Top 6 Volunteer Manager Lies We Tell Ourselves

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Volunteer Manager Lies We Tell Ourselves

We all hate lying. It’s dishonest and harmful. It sucks. But it seems like we are ok with telling ourselves lies because well, we can take it or maybe because we think the truth is too scary to face or maybe we just like messing with our own heads or heck, I’m no psychologist, I honestly don’t know why we do it.

A lot of volunteer managers, myself included have been lying to ourselves for years. And how do these lies manifest themselves? With stress, frustration, passive-aggressive behavior, shutting off, self-doubt. Lying to ourselves is destructive.

So let’s just examine some of the top volunteer manager self-lies and put them to the volunteer manager Truth o’ Meter test. The volunteer manager Truth o’ Meter is foolproof. I know this because I paid no attention when I asked it if I should announce at the volunteer luncheon that “you volunteers should go on strike and hold out until all staff tattoo ‘we couldn’t do this without our volunteers’ on their arms.” Yeah, the Truth o’ Meter was right on that one.

The top 6 lies we tell ourselves are:

  1. “Volunteers need my undivided attention or they will leave.”
  2. “When I can’t provide a volunteer, I’ve failed.”
  3. “If I just give it some time, problems will work themselves out.”
  4. “I have no business asking for resources or a raise or a promotion.”
  5. “I can’t make others see how important volunteering is.”
  6. “No one wants to hear my version of leadership.”

So let’s go over these lies and see why that little voice that whispers in our ear is destructive and wrong.

To #1,”Volunteers need my undivided attention or they will leave,” I’m thinking no. (Well, wait, when volunteer Dottie comes in and recounts her serious accident for the fifteenth time, the one that happened 10 years ago, it’s because she needs to voice her feelings and…woah, there’s that voice again..) No. Stop the voice. Volunteers are with us because they want a volunteer experience that enhances their lives. Enabling long non-productive volunteer interactions (or gabby staff for that matter, am I right?) accumulates and robs other volunteers and clients of your time. We don’t have to hear and invest in every personal story over and over. We can listen for a few moments and redirect the volunteer to their volunteering. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 89% false.

To #2, “When I can’t provide a volunteer, I’ve failed.” Ok, so sometimes we’re busy doing something else and sometimes we are in a funk or can’t remember the name of that volunteer who told us during that long conversation like the ones in #1 that he played the bongos and now staff wants to get a bongo playing volunteer. Sure, once in a while it’s actually our fault and we can own that, but it’s time to realize that not every task will be filled and that doesn’t detract from the tremendous impact made by our volunteers. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 98% false.

To #3, “If I just give it some time, problems will work themselves out.” Do we need to talk about avoidance? We can hope all we want that Clarence in accounting will stop calling volunteers “little nuisances” and will see the light or volunteer Ed will stop interrupting staff to tell multiple old elephant jokes, but we’d be wrong. Meeting challenges head-on saves us from bigger headaches down the road. Tactful mediation ensures solving challenges so that all sides can satisfactorily work towards meeting mission goals. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.5% false.

To #4, “I have no business asking for a resources or a raise or a promotion.” Hmm, have you told the CEO she doesn’t know what she’s doing lately? I thought not. Why can’t we ask for a promotion or resources or a raise? We manage a huge amount of human capital that positively impacts people, have mad engagement skills and know our organizations inside and out and have ideas that will work. Yeah, we need to keep our heads down and keep telling ourselves we’re not good enough. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.8% false.

To #5, “I can’t make others see how important volunteering is.” Ok, sure, it’s hard, no, actually it is really hard. There’s so much to engaging volunteers and how do we put that into an elevator speech or a sound bite? But our passion to see volunteers respected will lead to better ways of showing impact and as we all work towards professionalized and elevated volunteer management, it will become more clear. Hang in there for The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 99.9% false.

To #6, “No one wants to hear my version of leadership,” Uh huh. Yeah, why would they? We don’t inspire anyone. We don’t lead volunteers to do amazing things. Nah, who would want to hear that anyway? If your comfort zone (you know the one where fluffy pillows embroidered with “I’m just the volunteer coordinator” lay atop bean bag chairs filled with ‘keep a low profile’ nuggets and ‘no risk zone’ signs adorn the zen green walls) is holding you back, then venture out of it, one toe at a time. Speak up at a meeting, enter into discussions, offer to present some findings and showcase your style of organic leadership. You have so much to offer. The Truth o’ Meter proclaims this 100% false.

There you have it. The top 6 lies volunteer managers tell ourselves has been debunked.

And remember, the Volunteer Manager Truth o’ Meter never lies.

-Meridian

 

The Volorcist Movie Review: Terrifying

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Wow, I’m still shaking. I just got back from a midnight screening of “The Volorcist,” that indie movie from “Magician’s Hat” production company. They’re the same group that brought us “Little Shop of Volunteer Horrors” a few years back.

Yep, my volunteer manager friends and I decided at the last minute to take in the screening. We found the theater, well, actually it wasn’t a theater, it was in the basement of an apartment building but hey, they had popcorn, so we went in and took our seats on the folding chairs. We had decided to dress up as volunteer managers for the movie and a couple of us wore magician’s hats and another carried a magic wand. I opted to wear my pack mule costume which was a mistake. I kept falling off the chair because the “junk” strapped to the back of my itchy mule costume made me top heavy.

Anyway, the synopsis is:

In a quiet non-profit, a pleasant volunteer Rebin, begins to change. She signs her name on the sign in sheet as “wouldn’t you like to know.” Normally soft-spoken, she starts loudly reprimanding other volunteers and pointing out their “mistakes.” She yells at one fellow volunteer for “arriving 4 minutes late,” and screams at another for “bringing in those communist homemade kolachkes for everyone to eat.”

Good volunteers quit in frustration.

Staff seeks answers from the newly hired volunteer coordinator, Darrius, who can’t believe things are that bad. He calls Rebin into his office for a chat. An inexperienced Darrius offers her a cup of coffee and flippantly says. “I hear you’ve been mistreating other volunteers.” He chuckles at the absurd notion.

Enraged, Rebin shouts as she slams her cup down, “well if you did your job, then I wouldn’t have to step in!” A spray of coffee spittle hits Darrius, who takes out his handkerchief and wipes his face. Rebin continues, her eyes wild with anger. “I’m the only one here who does things right.” Just then, the room grows icy cold when the ancient building’s heater unit stopped working again. Puffs of icy breath billow in front of Rebin. The ringing of the desk phone shatters the silence but Darrius ignores it, because he knows who it is (It’s the executive secretary who always calls him when something in the building breaks). Rebin growls at him and walks out.

