We invest in people. But we don’t often measure our investment’s growth. We’re too overwhelmed with daily work to stop and take stock of our positive influence on volunteers and our missions.
Some of the cards I received included timely messages about the organization’s work. I find that more engaging than a simple signature. But a message to me as an active volunteer when I’m not, is tone-deaf.
I’ve had volunteers who stole, volunteers who pushed an agenda, volunteers who wanted to take over and volunteers who were just mean. I’ve also had volunteers who messed up royally because they did something nice, but so misplaced that it caused real harm.
To reframe volunteer engagement and impact, we first need listeners who become supporters who then become advocates for our vision. Our reputation needs to reflect our self-identity as leaders of volunteers.
Being zombified means through stressors, you’ve lost your vitality, your human essence. You’ve lost you.
Think about a potential volunteer’s questions when navigating your site. “Who is the first person I will meet? Who will train me, direct me, encourage me, coach me, teach me what I need to know to succeed? Who will be there for me when I have an issue?”
Are we, volunteer managers lone nuts? Is no one listening? Do we whine, cajole, beg, furiously educate, preach, go back and squeeze our stress ball, then start again?
When you hear a volunteer laughingly repeat, “I know, we’re all valuable in making this change work,” you’re on the right track.
It takes emotional time and energy to be an empathetic listener. Are we being emotionally drained or are we benefiting from empathetic listening?
Unlike HR folks, who contend with active staff, volunteer managers are tethered to every volunteer, whether they are actively volunteering or they’re rotating in the periphery.