Follow Me on Twitter

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At long last - an event that promises to concentrate on the needs of our Volunteer management profession - Let us see!

The 2017 National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership: Mapping Our Future, Strengthening Our Voice, is scheduled for July 26-28 in St. Paul, Minnesota

Even though this is an American conference, they really hope to attract participants from many countries.

Click into the Summit Web page and you can read about the event’s vision and goals as well as logistical information. While the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) is the official sponsor, the conference is being planned by colleagues from more than a dozen states and they do want to gather a national (even international) audience.

I have long wished for a similar conference here in Australia so I am hoping that we can gain some valuable learning from this conference. With an expected attendance of 500 it will be a wonderful opportunity to bring together some thought leaders from our sector.

The few other major conferences in our field scatter attention to diverse tracks, of which the skills of volunteer engagement are simply one of many choices. But this will be an event that proposes to put the profession of volunteer management front and centre. 

Let’s hope too that it will be a major success thus driving other nations to do the same. Our sector deserves something new and bold. Lets hope this conference delivers.

Footnote: I am going to keep a close watch of this. If I see that its the same topics and workshops run by the same people with the same message that they have been sprouting for 20 years I am going to call it. The problem with the sector in its high turnover can be advantageous for some as so called experts can rehash the same mantra year after year. Not any more. Be brave, be different, be ground-breaking and lets hear some new voices to advance the sector because if you are doing the same workshop on advancing the sector that you were doing ten years ago then I'm calling that. Watch This Space!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Review – It didn’t kill my Volunteerism spirit.

Not too much can I say about the year gone by. I know that in 2017 people will volunteer in their millions once more. I sense more people will become interested in doing more for their community. Proof? Not in yet. Just some observations and some articles I’ve seen. See earlier blogs.
I get a sense of people watching the news on TV feeling helpless. How can I help? What can I do to make a difference? There is an opportunity here for Humanitarian organisations to connect with the armchair viewers of the chaos going on around us. Because everyone can make a difference.
Nobody need feel helpless.
Everybody can do something.
But then there is the community division. A person may volunteer for a great organisation and do important work for some vulnerable people in our community. Yet that same person may be a proponent of banning Muslim immigration. They may be anti-refugee in their sentiment. But they volunteer in their local hospital or local pet shelter. They may be doing great work with the homeless.
How do we look at this narrative?
How many thousands of people who voted Donald Trump volunteer in the American community?
“Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.” This is the definition of volunteering according to Volunteering Australia. Does it apply to those who volunteered for both sides of the campaign in America?
Does it apply to those who volunteer for One Nation in Australia?
Who decides what common good is?
Volunteer activists who break the law? Common good?
Is the law always common good?
Volunteer leaders must be struggling with these issues across the globe but it’s a bit of a taboo topic. Which is a pity. It’s good to air the difficulties we face. And help each other.
We like to keep sex, politics and religion out of our volunteer team discussions! But it’s easier said than done.
For me it’s about aligning to the values of whatever organisation we work with. It’s that simple. But engaging with people around this is the challenging part.
If I work with a humanitarian organisation I expect that I have humanitarian values.
If you are challenged by some views from your teams check your organisations mission and values. Maybe in this day and age you may even need to reassess them.
For me the “Common Good” in the volunteering definition speaks to decent Humanity. Maybe every organisation that engages volunteers need to embrace humanitarianism first.

"Activism can be considered volunteering. This definition is aligned to the current UN position on volunteering that states: ‘When people participate in peaceful activism, for or against animal research or building of a dam, both sides seek what they consider to be beneficial outcomes. They are included in our definition. Activities involving or inciting violence that harm society and actions not corresponding to the values attributed to volunteerism are not included in our definition’

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Is Volunteering increasing post U.S. election and Brexit?

One interesting trend I have noticed emerging is the spike in volunteering and giving since the US Presidential election and BREXIT. I came across one article about this last week but even since then more evidence is appearing.

It will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on.

“The Charities Aid Foundation has published new research into how people feel about their community and society in the aftermath of the EU referendum. It reveals that people are more likely to believe that their community is more rather less divided than it was at the start of the year.