The next day, Rebin comes up behind a volunteer, Buck and snatches papers from his hand. “You filed the 525 project under P,” she screams, “it goes under 5 you moron!” Shaken staff run from the room. Buck storms out and heads for Darrius’ office.

Overwhelmed and unsure how to handle the situation, Darrius calls the former volunteer coordinator, Lannie, a crusty older woman who agrees to drive her 20-year-old camper where she’s been living since retiring on a non-profit pension back to town to help.

She arrives with a satchel full of worn books on management the following day. Clutching the book her former boss gave her, “Workers Are Wrong, But You Can Make Them Obey,” Lannie suggests a strategy involving using the sandwich method of reprimanding (you know, the one where you praise the volunteer first, then point out that he/she has done something wrong, well, wait, now that you are here with those volunteer eyes looking at you, not really wrong, but maybe just misunderstood, or well, honestly what they did wasn’t so bad, no…wait it was actually justified, or needed and they were actually right all along and what were you thinking criticizing this perfect volunteer and then you wrap up with how great they are and how you are not worthy to have them, so nothing is ever resolved) They call Rebin in.

She arrives, spewing accusations at them and with fear in their eyes, they ask her to sit down. Darrius begins to read out of the policies and procedures manual while Lannie attempts to use healing touch to calm Rebin down. Rebin resists. She pulls away from Lannie, her nervous leg bouncing wildly, causing her chair to move beneath her. It rattles on the floor, making an unearthly sound as she shouts, “I’m that extra layer of caring!”

The Executive Director sticks her head in the door, asking “what is all this noise about,” and Rebin’s head whips around so quickly, it looks like it swiveled on her neck. In an other worldly voice, she hollers, ” It’s not fair! It’s Darrius’ fault! He told me I had leadership potential!” The Executive Director shuts the door and scurries away.

All heck breaks loose. Rebin looks for Darrius’ weak spot. “You’re new. You don’t know anything at all, do you,” and for a moment Darrius freezes, feeling completely inadequate until Lannie snaps him out of it by whacking him with his ‘zen office worker’ mug. Darrius resumes reciting the policies and procedures manual while Rebin laughs maniacally.

Together, Lannie and Darrius repeat over and over, “we have rules, we have rules.” Rebin suddenly growls, “fine, I quit,” and gets up so fast that Lannie falls off her chair. At that moment, Darrius realizes that he needs to step up because he is the best person to make this situation better. He knows what he needs to do.

He runs to Rebin and puts his hand on her shoulder, flinching because she is electric with rage. He gently says to her, “Rebin, I’ve had some volunteers and staff come to me with complaints. I really want to hear your side of the story and work with you to make this right for you and for everyone else. Will you come back and we’ll sit down together and figure this out?”

Rebin relaxes, and Darrius can feel all the anger leave her. She nods, and Darrius promises to call her the next day. Rebin hugs him as she leaves.

An exhausted Darrius helps up his fallen colleague Lannie, who  mutters, “Welcome to volunteer management.”

I would recommend this movie to any volunteer manager who:

a) thinks they can’t work with volunteers who get into trouble

b) thinks they have little control over volunteer engagement

c) is not confident in their abilities to mediate challenging situations

Please join Lisa McDee and me for a twitter chat tomorrow, Thursday, October 11th at 8pm Uk time, 3pm ET, 2pm CT, 1pm MT, 12noon PT on “Dealing with difficult volunteer behavior.” #ttvolmgrs

We are all going to encounter difficult volunteer behavior, but it doesn’t have to be scary.

-Meridian

For more information on mediating difficult behavior, see my July post: Difficult Conversations with Staff or Volunteers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Motivation: Past, Present and Future

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Alana clicked the wireless presenter and the slide advanced. “Here,” she said, “we have a list of awards our volunteers have won.” Photos of volunteers holding certificates popped up on the screen. “As you can see,” Alana said, “the work we do is impressive.”

A young trainee in the front row raised his hand. “When did they win those awards?” He pointed at the picture of a smiling lady, her silver hair shining in the stage lights.

Alana glanced at the screen. “I wasn’t here at the time, but Marge won that award in 1999 I believe.”

For some volunteers, 1999 might as well be 1899. Past performances are the equivalent of telling your children that “when I was your age, I walked to school. Five miles. Uphill. In the snow. Both ways.”

It’s old news. But woah, hold on, wait a minute. So, when recruiting and on-boarding volunteers, should we just ditch mentioning our volunteer awards and heck while we’re at it, should we just forget about talking about our accomplishments too, because that stuff happened last week? Should we hide our best volunteers in the closet because hey, they’re so yesterday?

No, that’s not even close to what I mean. I am all for showcasing awards and accomplishments and sharing volunteer achievements with anyone and everyone. I am all for nominating volunteers for awards. In a previous post, Awards: The Bridge to Inspire I listed reasons for nominating inspiring volunteers. I am all for exposing new volunteers to passionate and inspiring experienced volunteers. So, what do I mean?

Past awards and achievements are like a building’s foundation. They illustrate the strength of mission worth and goals achieved. They show the new volunteer that your organization has a solid base and has worked hard to lay down an infrastructure on which to continue building.

One thing I discovered when parading “accomplished” volunteers through training sessions was, there seemed to be a growing sense among the new volunteers of “what do the accomplishments of this seasoned volunteer mean for me? Am I supposed to duplicate their ways or will I have my own volunteering path and is there anything left to be done?”

The modern volunteer needs to get excited about their volunteering journey. Much more than in years past, volunteers are looking at the future instead of being content with the present. It’s a subtle, but significant shift.

What does that mean for us then, when it comes to recruiting, retaining and on-boarding new volunteers? It means balancing past volunteer awards and accomplishments with present goals and visions of the future. It means setting the foundation and then inspiring new volunteers to put up the walls, or decorate the interior or construct another floor. It means focusing on continually moving forward.

Getting in on the ground floor of any enterprise is always exciting. There’s a sense of ownership, of possibilities, of seeing an idea take flight. As a society, we love start-up successes because those stories are filled with grit and vision and frankly, we imagine that those people could be us.

