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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 60
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2008 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

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

You are receiving this newsletter because you signed up or asked to be on the list. Please recommend this e-mail newsletter or ezine to anyone who is interested in volunteer management.

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In This Issue
  1. Featured Article: How do you manage those volunteers who don't choose to volunteer-the non-volunteer volunteer? Thomas W. McKee
  2. Check out the Two New Volunteer Power Workshops in Sacramento and Detroit - by Thomas and Jonathan McKee
  3. Hear Tom McKee Live Listen to an MP3 of a ten-minute sample keynote presentation by Tom McKee, The Power of Volunteer Passion

Featured Article: How do you manage those volunteers who don't choose to volunteer-the non-volunteer volunteer? - by Thomas W. McKee
How do you manage those volunteers who don't choose to be there? They are volunteering because they have to.

I recently received the following letter in which Dana asks a tough question for volunteer managers. I laughed when I read her letter because I think all of us have been in her shoes. But for the volunteer manager, it is no laughing matter.

Enjoy Dana's letter and then try and figure out how you would answer it. Then after you read my answer, perhaps you have some suggestions. Send them to Tom@volunteerpower.com

The Question

Dear Tom,

First of all, congratulations on the new book with your son ... I read it with interest. I found it easy and fun to read, very insightful, and very practical. As an extremely experienced volunteer (more on that in a minute) and someone who has recruited and managed other volunteers, it gave me plenty to reflect upon!

One question that struck me is what about "volunteers" who are "non-voluntary"? In my own experience, this would include the myriad parent jobs you get when your kid is in the church nursery, the local musical theater company, the soccer team, the school choir/orchestra, etc. etc. You are a volunteer in the sense that you are not being paid for your services, yet you are conscripted into working whether you want to or not. In fact, "bullied" might be a better term!

This came up recently when I was talking to a friend who is a volunteer mom extraordinaire--the type who runs things (I'm mostly a worker bee myself). Our kids were in the Davis High School Madrigal Choir together, and that has the most oppressive parent participation requirements I've ever experienced--ghastly monthly meetings* that go on forever (30-40 parents in a room trying to make decisions and everyone wanting a say, an agenda that basically could have been covered in email--you get the picture); fundraisers, driving to millions of performances and paid gigs, and so forth. The pressure on everyone to put in many hours is enormous, and the disapproval you get from leadership if you aren't perceived as doing your fair share is not subtle. Not to mention you worry about your kid being passed over by the director for solos or section leader, your younger kid not getting into the choir no matter how talented she is because you have a rep as a "slacker parent," etc.

Anyway, I'm between Madrigal shifts right now because my older daughter is out of high school and my younger one is still in junior high, so I was talking to my queen bee friend, who was the parent coordinator last year, and gently relaying some feedback about how I perceived the experience of being a Madrigal parent. She made the interesting comment that it's hard to be a volunteer coordinating other volunteers because you don't have the ascribed authority to tell people what to do. I countered that I had been a volunteer church leader overseeing dozens of other volunteers and it hadn't been nearly as painful as Madrigals. Reading your book, it struck me that the difference is that in my church situation, people were truly choosing to be on one of my teams, and I was recruiting in ways similar to those you describe in the book. You do not "choose" to become a Madrigal parent, except that when your kid auditions, you sign a form saying that you understand that there are financial and parent participation requirements should the kid get into the choir--you are certainly not being "courted" onto the team with "first and second dates," etc.

Nonetheless, these are still organizations for which volunteers are the lifeblood, so I would think their success rises and falls on how well those folks are enabled, managed, and supported. This is a long-winded way of getting around to my question: What are special considerations for working with volunteers in such non-voluntary situations? The ancillary question is the one my friend raised--what about volunteers leading other volunteers? Most of the scenarios you described in your book seemed to be about paid staff supervising volunteers. In many settings, though, that is not the case. (This is not a criticism--one book can't cover everything!)

Thanks again for the book, and all the best in your work!


Dana Ferris

*I was a church elder for six years, so when I say these Madrigal parent meetings are the worst I've ever been to, you know that's saying something!

My Answer - by Tom McKee

Dana's question raises a very important issue about volunteerism that is overlooked. I googled the question and tried to find out if anyone was writing on this topic and realized that most of us who write about volunteer management do not deal with an old problem of the non-volunteer volunteer. So what answer do I have for Dana?

First brush: The key to volunteer power is passion. And what if passion has been replaced by obligation? What we are hearing from the non-volunteer volunteer is, "I'm not here because I have a passion about your mission. I'm here for my child, and she/he can't join unless I volunteer-ugh. I am a dedicated parent, and therefore I will volunteer. So what is the minimum requirement?"

I have two responses to that statement. The first one is to consider what we are saying about a "New Breed" of volunteer. Maybe we need to reconsider parental requirements. Are they really necessary? Before you shut me out and say, "But that is the way we have always done it," think through an alternative (and then I'll have another suggestion of how to work with the non-volunteer volunteer.) However, I think we need to first re-think our requirements.

