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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 70
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: Three Trends That Can Boost Volunteerism—And How to Take Advantage of Them
  2. Volunteer Power Workshop: The New Breed of Volunteer Needs a New Breed of Volunteer Leader by Thomas W. McKee
Featured Article: Three Trends That Can Boost Volunteerism—And How to Take Advantage of Them
Three Trends That Can Boost Volunteerism
If you know how to take advantage of Them

2009 is a year to thrive—not just survive. We have before us this year a goldmine of volunteer power, if we know how to take advantage of it. One year from now we could be stronger and healthier with growing numbers of volunteers joining our teams because of three trends that are setting the framework for leaders of non-profits.

Trend one: People are more isolated and prefer to, in the words of Robert Putnam, bowl alone (whoa, that doesn't sound encouraging—read on).

Trend two: However, despite this trend, people have a strong desire to be part of a group that is doing something significant (now that is an encouraging trend).

Trend three: Non-profits are changing from a management mode to a leadership model of governance (and the leaders who know how to lead are experiencing success).

This is great news and a great opportunity. How does it work?

Trend one: People are more isolated and prefer to, in the words of Robert Putnam, bowl alone.

When we wrote The New Breed two years ago, we kept hearing that people preferred to bowl alone--not in groups. We said,

In 2000, Robert Putnam of Harvard University wrote a groundbreaking book discussing where Americans spend their time. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, described how people have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures. Putnam used bowling as a metaphor. Years ago, thousands of people belonged to bowling leagues. Today, however, they're more likely to bowl alone. As people in America choose a fewer number of close friends, they become less likely to be involved in groups that volunteer. That's depressing (The New Breed, p. 19).

The reports of isolationalism keep rolling in. Young adults have drifted away from personal interaction when choosing leisure activities:
  • Since 1998, the number of young adults participating in team sports has decreased from 19 percent to 13 percent.
  • The amount of time spent with computers has drastically increased, from 8 percent to 21 percent.
  • The number of young adults going out to the movies has decreased from 13 percent in 1998 to just 3 percent in 2008.
  • The number of adolescents staying home to watch television or rent videos has increased from 24 percent in 1998 to 32 percent in 2008. (MarketingVOX News, 1-18-2008).
The American Sociological Review reported
"Researchers reported a ‘remarkable drop' in the size of people's core network of confidants—those with whom they could talk about important matters. As of 2004, the average American had just two close friends, compared with three in 1985. Those reporting no confidants at all jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent." (American Sociological Review, "Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades" June, 2006)

It was a few days after Christmas last year I looked around our family room and saw that my daughter-in-law Amy, my son Thom, my wife Susie and I were all sitting with our laptops on. My son and daughter-in-law were connecting with their Facebook networks while Susie and I were answering e-mail Christmas cards. Amy signed me up for Facebook, and I spent the next hour loading up pictures and building a profile. I have to admit I actually am getting kick out of it and am reconnecting with people I haven't talked to in over 40 years. One month later I am getting requests from my network asking me to join opinion polls, and even trying to break Guinness world records of certain size groups. I am wondering if I am contributing to a report from The Christian Science Monitor, "Social networking sites encourage a sort of egocentric single-mindedness about friendship. Friendship in that world has become an online instant opinion poll... This has already spawned a culture where many people have more ‘friends' than real friendships." Christian Science Monitor, October 10, 2007

YPulse.com's youth culture specialist, Anastasia, commented on how teens often feel real through virtual alter egos. She said, "I often get asked whether I think technology is replacing or diminishing real face-to-face intimacy. The truth is that being "real" in person is very hard for a lot of teens." (PBS Review of Growing Up Online, January 2008)

Most of have experienced and keep reading about this trend and if trend one was the end of the story, non-profits would have to totally re-invent themselves. But the second trend is great news.

Trend two: However, despite this trend, people have a desire to be a part of a group that is doing something significant.

When we did our research about the "bowling alone" trend, we found that the Gen Y's (the under 26 year old group) told a different story. We found out that despite the trend toward isolationism, this group overwhelming desired to "hang out" in groups. The desire to be in groups is great news for non-profits.

Fast Company listed a recent book, Tribes by Seth Godin, as one the top-ten books of 2008. Godin gives some encouraging news for non-profit leaders. He uses the word "Tribe" to describe a movement, and every time I read the word Tribe I thought of The American Cancer Society, The National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, The Girl Scouts, and the Neighborhood Community Church—in other words I thought of you who are actively involved in recruiting and leading volunteers.

Godin said that it only took two things to turn a group of people into a tribe, "(1) A shared interest and (2) a way to communicate" (Godin, p.24).

He went on to say that the Grateful Dead understood this.

