Everywhere #LoVols are saying, “Volunteerism is evolving and we must adapt to meet today’s volunteer needs.” We’re all saying it. But individually. We hear each other. But our organizations mostly hear us, and a lone voice is rarely heeded.

I love Derek Sivers’ “How to Start a Movement” Ted Talk. It’s so good: (and only 3 minutes long)

Are we, volunteer managers lone nuts? Do we whine, cajole, beg, furiously educate, preach, go back and squeeze our stress ball, then start again? I know I did, all the time. (I didn’t squeeze a stress ball though, I preferred sneaking in and turning off the light in the bathroom closest to the senior management offices-yeah, passive-aggressive, I know)

We need to fix this lone nut conundrum and find the followers who can help create a movement. Let’s move our message outside the volunteer management bubble and get people who are not in our profession to follow our lead. It will not be easy, but we need the first brave followers to help lead change. (if you didn’t watch the video, the first follower is also a leader who has an important role-inviting others to join in)

Where are these first followers? In your organization, who has benefited from volunteer involvement? Who on staff do the volunteers praise? I had one department in my organization that worked wonderfully with their volunteers. I wish I had tapped into that department’s potential to be the first follower but sadly, I didn’t know the importance of the first follower at the time.

How do we create a movement within our organizations? Well, can you enlist staff who “get volunteer value” or an entire department who work wonderfully with volunteers to be your first follower? How?

  • equip the FF (first follower) with the phrases that advocate for volunteer engagement. Ask the FF to repeat key words when speaking. (for example, “our volunteers give my staff more time to complete their critical tasks.”)
  • ask a department who works well with volunteers to co-present a volunteer presentation at a staff meeting. (assure them that you will do the majority of work so they’re not bogged down) Ask the department to share success stories and invite others to join. Remember, the FF has a leadership role-inviting others to join.
  • invite your local volunteer manager peer group to speak to your organization. Ask them to share the trends they are seeing and how their organizations are striving to be “cutting edge” by adopting their volunteer manager’s recommendations. Remember, in a movement, no one wants to be left out.
  • share articles on volunteering trends with senior management. Give them the research to back up your advocacy. That makes you the FF, and not the lone nut.
  • find the “what’s in it for me” verbiage to entice followers. A movement is not something we throw at people, it’s something they choose to participate in.
  • join every volunteer management group you can, whether locally, nationally or globally. There’s many groups on social media. Together, we can’t all be lone nuts.

We know our volunteer programs have so much to offer. We know we’re advocating for a better way for our volunteers, our organizations, the people we serve and our communities.

We’re not lone nuts. We’re a movement.