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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 69
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2009 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
  1. Featured Article: Advice for the New Year: Seven ways to recharge your batteries in 2009 when you are always giving out.
  2. Volunteer Leadership Book Review: An Energizing Read—Marlene Wilson's Visionary Leadership.
Featured Article: Advice for the New Year—Seven Ways to Recharge Your Batteries.
Advice for the New Year—Take Care of Yourself for a Change

I have some critical advice for all volunteer leaders—something we don't hear enough. The advice: "Take care of yourself first." Volunteer leaders give—and give and give and give. How do you keep yourself from being burned out? How do you deal with the pressures of finding those volunteers when you have exhausted every lead? How do you handle the sleepless nights of worrying about volunteers not showing up? Bottom line—how do you keep perspective?

The airline flight attendant has some important words that most of us have heard hundreds of times, "Put on your own oxygen mask first before you help the children or others next to you who need help." But we don't take that advice into our professional careers. "Help those next to you . . ." That advice summarizes what volunteering is—helping others. Most of what we write and speak about is how to recruit and manage the volunteers who are helping others. But on this first month of 2009, I want to challenge you to think of yourself for a change.

In talking with volunteer leaders who are successful, here are seven popular energizing activities some of you are doing to keep perspective.
  1. Go for a walk (one of my favorites).
  2. Get up early and run for five miles. (I admire those of you who get recharged by running).
  3. Get together with other volunteer leaders for fun and the exchange of ideas (another favorite of mine. Early in my volunteer leadership career I met with five other leaders for breakfast once a month. I met with this group for ten years and the first three years I drove 120 miles round trip to meet with this group. This group was my lifesaver many times).
  4. Take advantage of conventions and meetings. I hate to admit it, but the high point wasn't the speaker—it was time with you—other volunteer leaders.
  5. Volunteer once a month in an organization where no one knows you. It gives you perspective and a new sense of volunteering (I was thrilled at how many are doing this).
  6. Take annual vacations (don't skip this).
And the seventh energizer is my favorite—reading. My wife Susie and I have on our bed stands stacks of books as we are always reading several books at a time. We love mysteries, biographies (I'm reading the biographies of the U.S. Presidents) and in my stack I always have one of the latest leadership books (right now I'm reading and enjoying, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam).

I want to recommend a book that brought me into my world of volunteer leadership and spoke directly to me.

Volunteer Leadership Book Review: An Energizing Read—Marlene Wilson's Visionary Leadership
Book Review - Leadership in Volunteer Programs by Marlene Wilson

To be honest, I would not have chosen to read this book, except that Susan Ellis and Cara Thenot from Energize Inc., asked me to read the book and give them feedback. And I said yes. But when I picked it up and looked at the cover, I questioned, "Why do I want to read speeches that were presented in the 70's, 80's and 90's by someone who was born in 1931?" (Wow—there must be an interesting point here—"don't always judge a book by its cover." Sorry, just couldn't resist that comment). The world is radically different today and even the world of volunteer leadership has changed in the 21st century.

If I had not been asked to read this book so that I could write a review, I would not have read it. And that would have been my terrible loss. I am so glad that I read Leadership in Volunteer Programs: Insight and Inspiration from the Speeches of Marlene Wilson.

Marlene Wilson captures me with her questions, her stories, her years of insight and her faithfulness to our profession and her tried-and-true nuggets presented accessibly. Often, that's the kind of advice leaders find most valuable. I especially applaud the way Wilson urges all who lead volunteers to move beyond thinking of themselves as managers to thinking of themselves as leaders—those who develop vision for volunteer programs and impart that vision throughout an organization. She was hitting this note at the end of the 20th century, yet it is so relevant to 21st century leadership where our volunteers not only don't want to be managed, they demand to be empowered (especially the under 30 crowd). We not only need this kind of leadership in our volunteer programs, but in our movement. To develop these leadership insights, Wilson mines leadership literature and her own experiences to dispense advice that resonates with principles of leadership gurus such as Max DuPree, Tom Peters, Steven Covey, Robert Townsend and Warren Bennis.

