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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 85
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: Taking Advantage of Two Hot Trends: Episodic Volunteering and Slacktivism.
  2. Volunteer Power Leadership: Leadership Development
Featured Article: Taking Advantage of Two Hot Trends: Episodic Volunteering and Slacktivism
Taking Advantage of Two Growing Trends: Episodic Volunteering and Slacktivism

I asked him the closing question, "Bob, are you going to continue volunteering when your community service assignment is up?" He was quiet for a moment and then he said, "You know, I never thought about that. I guess I could. I'm off every Tuesday and Wednesday and my girlfriend is working, so I could either watch soap operas or volunteer."

I met Bob two weeks ago on my recent trip to Arkansas. As Bob and I began to chat and he found out that I was from California, he asked me, "What brings you to Arkansas?" When I told him that I was speaking at the Arkansas state leadership summit on volunteerism, he responded with great enthusiasm, "Hey Tom, I'm volunteering tomorrow." When I asked him what he was going to do, he sheepishly told me that he got a ticket for speeding and was required to put in so many hours in community service. As he began to describe how he was driving (hopefully not speeding) a truck for a non-profit and picking up donated furniture and household goods for a thrift store, Bob was energized. He began to talk about the mission of the non-profit, the wonderful people he was meeting, and how he felt like he was doing far more than a court ordered community service. That's when I asked him the closing question, "Do you think you will continue volunteering when your assignment is up?"

I told Bob that if I was in charge of the volunteers for that organization, he and I would be meeting for coffee in the next few weeks. Why? Because Bob is low-hanging fruit ready to be picked to join our volunteer team. Some volunteer managers are reporting that about 75% of their volunteers are episodic, way up from the 25% it was 25 years ago. This trend is here to stay, and many volunteer managers are taking advantage of using the episodic volunteer as a "first date." If you haven't read our article on the dating method of recruiting—see "Recruiting is Like Dating".

Technically we would call Bob's type of volunteering, "The Mandated Volunteer;" however, I also see Bob as one of the growing numbers of episodic volunteers. The Corporation for Community and National Service's recent study, A Review of Trends In Volunteering since 1974, reported the following:

While volunteering rates appear to be at a 30-year high today, the last 15 years also suggest some change in how people volunteer. According to our findings, episodic volunteering (serving 99 or fewer volunteer hours in a year) has increased since 1989. . .. The critical role that time constraints have on the potential for people to volunteer may help to explain the reason why episodic volunteering became more common between 1989 and 2005. Around the same time as the term "episodic volunteer" was coined, a 1989 survey showed that 79 percent of non-volunteers said that they would volunteer if given a short-duration task. ... Current trends suggest many of America's charities and volunteer associations may have taken this reality to heart and made shorter, more flexible volunteering opportunities available to "episodic volunteers"—those who are willing to volunteer, but cannot or will not serve as a regular, ongoing volunteer throughout the year.


The second growing trend is Slacktivism. For those who love the oxymoron, you will love this one that is coined from two words—Slacker and Activism. How can a slacker be an activist? Slacktivism is the ultimate feel-good that comes from the desire to give back to society without actually getting one's hands dirty. Examples of slacktivism including signing internet petitions, wearing of wristbands (awareness bracelets) with political messages, putting a ribbon on a vehicle, joining a Facebook group, posting issue-oriented YouTube videos, taking part in a short-term boycott, or donating for a cause with the click of your mouse.

Although I am insulted at the term "slacker" and the allegation of such a word gets my defenses up, I have to agree with one of my favorite writers, Nancy Lublin, CEO and Chief Old Person of Do Something. She challenged my resistance when she responded to her negative feelings about slacktivism by saying, "If we really could save the world with a few clicks of the mouse, then only a fool would protest." She writes in last month's issue of Fast Company, Slacktivism, Helping Humanity with the Click of a Mouse.

