Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

managing volunteers

Three things I've learned about being very involved in volunteer organizations:

1) Chickens. There's an old joke about a chicken who goes to a pig and says, "Let's start a breakfast restaurant where people can eat ham and eggs!" The pig responds, "Sounds like I'd be committed, you'd only be involved."

Chickens are the ones who constantly come up with things "we" should do, but they're only going to be sidelined involved. The worst is when they throw criticism at the pigs who are TRULY committed and doing the hard work.

Step 1 is turning their great ideas around, when they say "we" should do something, respond with "AWESOME idea, I totally support that, I'd suggest that YOUR first step will be to..." Never respond with "we don't have time" or "don't you see how hard I'm working?" Help them in.

2) On the other hand, you can go past the committed pig and become the all-out martyr. Toxic martyr volunteers sacrifice huge amounts of time themselves, then guilt everyone who isn't doing the same. They'll complain loudly that they're the only one working... even in a room full of people working. That's when you notice a pattern — they never ask for help or try to organize anyone to assist, and they hate when you try and take their (volunteer!) job away from them. There's a great article about how we need to celebrate the lazy leader who gets even help from everyone instead of the guy who lost his job/family/sanity for your organization.

3) Constantly ask for help. I've been shocked at the number of times I've asked for someone to take over an activity 150 times, then suddenly I get the wording or timing right and somebody jumps up and just takes it over, telling me it's such a fun thing they do they wish I'd asked earlier. We have to be creative and look for ways to package volunteer jobs to make sense to people. Be like habitat for humanity, who invites people to show up with no skills, planning or thinking and somehow gets them all to build a house. Most of the volunteers have no idea how much pre-planning and expertise is involved in giving them that mindless day of "giving back" — but that's what it takes, that's what all non-profits take. Nothing is mindless. The mind is somewhere. If the mind is you, seeing what needs done and planning long term, make sure you're not also the one brush-painting the house. As soon as you really know how to do a job, train your replacement and give it away. Move up to the busier intersection. That's how you grow.

ironphoenix told me about Maxwell's level's of leadership last year and I still refer to it a lot. In a volunteer organization I think it looks like this:

1) Step 1: ask people to do things. You'd be surprised how few leaders are even here.

2) Know who to ask. People will help because they're your friend.

3) Design an engaging, interesting system that draws people in

4) People know what to do even without you

5) Your values are part of people's identity, they own the organization and can't help but be extremely involved. You've made something that lasts

Tags: management
  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded