A Message from our President
One of the activities I love most is volunteering. I have served, and continue to serve, as a volunteer in many forms—leader, worker bee, and advisor. Sometimes, I have served as a one-time assistant for a quick project or specific event; other times, I have been a long-time partner, relied upon for my knowledge, history, and connection with an organization.
Early on in my career in the nonprofit sector, a senior staff member preparing for a major event said to me, “Volunteers are golden.” And, I could tell from her tone that she meant it. That statement and the feeling behind it sent the message to me that volunteers needed to be viewed as a valuable resource, not a frustrating hassle.
But, do we all feel that way…always? Do we treat our volunteers like gold? While attempting to rein in a zealous host in the last minute-scramble before a gala or in the midst of a heated third-round discussion at a board meeting, it can be easy to wish away the help we are offered. But with a little forethought to our approach, our perspective changes and we recognize that we can make this relationship work for all of us.
This month's article by Robert Grabel highlights some Golden Rules of Volunteering—saying and doing what is best to develop a mutually beneficial team. We all likely already know these deep down, but Robert’s refresher on the topic is a good reminder for everyone.
Enjoy the read and stay in touch—
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Article of the Month
Word count: 542
Approximate Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Golden Rule of Volunteering
(Originally published in Training for Good Website)
by Robert Grabel
Over the past few months I've gotten involved with a wonderful patient advocacy group. I was recently looking at one of their community chat boards and one of the posts struck me. It was from another volunteer who noted that she hadn't been connected with the organization in about four years. She went on to say that she felt bad because when she had first been involved, she was incredibly active. This volunteer had raised money through participation in a marathon, attended conferences and done several other things to help the organization. Her final comment was that she really should have pushed herself to stay involved and hoped she would be accepted back into the good graces of the organization.
I felt genuinely bad for her. Here was a generous person that had done a great deal to contribute so much and now, as supposed to feeling excited and positive about re-connecting, she was worried. As someone who was now living out the experience of being both a volunteer and professionally working as a volunteer manager, it was a helpful wake-up call.
My experience was a helpful reminder that as volunteer managers we need to stress some "golden rules" for volunteering. In other words, let's be sure we're treating our volunteers exactly as we'd want to be treated if we in their position. I believe we can do that by ensuring that these messages are being delivered by our words and actions:
Our door is always open and you are always welcome: Volunteers will come and go - that's simply a reality of this work. It's going to happen due to time, other commitments, priorities - or anything else. Our role is not to judge the validity or soundness of those reasons. One of my best mentors had a statement that fits well here: If it's true for you, it's true. In other words, the reason your volunteer stepped away was important to him or her. Therefore it's important. Our role is to welcome them back to the fold and celebrate their re-connection with our work.
Every contribution matters and is valued: The subject of thanking and appreciating our volunteer's efforts has been well covered by many others (and me in some other blogs). But it's worth saying again. Any offer of time, resources, and energy that can help your organization move forward should be valued no matter what. No matter what.
There are no "shoulds" around here: Volunteering should be voluntary (obviously) and not the result of thinking or feeling that they "should volunteer" out of some implied obligation. Our job is to create an environment that encourages a spirit of giving generously. It should be one that helps us create relationships with our volunteers that enable us to understand what they can and want to offer and how we can best connect them with the needs of our organization.
Please don't take this to mean that we as managers of volunteers should ask nothing of our volunteers or worse yet, be doormats for the occasionally badly behaved volunteers (you know they're out there). On the contrary. I do believe that by practicing these Golden Rules you have the opportunity to create a truly collaborative and authentic partnership with your volunteers.
Bottom Line: By focusing on your words and actions, your relationship with your volunteers can be truly golden.
Robert Grabel is the President of Training for Good, a consultancy that trains charities to become business development experts consistently generating new leads and developing rewarding relationships.
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