They created concerts to allow people not just to hear their music, but to hear it together. They did not succeed by selling records (they only had one Top 40 album). But they grossed more than $100 million during their career and helped us understand how tribes work. They succeeded by attracting and leading a tribe. (Godin, p. 2, 21)

But Godin claimed that there are huge numbers of people who are "seeking" out groups. And organizations (churches, humanitarian organizations, clubs, ) don't grow by wooing members from other groups. They grow by the growing numbers of seekers who are looking for connections. That is what we found when we began talking to leaders of particularly younger groups.

Listen to Godin's own words. He has something to say to us.

Growth doesn't come from persuading the most loyal members of other tribes to join you. They will be the last to come around. Instead, you'll find more fertile ground among seekers, among people who desire the feeling they get when they're part of a vibrant, growing tribe, but who are still looking for that feeling.

I'm not talking about disaffected outsiders, loners, who work hard not to affiliate. I'm talking about people at the fringes, individuals who might jump from one thing to another with less angst. . . . Begin with passionate individuals who haven't been embraced by other tribes yet. As you add more and more people like these, your option becomes safer and more powerful—then you'll see others join you (Godin, p. 119).

So what—what do we do about this? This is where you and I come in. This is where we take advantage of the second trend with the vital trend of leadership.

Trend three: Non-profits are changing from a management mode to a leadership model of governance (and the leaders who know how to lead are experiencing success).

A tribe on a mission is a movement. Senator Bill Bradley defined a movement as having three elements:
  1. A story to tell about who we are and the future we're trying to build
  2. A connection between and among the leader and the tribe
  3. Something to do—the fewer limits, the better.
Godin says that too often organizations fail to do anything but the third (p. 27) In other words, too often we just manage people—not lead them.

Those people who have been bowling alone for the past ten years are often individualistic. They are not the easiest to manage. In fact, they won't be managed. Godin says that Tribes need leaders. And leadership is not management. Management is the factory model of producing a product. It doesn't work in the non-profit organization.

The late Jerry Sternin was this kind of leader. In addition to working with the Peace Corps, he and his wife spent 16 years working with Save the Children where he served as Director in Bangladesh, Philippines, Viet Nam, Egypt and Mayanmar. When they arrived in Vietnam, nearly half of the country's children were malnourished. He said that the system wasn't working, so he tried something different. He went to the moms who were thriving and made it easy for them to share with their insights with the rest of the group (Godin, p. 133). He told Fast Company, "In every community, organization, or social group, there are individuals whose exceptional behavior or practices enable them to get better results than their neighbors with the exact same resources. Without realizing it these ‘positive deviants' have discovered the path to success for the entire group—that is, if their secrets can be analyzed, isolated, and then shared with the rest of the group." ("Positive Deviants," Fast Company, Issue 41, November 2000) Jerry and Monique Sternin took this approach to 41 countries around the world by finding leaders and empowering to make a difference.

Christine Wallace from Volunteer Sacramento genuinely uses a phrase that demonstrates this kind of leadership. When she talks to her volunteer leaders she keeps asking them, "How can I help you?" I thought how different that is from many of the volunteer managers I know. Too many volunteer managers say to their volunteers, "I need you to help me." Christine was saying, "How can I help you?" Think about the difference. It is huge. Maybe that is why Christine is this kind of leader and not a manager. I was challenged to ask my volunteers, "How can I help you?"

So What? What does all of this mean to us?

As I read Godin's words, I got so excited because I thought of many of you, those of you I have met in the past year who are the leaders of our non-profits. You stand as examples of leadership. He could have used you as case studies in his book.

But I must remind myself as a leader that I can drift away from this kind of leadership. As our organizations grow, sometimes we tend to develop complicated systems that stifle the faith, vision and passion of our volunteers. One way that I can check to see if I am slipping into a management mode by asking myself these questions:

  1. Am I telling my story about who I am and the future I'm trying to build?
  2. Am I building a connection between my followers and me?
  3. Or am I just trying to get people to do stuff (my stuff)?
If you are answering these questions 1 and 2 in the affirmative, then you are on your way in leading a movement. Who knows, they might even come up with a moniker for your tribe like "deadheads." Wouldn't that be cool?

Two concrete things you can do to get started to see if you are headed in the right direction.

  1. Buy a copy of Seth Godin's, Tribes--We need You to Lead Us. Read it (it's a fast read), mark it up, pass it around your staff and then discuss it at a staff meeting or a retreat.
  2. Inquire about a Volunteer Power leadership retreat or training for your organization. We can help you make 2009 a year to thrive. Click to contact us.

Volunteer Power Workshop: Learn How to Be a Volunteer Leader—Not a Volunteer Manager
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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