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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 80
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: Are We Taking Advantage of the Volunteer Frenzy, Or Is It Taking Advantage of Us?
  2. Volunteer Power Resources
Featured Article: Are We Taking Advantage of the Volunteer Frenzy, Or Is It Taking Advantage of Us?
Are We Taking Advantage of the Volunteer Frenzy,
Or Is It Taking Advantage of Us?

Volunteerism is huge right now. Is this a blessing or a curse? Does the volunteer fad open a wonderful door of opportunity for us, or is it diluting volunteerism into some sort of feel-good, short-term, celebrity-driven mania?

Last month even major American T.V. programs got into the act as they wrote volunteering into their scripts. Whether you were watching 30 Rock or The Office, the major characters were caught up in the volunteering rage. As a reader of mysteries, my favorite program this year is Castle, and they also promoted volunteering. Castle's teenage daughter, Alexis, played by Molly C. Quinn, volunteered her time at the police station. She totally reorganized the evidence files, fixed a slow computer, and returned a long ago lost piece of evidence to its owner. At first I thought, "Yeah, right. How can any teenager be so perfect, mature and pro-active?" And then I remembered some of the amazing high school student volunteers that I met this year. They were everything that I observed in Alexis. These people do exist.

And Virgin Mobile is promoting volunteering in their Monster Ball Tour starring Lady Gaga. For the first time, Virgin Mobile USA will extend its innovative "Free I.P." program to a national tour, offering fans who volunteer their time to homeless youth organizations access to free show tickets. According to Virgin Mobile, "Over the past three years, Virgin Mobile has been committed to the fight to end youth homelessness through Virgin Mobile's The RE*Generation initiative, and we see great opportunity to raise awareness and support for this cause through our partnership with Lady Gaga and The Monster Ball Tour."

The entertainment industry knows that the basic motivation for volunteering is and has always been, "What's in it for me?" But perhaps they have reached a new low in paying volunteers. The message is, "If you volunteer for helping the homeless, we will pay you by giving free tickets to the Lady Gaga concert."

How do you feel about this? I have to admit that I have mixed feelings. I'm excited about RE*Generation's mission of "a generation helping its own" as they are getting kids to help work on the needs of the over 2 million homeless youth in the U.S. It is a massive need. And I applaud the partnership of business and non-profits working together. Many organizations are giving back to their communities through these partnerships. While in leadership of a non-profit, we were on the receiving end of funds from Intel because of their employees who volunteered their time with us. I didn't turn down the gifts.

So what's the issue? What is the problem? In essence volunteers are getting paid because concert tickets aren't cheap. Isn't that cool? Yes it is cool; however, I go back to the basic definition of volunteering. Volunteering is people responding to a need in a way that they are not concerned about monetary profit. Volunteers go beyond their civic duty and "give back" to the community. "Give back" seems to imply that volunteers don't receive any monetary benefits.

But then again, we at Volunteer Power promote giving recognition and rewards to people who volunteer. I have received Starbucks' gift cards with a thank you note. I appreciated the thought and gift. And I have given special gifts to volunteers who went the extra mile for us. However, am I being pressured to give significant monetary gifts (like free concert tickets) to my volunteers for their service or risk losing them to other groups that do?

How do we live in this tension? I have six suggestions.

One, accept the fact that the 21st century is not your father's Oldsmobile. It is a different world, and volunteering has evolved. In the past, I never volunteered by responding to an announcement, "When you give us 30 hours of volunteer work, we will give you a gift certificate." Recognition was something I never expected. Recognition was an unexpected "thank you." And I still feel that most people volunteer with that attitude. However, the basis of the book that my son Jonathan and I wrote, The New Breed, is that there is a new kind of volunteer in a new world. Our thesis is that we cannot recruit and manage volunteers like we did in the last century. Therefore, read on . . .

Two, think out of the box about how to recruit and maintain volunteers. Sit down with your leaders and brainstorm. One exercise that I have used often is to give each person a piece of paper with this question at the top, "What are 20 creative ways that we can use to increase our volunteer base?" I give each person 20 minutes to work alone. I warn them that this will be difficult, and they might come up with two or three ideas and then have "writer's block" for five minutes. But soon the ideas begin to come. Often I come up with 19 truly bad ideas and the 20th is the creative idea that I am looking for. When we come back together, I have each person pick their top five out of their list, and we write them down on a flip chart. After we have all the ideas listed, then we evaluate each idea on a four-point scale.

