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Volunteer Power!
Volunteer Power News - Number 108
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

© 2012 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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Featured Article: What is Wrong With This Picture?
What is Wrong With This Picture?
By Thomas W. McKee

I recently googled "Volunteer" on Google images and got 972,000,000 pictures. The first two pages of images, since I didn't look at all 972 million, displayed 30 images, and 11 (just over 1/3) of those pictures were like the ones below. The following graphics are used by many organizations to promote their volunteer opportunities. When you click on the image, you are linked through to the website of the organization that is trying to recruit volunteers. As I looked at many appeals for volunteers, I asked, "What is wrong with this picture?"

What is wrong with this picture?

Question: What is wrong with the picture?

Answer: Twenty-first century volunteers do not want to raise their hands.

The new breed of volunteer wants to be asked. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41.9% of the 64.3 million people who volunteered in the U.S. last year were asked to volunteer by someone in the organization.

So I have three questions:
  1. Why don't they raise their hands?
  2. Is this good news or bad news? I say it is good news. So why?
  3. How can I take advantage of the fact that 21st century volunteers do not raise their hands?

Question One: Why Don't They Raise Their Hands? - Three reasons
  1. They feel overwhelmed in all they are doing. The key word is "feel". People love to say that they are just too busy. Leaders of volunteers often make the "busy" excuse and too often imagine that people are even busier than they think they are. When I hear people complain about how busy they are and in the same breath talk about all of the T.V. programs they watch (NCIS, American Idol, the Hatfield's and McCoy's, the NBA playoffs, etc.), I wonder just how busy they really are. In addition to T.V., according to Luis von Ahn, a researcher at Carnegie Melon University, humans spend nine billion hours playing solitaire every year. PC gamers spend an average of 18.5 hours per week playing games. That's a third of a work week. When I read these stats, I begin to question, "Are we really that busy?" In reality we all have time to do what we want to do. People will make time for their passions. And passion is what volunteering is all about. When I ask people, I find that they carve out the time to do what they want to do. For more information, read, "People don't quit because they are too busy—the top reasons people quit volunteering"

  2. They don't know what they are getting into. I sat in a meeting recently where the person in charge was looking for volunteers. He was excited and even made the project sound inviting, but then he killed it when he said, "We have changed the requirements this year, and I know you will like them. Just sign up, and we'll tell you at our first meeting what is expected." There was no way I was going to volunteer. No wonder I heard that they were still looking for 100 volunteers.

  3. They feel (there is that word again) that they are not needed—after all, look at all the raised hands in the pictures. They have plenty of volunteers without me.
Question Two: So, why then is this good news? - Four Reasons

First, I want to eliminate the guilt-driven volunteers. Too many times organization members sit in a meeting and hear the announcement, "If no one volunteers, we are going to cancel this event." Everyone sits there and one by one people start to raise their hands out of guilt. The guilty-feeling volunteers are volunteering because they believe that they have to. I don't want these people. I want passionate people who are excited about our mission.

Second, I don't want any more VDPs- Very Draining People who are high maintenance. These volunteers drain my energy, time and passion, along with everyone else on the volunteer team.

Third, I want to recruit for passion, not an event. The 21st century volunteer doesn't want to make a contribution-- they want to make a difference. This is so true of my generation, those of us who were in college in the 60s. We have it in our DNA to make a difference, and we respond to causes, whether political, religious, social or educational. We love a challenge and will carve out the time if you just ask us. In fact, most people who are attending your meetings have some sort of interest in making a difference, or they wouldn't be at the meeting in the first place.

I am so encouraged that this DNA seems to be true of the younger generations also. Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, is the first innovation education fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard. Wagner consults widely to schools and foundations around the country and has served as senior advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Tony says that Millennials are more interested in making a contribution than in making a lot of money--even those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Perhaps because they have been more exposed to a range of environmental and social problems than previous generations, every one of the young innovators whom I interviewed wanted to solve an important problem or give back in some way. It was more than just a passion for these young people. It was a driving sense of purpose.

And fourth, when I depend on the "raising my hands" approach to recruiting, I am overlooking many great volunteers who would never volunteer. In almost five decades of engaging volunteers, I am learning this lesson now more than ever. Many of my most dependable and effective volunteers never volunteer. I needed to ask them.

Question Three: How can I take advantage of the fact that 21st century volunteers do not raise their hands?

Quick Tips: But if we won't raise our hands, what do we do to get volunteers? So, several quick tips:
  1. I've got to be practical. I admit it, there are exceptions. Sometimes we need to use the "raise your hands method." I shudder when I even say this. The exception is when we need people to help us for an event, and we need massive numbers. And we will put up with a few VDPs for a day or an event, but then we don't ask them back. However, and a huge however, also use the next tip.

  2. Even in the exception of needing massive numbers, I don't depend on the "raising your hands method" to get volunteers. I recruit by personally asking key team leaders to recruit people to be part of their teams for the event. Great team leaders don't depend on the "raising hands" to fill their teams. They . . .

  3. Use the simple method, not easy, but simple-- just ask. Ask people to use their special skills and talents to help you make a difference. People feel special when you ask them (and we all need to feel special). And always remember to . . .

  4. Be specific about what you expect. Ask a volunteer to serve ice cream at an event or help work at a registration table as if it were a first date. Since you want them to catch the vision, work alongside the volunteer at the event and talk about the vision of what you are doing. Be sure to break up the cliques that often plague volunteer groups that have been together for a while. Make this person feel welcome and needed. After all, we want a second date.

Liven Up Your Convention or Education Day with Passion, Fun, Laughs, and Volunteer Involvement Insights
One more idea and we can help you.

Train your leaders of volunteers about the seismic shifts that have produced a New Breed of Volunteer. It is a different world today. In The New Breed, Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, we outline the seismic shifts and what to do about them. Use the book for your training classes. Jonathan, who co-wrote the book, just got back from speaking the annual conference of SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) in Cleveland. The leaders from their organization were using the book as a text book to learn about the seismic shifts and how to engage the 21st century volunteer. They wanted to meet the authors, and Jonathan was able to attend and lead them in a workshop about the New Breed of Volunteer.

Contact us to book a workshop, key-note presentation.

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, key-note presentation.

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