Even though we may not work for a start-up organization, we can capture that feeling by introducing expansion, new programs and future vision to the new volunteer who may be sitting there wondering, “why, exactly do you need me when you already have all these great volunteers doing all this great work?”

By balancing accomplishments with future goals, we infuse a sense of organizational history with a vision for the future. And nothing is more infectious than an inspiring vision. It gives new volunteers their own identity. It means that they won’t feel as though they have to mimic past volunteers in order to win an award. Instead, they will look forward to making their unique mark.

Past infused with future looks something like this:

“As you can see, our volunteers have won numerous awards for their work, something we are extremely proud of. Now, let me tell you about the exciting direction and future plans for our organization, which needs your passion and help to accomplish.”

“Our volunteers have given over 70,000 hours in the past 5 years. It’s a testament to their belief in our mission. That’s why we are expanding our programs. These new programs are innovative and we’re really psyched about all the future possibilities. That’s where you come in.”

“Thank you for listening to our volunteer, Kenya. She has been instrumental in getting that program off the ground. You may choose to volunteer in her area, or we have some new and I think, pretty out-of-the-box opportunities in the infancy stage you may find suit your skills and interests.”

New volunteers learn a great deal about mission work and goals from the past, but they are motivated by the excitement of what’s to come and how they fit into visionary plans.

They want to own the future. Let’s make sure we give it to them.

-Meridian

 

 

 

 

Why Should We Pay Attention to Volunteering Trends?

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Have you ever stopped dead in your tracks and said, “I can sense it, it’s going to rain?” You felt the slight change in barometric pressure, or you heard the leaves in the trees rustle and you knew. You pulled up your collar or searched for an umbrella in your backpack.

If we could see the coming volunteering trends, we could prepare for them, right? Thirty years ago, were there signs that volunteers wanted more episodic roles? Or did it sneak up on us, causing us to rethink our volunteering strategy? Should we even pay attention to trends? Do we need a volunteer engagement strategy umbrella?

Can we spot trends by asking our volunteers, “Hey, what are you going to be doing differently 2 years from now?” Oftentimes, the beginning of a volunteering trend bubbles up in some pretty unrelated places. Not all trends first appear in volunteer management articles or blog posts. Rather, they evolve in other sectors and if we aren’t aware of them, these trends can rain down on us, catching us unprepared.

One such rapidly expanding trend is corporate volunteering. Consider these recent articles, none of which appeared in volunteer management periodicals:

Starbucks is testing a program that will allow some employees to spend half of their workweek at a local nonprofit

The 50 Best Workplaces for Giving Back

Why Paying Employees to Volunteer is Good For Business

Or this article about a Chick-fil-A store owner who is paying his employees to volunteer while the store is being remodeled:

Chick-fil-A employees in Plainfield to be paid for community service as location is closed for remodeling

Or this article on millennial workers:

Millennials Are Leading a Revolution in Corporate Volunteering Efforts

The growing CSR (corporate social responsibility) trend greatly impacts volunteer managers, as more and more businesses look for avenues into volunteering for a non-profit. Where do they start? At this point in time, businesses are utilizing partnerships with non-profits to accomplish their corporate volunteering goals.

If we wish to stay on top of this trend, it is imperative that volunteer organizations develop a corporate volunteering strategy to engage and partner with businesses who wish to increase their standing in communities. Why, we might ask? Why bother with employees who only give a couple of hours? Why take on another project that seems like babysitting? Why engage with people who are really just helping their company “look good?”

Because, if we turn our self-righteous heads away and refuse to work with corporate volunteers, they will develop their own programs. And they have the money to do it.

I am not suggesting that we drop everything and drool over any and every corporate volunteering request that comes our way. I’m suggesting that we need to develop a strategy that benefits our mission and works for the company we choose to partner with. By this, I mean:

  • choose a company that has shared goals and values and thoroughly understands what the mission is about
  • start with just one company and learn how to develop a solid partnership with that company before taking on another
  • control the participation as in how many volunteers you can take at a time, what they will do, when they will do it, how much onus is on them to bring any supplies they will need, etc.
  •  make impact on mission goals the primary focus, versus forging a partnership so that fund-raising can hit the company up for money
  • set guidelines or ground rules for participation and stick to them
  • follow-up to cement the relationship and plan for the future

If organizers of corporate volunteering programs have poor experiences, or are continually turned away or can’t find anyone to partner with, they will quit trying. But here’s the scary thing. If they are really serious about volunteering in the community, they will just bypass us. They will turn their frustration into forming their own internal programs, leaving us in the dust.

Corporate volunteering may seem like sketchy volunteering to the purist. We can dismiss it as not having pure intent, or not serious enough or existing only for show. But it’s exponentially increasing and we need to stay ahead of the trend and control it. We are the ones to shape it into the meaningful and impactful volunteering purity we wish to see.

Think about this: When your CEO appears at your door and says, “I just got off the phone with the VP over at Expansion Architectural Designs and he said you told him we didn’t have a corporate volunteer program,” are you going to say, “But, but, corporate volunteering is just not real volunteering?”

If we strategically embrace corporate volunteering, devise ways to successfully incorporate it into our hectic workloads and use it to further our goals, we will reap the following benefits:

  • increased organizational awareness through the partner company’s newsletter, employee word of mouth, possible press releases, etc.
  • increased donations from the satisfied partner company in the form of money, grants, in-kind donations or corporate matching (but again, donations are a bonus by-product of truly satisfied companies-we should never expect corporate volunteering to be a channel to money because that’s disingenuous)
  • increased positive word of mouth among area businesses
  • increased respect for volunteers in general due to the higher visibility of these corporate volunteers
  • more leverage when asking for an increase in volunteer budget, or additional resources, help, etc.
  • increased acknowledgement for volunteer manager creativity, skills and organizational worth

We know volunteerism is rapidly evolving. Keeping up with trends can be daunting, so we must craft a strategy to control trend implementation and to work trends to our advantage by formulating a strategy umbrella.

Because, it’s raining out there.

-Meridian

For more in-depth information on corporate volunteering from someone who has been on both sides of the equation and has workable solutions, please see Jerome Tennille’s excellent 2 part post on CSR and volunteering.

 

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Volunteer Managers and Decision Fatigue

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Zack pushed back in his chair and stole a glance at his watch. 1:30. His lunch lay half eaten on his desk. A new volunteer, Karey was on hold, waiting for Zack’s decision on which volunteer would mentor her and what day she could start. Several new emails pinged on his screen. Task force volunteers needed an update on the choice of meeting spaces. In front of him, Nadia, the event coordinator was pointing to the unfilled volunteer slots at the Walk-a-thon this coming weekend.

