charities, NGO, non-profit, organizations, volunteer, volunteer coordinator, volunteer management, volunteering, volunteers
“I’ve been managing volunteers for oh, say about ten years now,” Evan said. “Just recently, my organization sent me to a national conference on volunteering. “I was thrilled, you know, so happy that they invested that money in me and in the volunteer program. I signed up for every session I could and some of the presentations were about ideas that I already implemented, but there was this one presentation that just blew me away. It was from this young presenter who showed some pretty innovative ways to advertise on social media. When I returned, I have to admit, I was pretty embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of these social media ideas on my own. Is that normal, or am I being overly sensitive?”
Evan, this is perfectly normal, trust me. If you’ve ever had a fellow staff member attend a conference and come back with an idea that they felt you should already have implemented, then you know what Evan is talking about. Volunteer managers, who daily strive for a superior volunteer program can naturally feel inadequate when shown an innovative and successful program implemented by another volunteer manager. “Why hadn’t I thought of that,” rings in our heads. “I must be slipping,” says that interior voice that constantly critiques.
“Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers” …Voltaire, (1694-1778)
Let’s break that down. Presentations at conferences are about innovation and success and the presenter is giving us the best of their programs. And that’s exactly what we want from them. But like that old adage that tells us to imagine an audience in their underwear in order to calm our speaker-nerves, we can realistically imagine that a presenter with a successful program may not have some of our innovative programs. Therefore, they are not better than us. They just have something different from us.
We have to remove our sensitive emotions when researching volunteer engagement and instead, approach it with a logical open mind. Taking pride in the fact that you are continually searching for better ideas makes you smart and innovative yourself, not “behind” or “backward.”
Successful volunteer management involves researching and attending conferences and seminars. Make researching part of your job description and lobby for the money to attend conferences and webinars and peer group meetings.
None of us has all the answers. Our volunteer manager community, committed to sharing best practices, lifts all of us, our programs, our profession, our volunteers and ultimately that sharing benefits our clients.
Instead of feeling inadequate for not having all the answers, feel empowered because you are continually searching and implementing innovations to improve your volunteer program.
I know just what you are talking about! As a volunteer coordinator, I am constantly looking for fresh ideas to bring to our program. Thank you for sharing and I’m looking forward to a conference in March.
Hi and thank you for sharing! Hope your conference is enlightening and reaffirming. Just meeting and networking with other volunteer managers supports and encourages us and gives us fresh ideas to implement. So glad you’re going!
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Reblogged this on Volunteering Counts in Dudley borough.
Sue Hine said:
Hey Meridian – sound advice there, thank you. But what about this scenario: a paid staff professional returns from a conference and says “Here’s a really good idea for our volunteer programme”. Doh, we’ve been doing that for years and you’ve never noticed. True story!
Thanks Sue, it has happened to me too, and then that senior manager became angry because I didn’t get all excited over her discovery and maybe also because she didn’t know that we already had implemented that idea.
Frustrating for sure and it shows us the importance of showcasing all the activities volunteers are involved in-then staff can go to conferences and announce in their peer group meetings that “our volunteer department is innovative and on the cutting edge.” Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
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Sally Reith said:
Great post, thanks for sharing. We have been discussing the value of conferences recently so very timely! I wonder if part of it is also about us being the experts in and for our own organisations. Best practice is great but what if it’s not the best practice for our situation or context.
We can all learn from conferences but it’s what you do with that learning that matters. It’s often the research required to digest and apply, adapt, or as may be the case sometimes, discard or shelve our learning, that can be the most challenging thing to find time and space for.
Hi Sally and thank you for that excellent comment. You have a brilliant point that even a fabulous best practice may not work in every situation-and please correct me if I’m misinterpreting what you have said….
Also the volunteer manager for any given organization is THE expert for that org and situation, so I think, for all the presenters out there-let’s all make sure that we include the idea that whatever program we offer may not work for everyone. (or at least acknowledge that VMs will have to tweak it to make it work).
Again, thank you Sally, you really took this post and made it better. .