Slacktivism at its best, it can deliver results far more quickly; forget the phone tree or your small-town gossip. After the Haiti earthquake in January, for instance, U.S. phone companies were receiving up to 10,000 "Haiti" texts per second. So far, those $10 pledges by text have amounted to $38 million for the American Red Cross alone. As a not-for-profit leader whose organization depends on donations, I say, "If that is slacktivism, I'll have some of that." The bottom line, really, is the bottom line. We shouldn't judge any activism -- online or off, old-fashioned or newfangled -- by its medium or by how much it requires of us. Instead, it should be the results that matter (Fast Company, Slacktivism, Helping Humanity with the Click of a Mouse).

So what? How can I take advantage of these growing trends?

How do I take advantage of Slacktivism? Do we run a "slacktivism" campaign? Of course not. But I do want to take advantage of the huge percentage of people who can't become full-time volunteers at this time in their lives but will volunteer for a short-term, "feel good" opportunity.

How about a "Stuff the Bus" initiative that I heard about in NW Arkansas last week?

One of the volunteer managers that I met in my work in Arkansas was Teresa Smith, Manager of Community Impact of United Way in Benton, Madison, and Washington Counties in Arkansas and McDonald County in Missouri. She told me about their "Stuff the Bus" initiative which is a partnership between United Way of NWArkansas , Wal-Mart (who else would you expect in Bentonville, Arkansas) and the local schools. The school districts parked a school bus in front of nine Wal-Mart stores in the area and volunteers stood at the entrances of each store to hand out fliers with a list of school supplies that were needed. The fliers encouraged consumers to purchase school supplies for local children who may not be able to afford these items. During the two-day event, usually a Friday and Saturday, all the supplies were loaded onto the buses and the following Monday the supplies were delivered to the local school administration building where they were responsible for dividing up the supplies. The supplies were given to the schools in that district that have the largest percentage of students on the free/reduced lunch program. Teresa told me,

Last year over 75,000 pieces of school supplies were collected during that 2 day period by 316 volunteers with a total of 581 volunteer hours. When you figure the dollar amount that the federal government says a volunteer hour is worth, which is $20.25 per hour, it came to a total of $11,775 put back into local communities. We have heard from several teachers and counselors about what a great program this is for their students who cannot afford to purchase the supplies. The outcome is that you have students who have the necessary tools to begin that school year with a firm foundation because they start out the same as every other student.

We have to face the fact that the good old days when Americans had secure jobs with benefits and paid vacations are a thing of the past. The ranks of self-employed people who have no benefits or paid vacations are growing. Many today work as free agents and spend significant time marketing their services as well as working. The 21st century work culture is having a grave impact on the amount of time people will have to volunteer.

Does this mean that people will not volunteer for our organizations? Not at all. But their volunteering may be episodic and even "feel-good" donations at an event or special drive. Are you taking advantage of that in two ways?

  1. A first date. Giving people a taste of what you do so that they might become passionate about your cause and join one of your volunteer teams.
  2. An initiative to meet a specific short-term need. If you don't, others will, and potential volunteers will get excited about their organization and opportunities for volunteering.

Leadership Feature: Leadership Development: Are You Sharpening the Saw of Your Leaders? One Idea from the PTA.
How do you develop the leaders in your organization? Sharpening the Saw is the metaphor that Stephen Covey uses to emphasize the importance of that constant need to keep your leadership on top of their game. I recently heard him jokily ask, "How many of you have been so busy driving that you didn't have time to stop and get gas?" We get so busy leading that we forget to sharpen the saw. One very successful way to sharpen the saw is to use the book club for leadership development.

The book club: The board of directors and board of managers of the California PTA take sharpening the saw very seriously. One of the board members said to me that they had a study group—like a book club. And the book they studied was our book The New Breed. She showed me her marked-up copy filled with sticky notes. They didn't just read it, but they would meet to discuss the practical suggestions and how they could implement them in PTA leadership. Not only did they study it and discuss it, but they had used much of the information from the book for training sessions for the district leaders.

Last month I reviewed Susan Ellis's, From the Top Town. If you didn't read that review, I recommend reading my article, Why Should You Ask the Question Why? Jennifer Dunham, Head of Volunteer Programs of Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas told me that she had given Susan's book to her boss and they had discussed some of the chapters. Jennifer is not only sharpening her own saw, but seeing that her boss is aware of the key roles and developments in volunteer leadership.

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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