Weariness blanketed Zack. He forgot what it was the new volunteer on hold wanted. The subject lines on the newest emails blurred in his vision. He snapped at Nadia, “I told you, I was working on the event. I haven’t heard back from the volunteers I called. I will figure out who else I can call, but I can’t just make volunteers magically appear.”

Decisions. Volunteer managers are faced with making hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions a day. Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s look at a simple request for a volunteer to fill a task and a sampling of the decisions involved.

  • Do I give this request priority?
  • Do I work on this now or put it in a queue?
  • What volunteers are best suited for this request?
  • Who should I call first?
  • How should I frame this request?
  • Do I ask for more information or do I have enough?
  • How much time should I spend on this?
  • What is the best time to call volunteers?
  • Should I also ask survey questions while I have them on the phone?
  • What points should I stress about the impact this task will have on our mission?
  • What is the best way to plead this case?
  • What recent activities has each volunteer I call been involved in and how can I acknowledge that?

That’s 12 decisions before even starting. All day long, volunteer managers make decisions that directly impact the success of their volunteer programs. Daily major decisions include:

  • How should I answer this email and get my point across?
  • What tactic should I use when asking for more time finding volunteers for a hard to fill task?
  • How can I better explain this task to a volunteer?
  • What methods should I use when mediating the brewing dispute between a volunteer and a staff member?
  • What questions can I ask on the upcoming survey?
  • What do I want to measure on the next volunteer evaluation?
  • What can I streamline in today’s training to save some time?

Decision fatigue occurs when the brain has made so many decisions that fatigue sets in, causing a breakdown in ability to make new decisions, or making snap decisions, or a lack of self-control and diminished willpower. It leads to poor decision-making.

Decision fatigue can show itself with an irritated voice or a curt answer. It can show itself with “giving in” instead of standing ground for principles you believe in. It can show itself with forgetfulness or shutting down. It can show itself when you finally go home and can’t decide what to make for dinner so you order something unhealthy from that expensive take out place down the road because it’s the easiest thing to do.

The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama famously said:

You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.

Beyond filling volunteer tasks, a volunteer manager’s day is fraught with other carefully considered decisions.

  • How do I best approach senior management regarding an issue?
  • How do I politely extract myself from a conversation that is going on too long?
  • How do I mediate between a staff and volunteer or a volunteer and another volunteer?
  • How do I politely answer snarky questions?
  • How do I show volunteer value?
  • How can I manage all my tasks?
  • How can I remember all the small things?
  • How can I find new volunteers?
  • How can I listen to volunteers, genuinely hear them and yet not spend too much of my day in what appears to others as chit-chat?

Volunteer management is the antithesis of assembly line work. There is no manual outlining each step because each step changes hourly. It involves careful people skills by leaders of volunteers with high emotional intelligence. Decisions are weighed and made in fractions of seconds. No wonder volunteer managers go home exhausted.

So what can we do?

Make the important decisions first thing: Before fatigue sets in and while your mind is clear, make your most important decisions early and stick to your decisions. Our minds are equipped to think more clearly and rationally before fatigue sets in so work on your most important projects or challenges when you first arrive. Do you have to counsel a volunteer? Do you have a yearly event? Do you have to give an important report? Work on those tasks first, set a deadline for your decisions and stick to them.

Limit your decisions: Lay out your work clothes the night before work. Prepare your lunch or decide where you will have lunch the night before. Decide your 5 goals for the next day the night before. Put off making major decisions when you feel yourself losing willpower. There is nothing wrong with telling people you have to think about something and get back with them.

Realize decisions will not all be perfect ones: Volunteer managers tend to hold themselves to a pretty impossible perfection standard, thinking that every decision must be the optimal one. This unrealistic standard creates paralysis when making decisions, slows down productivity and increases fatigue. Major decisions need time, but lesser decisions can be made more quickly and efficiently. Remember, after mulling over option upon option, we can still make an imperfect decision, so it’s best to leave the agonizing to major decisions.

Carve out quiet time: Ideally, find an isolated space to work on projects. If you don’t have one, turn your computer monitor to the wall, turn the volume down, let the answering system pick up phone calls and work on your “need to do” list. One hour disconnected from the chaos will reap enormous benefits in not only making better decisions, but in your overall mental health. Two hours would be even better.

Become a by-appointment office: It’s hard to do when you have an open door policy, but you can slowly begin to change that. Hang signs on your door that keep people from dropping in with questions or information that can wait. Signs that indicate “volunteer interview in progress,” or “volunteer strategy meeting in progress,” clearly announces that you must focus on the crucial task at hand. Having to make a major decision while constantly being interrupted with having to make smaller, snap decisions wears you down. It creates decision fatigue and robs you of any ability to make a good decision. If you find yourself continually putting off big projects, it’s a good sign that you suffer from decision fatigue and probably the effects of a chaotic office.

Pare down the upfront work and utilize volunteer brains: For projects needing research, input from volunteers etc., ask volunteers to help you by completing the research or polling the volunteers. They can even assist by presenting you with decision options and their recommendations for best choices.

What’s frustrating about decision fatigue is how it silently chips away at willpower. And a worn down volunteer manager will be ineffective when presenting volunteer contributions or advocating for better volunteer engagement practices.

People who love us will tell us to take care of ourselves. They’re right. We need to take care of ourselves mentally and physically if we truly wish to create a successful volunteer program.

So, please, while your brain is fresh and unencumbered, make a commitment to limiting the effects of decision fatigue.

-Meridian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just What is the Value of a Volunteer?

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Just what is the value of a volunteer

Do organizations value volunteer Luis because he has this rare ability to look into the eyes of someone and open his being to receiving their pain? Do organizations value volunteer Mary because she drops everything and comes in when there’s an immediate need? Are all volunteers valued strictly for their volunteering? Or, do you sometimes get the uncomfortable feeling that certain volunteers are more highly thought of than others in your organization?

It’s kinda true that some volunteers are more likable than others and volunteer managers have a challenge to overcome when staff doesn’t like a volunteer (see When Staff Doesn’t “Like” a Volunteer). But, besides likability, are there other reasons some volunteers are regarded more highly behind the closed wooden doors of organizational structure?

