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Volunteer Power!

Volunteer Power News — Number 54
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2007 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

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Cut Your Need to Spend So Much Time Recruiting
Thomas W. McKee

Volunteer managers who do not learn 21st Century management skills had better be great recruiters because they will spend all of their time finding new volunteers.

Carl J. Schramm from the Kauffman Foundation speaking at Stanford University told the students that 70% of college graduates today will start their own businesses. They don't want to work for anyone else. They want to do it their way. Because of the internet, the opportunity to start and run a business is greater than ever before in history. In my family alone, both of my sons are running internet businesses out of their homes.

What does this have to do with volunteer management? Everything.

A problem that I find with some volunteer managers is that they don't know how to empower the new breed of volunteers who are like the 70% of college graduates that start their own businesses. Therefore, these managers have to spend most of their time recruiting because their volunteers keep quitting. In the employment ranks, most people quit their jobs because of a manager - not because of the job. They like their jobs, but they have the manager from hell who micromanages every detail of the work. The 21st Century worker will not put up with such management. And what is true in the workplace is also true in volunteer organizations. Volunteers quit because of their managers.

In other words, if we would do a better job of managing we would not have to spend so much time recruiting. To address this issue, my son Jonathan and I introduce the management section of our book The New Breed (to be released next month) with the following:

It is a good thing that TJ is a good recruiter, because he has been having a problem retaining his volunteers. Although he follows all of the practices of successful recruiting, he just can't seem to keep his volunteers. His turn-over rate is terrible.

TJ told us, "I need help in managing my volunteers. I just can't seem to get them to do what I thought they were going to do when I recruited them."

TJ doesn't need help being a volunteer recruiter; he needs help being a volunteer manager. He needs to learn how to manage his volunteers once he gets them. And that's what these chapters on volunteer management are all about.

But wait a minute. If the New Breed of Volunteer doesn't want to be managed, why devote 1/3 of the book to management?

Good question.

The manager of the 21st Century is a New Manager.

The New Manager doesn't just give orders. The New Manager knows how to empower people to use their gifts, talents, passion and ideas to accomplish the mission of the organization. The New Manager knows that the answer to the question, "How do we get 21st Century volunteers to do what we want them to do?" is empowerment. Empowerment is an essential leadership factor that defines the New Manager - 21st Century style.

We develop the "how to empower" question in great detail in one of the chapters in the book, but here is a preview of our thoughts.

Empowering volunteers who want to do it their way

One of the seismic shifts in the workplace today that has impacted volunteerism is the rise of the knowledge worker. The knowledge worker makes decisions. This is not only true of the young millennials, but it has impacted all of us. We like to make our own decisions and are becoming more and more independent. Therefore, an important management skill is to know how to hand off a project that empowers the volunteer without dropping the ball.

Jonathan and I identified six rules of the handoff, using the analogy of the quarterback handoff in football.

  • Rule One: Don't hog the ball-give it away
    • Quit micro managing. Learn to trust your volunteers

  • Rule Two: Label each handoff as either delegation or empowerment
    • Delegation level: Let's talk about it before you act
    • Empowerment level: Go ahead and act, then tell me about what you did

  • Rule Three: Secure the handoff with a check-up appointment
    • Always set up a time to see how the project is going and how you can help.

  • Rule Four: Break down tasks to manageable goals
    • Michael Jordan did not think of averaging 32 points a game. He thought about getting 8 points a quarter.

  • Rule Five: Don't take the handoff if you can't do anything about it
    • How many projects clutter up your desk that you never touch? Don't take them in the first place. To paraphrase Ken Blanchard in his "putting the monkey on your back" metaphor, he says that we must determine if we are going to shoot the monkey or feed it. We probably ought to shoot a bunch of monkeys.

  • Rule Six: Develop good handoff skills to avoid disaster
    • Sloppy handoff skills may not be noticed when you only have one or two volunteers. But when your organization grows, those bad habits will catch up with you big time. So master the basics which are the five previous handoff skills.

The 21st Century new breed of volunteers do not want to be managed. They want to be led. They want to be empowered. And the volunteer managers who do not learn the 21st Century management skills had better be great recruiters because they will spend all of their time recruiting.

What can we do to help you?

Tom McKee     Jonathan McKee

Thomas and Jonathan McKee

The co-authors of The New Breed are volunteer leadership experts who help
non-profit leaders mobilize the power and passion of their volunteers.

