Advancing Volunteer Management

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andy3What does it mean to be an Advanced Volunteer Leader?  That’s the question that Andy Fryar explored in depth at the VAN NW workshop on Nov. 18th at the Brockney Center at South Seattle College.  Here is some of what we learned.

There are three things that stop us from developing in the profession:

  1. The cycle of busy work
  2. Lack of confidence
  3. Complacency

What are the qualities of an Advanced Leader?

  1. Previous experience in volunteer management.
  2. Longevity – a commitment to being engaged in volunteer management
  3. Program size – bigger is not always better (work in different size programs in different sectors)
  4. A variety of experience – we learn different things from different types of jobs.
  5. Not motivated by money. It’s about making a difference.
  6. Driven to pursue professional development and educational opportunities. (sets aside time to read, do webinars and attend workshops/conferences/professional gatherings)
  7. Networking is not optional. It doesn’t happen by mistake, it needs to be cultivated through blogs, Linked-in, newsgroups, Facebook, and visiting other organizations in person.
  8. They have a mentor – someone to talk to.
  9. Use technology and social media – it’s a second language to advanced leaders to help them work smarter not harder.
  10. Understands the evolution of volunteer management and staying on top of trends and changes.
  11. Have a desire to (and understand the importance of) remaining on the cutting edge. Sees how current societal and political trends impact volunteerism.
  12. Advocacy and Activism – advocate on behalf of volunteers and the program. They challenge assumptions.
  13. Can argue their point passionately and articulately. They understand the ROI (Return on Investment) of a volunteer program.
  14. Understand the importance of contributing back to the sector and to grow others. (writing articles, present at workshops, mentor, join boards and committees.)
  15. Self belief. They know why they believe what they believe.
  16. Not afraid to fail because failure is a key part of success.
  17. Understand their strengths and weaknesses and share the load accordingly.
  18. Don’t seek short-term solutions to problems.

Volunteering is evolutionary and ever changing. The biggest issue facing our sector is using all old practices and not evolving and changing.  But we need to evolve or become extinct. There is a steady decline in volunteerism.  To change is difficult but to not change is fatal.

Issue 1: An inability to fully understand the impact we can and do have.  Well led volunteers are productive volunteers. Great volunteering doesn’t happen by mistake. Volunteer leadership is about changing lives and the world in which we live. It’s about making a difference. Volunteers are part of the solution to the issues our world faces.

Issue 2: An inability to understand the difference between what we are doing and what we should be doing. The cycle of busy work is keeping us unproductive.  Our roles are complex and difficult.  We need to stop being processors of people and really get to know people and what they can bring. Technology provides some solutions.  Allow volunteers to assist you. Create a volunteer admin team to take care of the paper so we can spend time building relationships, strategic planning, advocacy, funding, new projects, etc. so we can be proactive.  Also stop being gatekeepers and not doing something because a noisy 10% don’t like it. Do what is best for the 90%.  We need to become a profession of persuasion.

What do you need to do to become a real Volunteer Management Leader?

Take the quiz and see where you are now and what you might want to work on.  Let’s all keep growing together!  advanced-volunteer-management-self-assessment

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Lisa Yeager has more than 15 years experience in Volunteer Management. She has lead volunteers at the Bellevue Art Museum, WACAP, Hopelink, Encompass, Autism Speaks (Walk Now for Autism), and the Sno-valley Senior Center. She has won the DuFort Award for Volunteer Management, and Program Manager of the Year in 2000. She is currently Treasurer and conference chair for VAN.