Does a senior manager get all giddy when a volunteer bequeaths money to the organization (and then stands at your desk with a big smile spreading across her amazed face and says something like, “well, we would have gone to his funeral, but we didn’t know, why didn’t you tell us he died,”) or when a volunteer pays for that new tech equipment or that fridge for the employee lunch room?  Does the board go all a-twitter when they find out one of your volunteers is the mother-in-law of a famous actor and they are high-fiving each other because they just know your volunteer will use her mother-in-law powers to badger this actor into endorsing the organization? (I always kept this type of information buried deep in the secret compartment of my brain, it’s the one where I picture myself as the first officer aboard the star ship Enterprise, ooops – what I mean is they couldn’t pry it out of me if they tried)

What if a volunteer is married to a prominent lawyer or a politician, or someone who owns the swanky hotel where they have that fabulous banquet hall? Or what if a volunteer has loads of money? Does that volunteer suddenly get the VIP treatment?

Maybe it’s subtle, but it’s there. Does the volunteer who is an absolute master at soothing clients’ hearts rate the same status or visibility as the volunteer who donates substantial money?

Ok, ok, I’m being critical, and this is really all about human nature anyway, aka, the “what can you do for me,” expectations we all have. So, if volunteers who donate or bequeath or have connections seem to get better treatment, why don’t we, volunteer managers just use that to our advantage?

Here’s what I propose:

Let’s equip every volunteer with a name badge that teases their potential value beyond the amazing volunteer work they are doing.  For example:

badge3

“Oh Mary,” a fund-raising specialist would say after reading the name tag, “I heard you just had a birthday. If you don’t mind me asking, I mean, you look so wonderful, how old are you again? Eighty-seven? Perfect.”

or maybe this one…

badge4

“Oh, Jamal,” the social media expert would say as he stopped Jamal in the hallway,” tell me about your family. That’s nice that you have an older brother…. what does he do? Really? In Hollywood? I mean, your last name is, and well, you couldn’t be related to…oh, what, really you’re HIS brother? Bam! I knew it! I mean, how nice…”

or even this one…

badge5

“Kameko,” the harried chief financial officer would coo after going over the financial report, “what adorable shoes you have on. From Italy, oh? You bought them the last time you went there? You travel extensively, I see… and your lovely engagement ring, it is so, so enormous…”

or maybe a general one might just do:

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I remember the day my organization got a sizable donation from the best friend of the recipient of our help. It turned out that the best friend was a well-known celebrity. Everyone was surprised at the gift and then a bit relieved that we all had done a good job. I mean any one of us, volunteers included, could have blown receiving that donation.

There was the usual, “you never know, the person you are serving just might turn out to be someone famous,” talk as if the result of good work is not the work itself, but what it can produce.

Organizations might get more excited when volunteers have a little extra something to give. Do they donate? Do they have influential contacts?  Will they leave money when they die?

We, volunteer managers need to remind everyone that volunteers are there to further the mission, whether or not that volunteer has money or influence.

But the takeaway is this: Volunteers who experience meaningful volunteer engagement and feel integrated into the organization always give more than their volunteer hours. Always.

That means treating all volunteers as if they have money or influence lest they go elsewhere. And organizations might not want to take that chance.

-Meridian

 

This is an update from a 2016 post: Eureka, I’ve discovered the value of a Volunteer!

 

Volunteers: The Ultimate in Recycling

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You know, typically, when we think of recycling, we picture a bulldozer scooping mountains of trash to process for reuse and hmm, this is a really demeaning way to picture volunteers. But the word recycling also has nuanced meanings that have nothing to do with trash and maybe everything to do with the incredible potential volunteerism brings. For instance, some of those nuanced words are:

reclaim: Think of working or retired teachers, nurses, executives, web designers and every skilled human being out there including social workers, advocates, and parents. Think of the wealth of experience and practiced skills they bring. Reclaiming those skills and putting them to work helping organizations achieve goals is reclaiming at its best.

restore: Giving volunteers the opportunity to restore and hone their skills after any change in status is one of the things we do best.  Think of the student who is unsure about her potential. Think about the worker who lost his job and confidence. It’s one of those life win-wins that we live for.

re-purpose: Volunteer skills take many forms and often, volunteers find new uses for their skills by volunteering. Think of the accountant who privately loves to draw and how they added hand-drawn figures to the volunteer stats report that illustrate impact.  Re-purposing talents infuses fresh ideas into our organizations and helps volunteers see their skills in a new light.

re-imagine: Finding that hidden volunteer talent is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment for any volunteer manager. By delving into a volunteer’s skills and interests, we can often pair them with a role that brings out that buried talent. Think of the stay at home mom who has mad organizational skills or the retired law enforcement officer who has this incredible ability to get at the heart of things when talking with people.

There are so many ways in which volunteers contribute their knowledge, skills, talents and ideas. But what about our organizations? How do they reap the rewards from this ultimate in recycling?

Let’s flip those recycle meanings and apply them to our organizations and see how they benefit.

reclaim: As organizations grow and adapt to the changing landscape, they can easily lose the original passion for the mission. Competition for donors, risk management, reporting and HR functions all contribute to the more business-like atmosphere. Tapping into volunteer enthusiasm is an organic way to reclaim and keep the passion alive. Volunteers can speak at staff meetings and bring their inspiring message to overburdened employees. We can pass along the praise volunteers share with us about hard-working staff members and infuse some new energy into their work.

restore: Everywhere organizations are doing more with less. Overburdened staff need help. By offloading projects onto volunteer task forces, organizations can restore staff workloads to a more manageable state. Holding on to every task and function when there are capable volunteers willing to step up keeps organizations mired in minutia and stuck in the last century. We can pilot volunteer programs that take tasks away from staff. We can lead up and out by offering expert volunteer help on projects.

re-purpose: How many organizational functions are outmoded? Skilled volunteers with fresh ideas can transform stale programs into current and relevant campaigns designed to move organizations forward. We can showcase volunteer accomplishments and if need be, add a dollar value to the volunteer’s expertise, as in “if you paid a consultant in this area of expertise, you would be paying $175 an hour. Our volunteer is willing to weigh in with proven methods and years of experience for free.”

re-imagine: Volunteers bring fresh perspectives, world experience and have the latest in trends and programs at their disposal. Our organizations can be kept abreast of changing trends by inviting volunteers to serve on task forces, the board and campaigns. By listening to the diverse voices within the volunteer base, an organization can re-imagine policies, direction and focus so that they are positioned for the future. Instead of looking in all directions to find expert voices on marketing or finance, organizations can look within to find expert volunteer voices, ones who already know and believe in the mission.