We deliver our service by making Keynote Presentations for your volunteers,
association conferences and conventions and by conducting Training Workshops
on Volunteer leadership
for your volunteer managers to help them improve your volunteer program.

New Book Next Month! (November)
Look for A Special Offer for our Readers in our November Newsletter

"New book!If you want to better understand how to attract, inspire and guide the modern volunteer read Jonathan and Tom McKee's, The New Breed. Drawn from real world experience this highly entertaining and easy to read book is an excellent contribution to nonprofit management literature. I recommend it highly."
- Dan Taylor, Vice President, National Audubon Society

"Articulate and succinct, the McKees have captured the essentials of recruiting, training, retaining, and occasionally even firing volunteers. They unravel the often conflicting motivations of different generations of volunteers. The easy to read text is loaded with illustrations and helpful, hands-on tools that can be immediately put to work. A must read for anyone who wants to manage a successful volunteer program."
- Stephen E. Drew, Chief Curator, California State Railroad Museum

Contact Thomas or Jonathan for...

Customized Training, Consultation and/or Keynote Presentations

Training Workshops on Volunteer Leadership

We will develop a program for your organization from the following workshops. Pick and choose from the following topics the issues that address your concerns.


The content of this workshop focuses on the changing volunteer culture. Participants will learn just how the 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of several significant seismic shifts that have changed volunteer management. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore, how we recruit and manage the new breed of volunteer requires a whole new set of leadership strategies.

Some of the seismic shifts that have changed how people volunteer are the following:

  • Family - from Father Knows Best to Gilmore Girls
  • Community vs. Individualism - the team of one
  • Two huge potential volunteer resources - The retired boomer and young professional (and getting them to work together)
  • Technology - the virtual volunteer
  • The rise of the knowledge worker - Empowerment vs. delegation


This workshop focuses on "The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruitment." Many volunteer managers commit these sins on a regular basis and are losing out on a whole new breed of volunteers that are available if we just quit sinning--or making these recruiting mistakes. After each "sin" we present seven really cool ideas for 21st century recruiting. Sometime we entitle this workshop, "Seven Really Cool Recruiting Ideas that Work" - if you don't like the "sin" analogy.

  • Expect announcements to get volunteers that you want
  • Ask for marriage rather than a date
  • Think that "no" means "no"
  • Go it a lone
  • Be "people driven" rather than "position driven"
  • Use the four words that volunteers hate : Oh, by the way
  • Hire staff who don't know how to manage volunteers


This workshop focuses on increasing your retention rate by effective leadership. The 21st century volunteer is a knowledge worker and wants to be led, not micro-managed. The topics on the management workshop include the following:

Motivating This New Breed of Volunteers
    The three levels of motivation
    The greatest gift
    Generational motivation
    Hard-wired motivation

Empowering Volunteers Who Want to do it Their Way
    Why delegation doesn't work
    How to empower the new volunteer without dropping the ball

Evaluating your volunteer culture
    The three statements evaluation
    The screaming eleven evaluation
    The annual evaluation

Managing or canning the high-maintenance volunteer
    Managing the volunteer from hell
    Firing the volunteer and living to tell about it

The Virtual Volunteer
    The five levels of virtual volunteers
    I don't have to be a techie
    Hiring, managing and firing
    Web 2.0 and the virtual community


This workshop is for the national and/or chapter leaders of an organization. The content of the workshop focuses on how 21st century leaders must mobilize the unlimited power and passion of volunteers. Participants of the workshop will learn how to focus the energy of passionate volunteers who are opinionated, sometimes arrogant and often very emotional about their passion.

Topics include

  • What is passion?
  • Why passion is not enough?
  • Finding that one thing to unite passion
  • What is wrong and right with mission statements, vision statement and strategic plans
  • Keeping the momentum alive
  • Thinking and planning strategically
  • Managing change without losing volunteers

Keynote Talks on Volunteer Leadership

  • Mobilizing the Power and Passion of the 21st Century Volunteer Organization
  • The New Breed of Volunteer - Recruiting and Managing the 21st Century Volunteers Who Want to Do it their way.
  • The Seven Sins of Volunteer Recruitment

For information on fees and availability, contact: Thomas McKee (916) 987-0359; Tom@volunteerpower.com

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.