Why do we ask parents to volunteer? Is it because we actually want their interaction with the kids, or is it because we need help and this is an easy way to get warm bodies? We are tapping into the parents' passion for their children to get people to help.

Our philosophy of the New Breed is that we don't want warm bodies. We want passionate people who are dedicated to our mission, and I believe if we tap into the new young, single professional or the retiring boomer, we can find passionate people to volunteer to help us accomplish our mission.

O.K., you don't agree and you want to stick with the requirement to use the unpassionate, non-volunteer volunteer. After all, some of them aren't parents. Some are young teens who are required to fulfill a service requirement. Or some are ordered by a judge to do community service.

So how do we turn warm bodies into highly functioning volunteers who show up on time, do their work well, and make a contribution to the organization? That is the question.

I would love to hear from you-what are you doing to work with the non-volunteer volunteer? Tom@advantagepoint.com Please add your ideas to these.

1. Organizational Structure

The first, and perhaps most important, is the organizational structure. The dysfunctional system Dana described is made for chaos, especially when a community of highly professional parents (University of California, Davis professors, lawyers, CEO's, etc.) each have their own agenda-what is best for their children.

I want to address this situation in a separate newsletter-so look for my organizational suggestions in the May newsletter. This is huge, and I want to share some ideas that are working in other similar organizations. For now let me say that a non-profit is a business, but it is not run like a for-profit business. That tension is sometimes difficult.

2. Flexibility

The next suggestion is that we need to be flexible. Years ago when I was in graduate school and our oldest son, Thom, was in first grade, we got a note from his teacher asking for moms to volunteer as room-mothers. My wife, Susie, worked full-time as a high school English teacher while I took a full load of courses. As we looked at the room-mother schedule, we knew Susie couldn't be available when they needed help, but I could. So I filled out the form, crossing out the words "room mother" and writing in "room father." I received a call from Thom's teacher saying that she'd love to have me help.

I'll never forget the first meeting at the home of one of the moms. Most of the volunteers were wealthy, well-dressed women who didn't work. I arrived in Levi's-a poor graduate student living in student housing. The women talked about making cookies and arranging for holiday goodies for the school. I kept thinking, "This isn't what I signed up for." I felt completely out of place, even though the women were gracious and tried to find a place for me.

When I got home, I called Thom's teacher and told her I'd love to volunteer to help in the classroom, attend field trips, and perhaps even bring my guitar to the class and lead the group in a singing and story time. But I didn't think these home meetings were a good fit. The teacher quickly changed the program and classified me as the room father. I had a great year volunteering because the school was willing to let me use my strengths and be in the classroom when it fit our busy schedule. But I certainly didn't fit the mold of the stay-at-home moms who organized class parties and baked cookies.

Through this experience, I witnessed the flexibility of a shrewd volunteer manager. She adapted her program to me, allowing a shift from "you have to fit into our program" to "we can change our program to your strengths and time to help us fulfill our mission." Find ways to be flexible with your volunteers.

3. Make your projects very short-term projects.

The people that Dana describes are very busy. They have many obligations. Our experience is that most people (not all of course) will respond to a short term project. For instance, they will get involved in a fund-raiser that is over in about two months. Then they have fulfilled their obligation and are done for the year. Outline your program in many short-term projects.

4. Look for long-term volunteer within your non-volunteer volunteers.

Out of all of your volunteers, about 10% (and I can't verify that number, but it seems to be my experience) are passionate about what you do. They love soccer, music, young people, etc. As they are volunteering for an activity, you will notice them get involved in the activity themselves. Last weekend I was watching my ten-year old granddaughter try out for a select soccer team. I was amazed as I watched the coaches with clip boards watching hundreds of kids who were running through four days of drills and scrimmages. But what I noticed was that most of the parents were on the sidelines. And many of the coaches were not parents-they were people who were passionate about soccer.

Many of these coaches played in high school and college (and some even professionally) and just loved the game. Some of them (the 10%) were parents of former players who had stayed on. My point, look for those volunteers who are with you who seem to be catching the vision for what you are doing and build a long-term team.

5. Working with Worker Bees who don't work

Finally there is the question of how to work with the group that Dana described as "worker bees." But what does a worker bee do? I think she means that she doesn't want to be in a leadership position for this kind of volunteering, but that she just wants to make sure the organization is running well. And if you read between the lines of her letter, she doesn't want to be on a committee or team where other worker bees don't do their jobs and she ends up carrying their load. This is frustrating. In fact, I am a team player, but I have become very discouraged when I am put on a team because my experience is that team players often don't pull the load. I would rather just do it myself.

My role as a volunteer manager is to hold all team members accountable. If a team member does not complete an assignment, then I need to find an assignment that the volunteer can fulfill. If you let one team member be a part of the team without fulfilling his/her role, you lower the professionalism of the team. The entire team will lose morale.

Next month: Retooling the Dysfunctional Organization

Your suggestions for working with "Nonvolunteer Volunteers" at Tom@volunteerpower.com.