Perhaps as a result, people are becoming more socially active, whether through joining political parties, campaigning on social causes or volunteering to help in their local community. The increase is particularly prominent among younger people.”

“Volunteering makes a positive contribution, and as the holiday season comes upon us, the traditional interest in volunteering is higher than ever, reports volunteer opportunity signup and management site Golden.

Since the presidential election earlier this month, Golden has had double the normal level of usage by volunteers each day. A representative indicated the company sees the huge increase in volunteers seeking the site as a combination of people wanting to focus on something positive after the contentious election and the normal holiday volunteerism. Volunteers in the hundreds or thousands are visiting the site daily from every state in the U.S.”

And this from The Atlantic:

“But perhaps the most notable (and most concrete) action to follow the end of the divisive election season has been a surge in donations to various organizations whose agendas counter those proposed by President-elect Donald Trump. In recent days, groups that champion causes like civil liberties and women’s health as well as focus on immigration rights and anti-discrimination initiatives have seen record responses to the election, in the form of contributions and volunteer applications”

From Rolling Stone:

“Nabeelah Naeem, communications coordinator at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says its national office has not only seen a large spike in monetary donations, but has also fielded more than 500 inquiries about volunteering and skill-sharing in support of the organization.”

New York Cares, one of the largest volunteer groups in the city, announced on Wednesday that the week after the election saw the organization receive its biggest increase in new volunteer registration since Hurricane Sandy and that people were specifically interested in its projects focused on serving people who are still learning English and preparing for their citizenship tests.”


Friday, September 23, 2016

My prediction from 4 years ago just came True!

Tonight while researching something about volunteering on YouTube I came across a video posted By Dave Carroll.

After watching it I was stunned! While I predicted that this might happen some day I didn't predict that the person who inspired my original post would make my prediction come true! I think I must meet Dave!

So, firstly have a look at the original post I wrote in 2012 and then watch the videos!! (Dave's original song below and his latest above!)

United we broke our Volunteer! By DJ Cronin 2012

Volunteer managers have great responsibilities. More so than other managers in many cases. When we engage volunteers we engage the community. This is not the same as engaging paid staff. Yes engaging paid staff incurs great responsibility. Your organisation prospers by keeping motivated staff. Having motivated and engaged staff is key to your organisations success.
Having motivated and engaged volunteers is even more important in my opinion as you are engaging a voice that has more freedom to speak. Volunteers provide a greater community buy in. Volunteers as I was once told many years ago by people who were scrutinizing my organization for accreditation purposes were the “eyes and ears of the organisation”
This is why I have for many years considered volunteers to be consumers and customers. Actually, what I mean to say is that I have tended to treat volunteers that way. I know some of you will jump up and down with that description but that is how I have treated volunteers and that is why I believe I have had great success in the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
Here is why:
·         People can volunteer for a myriad of organisations. Volunteer managers need to sell their organisation
·         People now volunteer for a myriad of reasons. The days of altruistic motivation as the only motivation for volunteering are long gone. Volunteer Managers need to capture this new breed of volunteering and sell why their organisations can accommodate same.
·         Episodic volunteering has been the biggest trend that has impacted my volunteering programs. I know I must sell my organisational flexibility to entice these episodic volunteers. And it works!
Volunteer interviews should now be a two way street. While we still traditionally do the interview that seeks to determine what type of person or character we are engaging and whether or not their skills and attributes suit our organisation we are also needing to be interviewed by them on whether we are worthy of their donated time!
I once met a volunteer manager who “binned” applicants that did not meet his/her interest. And they never even heard from him/her.
Today in the social media age every move you make has the potential to be scrutinized. Think now about the consequences if you don’t reply to the following:
·         An email request about your volunteer program
·         A tweet about your volunteer program
·         A Facebook message about your volunteer program
And have a think about how existing volunteers are communicating about your volunteer program and about your organisation!
Because if you work for a large or small organisation and one of your volunteers has a bad experience and if you don’t manage this effectively then you have the possibility of a social media savvy volunteer sharing their experience on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media outlet!
 Imagine having a volunteer sing a song about their bad experience at your organization and it becoming a hit on YouTube!!!
Perish the thought!
A guy called Dave Carroll had a bad experience with United Airlines. He was a customer. They treated him badly. In fact they broke his guitar!  He wrote a song, put in on YouTube and has had over 12 million views.
I am a great fan of Dave (he has some great songs apart from this hit). He is also one of the most genuine “stars’ I have come across! I have contacted him in the past and he has always personally taken the time to respond.
If we start treating our volunteers as customers we stand a better chance of retaining great people once we understand good customer service! And if we don’t get customer service we are behind the eight ball when it comes to volunteering!

