recruiting today are the Baby Boomers (who are empty nesters and entering the retirement years) and the Millennials (late teens and yearly 20s). But they expect to volunteer when it is convenient for them. Flexibility is the name of the game for the new volunteers.

5. It’s not as easy to volunteer in your organization as it used to be.

If you’re losing volunteers because you are difficult to contact, not internet savvy, and still in the 20th century, it’s possible that someone else has made it easier to communicate and work with them than you are.

6. You are not responsive enough to your volunteers.

Are you being out-hustled? This usually happens to people who have been in the volunteer management organization for years. I think of the words of Tom Hanks in that movie, “A League of Their Own,” when he was yelling at his all-women baseball team, “This is not supposed to be easy. This is supposed to be hard. If it were easy, anyone could do it. But it is in the hard that will make us great.” It is too easy to become lazy just because we have been successful.

It is “the hard” that forces us to be better. It is “the hard” makes us great. Accept the challenge.

7. Your organization may be in decline and, even though there are volunteers for you to recruit, there are just not as many as there were five years ago.

What has happened to your organization in the last few years? Has your membership grown, stayed the same or declined? If there’s been a decline, that means you have to work harder to find volunteers.

How you can do a self-audit of your organization

Call your members and your volunteers and listen to them. They have the answers. Once you have assembled as many answers as you can, take action. Continue to get feedback until you begin to see the trend reversing. When it does, throw a huge party for your volunteers to reward them for rewarding you.

Executive Coaching or Training Your Volunteer Managers

Make your volunteer managers aware of the following:
• The 21st Century volunteer
• The importance of restoring the passion in the organization and volunteers
• The changing demographics of the volunteer organization
• The importance of branding and marketing

Call Tom McKee (916) 976-0359 or e-mail at Tom@volunteerpower.com for what it would take to have Tom train your volunteer management team, your volunteers or be an executive coach for your organization.

Sample Workshop:

Mobilizing the Power and Passion of the Volunteer

At the end of this workshop, participants will know the following:
• How to frame your recruitment message to get a "yes"
• How to manage the high maintenance volunteer
• How to awaken the passion for the organization, board, committee or project How to increase volunteer retention
• How to recruit and retain the new volunteer—the 21st century busy person

Course Outline - Ten Effective Recruitment and Retention Principles
• 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' Yers get involved and can make a difference: How to recruit and mobilize the Gen' Yer.
• 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.
• Volunteers from Hell: Managing the high maintenance volunteer. Firing the high maintenance volunteer with managing doesn't work.

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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