Marlene Wilson does not fit the typical mold. Who else in our field started one of the first volunteer centers in the US (Boulder, Colorado in 1968), founded the first of its kind volunteer management certificate program (University of Colorado in 1972), worked as an editor and chief of Volunteer Journal (until 1978), served as a college professor (University of Colorado), wrote a best seller volunteer management book The Effective Volunteer Manager (sold over 150,000 copies), delivered hundreds of keynote speeches about volunteerism, and became a significant leader in the early years of the whole volunteer management/leadership movement? In addition she was volunteering in her church and organizations. Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs: Insight and Inspiration from the Speeches of Marlene Wilson is intended to be a culmination of her previous works, communicating her wisdom as our profession is struggling to re-define and rediscover itself in the 21st century. After the demise of the AVA (Association of Volunteer Administration) and the efforts to establish a new association, Wilson's historical insight presents a strong foundation for us to build upon.

Wilson played a significant role in facing great challenges and change as she helped the baby profession of volunteer management grow and mature through it all. In reading these speeches I gained a new perspective about the history of volunteer management and some of the significant issues that our leaders faced in the 20th century. But she did not present the problems of volunteer management without offering solutions. Wanting people not just to hear but also to apply, she opted to be "a motivational teacher," not just a motivational speaker, which makes this book practical to a broad range of readers. She put forward her solutions in digestible chunks of hard-earned wisdom, served in a collection of the keynote speeches that she gave over the past three decades. Bringing those speeches into the 21st century, she summarizes her philosophy of volunteerism in two final chapters:
  • A Philosophy of Volunteerism--What I Thought at the Beginning of My Career (a speech delivered in 1977)
  • What I still Believe (Written in the Spring of 2008)
Not all books of speeches read well; however, Wilson's speeches are easy and a fast read because she is a story teller. One of my favorite stories describes being picketed by a carpenter's union at the Volunteer Leader's conference held at the University of Michigan in the mid-1970s. Marlene tells how they had to break through the picket line to get to the assembly hall. She says,

We were called "scabs" and several other choice epitaphs. It was extremely upsetting to us "nice folks who just like to help others." The picketers marched into the hall and took over the microphone. We sat there horrified. It seems that some volunteers had helped build homes for elderly people in Florida and these carpenters claimed that volunteers took jobs away from people. That is why they were picketing. Finally, a hand went up from the audience and a young woman asked if they were open to questions. When the spokesperson said "yes," the young woman said, "Are all of you who came here tonight being paid to do this?" The answer was, "Of course not!" "Then," she said, "You are all volunteers. You happen to volunteer for a cause you believe in, and so do we." With that the picketers laid down the microphone and quietly left. That person was Energize, Inc. President Susan J. Ellis, then a new volunteer program manager for the Philadelphia Family Court.

As I read this story, I was reminded of the strength and weaknesses of volunteerism. Volunteerism is driven by passion, and passionate people often do great things. But they also sometimes do impulsive things. And that is what we as volunteer managers deal with when we try to mobilize the power and passion of volunteers. Marlene helps us to understand how to mobilize that passion.

Following are some of the insights from Wilson's book that I loved. These are to give you a taste of her style:

On Understanding our Past

Engraved above the entrance to the University of Colorado's Norlin library is a quote by former university president, George Norlin, "He who knows only his own generation remains always a child." These words remind me how important understanding the past is to informing the future. I was blessed to become involved in the profession of volunteer administration in its infant years and have a front row seat during its exciting evolution. As a frequent keynote speaker for volunteer organizations from the 1970s to the 1990s, I spent a lot of my time thinking about emerging trends, and current issues. In 2008, it is unclear what will emerge as our new national professional association. I hope that, by sharing some of the history of volunteer administration, current and future leaders of the profession can learn and make more informed decisions about the future.

On Progress

I recently read this observation on progress by author Morris Mandel: "After several thousand years, we have advanced to the point where we bolt our doors and windows, and then turn on our burglar alarms—while the jungle natives sleep in open-doored huts." Ironic, isn't it—what we call progress! So far, it has been difficult to find good news among all the headlines graphically reminding us of problems abroad and disaster at home. The encouraging word is becoming a rare and precious commodity

On The Definition of Volunteer:

The traditional definition, as stated in the excellent book, By the People by Susan J. Ellis and Katherine H. Campbell, has been: To volunteer is to choose to act in recognition of a need, with an attitude of social responsibility and without concern for monetary profit, going beyond one's basic obligations.

