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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 81
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2010 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: Seven Behaviors of Volunteer Managers Who Are Doing it Right
  2. Volunteer Power Resources
Featured Article: Volunteer Managers Who Are Doing It Right
Seven Behaviors I Observed From Successful
Volunteer Managers Who Are Doing it Right

The following true story is about people who know how to recruit, mobilize and manage a powerful group of volunteers, over and over again. The volunteer manager pulls into a new town and starts recruiting a group of at least 10 volunteers to develop a vibrant chapter for their organization. When they have established that chapter, they move to the next community to start all over again. But they can't forget the chapter they just left. They need to keep it vitalized with enthusiastic, motivated leadership. And they keep doing this until their whole territory (which may be several states) is dotted with dynamic volunteer chapters that raise money for their organization. It is a huge task that is never done because there are always new territories and more volunteers to recruit and mobilize.

Last month I spent two days facilitating two half-day workshops with 110 volunteer managers who are doing that-very successfully. And what these folks do is a lesson for all of us in finding great volunteers, whether we are working in a hospital, zoo, or church.

The Group?

The volunteer managers were the regional directors of The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) in Edgefield, South Carolina (about 30 miles north of Augusta, Georgia). Every volunteer manager covers a huge territory (some regional directors cover several states), and their major responsibility is to "recruit and mobilize volunteers to raise money for the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage."

Although in essence they are fund-raisers, they are raising their funds with volunteers in a down economy. Those 100 volunteer managers recruited, motivated and mobilized over 30,000 volunteers last year. In most territories the regional director would develop 30 volunteer committees with an average of 10 members to run a hunting heritage fundraising banquet in their territory. That is 30 banquets a year for each volunteer manager. It is a job well done.

How did they do it?

As in every organization, I found some who were being more successful than others. As I listened to the breakout group discussions and visited with many regional directors, I observed these behaviors from the people who were making it happen.

I want to share with you the seven behaviors that I observed in the successful staff members so that we all might learn from them. As you read their experience, keep asking yourself, "What can I learn from their success that I can apply to my role in volunteer recruiting and managing? What take-aways can I use?" You will not be able to use them all because your situation is different, but I found that I could develop most of these seven behaviors in my daily work routine.

  • Know that you can't do it alone
  • Spend 10% of your time educating your world (marketing your organization)
  • Spend 30% of your time reaching out to prospective members (prospecting for members)
  • Spend 60% of your time recruiting from your membership (recruiting volunteers)
  • KISS -- Keep it Simple for Success
  • Watch your TOES
  • Sharpen your skills

One: Know That You Can't Do It Alone

I find that the best recruiters are those who know how to network. They know the effectiveness of the networking credo:

It's not who you know. It's who they know.

Bob Fountain wears three hats. He is NWTF Vice President of Training, VP Chapter Development, and a Director of Field Operations for 11 Northeast states from Michigan to Maine and 4 Canadian Provinces from Ontario to Prince Edward Island. Bob is a master recruiter. But he knows that he can't do it alone. I spent a lot of time riding with Bob from our hotel to the NWTF headquarters, and I probably drove him crazy picking his brain. I knew I could learn a lot of him. I asked Bob, "How do you start off? How do you go into a new community and develop a volunteer base?"

Bob starts building his team by looking for people who love to hunt. When he finds a group of hunters, he then hands each of them a piece of paper and asks them questions such as these:

  1. Who is your insurance agent?
  2. Who is your dentist?
  3. Who is your banker?
  4. Who is your doctor?
  5. Who is your auto mechanic?
The questions go on as he builds a list of prospects. From these prospects he begins to build a networking base to recruit a strong team of volunteers who will plan the annual fundraising banquet.

So what? How do I do this in my organization? I don't run annual fundraising banquets. I'm looking for volunteers for my hospital, animal shelter, soup kitchen or church. How does this apply to me?

Write down the name of everyone you know who has the following qualifications:

A. They fog a mirror (are breathing).
B. They have some sort of interest in your mission (may be a small interest).

Remember, brainstorming isn't the time to decide whether or not you think they can do it. Brainstorming is simply writing down ideas. You'll edit the list later.

One of the reasons I asked my son Jonathan to co-author The New Breed with me is because he was a master at starting from scratch. He worked for Campus Life in Sacramento and would start a club in a high school with no staff. Because of his dynamic personality (and his mother reminds me of his heredity), he could easily get several hundred high school students into his club, but he knew that he had to have a strong staff of adult volunteers to help him. He says that in his early years running those clubs, he edited somebody off the list before they even were on the list! In his mind I thought, "Oh, they'll never want to do this," or "I haven't talked to them in years." Each year, his staff contained at least two or three of those people. People he would never have guessed would help.

Don't edit a name before it makes the list!

Two: Follow the 10% Rule of Education

Devote 10% of your time educating everyone in your area (territory, community) about your mission.

