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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 99
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2011 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: Is Volunteering Still Hot? Are Your Volunteer Numbers Down?
  2. Check this Out: The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting
Featured Article: Is Volunteering Still Hot? Are Volunteer Numbers Down This Year?
For the past year we have been saying, "volunteering is hot." It seemed that in 2010 everyone was getting into the act. President Obama was promoting volunteerism, American Idol was giving back, Disneyland gave away free tickets to volunteers, Glee promoted volunteering, Ben and Jerry's gave away free ice cream to volunteers, and even Lady Gaga was giving away prime-seat concert tickets to people who volunteered in their communities. Volunteering seemed to be a hot issue, and everyone was getting into the act.

But what about this year? Is volunteering as hot this year? Last week I received this e-mail which raises a concern about the current state of volunteerism.

Good day Tom:

Certainly hoping that you are well, in good health and spirits (along with your family and those close to you)!

Our new member recruiting metrics growth for our 9th USCG District Auxiliary (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, NW Pennsylvania and NW New York) are in a major downturn year to date, down 70% +/- when compared to previous years. When communicating with several business colleagues (who chair major volunteer organization's operations) to learn of their year-to-date recruiting activities and to then compare and contrast with ours (The American Red Cross (Mid-Michigan Chapter), Volunteers of America (Great Lakes office), The Salvation Army (Michigan Headquarters) and The American Cancer Society (Mid-West Office), all individuals have commonly shared how across the board, they are experiencing a downturn as well with their recruiting of volunteers this year.

My conversation with these individuals revealed how their new volunteer recruiting for 2011, year-to-date metrics are:
  • The Salvation Army is down by 52%:
  • American Red Cross is down 42%:
  • Both The Volunteers of America and
  • The American Cancer Society stated that they are "down significantly this year," but were not able to share a specific measurement.
Tom, when time permits, would you be in a position to comment about this year's recruiting activities for your clients (Volunteer Organizations) and any other organizations - where you may be apprised of their recruiting efforts - who operate both within and adjacent to our geographic areas, so that we may possibly have a better perspective with ours?

Thank you in advance with your sharing of this information to assist us with our efforts!

Kindest Regards,


Douglas A. Colwell
Project Officer - Recruiting & Retention
Administrative Aide - Director of Auxiliary
U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
9th Coast Guard District

Is your recruiting experience like Doug's? Are your volunteering numbers up or down? Please let me know at Tom@volunteerpower.com. I'd love to hear from you, especially if you live in the area where Douglas recruits and leads volunteers (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, NW Pennsylvania and NW New York).

His report is discouraging. Fragile economic times do affect volunteerism. In regards to Douglas's question, I am getting mixed reports.

SCADVS (Southern California Association of Directors of Volunteers) reported to me last month that their volunteer numbers were up; however, their concern was that many of their volunteers were the unemployed who were using volunteerism to get a foothold in the door for a future job. As soon as the volunteers got work, they were gone.

When Jonathan and I were doing the research for The New Breed, we interviewed the directors of volunteers in environmental groups, museums, hospitals, religious organizations, youth organizations and trade and professional associations. The dominant theme that we kept hearing was that the 21st century volunteer is a whole new breed of volunteer-thus the name of our book. The danger for leaders of volunteers is that when things get tough, we fall back into old patterns of volunteer management, and those methods of volunteer recruiting and management are not effective.

One of the common threads that Jonathan and I heard was that volunteer numbers were up because many organizations were offering short-term projects to adapt to the 21st century volunteer culture. People would respond for a five-hour-a-year work party and feel that they had been part of the feel-good volunteerism ride. Many organizations jumped on that band wagon-and we promoted it. But where leaders of volunteers often failed was in their belief that an announcement would bring the same group back for the next event. Wrong.

To add to the problem of episodic volunteerism, leaders of volunteer groups were promoting micro-volunteering and crowdsourcing. We even had workshops about this at our national conventions demonstrating how to get more people involved in micro-volunteering and crowdsourcing with the click of a mouse.

SPARKED publicized the following for high school students to get involved.

While you're sitting around this summer (you know, in between beach trips and your part-time job and crafting Facebook updates), why not use your skills for good by micro-volunteering?

Sparked is a network where people can offer assistance on a huge variety of projects -- you might help a non-profit do some social media stuff, brainstorm a new product, or be part of a focus group for a new website. We are all for in-person volunteering, but we understand that sometimes it's hard to do. Conveniently, each task featured on Sparked is one that you do online, and it takes somewhere from two minutes to two hours -- these are not time-consuming projects, but they are beneficial to non-profits that need you.

Want in? First, click a few buttons to identify your interests and skills (this takes less than two minutes). Then, you'll see "challenges," or small projects, that match up with your profile. If you want to take one on, do it!

So when your mom asks, "What did you do today?" you can say you volunteered. Let the good karma roll!