The perception of volunteering has to change globally. The outdated notion that volunteers are timid souls that just want to fill whatever mundane role we offer them is gone. Let’s bury it.

We, volunteer managers are managing the ultimate force in reclaiming, restoring, re-purposing and re-imagining. We have talent, knowledge, skills and passion at our fingertips. We have mission success in our reach.

We, leaders of the volunteer movement must recreate the perception of volunteerism, from one of volunteers as tools to one of volunteers as the ultimate way for organizations to refresh, to reinvigorate, and to rejuvenate our goals. Ignoring the wealth of recycling volunteer gold organizations have in hand is short-sighted and backward.

And, in order to cultivate all that potential, organizations must re-invest in volunteer management leadership.

Let’s get to work and re-frame the image.

-Meridian

 

 

Is Making Volunteers Likable Our Objective?

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I remember my first days as a volunteer coordinator. There was this one volunteer, Addie. She was a tiny, fit ball of northeastern, direct confrontation, piercing eyed judgmental “I’ve been here since the forefront” terror. Staff couldn’t stand her. But she roamed the halls wielding her trusty sword “Gotcha,” slicing apart our ineptness. She was your crusty grandmother, your 87-year-old history teacher and your noisy neighbor all rolled into one, and oh, with a grip of steel. I know because she would grab my arm to make a point. Yep, I still have phantom bruises there.

I danced lightly around her. Although staff didn’t like her, she was, I thought, untouchable. They didn’t ask that I do anything about her, so I figured their eye-rolling was the way we dealt with disliked volunteers. After all, she’d earned her right to be a disruption, to be tolerated, to interpret our policies as anything that suited her purpose. She was, (da da daaaaahhhh) emeritus!

So, what crippling reasons cause us to hide under our desks instead of addressing volunteer behaviors?

  • Lack of specific policy indicators? (for example, policy states theft or inappropriate language is an offense. Policy doesn’t include arrogance or chatty-ness as an official offense)
  • Fear that delivering feedback to a volunteer will be misinterpreted as criticism and the volunteer will quit?
  • Our general fear of confrontation?
  • Volunteer status, such as emeritus? Or staff seems to “put up” with volunteers?
  • Our belief that volunteers are giving of their time, so we should be more accepting of their behavior?
  • The perception that a volunteer is older, wiser, more accomplished, more educated or skilled than we are?
  • Our belief that our jobs are no more than coordination?

The above reasons hold power over us, power that cripples us and prevents us from truly leading volunteers. How can we then make adjustments so we don’t simply going to continue to sidestep situations that can be remedied?

The first step is to prioritize the why. Why is this volunteer here? We know there are multiple underlying and nuanced reasons, all of which we take into consideration when matching volunteers to assignments.

But what is the primary, down to basics reason a volunteer shows up? To complete a task, or fill a role that furthers the mission they believe in. How is this being accomplished?

Taking the focus off of staff’s and volunteer’s personalities allows us to examine the work being done and by doing so we can analyze how behaviors are affecting work quality.

Communicating mission focus to everyone, staff and volunteers alike, lays the groundwork for intervention. How do we do that?

In volunteer orientation or onboarding, emphasize the expectation of excellence. While creating a welcoming atmosphere, stress the importance of volunteers being able to fit within a busy organization. Illustrate the enormous workloads put upon staff. Make clear that while staff appreciates volunteers, the work is most important. Ask your most productive volunteers to speak to and hopefully mentor new volunteers.

Create policy that gives you an opportunity to mediate. Although we obviously can’t write policy for every little behavior, especially if behavior is opinion based. (one staff member believes a volunteer chats too much) We can, however include six month probationary periods, infractions for inappropriate behavior and the specific understanding that it is in the power of the volunteer manager to determine fit. Fit means that a volunteer’s performance will be evaluated on fit within a specific department and the volunteer can be moved to another position. (This is a two-way street; it also protects the volunteer from being stuck with very demanding or uncooperative staff)

Communicate your commitment to supporting staff. Before placing a volunteer, speak with staff about your readiness to intervene if a volunteer is behaving in ways that hinder production. Get the idea out in the open that your focus is on helping staff be more productive and you are leading volunteers, not simply placing them.

Ditch the idea that volunteers will stay because we are nice to them. Instead, remind yourself that volunteers will stay because they are doing work that is meaningful and in order to engage in meaningful work, behavior must align with mission centric goals.

Bravely follow-up and be willing to intervene. Feedback is not always criticisms that will drive a volunteer away. Mediation means taking into consideration the needs of both sides and finding solutions that best benefit the organization. Being on top of situations ensures that volunteers are valued, not tolerated. Ask both sides questions that direct them towards accomplishments, such as “what path do you envision us adapting to increase our survey input results,” or “what small thing right now will help us improve our client satisfaction?”

Be willing to be a leader who can do the hard stuff. Just because a volunteer is emeritus, or wiser, or more accomplished does not mean that you are their subordinate. Your volunteer program is a reflection on you. In your organization, are volunteers valued or are they simply considered a necessary nuisance? Are volunteers given juicy tasks or are they relegated to boring minutia? With courageous leadership comes respect for the program.

Educate staff on working with volunteers. Humanize the volunteers. Stress their character and commitment to the mission. Emphasize their desire to help staff, not hinder them. Highlight volunteer accomplishments with a caveat to staff who embraced them. The more we make staff feel as though they “have to accept volunteers,” the less they will actually accept them. Instead, as leaders, we need staff buy-in and it takes some staff ego massaging to get that buy-in.

Listen to other volunteers. If volunteers are complaining about a volunteer’s behavior, or worse, quitting because of behavior, there’s a clear problem. How many good volunteers are we willing to lose because we would rather not engage in mediating destructive behavior?

And most importantly, act quickly. Intercepting a problem before it becomes messy and unmanageable will keep those sleepless nights at bay. Regularly surveying staff and volunteers can unearth budding challenges. Following up on those challenges early gives a higher rate of successful mediation versus allowing patterns of behavior to cement. And, by showing your commitment to creating an excellent program, your leadership value will exponentially rise.

By focusing on mission goals, we can more clearly see the big picture. Mediating and creating volunteer fit has the following tremendous potentials for a huge return on that investment.