Two Volunteer Power Workshops in Sacramento, California and Detroit, Michigan: with Thomas and Jonathan McKee
Thursday, April 10th -- Sacramento, California: at DOVIA,
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon (Registration at 8:30)

With Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the president and founder of The Source, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free, cutting-edge resources for youth workers across the world. He is a national speaker, trainer, and author of seven books, including THE NEW BREED, Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer.

Topics include:
  • Frame your recruitment message for today's volunteers
  • Understand how the different generations are motivated
  • Discover the seven seismic shifts that have changed volunteer management
  • Empower volunteers to 'own' their projects
  • Engage the passion of your volunteers
Place: RSVP Offices, 3727 Marconi Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95821
Cost: $35 members, $50 non-members (pay at the door)
Reservations: Contact: Diane Rhodes at Rhodes2@sutterhealth.org or (916) 733-8557

Saturday, April 19th -- Detroit, Michigan:
Ward Presbyterian Church
40000 Six Mile Road, Northville, MI 48168
Saturday, April 19th
8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Optional Q & A - 12:30

With Thomas W. McKee

Topics Include:
     Part I: The Volunteer Leader
                How to mobilize the unlimited power of the volunteer team
     Part I: The volunteer Recruiter and Manager
                How to recruit and manage 21st Century volunteers

Place: Ward Presbyterian Church
Registration: $25 (after April 11th or walk in at the door)
Pre-Registration: $20 (before April 11th)
Additional same origination (separate form required for each ($15)
Box Lunch (Optional for Q & A -- $7)

Reservations: http://www.wardchurch.org/templates/cuswardepc/details.asp?id=1702&PID=509295

Tom's Books: The New Breed and/or They Don't Play My Music Anymore
The New Breed


Here's a glimpse of the Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Common Predicament
Where It All Begins

Chapter 1: Who Is the New Breed of Volunteer?
   A Profile of the 21st Century Volunteer

Chapter 2: Recruiting the New Breed of Volunteers
   The "Courting" Relationship

Chapter 3: Finding the New Breed of Volunteers (Not Scaring Them Away)
   The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers

Chapter 4: Tapping into Two New Breeds of Volunteers
   Retiring "Boomers" and "Generation @"

Chapter 5: Motivating the New Breed of Volunteers
   Discover Three Levels of Motivation

Chapter 6: Empowering Volunteers to Do It Their Way
   Move from Delegation to Empowerment

Chapter 7: Managing the Virtual Volunteer
   Virtual Volunteers and Using Technology

Chapter 8: Managing High Maintenance Volunteers
   Performance Coaching the Volunteer from Hell

Chapter 9: Leading the Successful Volunteer Organization
   Mobilize the Collective Power of Volunteers

Chapter 10: A Leadership Case Study
   A Fable of How to Do It Right

  • Sample Position Charter
  • Sample Project Charter
  • Interview Guide for Hiring a Paid "Volunteer Manager"
  • Sample Questionnaire for Virtual Volunteers
  • Sample Board Code of Conduct
  • Strategic Planning Retreat - Agenda of Questions
  • SWOT Analysis Form
  • Ice-Breakers and Openers
  • Team Building Activities
  • Sample Training Exercise-A Case Study:


Plan Your Future
When the World
Keeps Changing

Get Tom's Inspiring Book

As we try to navigate the 21st Century in this increasingly fast-paced and technology-driven world, many people are drowning in our culture of unremitting change. In the innovative book, They Don't Play My Music Anymore, Thomas McKee presents a creative approach to facing personal and professional change. He offers eight essential principles that can help you gain the confidence to face an unknown future. Using these techniques, you will develop a new thinking frame by which to approach your future with hope and confidence as you learn to embrace change instead of merely reacting to it.


Tom's Eight Principles
Will Help You Gain the Confidence
To Face an Unknown Future

"In a world where change seems to be happening faster than the five miles every second the Space Shuttle travels, They Don't Play My Music Anymore offers a practical, common sense approach to not only surviving this frenetic pace of change, but building and growing from it. Incorporating Tom's methodology as I chose to make a change in my profession has helped me map out and launch into new adventures in many ways as exciting as the three space missions I flew. I very highly recommend applying these principles!"
Rick Searfoss, NASA Astronaut
and Space Shuttle Commander

Hear Tom McKee Live: Listen to an MP3 of a ten-minute sample keynote presentation by Tom McKee, The Power of Volunteer Passion
Thomas McKee
Who Takes the Fall When Your
Keynote Speaker is Just

You Do!

You can count on Thomas McKee for any size group. He has spoken to over one half million people in Europe, Africa and the United States over the past 35 years and has worked with some of America's top corporations, organizations and associations.
(More info about Tom here)


Click here to listen

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@volunteerpower.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.

Resource Highlight: Take a Peek at Our New Website
The New VolunteerPower.com is live! Words cannot describe it... take a peek for yourself! www.VolunteerPower.com

Volunteer Power!

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