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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 83
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: The Advantage for Recruiting Volunteers for Specific Team Roles
  2. Volunteer Power Free Resources: Team Roles
Featured Article: The Advantage of Recruiting Volunteer for Specific Team Roles
I was recently asked this question by one of our subscribers:

"Tom, what is your opinion on utilizing volunteers in specific gift-centric roles within one's organization versus training all volunteers on one's team to do a little bit of everything?"

The answer to the question of gift-centric roles vs. "do anything to help out the team" roles is the difference between the old-way, last century way of volunteer management and 21st century volunteer leadership. Last century volunteerism was often characterized by tons of people showing up to stuff envelopes, set up chairs, serve food or paint. And there is still a need for this, especially in a crisis. But fortunately 21st century volunteerism has matured. Huge numbers of retiring boomers and generation Y/millennials single professionals have the time and energy to do far more than stuff envelopes for non-profits. But these book-end generations volunteers want to use their professional skills in gift-centric roles.

Do you take advantage of the opportunity to recruit volunteers to use their strengths, talents and professional abilities? Or do you follow the myth that the volunteer just does whatever it takes to help out. Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, claims that ninety-one percent of people believe the following myth:

Myth: A good team member does whatever it takes to help the team.

When I first read this myth, I responded, "Wait a minute, this statement makes sense." Who doesn't want to be an exemplary "team player" and do what it takes to help the team?

However, Buckingham convincingly presents a case that this approach does not create winning teams. Team leaders who believe this myth do not align teamwork tasks with a team member's strengths. To develop winning teams, Buckingham proposes the following:

Truth: A good team member deliberately volunteers his strengths to the team most of the time.

When all team members are playing to their strengths, they are able to develop these strengths even more, and a team has the competitive advantage of "consistently near-perfect performance" on the specific tasks that align with team member highly-seasoned abilities. Team members are not being selfish by volunteering for strength activities. Rather, they are providing a valuable service to help the team maximize its effectiveness.

Suppose you are coaching a college basketball team and you only have 1.5 seconds left in the game-just time for a catch and shoot. Your team needs a three-point shot to win. But your star three-point, catch and shooter, Ashley, has been hurt and is in the locker room. So you designate your second best three-point shooter, Lori to take the shot. But Lori only makes the three-point shot about 25% of the time. You design the play around Lori. Lori is great at getting the ball in to Ashley, but with Ashley in the locker room, Lori has to assume the role of shooter. You might even say that your team is dysfunctional at this moment-admit it. You are not playing to your strengths. Sure, your only choice is to use a stop gap measure, and we all face emergencies from time to time. But be honest. Your team is not operating at full capacity.

In a healthy team, each team member plays a very specific role. When team members put all the strengths of the team together, each playing what they do best, the team is synergistic where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Of course there are times when team tasks are unlikely to align perfectly with team member strengths; Buckingham adds the obvious caveat, "...occasionally each team member will have to step outside of his strengths zone and ‘pinch-hit' for the team." But for the most part, the team coach needs to assign team tasks according to an individual team member's strengths.

What is true in the workforce and in coaching an athletic team is just as important in volunteer teams. People love to work to their strengths, especially retired professionals who are no longer using their skills in the workplace.

I have a retired friend who volunteers once a week for several hours at a thrift store that supports homeless women and children in our area. Every week Judy sorts though the donated clothes to make the decision whether to place an item in a special section of "rather nice brand-named" clothing or in the general section. A few weeks ago the director of the shelter showed Judy a flier that she had made advertizing the store and asked her, "What do you think?" Judy, who just happens to be a graphic artist, spoke up and said, "If you really want me to tell you, I can show you how you can improve on the design." The director was thrilled, and Judy doesn't sort clothes anymore. She works on graphic arts for the center. She can do her work from home and loves it.

In summary, I go back to Marcus Buckingham, who I believe has sounded the note for volunteer teams today. I believe that his thoughts and mine can be summarized in the following statement:

True teamwork occurs only when a complementary set of strengths comes together in a coordinated whole.

Volunteer Power Resources: Team Roles
In research for the above article I came across these past articles on "team roles." I often print up articles like these, pass them around to my staff, and then discuss them. The discussion is often very revealing to me on how my staff feels about these issues. Please feel free to use any of these articles. They are for your use-FREE.

Volunteer Power Staff Development: Keynotes and Workshops
If you are interested, send me the contact form.

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

Reenergize Your Volunteer Leaders with a Half-Day, Full-Day or Two-Day Volunteer Power Workshop

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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