Although micro volunteering, crowdsourcing and short-term projects are effective volunteer methods, they only help in the short-run. Leaders of volunteer need to know how to use the short term projects as a recruiting base for long-term, active volunteers. How?

First: Avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting (see article below), which we wrote because of the seven most ineffective methods of recruiting that we observed among many struggling leaders of volunteers. It is easy to fall into these panic recruiting traps when times get tough. Don't fall into these traps.

Second: Learn to effectively adapt the "dating method of recruiting" to your organization. All of the short-term projects are wonderful tools to use as a "first date". One advantage of the "first date" is that you get to decide if you even want a second date with a person who could be a high-maintenance volunteer.

Third: Brainstorm how you can turn a short-term event into a positive experience for the volunteers so that they leave the event wanting more. One object of the first date is to awaken the passion of that volunteer to your mission. A short-term project ought to leave the volunteer with a desire for more. When Jonathan and I facilitate an all-day workshop for an organization, we often break into "brainstorming groups" to develop creative ways to attract and keep quality volunteers. So often in brainstorming about 80% of the ideas are outrageous, out-of-the-box ideas. In one workshop Jonathan and I were facilitating, one of the breakout brainstorming groups developed a "dating service" for finding volunteers. It got a little bit rowdy. But out of those 80% of wild ideas came some creative solutions.

Fourth: Consider some of the following ideas to develop long-term volunteers:
  • Ask them personally and remember that "no" does not mean "never."

  • Provide opportunities to use professional skills of volunteers.

  • Ask them personally. People respond to a personal invitation.

  • Look for volunteers among two very specific age groups-retiring boomers and young professionals.

  • Ask them personally. Don't depend on announcements to get volunteers. Announcement are marketing-not recruiting.

  • Recognize that young parents are often too busy being the non-volunteer volunteers (those who have to volunteer so that their kids can be involved-i.e. soccer, choirs, church, etc.). They will respond to a short-term project, often with their family, but usually not a long-term commitment.

  • Ask them personally. It makes the volunteer feel that they personally can make a difference.

  • Recruit and train volunteer leaders of volunteers who will help you recruit and train volunteers. By the way-sales people are often great prospects because they know how to sell-and recruiting is selling.

  • Oh, and by the way-ask them personally to be a part of your volunteer team.
Please let me know how your recruiting is going in 2011. Are your volunteer numbers up or down? Why do you think they are up or down? Tom@volunteerpower.com

Check This Out: The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers
The scene: Tuesday night at our monthly membership meeting. A frantic staff member stands before the group of about 300 members and says, "If we don't get any volunteers for this program, we will assume that you aren't interested, and we'll just cancel it."

Some over-worked members feel guilty and raise their hands. Others groan and say, "The trouble with our organization is that no one wants to get involved." Others say, under their breath, "Good, it's about time we cancel some of our activities."

Sound familiar? We've all seen it happen. Well, if you are going to mess up in your volunteer program, you might as well mess up bad. By committing one of the following seven sins, you not only chase members away, but you burn them out.

Sin One: Expect Announcements to Get Volunteers
We needed people in our organization to volunteer for a short-term project. I made the announcement, wrote articles in our newsletter, had people who had been involved give a five-minute plug in several monthly meetings, and did a special mailing demonstrating the benefits for being a part of this special team.

The results were very disappointing. What was wrong? What had I done wrong? I thought that the challenge would motivate leaders to get involved.

I went to lunch with a person who was a mover and shaker and asked him, "Why didn't you volunteer for this project? I could see your name on it all the way." I'll never forget his response. Bill said, "If you wanted me, why didn't you ask? I'd be happy to work with you on this project, but I would never volunteer."

I learned an important lesson 20 years ago that I have not forgotten. Many people will never volunteer. Why aren't people volunteering? Because people want to be asked.

Sin Two: Go It Alone
One of the most effective recruiters I knew was my father. He was an Eagle Scout as a teenager. When he and Mom were first married, he was a volunteer scout leader. As I was growing up, he was always active in volunteer organizations. To meet the demands of active recruiting, Dad established a recruiting task force from the organization in which he was recruiting. His team would meet once a month with a list of vacancies. With organization directories open, they would brainstorm possible people who could fill these positions.

Partnering is another effective way to recruit volunteers. Loaves and Fishes is a successful agency in Sacramento that feeds the homeless. They run the Mustard Seed School for the children of homeless families. This organization uses volunteers each day to take care of the meals and school. How do they get this many volunteers? They partner with local organizations-mostly churches.

Sin Three: Recruit Life-time Individuals-Not Short-term Project Teams
Mary was asked to be on the strategic planning task force for her association. She was told that the strategic planning committee would meet for a full day for training and development of strategy. She would then have six months to work on the strategic plan and then her job would be done. Mary not only said yes, but she volunteered to work with the implementation committee of the strategic planning committee-which was another two-year commitment.