  1. High impact and won't take much time or resources
  2. High impact, but will take a lot of time and effort
  3. Low impact and won't take much time or resources
  4. Low impact and will take a lot of time and effort (in other words—not a good idea)
After we evaluate the brainstorming ideas, we begin to tackle the number 1s and 2s—the high impact ideas.

Three, develop significant partnerships with local organizations. When a corporation offers gifts to encourage volunteerism, don't turn them down. People are going to volunteer and want to volunteer. As volunteer leaders we need to take advantage of these gifts. I recently served on a local committee where we chose "volunteer of the year" awards for our city. Over 300 people gathered while we handed out about 20 awards to companies, government agencies, non-profits and people who volunteered their time. As a judge, I read the nomination proposals of over 80 recommendations, and I again was proud of our community. But one of the things I noticed was how more and more people seemed to be partnering with local businesses to meet the needs of our area. In the article, "Networking—How to Build Strategic Alliances" I outline how to find the person in an organization that can open huge doors of potential volunteers.

Four, get the message out that you want volunteers. Since people are going to volunteer and are volunteering in great numbers, jump on the band wagon and get your message out. It begins with marketing your cause and raising the need for volunteers. Again, those of you who have been reading Volunteer Power know that I don't depend on announcements to get volunteers. Expecting announcements to get volunteers is the number one sin of the Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting. I still believe that an announcement is not recruiting. But announcements (public service announcements, press releases, T.V. stories, and special mailings) market your mission, and they accomplish two objectives:

  1. Marketing affirms your volunteers by saying that their volunteering is significant.
  2. Marketing awakens the need in the community for your cause.
I don't depend on marketing to get volunteers, but I do depend on marketing to let the community know I am here and making a difference.

Five, sponsor short-term projects to introduce potential long-term volunteers to your organization. As you run a short volunteer event, use that event to build relationships with people that might become active volunteers. I'll never forget Audubon's Dan Taylor telling me that he didn't have any trouble getting people to show up for a nature walk, but getting board members was not easy. However, out of those nature walks, Dan was able to build significant relationships and look for future volunteers. For more on this topic, read the article, "Short-Term Volunteering No Longer a Trend but a Fixed Reality"

Six, talk about this issue and include it in your training. Traditional volunteerism has evolved. Recruiting volunteers and managing volunteers of the 21st century is different than even ten years ago. Don't be afraid to embrace the volunteering fad and take advantage of it. One way you can do this with your staff is to run off this article and discuss it at a leadership meeting.

Another way that you can tackle this issue is to let me help you. I would love to train your volunteer managers how to take advantage of the volunteering rage. Don't miss out.

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

Volunteer Power Workshop: Reenergize Your Volunteer Leaders with a Half-Day, Full-Day or Two-Day Volunteer Power Workshop.
Keynote Presentations

  • From Green Bananas to WIKIs – The Strategic Challenge of 21st Century Non-Profit Volunteer Management
  • They Don’t Play My Music Anymore—How to Direct the Changing Culture of the Non-Profit Organization
  • A New Breed of Volunteers for Non-Profits– How the Seismic Shifts of our Society Has Changed the 21st Century Volunteer and What To Do About It
  • The Power of Passion -- The Strategic Leadership Challenge of 2010: How to Sustain the Passion of Your Mission
  • The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting – Seven Recruiting Pitfalls That Chase Volunteers Away and How What To Do About Them

Training Workshop for Volunteer Managers

Recruiting and Managing the 21st Century Volunteer


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:

  • Volunteering is Hot – How to take advantage of this trend right now
  • 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 three levels of motivation
  • The seven deadly sins of recruiting
SECTION III: MANAGING -- Channeling and Maintaining the Passion
  • Communicating expectations
  • Generational management (Gen Y’s and retiring boomers)
  • Retention
    The power of feedback
    Evaluate your systems
How to empower the new 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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