NWTF is passionate about getting their message of conservation out. They have T.V. programs, magazines, and educational programs. The NWTF headquarters houses a 7,200-square-foot museum which welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually and displays the history of turkey hunting and land conservation. If you are ever in the area, stop over to visit the Wild Turkey Center and Winchester Museum. It is well worth the stop.

O.K., I so I don't have T.V. programs or a museum, what do I do to get the message out to our community?

Spend 10% of your time devoted to marketing your organization and your mission through announcements, web-sites, newsletters, magazines, news releases, public interest stories on T.V. and speaking at local service clubs. Those messages shout to your world-everyone in your territory, "We are here." "We are making a difference." Marketing is essential. The marketing messages accomplish two objectives:

  1. The marketing message affirms your volunteers. When they see the story, they say, "I am a part of that organization" and they feel good about it.
  2. The marketing message also awakens passion. It creates a buzz in each potential volunteer that says, "You can be a part of this."

But marketing is not recruiting. Recruiting is what happens when you get in front of the volunteer and talk.

Three: Follow the 30% Rule of Prospecting for New Members

Spend 30% of your time discovering anyone in your community who shows an interest in your cause.

For NWTF their prospects are anyone who hunts. I asked if they try to appeal to only turkey hunters and the answer was, "No way. We look for anyone who hunts-period. Then we try to get them to attend our Hunting Heritage banquet."

Who is your audience? Who has an interest in your mission? They could be people who are passionate about health care, the environment, animals, books, education, youth, people with disabilities, or driving BMWs. Determine your general market and begin to brainstorm how you can get in front of those groups and speak to those people. NWTF has an annual banquet. What kind of events do you run that will introduce your organization to potential members? How can you develop a committee of at least ten people who will each recruit at least ten prospects to attend your event?

Four: Follow The 60% Rule of Recruiting

Spend 60% of your time recruiting from your membership.

People who attend your events, (i.e. church services, fundraisers, banquets, nature walks) have shown an interest. And when they join, they have said, "I believe in what you are doing, and I want to receive the benefits of what you are doing." One of the regional directors of NWTF told me that he finds his best volunteers at the annual banquet. These folks have paid their dues (literally) and by attending an event have given you permission to ask them to volunteer. So ask them.

I was asked by several of the regional directors how I would make the pitch to become a volunteer with NWTF. I immediately said that I would invite someone I met at a banquet out for a cup of coffee, and I'd get reacquainted a bit. Then I'd say, "Hey, George, you know I work for NWTF. I love my work planning the Hunting Heritage Banquets that you attended last week because I know that those banquets have helped us uphold hunting traditions, and we've been able to conserve nearly 14 million acres of total habitat through our many conservation programs. That's more than six times the size of Yellowstone National Park!"

Then I'd have every word of the next part of the presentation carefully planned: "George, we need some extra helpers to plan our banquet next year. I don't know if this is something you'd be interested in, but would you be willing to be on our committee for one year?"

Telling George about how he can have a significant part in planning the Heritage Banquet casts a positive vision of hunting and conversation-something I know that George values.

No arm-twisting. Just a powerful vision and an open invitation.

Five: KISS Keep It Simple for Success

We all know the KISS principle-keep it simple stupid. I like to change it to Keep It Simple for Success. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fanatic for "making it simple." Our work is as volunteer manager is not easy. It is hard work. But we don't have to make it complicated. I have always said, "It is not easy-but it is simple."

NWTF has a very simple philosophy. Recruit at least ten people to form a banquet committee. Each person on the committee should sell at least 10 tickets to the dinner. Of course some people sell 30 tickets and another might just sell two. It is almost a numbers game. The more you get on your committee, the more who come to your event. Some banquets have over 200 people. At the banquet they give prizes and hold auctions for items that hunters love. That is not new. Most groups do this. How many Rotary fundraising auction/dinners or educational fundraising banquet have we attended? And we all know that we are going to leave with more stuff and less money. We know the game.

But what I liked was that many of the regional directors would use this opportunity to recruit a volunteer to help in a small way. It's that simple. They did not try to get a prospective volunteer to sign up for a five year commitment. They just asked a volunteer to help with registration or to facilitate a silent auction. Several regional directors told me that they found some of the best volunteers at their dinners. They made sure that they "worked the room" and met as many people as they could looking for those who would be a potential volunteer for the next banquet.

In sales there is a principle called "get the appointment." Don't try to sell them the product on the phone, get in front of them so you can show them the benefits, so they can try it out and see themselves using it. The same goes for recruiting staff. So many of us call up our prospects and start laying out the commitment it takes and the time it requires. We'll scare off potential volunteers. Just "get the appointment." Invite them to help you out once-- no strings attached. Invite them to help with a legitimate need like scooping ice cream, serving pizza, driving a van, acting as weekend nurse, something that allows them to get a taste of the ministry.