  • More satisfied and engaged volunteers
  • Staff who will champion volunteer engagement
  • Openings to more volunteer roles
  • More recognition for volunteers
  • Respect for the volunteer manager voice
  • More leverage for negotiating new programs, ways to integrate volunteers or eliminating outdated volunteer roles

While confronting behavioral disputes is down right hard and uncomfortable, we will reap enormous results by bravely tackling this challenge. Each successful attempt at mediation will move the needle closer to a professional and more respected volunteer program.

Leading is doing the challenging stuff well. It gets easier once you burst that tension bubble and see how satisfying it is to get results.

After all, we’re not volunteer coordinators who shrug because staff doesn’t seem to like volunteer Addie. We are leaders of vibrant, contributing volunteer programs.

-Meridian

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Staff Doesn’t Like a Volunteer Part 2: A Success Story

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What happens when staff doesn’t like a volunteer? Does the volunteer quietly quit because they never get called or do staff begrudgingly put up with a volunteer they dislike and work suffers? What can we, the volunteer program leader do in these situations?

A leader of volunteers, who is a good friend and colleague recently shared this experience with me:

I remember one of our volunteers, Steven. Staff would run the other way when Steven came in because Steven always had an idea or a plan to improve our organization and the way we operated. It would frustrate already overworked staff to listen to all these critical ideas.

But what they didn’t know about Steven was he would take the assignments other volunteers wouldn’t take. He actually volunteered for a lot of shifts, ones that needed filling. He was both annoying and indispensable at the same time.

It was exhausting, knowing how dependable Steven was and yet being frustrated at his frequent sharing of plans to improve our organization. But then one day, a solution came in a most unexpected way.

A staff member, Allie who was in charge of a large project involving the creation of a detailed cataloging system needed volunteer help. The assignment meant working in a basement on a very cranky machine. Most volunteers wouldn’t want to tackle such a cumbersome project in a dingy basement so I thought of Steven. I asked my boss if I could approach him with the proposal and fortunately, she agreed.

The staff member in charge of the project was willing to give Steven a try so I approached him, saying, “look, Steven, saying no is ok. I’m asking you to work on a temperamental machine in a basement here, but it is crucial work that needs to be done.”

To my surprise, Steven replied, “I would love to do that.” And the interesting thing that happened, was Steven got to see behind the scenes at our organization and by working directly with staff, began to realize how little time they had for all these ideas and projects he had been pushing on them.

I knew that pairing Steven with this assignment was a success when all on his own, he recruited another one of our volunteers to help with the project. I even overheard him one day pipe up when hearing a group of volunteers grouse about how slow it was taking to get an answer to a question and say, “you don’t realize how busy the staff is here.”

With Steven I knew that I could either sit back and just let him drive me crazy or I could understand how much he cared about the mission. I realized his complaints and ideas came from his desire to support our mission, not from some need to complain.

I remembered something I heard from a very wise peer that stuck with me: “That one unhappy worker might be the lone voice in the wilderness telling us something we need to hear. We need to ask: Why are they miserable? Maybe, they have a point.”

When dealing with complaining volunteers, we have to examine whether or not it is the message or the way it is presented that irks us. And staff must realize that a volunteer’s role is not to make staff happy.

Just as every staff member needs direction from their supervisors, volunteers need direction from the person supervising them. We can’t expect volunteers to read our minds, so as leaders of volunteer programs, we need to train staff and show them that volunteering is a two-way street. That’s where the successes lie.

So, from this experience, we know we can salvage a staff/volunteer relationship that has soured. Let’s look at the volunteer manager toolbox and pick out some tools that work in these types of situations:

Mediation: One of the most important tools a volunteer manager possesses. Stepping back and thinking about three basic things helps us to mediate.

  1. What is the best outcome for our mission?
  2. How will volunteer A satisfactorily arrive at the outcome?
  3. How will staff member B satisfactorily arrive at the outcome?

By focusing on outcome, (a capable volunteer and a reasonable staff member will find a way to work together to further mission goals) we can then create a mediation plan.

Look for the interests of each party. For a volunteer, it may be they believe they have good ideas and need to be heard. For a staff member, it may simply be they need quiet time to get their work done. How then, can these two interests be addressed to the satisfaction of each party?

Picture a continuum: On one end the staff member would give the volunteer complete attention at all times. On the other end the volunteer would work in silence at all times. Begin to move the ends toward the middle-what would that look like? Maybe staff could spend 5 minutes with the volunteer when they arrive and update the volunteer while listening to any new thoughts. Maybe the volunteer could be instructed to bring all new ideas to the volunteer manager who would present the ideas in official ways.

The point is to craft the movement of the two sides towards one another, keeping the mission as the goal.

Story crafting: A skill that serves volunteer managers well. In the above Steven story, our volunteer manager deftly created a story. By thinking of volunteers and staff members as stars of a story, we can more clearly ‘write’ the ending in our heads. We can envision ‘reading’ that volunteer Steven was paired with staff member Allie which resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship. It helps us to step back from the situation and look at it logically with a positive outcome or ending in mind.

Another use of story crafting is to present each side in mediation with the story of the other side’s point of view. Telling Steven how much work needed to be done was a story meant to educate him on the enormous work load on staff. Telling Allie how volunteer Steven would take assignments no one else would take was a story meant to inform Allie that Steven was committed to getting the job done.

Positive identification: The tool volunteer managers use daily. Let’s look at Steven’s success story. How did staff view Steven? They saw him as a hypercritical, over-simplifying volunteer who continually offered up unwanted ‘solutions’ to problems that either did not exist or were being addressed in other ways. What did they not see? They did not see Steven’s passion for the mission, his willingness to help in any manner, nor his desire to more fully understand organizational workings.

Tapping into volunteer’s motivations will yield clues to their behavior. Maybe the needy volunteer just went through something tragic and is hurting. Maybe the talkative volunteer is isolated. As volunteer managers, we can humanize our volunteers so that staff sees them as more than just temporary help. We can highlight the volunteer’s character by sharing the positives we witness. Sometimes our humanization needs to use the word ‘but.’ For example:

Volunteer Millie lost her husband of 45 years a few months ago and is a little raw but she is so grateful for her husband’s care that she is committed to learning our system so she can further our work. She wants to be a help to us, not a burden.

Volunteer Asher lost his job due to cutbacks but he is passionate about helping end hunger and actually considers this an opportunity to make a difference in the world. He says he feels privileged to learn from our staff.

