We, volunteer managers have this rare overview of mission operations because our volunteers are involved in many/all departments and services. We know things other staff don’t know. We know Darcy secretly eats pudding at her desk which is why she always needs to swap out her keyboard. We know Lucas watches ninja videos on YouTube while claiming to do research. We know it was Kelly who jealously sabotaged Degan’s report because Degan got to go to that conference in New York.
But, we also see how siloed everyone is and how much work is disjointed: For example – marketing sends a rep to schmooze a group of potential donors at a civics meeting. A month later, the CEO asks the education coordinator to “teach” a class at this same group. Meanwhile, you have this detail-loving volunteer and you realize they could help marketing and education efficiently merge their efforts.
The same holds true for endless organizational meetings about a new project that is left simmering because staff is too overworked to get it going. Meanwhile, you know some amazing volunteers who could run with this idea and implement it.
All throughout your organization, you see where volunteers can add tremendous value. You know what that makes you? (No, not a busy-body). A Visionary. Yep, it does, so let’s own it.
We have a unique opportunity to offer volunteer value, although speaking up with authority can be downright terrifying. But remember, what is obvious to you is most likely not obvious to everyone else.
We see where volunteer involvement can tie things together and how collaboration increases effective efficiency (or efficient effectiveness). We can show volunteer value in ways administration hasn’t thought of, but how should we offer?
The ineffective way of pointing out volunteer help: (Negative Observation = Need Help)
- Our volunteer heard a presentation given by Marcus at one of her club meetings and she said Marcus mumbled through the whole thing and nobody at her club could hear him so why don’t we use volunteers instead? We’ve got some real chatty volunteers!
- Our volunteer overheard Gwen in marketing say she is delaying sending Skip the new marketing plan because she’s mad he won the employee of the month award but we have volunteers who are not petty like that so let’s put them in charge of the plan.
- A volunteer said Jazmine in finance is afraid she’ll lose her job because she is having trouble learning the software, so hey, let’s give her some student volunteers because they all have computer skills.
We don’t need to share negative tidbits. The visionary approach is to offer the impact of volunteer involvement and remove the objections to it. This is where the secret sauce comes in: It enhances your proposal with volunteer qualifications and the delicious work you have done to develop wonderful people into effective volunteers.
Think of it this way: Would you feel confident if a staff member said to you, “I see you look stressed and I have someone to help you manage volunteers. They’re really nice.” No, you wouldn’t feel confident, you’d feel anxious. Why? Because negativity breeds anxiety and besides, nice isn’t a qualification. Neither is smart or honest or fun-these are attributes.
Qualifications are the specific skills that are suitable to the job. (think office skills, public speaking). It’s imperative to ask questions to find what qualifications staff value in volunteers (able to work quietly, self-starter).
We must offer volunteer help packaged with the volunteer’s qualifications and the background work we’ve done with each volunteer. Our volunteers are a package deal, not some random nice person off the street. We’ve invested time and knowledge in our volunteers and that investment will help open the silo walls.
The secret sauce way to present developed volunteer help: (Positive observation + volunteer qualifications + secret sauce = win/win)
- Volunteer Terrence, who is thoroughly vetted (secret sauce–vetting), has volunteered for five years in several roles (qualification), including working directly with our clients. He has been instrumental in bringing in 3 new donation streams (qualification) and through numerous training sessions (secret sauce–training), is versed in mission verbiage. Under my and marketing director Gwen’s watchful eyes (secret sauce-looping), Terrence can double the number of presentations given and he is ready to pilot a volunteer presentation program.
- Volunteer Mizrah has been thoroughly vetted (secret sauce-vetting) and briefed (secret sauce-training) on the role in finance. He understands the importance of team and boundaries (a qualification you learned is important to Jazmine by talking with her) and will take the burden off Jazmine so she can focus on other important tasks. I will monitor their working relationship closely (the secret sauce – your leadership in looping, mediating and adjusting) so Jazmine is confident with the help.
The #LoVols’ secret sauce is the work we do in the back of the organizational kitchen, mixing volunteer ingredients, stirring the pot frequently, tasting and adjusting so wonderful people are developed into effective volunteers: See The VOL E TEAM (vetting, orienting, looping, effectively communicating, training, educating, adjusting and mediating).
We have a vision for our volunteer initiatives. Our volunteers are qualified. We have the secret sauce for their success. Let’s not keep our sauce so secret anymore.