When you get people involved in your organization in small ways, the workers you want will float to the top. They'll fall in love with your mission, your organization and your people. That is when you ask them to make a commitment.

Six: Watch Your TOES

When I asked Bob Fountain the key to his success, he answered "TOES."

I asked, "Toes?"

He responded: T.O.E.S. = Teamwork, Ownerships & Empowerment =Success.

And that is what I saw when I visited with many of the NWTF staff. The successful regional directors were team builders. But not just teams-empowered teams that owned the mission.

Bob Fountain says, "A person that gives me money gives me part of his/her earnings (sustenance) but, a person that gives me his or her time, gives me a part of his or her LIFE! I think that this philosophy has been critical to my success because my volunteers have felt the love & respect I give them as I empower them to make us and their effort successful."

Empowering volunteers is a struggle for many volunteer managers, and I sensed that it was a struggle for some of the staff. When an organization has been organizing fundraising banquets for over 35 years, they have learned what works and what doesn't. When the regional director recruits a new committee, it is tempting to just say, "This is how it is done. We've been doing this for 35 years and we know what works-so follow the script." And the danger with such a statement is that movers and shakers who are recruited feel micromanaged, and they often quit before they get started.

How does a manager who struggles with giving up control empower brand new volunteers?

The 21st century team manager has to be a coach. Successful coaches set up outcomes (often called objectives) and give constant, positive feedback. I do this by outlining the three measurable aspects of project management: scope, budget and timeline. Then I keep in constant contact with the team leader by asking four questions: 1) Any concerns? 2) What steps are in planning? 3) What steps are completed? 4) How can I help you? I call or meet with the team leader twice a month to keep the project on target (scope), budget and schedule. The team leaders feel they are not being micromanaged because I am constantly offering my help.

Seven: Sharpen Your Skills

You may think you're pretty good at what you do. And you may be right.

But you're not the best you can be by a long shot. None of us are. It's more important than ever in this time when volunteering is growing and people are volunteering for multiple organizations, that you personally take what skills you have and improve them and add new skills.

Why is it important? First, professionally it will take you to the top of your game and keep you there. It will get you better volunteers, more success and a much better reputation. Sharpening your skills can move you to a whole new level of competency and confidence.

But second, personally, improvement is exciting because it keeps you alive, keeps you challenged and interested and passionate for what you do. Once you have no further challenges in your work, things become static and boring and tedious. But if you continually look to improve what you do, there's never a dull moment.

I walked into the training room at NWTF and saw 110 men and women sitting at tables, on -time ready to work. The workshop was pretty intense, and I teased them that they were going to be drinking from a fire hose for the seven hours. They were eager to learn. We laughed, discussed, role-played and shared insight about case studies. I left that session energized and exhausted. They did also. You might want to sponsor a Volunteer Power workshop for your volunteer managers. I am sure that they are doing many things right. We can help you build on those behaviors.

How eager are you and your staff of volunteer manager to learn-to expand your skills-to sharpen your saw? It is a huge question. One way is to take advantage of our FREE resources. I talked with several regional directors who were downloading articles from the web on recruiting and managing volunteers and they would send them out to their team of volunteer leaders.

Another way is to read-read-read. Look for books on volunteer leadership and have your team read them together. Forgive my short commercial here, but I was excited to read this response by S. McShane from Washington State, who wrote on Amazon's website about The New Breed.

I bought this book after recently being hired as a first time volunteer manager. My employer has tasked me with finding and retaining a large volume of volunteers, and to breathe new life into the volunteer program - a daunting task! I ordered this book, along with several others and found this one to be the most informative. It is a quick and conversational read (at less than 200 pages) and hit all of the points I was looking for. I found the advice to be sound, sensible and realistic. Some of the other books I have purchased are very "Textbooky" and dry and I had a hard time reading them. This book was the exact opposite. I would recommend this book to anyone starting out in this industry, and to those who are looking for new ideas to recruit volunteers. I especially found that the "intergenerational" aspect of volunteer recruiting explained in this book to be helpful. Knowing more about how people think and why is important to finding the right people.

Order this book for your staff and work through it together.

Another way to get started in developing your skills is to start with an analysis of these behaviors in your professional work.

Take the following self evaluation test. How are you doing as a volunteer manager?

Circle your reactions to each statement.

Strongly AgreeAgreeNeutralDisagreeStrongly Disagree

1. I am building a network. 5 4 3 2 1
2. I spend 10% of my time educating my community about our organization. 5 4 3 2 1
3. I spend 30% of my time discovering anyone in our community who has an interest in our mission. 5 4 3 2 1
4. I spend 60% of my time recruiting from our Membership. 5 4 3 2 1
5. I keep it simple for success. 5 4 3 2 1
6. I watch my TOES (Empowering teams). 5 4 3 2 1
7. I am constantly sharpening my skills. 5 4 3 2 1

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

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:

  • 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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