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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 79
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.

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 to Lead from the Middle (How do you get your bosses to let you empower your volunteers for exciting projects)
  2. Volunteer Power Resources: Reenergize Your Volunteer Leaders with a Half-Day, Full-Day or Two-Day Volunteer Power Workshop.
Featured Article: How to Lead From the Middle of an Organization When You Have Little or No Control.
Directors of Volunteers are Leaders. How do you lead from the middle of an organization when you have little control?

What on earth is leadership from the middle?

Susan Ellis, President of Energize Inc, wrote her "hot topic" column last month about her experience as a patient in her local hospital. As a leader in the business of volunteerism, it was her second nature to observe "volunteer sightings." What she saw at the hospital did not paint a particularly positive image of hospital volunteerism. She says, "During my month of hospital visits, including one increasingly-rare overnight stay after surgery, I laid eyes only on information desk volunteers (whose ‘information' consisted entirely of giving directions to lost patients and visitors) and gift and thrift shop clerks. Unfortunately, true to the stereotype, I met no one under age 70 and few who seemed particularly energetic." (See her entire article: Taking the Clients Perspective in Designing Volunteer Roles -it is enlightening).

As I read Susan's words, I was reminded of the problem that many of you face- the problem of middle management. You would love to see changes in how your organization empowers volunteers, but your bosses hold you to a rather traditional form of volunteerism. They expect you to recruit volunteers to stuff envelopes. But you have volunteers who have significant professional skills, and you would love to turn them loose on a challenging project.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a state-wide association of healthcare directors of auxilians and volunteers, and many expressed to me the tension of being a "middle manager". They kept telling me that growing numbers of their volunteers have professional skills the hospital could use, but the health care administrators are very traditional and want to limit their volunteers to greeting visitors and delivering flowers to patients.

Do you feel this tension of middle management? You are not satisfied with the status quo and you want see change, but you are not in the decision making role of leadership for the organization. As a director of volunteers, you are often not invited to the leadership retreats or the leadership decision meetings. And some of you even report to a middle manager who is also not in charge.

So what do you do to make change? I have three suggestions to lead from the middle:

  • Find a champion who gets it

  • Take huge baby steps

  • Make some noise

1. Find champion who gets it

Even if most of the leadership of your organization is still stuck in the 20th century in regards to volunteer involvement, most non-profits have a least one enlightened manager who gets it. Connect with this leader and enlist him or her to be your champion. Invite this champion to lunch, share articles (like this one), a website (such as www.volunteerpower.com) and dialogue about how volunteers can impact the values, goals, and objectives of the organization.

As a change-management consultant, facilitator, and business trainer, I have had the opportunity to work with people who are effective leaders. One such person was Jack Barr, who was the Branch Chief of the Professional Services Branch of the Real Estate Services Department of the Department of General Services (wow-that title is a mouthful). The Real Estate Services Department had gone through a major re-organization in the mid-1990's, and facilitating that transition from a siloed organization to a team-based organization was not easy. Jack was a master at navigating a difficult change within a huge government agency. On many occasions I heard him say to team members, team leaders and managers, "If you have an idea that can help us better serve our customers, develop a plan for a team, find a champion who has the authority to sign that plan, pick your team, and go for it." And Jack became a champion for many of those plans as he signed them and then empowered the team leaders to make it happen. Over the course of the seven years that I worked with Jack and that organization, I witnessed many middle managers become leaders and make change.

But be careful of the change you want to implement. That is why I encourage you to add to the first leadership tactic the second strategy-make your change a huge baby step.

2. Start with huge baby steps.

Sounds like an oxymoron. How can a baby step be huge?

The baby step is one project. Don't try to make all the changes at once. Pick one change and develop a pilot project (often called the alpha test). Put together a team to draft your change initiative.

But don't waste your time on a project that is insignificant. We are not talking about moving the microwave in the break room. We are talking about making the project something huge. And by huge I mean something that will impact the whole organization and has the three "highs":

  • High impact

  • High visibility

  • High probability for success

Lillian Nelson, Manager of Volunteer Services at Shiner's Hospital in Sacramento, has taken this challenge and has had success with incorporating youth in several departments of the hospital. That was a huge baby step. One of the changes she made came from a need. It had always been a challenge to recruit Spanish bilingual volunteers; however, she says, "Recently when we received several children from the Hermosillo, Mexico daycare fire, Spanish speaking volunteers came out in droves. We have snapped them up to work in critical service positions especially for the parents. Forty percent of our patients are Spanish speaking only." Lillian didn't try to change the whole hospital in one month. That is what I call a huge-significant baby step that shouted out, "We can do it." It was a huge success. Which leads me to my third method of middle management leadership-make some noise.

3. Make some noise

My goal is to get everyone talking. I want most of the people in my organization and many in our community to be tweeting about it. I want people saying, "Did you hear what the volunteers did last week?