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Once upon a time…
8.25 am You wake up. The clock has not gone off this morning. “Damn” is your very first thought. You jump from bed and hit the shower. The water is too hot and you stub your toe getting out. In your mind, the day’s activities are being played out. You have three meetings, a training session and an induction to do in the afternoon. You can’t find your wallet. You eventually find it where you left it. You take your usual walk to the station. You hurry your walk until you nearly find yourself jogging. You see your train sitting on the platform and you begin the sprint. You push by someone on the steps and lose your footing and come crashing down on the platform. Your bag slides across the ground hurling your paperwork everywhere and the wind picks up right then and carry them with mean intent across the railway lines as your train pulls out. You shout the F word as the lady you pushed out of the way a moment ago walks past you smiling slightly.
You hail a cab and bemoan the 50 bucks this will cost you. The taxi driver irritates you because he seems so happy. You suspect he may be on something. You arrive at work. The receptionist says good morning and ask you how you are. “Don’t ask” is your gruff reply. In the office your mood pervades the atmosphere. You walk in to the meeting ten minutes late. Someone only has to look at you for you to say – “Don’t even go there” and the meeting carries on. But you can’t really hear what is going on. You are now hot and sweaty and the water from the jug seems tepid.
After a tough day you sit on the train on the way home totally annoyed at the guy sitting behind you whose music is too loud even though he wears headphones. You look at the newspaper and there is violence everywhere. Bombings and threats. Anger and hate. You find something in the story to hate as well. You look around and everyone looks angry.
You get home exhausted. You munch down the tasteless pizza you picked up and decide to hit the sack. You fall into bed and begin a deep but troubled sleep. You don’t realise that in your haste you have forgottento set the clock.
8.25 am You are awake. The clock has not gone off this morning. “What a great sleep” is your very first thought. You sit on the edge of your bed, close your eyes again and take some deep breaths. Outside you can hear a bird sing. You look out the window. The blue sky is splattered with bright fluffy wool like clouds and you smile. In the shower you feel the water run down your body and gently awaken your skin. You dress, grab your wallet and take your usual walk to the station. There is a cool breeze and it caresses your face as you walk. The trees make noise as you pass them by, the wind dancing between their branches. On the platform the train sits patiently. As you arrive at the platform stairway the train departs. You know that there is a train every fifteen minutes and you welcome the opportunity to pick up your book. You sit on a bench smiling at the lady next to so and she returns the smile. You open your book and read:
Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
At work the receptionist greets you warmly and you greet your colleagues likewise in your office. You walk into your meeting late, beam at your audience and tell them that you slept in a few minutes and have now the advantage of feeling twenty minutes fresher than them. A good natured and productive meeting ensues.
After a rewarding day you sit on the train on the way home. You observe the different people around you, most looking down at an iPhone, some listening to music and some reading papers. You turn to the window and watch a sunset, newer and more spectacular than ever!
You get home feeling still. You eat a delicious pizza you picked up on the way and know that it was made with love as you take your time to enjoy the mingling tastes. You decide to hit the sack early. You set the clock and slide into bed and begin a deep but peaceful sleep. And dream.
“Once upon a time, Chuang Chou dreamed that he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He didn’t know that he was Chou. Suddenly he awoke and was palpably Chou. He didn’t know whether he were Chou who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or a butterfly who was dreaming that he was Chou.”
The End.
With thanks to Alan Watts and Master Chuang