The key elements are:
  • Free choice
  • Social responsibility (benefiting others)
  • Without personal economic gain
That's the definition of the word, but there's a more esoteric aspect of volunteerism that is difficult to define. You have to experience it. It is the wondrous phenomenon of people helping people, often with anonymous acts of kindness that ennoble the human spirit. At its best, volunteerism creates hope in the hearts of the receivers and meaning and purpose in the lives of the givers. The end result is a more caring and civil society.

Volunteerism is love made visible and it changes lives, changes communities and can change the world. And this, my dear friends, is what keeps us doing what we're doing and loving it passionately!

On The Temptation to Become A Specialists or a Generalists:

Finally, in looking at our challenges as we consider this broad and increasingly complex issue of diversity, I am reminded of the dilemma of deciding whether to become specialists or generalists as defined by one sage:

A specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less, until they know practically everything about almost nothing.

A generalist is someone who knows less and less about more and more until they know almost nothing about everything.

Versatility and flexibility are the keys and the view from our parasail suggests we have never before in history had a richer, more extravagantly luxuriant variety of cultures, talents, ages, professional skills and opportunities to truly make a difference in this field called volunteerism.

On The Whys of Volunteer Management Have Stayed the Same in a World of Change.

At the same time, the knowledge, information and application of these principles have changed dramatically over the years. In other words, my whys have stayed the same—but the whats and hows have needed to change with the tides and trends of change. I honestly think this is what has provided my "staying power" all these years.

Let me share a few of these powerful principles with you—knowing the real value will be to encourage you to make your own list.
  • Volunteers are not paid – not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless!
  • People must be as important as programs, products or profits.
  • People become committed to plans they help make; so plan with, not for people.
  • Mission motivates – maintenance does not.
  • Integrity is the leader's most powerful asset.
  • Avoid the trap of becoming either a specialist or a generalist.
  • Be yourself—no one else is better qualified.
  • The key to wise leadership is effective delegation and the key to delegation (and motivation) is getting the right people in the right jobs.
  • Motivation of others is critical to your success.
  • To become advocates and innovators, develop the 3 Cs:
    • Curiosity
    • Creativity
    • Courage
  • I can't help others if I don't stay well myself. So take care of me!
  • It is important to keep the soul in our work.
These principles are the "why" of Marlene's philosophy of volunteerism. And these dozen principles summarize Visionary Leadership in Volunteer Programs: Insight and Inspiration from the Speeches of Marlene Wilson.

Volunteer Power Workshop: Filled with New Ideas, Trends and Ways to Empower your Volunteer Leaders.
The New Breed of Volunteer Demands a
New Breed of Volunteer Entrepreneur

A Volunteer Power Workshop
Thomas McKee

Recruiting and managing the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Workshop Content

The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of 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 is a whole new game. The seismic shifts include the following:
  • Generations – Gen Y and retiring boomers-the new frontier of volunteers
  • Technology – The addition of the virtual volunteer to the face-to-face volunteer.
  • Empowerment – The knowledge worker demands to be led- not managed
The Two Leadership Factors: Guidance and Trust
  • Guidance – How much hands-on direction do I give?
  • Trust – How much confidence do I have that I can depend on the volunteer?
The Volunteer Power Management Strategy
  • Stage I – Awaken the Passion – The Pre-Volunteer – (Low Trust-Low Guidance)
    • The three levels of motivation
    • The deadly sins of recruiting volunteers
    • The dating process of recruiting
    • The "big idea" method of presenting your passion

  • Stage II – Channel the Passion -- The Passionate Beginner (Low Trust – High Guidance)
    • Communicate expectations five ways
    • Train

  • Stage III – Manage the Passion -- The Talented but often Fragile Veteran (High Trust, High Guidance)
    • Affirm the passionate who are the core of your volunteer team (recognize and reward)
    • Awaken the passion of the veteran volunteer
      • Reframe
      • Refresh
      • Re-assign
      • Re-train
      • Or – if all else fails--Retire

  • Stage IV – Empower the Passion -- The Empowered Volunteer (High Trust, Low Guidance)
    • Delegation vs. empowerment
    • How to empower the volunteer without dropping the ball

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.

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