Recruiting teams rather than individuals is particularly effective with younger volunteers. Many people are afraid of getting tied into a job for a lifetime and never being able to get out of it. They get burned out and then quit the organization as a way to quit their volunteer role. I accomplish three objectives when I put together a short-term project team of new volunteers with a model leader:

Objective one: Volunteers are more willing to say yes to a short-term commitment with an end-date in sight.
Objective two: Volunteers have the opportunity to catch the vision of the organization because they were working with a passionate leader.
Objective three: Leaders became mentors for future passion driven teams. We were always looking for new leadership.

Sin Four: Assume That "No" Means "Never"
Timing is everything. When we get the courage to recruit someone and then they say "no," we often feel rejection. I needed someone to be the head of our strategic planning committee and I felt that Bob was the perfect person. But when I asked him, he declined. He explained to me about a former business partner who was suing him, a teenage son who was giving him problems, and his Mercedes that was leaking oil (poor guy). He just couldn't see doing justice to the position. I asked Bob three years later and he was excited to fill the position.
Sometimes the "no" means, "not now." Sometimes it means that the prospect volunteer feels that he/she would rather do something else. When the answer is "no," I often ask if there are any positions in our organization that they would love to do, but were never asked.

Sin Five: Fall Into the BIC Trap
We often fall into the trap of following the BIC syndrome. Because we are in desperate need for a volunteer and need them quickly, we plead our case to anyone who "fogs a mirror" and at the last minute I get someone to be a "Butt In the Chair." Most times the chair is better empty than filled with the wrong person who does nothing or is high maintenance.

Sin Six: Be People Driven Rather Than Position Driven
Another variation of the "Butt In the Chair" method is just to say, "Please come and be a part of our group. We have a great time and we need your expertise." But we don't tell the prospect what we want them to do.

Joan was recruited by an after-school teen center in the inner city. She loved to do behind-the-scenes work and pictured herself scrubbing floors, painting walls and stuffing envelopes. But she was placed on the finance committee at the first meeting and was asked to go out and raise money. Although she had a passion for the cause, she was overwhelmed, disappointed and quit.

When I look at the volunteer team I think-"position." I ask, "What positions do I need to accomplish our mission?" "What do I want the team members to do?" And then I look for people who can fill those positions.

Sin Seven: Give the Position the Wrong Job Title
What's in a name? Plenty. We are calling our professional staff by the wrong name, and it is sending the wrong message to our staff, especially when we hire them. They come to the job with the wrong credentials and the wrong expectations. By the names we use for our non-profit professional staff, we are telling them that volunteer administration is not their primary job-which it really is. We are recruiting professional staff, but not professional volunteer administrators. I see this in almost every non-profit organization. For example, most environmental association professional staff are Ph.D. biologists who are passionate about the environment. They look at themselves as environmental professionals who want to get involved in restoring wetlands. But they have to spend most of their time recruiting, motivating and training volunteers to raise money for wetland restoration. Graduate schools don't train biologists to be volunteer managers. Perhaps their sub-title should be "Manager for Environmental Services Volunteers."

Volunteer Power Key-Notes, Workshops, Or An Education Day
The New Breed of Volunteer
A Volunteer Power Workshop
Recruiting and leading the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way

Workshop Content

The questions: Volunteerism is hot. From American Idol, Disneyland, Glee, Lady Gaga, President Obama to Wells Fargo, Intel and Wal-Mart, giving back is the rage.

  • How do we take advantage of this trend in our organization?
  • How do we mobilize the passion and power of volunteers in a culture that sometimes stifles passion and professionalism because management only allows volunteers to stuff envelops?
The answer: A 21st Century leadership strategy. We need to know how to impact our volunteer culture so that we can recruit and empower a whole new breed of volunteers.

The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of tectonic shifts that have changed volunteer leadership. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore, how we recruit and lead the New Breed of volunteer is a whole new game. The tectonic shifts include the following:

  • Twitch Speed - The core characteristic of Lady Gaga is speed. She is doing in 10 minutes what it took Madonna ten years to achieve. How nimble is your organization in responding to today's volunteers?
  • Generations - Gen Y and retiring boomers-the new frontier of volunteers
  • Technology - The addition of social networks as a leadership tool
  • Empowerment - The knowledge worker demands to be led - not managed
  • Slacktivism - Getting involved with the click of a mouse
  • Episodic Volunteering - Sign up for only short-term projects or only when unemployed
A LEADER OF VOLUNTEERS STRATEGY: In this workshop you will learn ...
  • How to manage change: How to interpret a changing culture
  • How to empower the volunteer without dropping the ball
  • How to coach your volunteers instead of manage them: The four stages of coaching
  • How to frame your recruiting message in order to transition slactivists and episodic volunteers into valuable non-paid staff
Contact us to book a workshop or key-note.

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