Matching: The volunteer manager tool that is always sharp. By pairing Steven with staff insiders, he was able to see first hand how overburdened staff were. He was able to integrate into the bigger picture and thus became a champion for not only the mission, but for the very staff that had rebuffed him before. And by choosing a staff member who was willing to work with Steven and most likely had a personality that would benefit Steven, our volunteer manager made a successful match.

Now here is the really interesting part in all of this. Experts say that behavior is the outward expression of attitudes, but that if behaviors are modified, attitudes can change. Look at the Steven example. His attitude changed. And as his behavior changes, staff’s attitude towards him and possibly other volunteers will slowly change as well. So, if we can mediate behavior changes in staff and volunteers, we may just end up with attitude changes.

Next time: Part 3. Laying the groundwork for volunteer engagement that takes into consideration personalities, character, attitudes and behavior.

-Meridian

When Staff Doesn’t ‘Like’ a Volunteer

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Mimi talks. A lot. About herself, about her trips, and about her grandchildren. She talks about the cashier at the grocery store who had surgery last month and now is having some pain in her side. It’s all harmless chatter, but staff roll their eyes and avoid Mimi when she volunteers. They don’t want to be around her. They don’t really like her.

But Mimi does her work well. She inputs survey results accurately and efficiently. She’s dependable. She’s smart, and because she’s smart, she sees staff embracing other volunteers, and she wonders why staff seems to avoid her. After all, it’s about doing good work, isn’t it?

All volunteer managers face the challenge of a capable volunteer who is not liked by staff. Staff scatters when this volunteer arrives. Staff tries not to interact with this volunteer but warmly welcomes other volunteers they like.

Often the situation is no more than staff reluctantly putting up with the disliked volunteer. Staff may knowingly smile and say, “well, that’s just the nature of working with volunteers,” or may grumble to you in private. Or they may request that you not call  “volunteer Harvey, the one who complains a lot.” And sometimes, staff can push back and isolate the volunteer, lobby to get rid of the volunteer or find faults where none exist.

It begs these questions: What effect does a volunteer’s behavior and attitude have on their role? Is it different from employees’ roles? And, how far does this behavior scope reach?

We’ve all had to work with a fellow employee we dislike. But because that employee was on the payroll, we were forced to figure out how to work with him/her. We couldn’t just say, “hey, I don’t like Chenelle, so I’m not dealing with her.” Nope, Chenelle was going to be there, day in and day out so we were left to find a way to work with one another. Figuring out a way to work alongside fellow employees is expected behavior.

It’s different with volunteers. Volunteers are free to come and go and they’re not volunteering 40 hours a week. (if they are, that’s a whole separate bucket of trouble) They can quit, or take a leave of absence at any time. We, volunteer managers make this fact clear so we can advocate for good volunteer treatment as a retention strategy.

So, then it isn’t a stretch to take this idea (volunteers are transient and unfettered) a step further. If we expect staff to understand that volunteers will come and go as they please, why shouldn’t staff feel as though they can pick and choose whom they wish to work with because, “hey, you said volunteers come and go as they please?”

The plea that staff must accept volunteers, work with them and make their experience pleasant makes little sense to them when paired with the idea that volunteers are temporary or fleeting or unfettered by paid positions. The reality is, a staff member is stuck having to get along with a fellow annoying staff member. They’re not so stuck getting along with an annoying volunteer.

What does your organizational policy say about working with volunteers? Does it mirror policy on working with fellow staff? Most likely it does not. Maybe it says something broad like staff will respect volunteer help. It probably doesn’t make clear that staff will be held responsible for retaining volunteers. And so, disliked volunteers can and will be treated as a temporary nuisance because figuring out a way to work alonside volunteers is not expected behavior. Expected behavior is on the volunteer manager, who is expected to provide volunteers that don’t require any extra work from staff. 

Where does that leave us then? Back to recruiting volunteers over and over because personalities are intertwined with volunteer success and we must find “non-annoying” volunteers?

We can rant all we want about the unfairness of treating volunteers differently from staff, but we have to remember that we highlight volunteer uniqueness by reminding staff that volunteers are with us by choice. It’s a conundrum, one worth exploring later, but we need to deal with individual scenarios now. So what to do?

This is an area in which volunteer managers will utilize every mediation skill they possess. It can be as draining and nuanced as trying to make the haughty family cat “like” your grabby 4 year old niece.

The first step is to identify the behaviors making staff cringe. What is it about the volunteer that annoys the staff? For many, if not most cases, you, the volunteer manager will already know, because the offending behavior probably annoys you too. Some common offenses are:

  • talking too much
  • sharing or foisting political, religious or other world views on everyone
  • arrogance or criticisms in a patronizing way
  • inappropriate remarks
  • joking constantly
  • pushing to socialize outside the workplace or sharing personal problems
  • arriving late

Maybe you cringe too, when this volunteer arrives. Maybe you find yourself checking your watch when this volunteer is talking to you. Maybe you find it difficult to “sell” or defend this volunteer to staff.

But what if this volunteer does a really good job? What if they have mad skills or knowledge and potential? How do we mediate behavior so staff will respectfully work with this volunteer?

Our first step is to pinpoint the annoying behavior with concrete examples. We can and should include behavioral identification questions when gathering feedback from staff. In addition to questions crafted around the volunteer’s work, we also need to ferret out any potential problems due to behavior. Some behavior questions can include:

  • When volunteer Amy is working in your department, do you see any behaviors that inhibit her ability to get the job done? (she’s often late to the job)
  • When volunteer Juwan is here, does he exhibit any behaviors that impede your ability to get your job done? (He asks too many questions and I can’t concentrate on my work)
  • Does volunteer Stuart fit in with our culture? What behaviors does he exhibit that support your opinion? (He often talks about his religious beliefs) or.. (He always asks how he can help)

Behaviors are concrete actions and therefore much easier to identify, pinpoint and address than attitudes.

A volunteer’s attitude is inferred by his/her behavior. A volunteer who talks too much or jokes or complains may appear to think that staff time is not valuable or the work is not important. A volunteer who makes patronizing comments can be seen as someone who is arrogant and condescending. A volunteer who shares personal issues will appear to be “needy” and self-involved.

These perceived attitudes make the volunteer unlikable.  And that’s where we come in with all of our nuanced mediation skills.

How do you deal with a disliked volunteer?

Next time: Part 2, a success story and the volunteer manager toolbox.

-Meridian