Nancy Lublin is CEO of Do Something. Do Something is an exciting non-profit organization that mobilizes teenagers to volunteer for causes. I like her because she is somewhat edgy-I guess that is a prerequisite for working with youth, but she is also creative in her leadership. Now I know- she is not in middle management- she runs the place; however, what she learned about making some noise can teach us something about making noise. As a volunteer manager, I would copy the following article and hand it out to my team. After we read it, I would ask the team to brainstorm some ways that we could make some noise within our organization and our community. I may not be able to recruit Boys Like Girls and Akron (this will make sense when you read the following article), but perhaps I could get our mayor (Kevin Johnson) to make an appearance.

Let's let Nancy tell it in her own words:

Recently, DoSomething.org hosted what I'd normally consider a successful party. The event raised half a million dollars. We honored five amazing youths for doing amazing things, from building an orphanage in Nepal to registering thousands of new voters. (Read their stories at FastCompany.com.) Our red carpet at Harlem's Apollo Theater was packed with celebs, and performers including Boys Like Girls and Akon -- who crowdsurfed -- rocked the place. The 1,600 people there were floored. But did anybody else smell what we were cooking? Nope.

Our event PR, it turns out, was crappy. We generated almost no buzz. For the time, energy, and money that go into an event, it ought to reach well beyond the room... .

After the event, I sat down with my staff to analyze what went wrong and then I called some PR experts for advice. Given how many other organizations -- for-profit and not-for-profit -- do events, I thought the lessons might be worth sharing. Here's what we'll do next time.

Do some digging. We ended up with some run-of-the-mill photos, but Tess Finkle of Metro PR says our shots could have been better had we done more research: Find a juicy story. Get the photo. Were there people in the room who once dated? Which people were meeting for the first time? (The answer was yes: Boys Like Girls have a pet turtle named Dorota, named after the Gossip Girl character, and they met Zuzanna Szadkowski, who plays Dorota, at the event. Unfortunately, I have no photo.)

Be exclusive. We had celebs at the event, but we didn't exploit them well. Nobody loves exclusivity more than the media, so give a blog, a TV outlet, and a magazine one-on-ones with the night's big names. The sidebar exclusives benefit the talent, too: It's a chance to build their bleeding-heart brands.

Get help. Especially for youth-focused orgs like mine, the Web is crucial. Next time, I'll give free flights and hotel to Fred Figglehorn, the 16-year-old You-Tube star with more than 55 million views and 276,000 MySpace friends. And Lisa Witter, COO of Fenton Communications, told me to think beyond "official" bloggers: "You've got a zillion Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Don't forget to recruit them. You never know who has what friend." Had our 18 staffers and 12 interns utilized their Facebook networks, we would have reached 12,781 people.

Feed the paparazzi. I don't mean stories or photo ops. One of our interns gave cupcakes to the voracious photographers who were shooting our red carpet. Smart kid. Good move. I'm told those photogs will remember us now -- and we want as many of them as we can to come back for our next event.

Make your own paparazzi. At most events, they tell you to turn your cell phones off. Next year, I'll ask the crowd to turn them on. Then they can take photos, tweet, upload clips, and update their Facebook statuses. A key to maximizing the multimedia maelstrom, says Attention PR's Naomi Hirabayashi, is to "ask those people to use the same keywords in titles. It will make it easier for you to search for those items later."

Strategize... after the event. Right after the event (as in that night), gather the staff to review what happened -- and I don't mean what went wrong. What nuggets of info did each of us collect? Nick Cannon presented an award while on a "bathroom break" from an event where he was accompanying his wife, Mariah Carey? Really? Is that a Perez Hilton item? Or maybe we'd rather give him the bit about the Real Housewives of New York City and send Nick to People.com. This is exactly why all the items need to be collected quickly and divvied up strategically.

Follow up. This doesn't just mean pestering people to write stories, which we did. When those stories show up online, it means Digging, retweeting, forwarding, and using every other tech tool out there to spread the word.

And having a column in Fast Company doesn't hurt either. Nancy Lubin, Fast Company , "Sticking It Up"

I know what you are thinking. Nancy is in charge. And your events don't raise half a million dollars, or have celebrities and "voracious" paparazzi attending. You don't have to be in charge or have full control to be a leader; your events don't have to be spectacular. Change can begin with you, wherever you are, if you can find a champion, make a significant baby step and then make some noise. Never forget that directors of volunteers are not just managers -- recruiting, retaining and rewarding volunteers. You are leaders, and leaders make change.

Volunteer Power Workshop: Reenergize Your Volunteer Leaders with a Half-Day, Full-Day or Two-Day Volunteer Power Workshop.
The New Breed of Volunteer
A Volunteer Power Workshop
Thomas McKee

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

Looking for a keynote for your annual convention, or a motivational session for your volunteer leaders, or a workshop to help your volunteer leaders recruit and keep their volunteers? Many of the private sector organizations that have sponsored our presentations for conventions are not able to sponsor these events during these hard times. I know many of you are feeling these cuts.

I would love to help. I will work with your organization to make our fees affordable for you by trying to arrange engagements in the same area to cut travel costs.

If you are interested, send me the contact form with your budget and I'll see what I can do.

Tom McKee
Volunteer Power

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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