Saturday, May 23, 2020

The 5 advantages of working from home during COVID

No walk up interruptions
I can be too polite. At the office, people often walk up to my desk to have a chat. It could be a question about volunteering. It normally is. But there is an expectation that I answer it straight away. During these times, I still get questions. But it is usually via email now. It gives me time to consider the question. And after some contemplation I believe that I am giving a better answer.

Travel Time
I spend two hours on a train travelling to and from work. It never really bothered me in the past. I would read a book or listen to music. But now I am valuing these two hours more than ever. In fact, I feel that I am more productive with these two extra hours spent planning and strategizing!

Volunteer Engagement
With thousands of volunteers scattered across an enormous state it has always been tough to engage with people. Travelling to places help. Meeting people on the ground has always been important for me. But travel can take a lot of your time and also it can be expensive. Now, videoconferencing seems to be the norm and I love it. I have met more volunteers in “lockdown” than I have met in normal times!

I have more money in my pocket. I am not buying as much coffee. The train costs have gone. Although I used to try to take lunch to work, too often I would forget and get lunch out.

The Hustle and Bustle
I work in a CBD. I also work in an open office space. It is always busy with people coming and going. There is noise. There is much movement. Right now I am not missing that. I am appreciating the silence that surrounds me. I still love my music. I can still work on projects with headphones on listening to the easy listening and classical music that I have always loved. But I am loving the lack of chaos around me.

To conclude, I do acknowledge that I am very fortunate that I can work from home during these times. I wake up each morning truly grateful that I still have a job. But I also believe that I have never been as productive as now. And also, I have fallen into the trap of working 10 or 11 hours of work a day without a decent break! I am trying to address that!
So how has the experience of working from home been for you?

The top ten worst colleagues you may encounter as a Volunteer Manager

1. The one who thinks your job is so easy they can’t believe you get paid.

I was new to a job once when someone from the organisation I had not met yet asked me “Who did you sleep with to get this job?’ Some colleagues will think that you have an easy job. After all anyone could coordinate volunteers.

2.       The colleague who hates your success and the attention your program gets for it.

 They may just be working as hard in their department whether it is marketing or fundraising but not getting the accolades.

2. The suspicious 

3.       The people that are deeply suspicious because you turn up to work every day in a joyful mood because you love your job.

They are usually miserable in their jobs and expect everyone around them to be too.

4.       The Bully

The may be even more empowered thinking that the Volunteer Manager is on one of the bottom rungs of the organisational chart and therefore an easier target.

5.       Those that think volunteers are only nice to have but not necessary

I was once told by one of these people that because they believed in this they believed my job filled the same criteria

6.       The new CEO

Always looking for short cuts to trim the meat. The Volunteer program can look like an easy target for cost cutting.

7.       The firm traditionalist

Will resist any innovation in volunteering. “This is the way we have always done it” Can be a staff member or volunteer.

8.       The Volunteer Demander

This is the colleague who rings you up and asks for 50 volunteers to help them with their prohect in the morning. They think there are ready made volunteer stored in the fridges to be taken out at will

9.       The misguided volunteer defender

They will fight against your decision to release a volunteer. They believe it would be unfair to fire the volunteer who has stolen from the organisation 3 times. They argue volunteers cant be fired

10. The HR specialist or business partner.

   They think they know far more than you when it comes to the field where you have expertise. You to them are the person who “looks after the vollies” only but need their advice on everything from legislation to conflict management and to procedures that are applied to volunteers.

 My next blog will be on the best 10 colleagues you may encounter as a Volunteer Manager




Wednesday, May 13, 2020

What's Next Indeed!

It’s been some time since I last blogged. Indeed it’s over 7 months since I last posted on my blog site. There have been many reasons for not doing so, one being that I now tend to use other social media platforms on which I opine. My more recent posts concerned activism as volunteering. Pre Corona crises, the biggest crisis was Climate Change. It still is.

The climate change crisis has not gone away. But I never envisioned, like many of you, that this Corona crisis lay ahead of us.

So here we are. In a time like no other in our living memory. Most of us are still staying at home. We are either working, furloughed or no longer in employment.

Everyone has been caught off guard. We are living through a moment of history. Millions of volunteers around the globe have been stood down. And on the other hand, hundreds and thousands are registering their interest in volunteering to help.

The theme for the next International Volunteer Managers Day has just been announced. “What’s Next?”

As a theme for a date meant to promote the profession of Volunteer Management it is a strange one. How do you promote a profession with a tag line such as this? Yes – it reflects how our sector may be thinking (or not). After all what profession is not thinking, amongst other things, on what on earth lies around the corner? The theme has gained approval, judging by what I see on social media comment sections, by those who comment habitually on such platforms (and that number is miniscule – if you are a volunteer leader the stats say you will probably never even read this!).  But I am also of the belief that if the theme so stated “crushed bananas will make us stronger” it would nonetheless garnish support, ‘Likes’ and ‘Hearts’ from the echo chamber that is Volunteer Management. No one seems to contest anything anymore in our sector. Did we ever? Sure, the late Susan J Ellis did. Susan is sorely missed. And then there is Jayne Cravens. A lone wolf? (Jayne will appreciate the reference!) The insolent VM is as rare as hens’ teeth! More’s the pity! Same with the volunteering sector as a whole. Too nice you see.

I am hearing from our sector now a familiar mantra – time to change Volunteer Management – time to take our sector seriously – time to have our sector at the table. William Butler Yeats spoke of polite meaningless words. I wonder.

In Australia there is a leadership vacuum in the volunteer management arena. One could argue the same in the volunteering sector space. Maybe instead of the navel gazing we could shift our focus on what this awful crisis will mean for society in two, five and ten years’ time and the role volunteering will play.

What role will volunteering and volunteer management play when the queues for social security stretch for miles? What role will volunteering play when neoliberal policies concentrate on “paying down the debt” at any cost?  How will volunteer management survive when organisations are slashing budgets and are short-sighted enough to take the knife to their volunteering programs to save a quick buck? And they will.

Where does volunteering sit when governments enact “Shock Tactics”. Shock tactics, according to Naomi Klein, author of ‘The Shock Doctrine, follow a clear pattern: wait for a crisis, declare a moment of what is sometimes called “extraordinary politics”, suspend some or all democratic norms – and then ram the corporate wish list through as quickly as possible.

In Australia right now nearly half of our pre-coronavirus workforce is on a government payment; with 5 million people on the JobKeeper allowance and 1.5 million on JobSeeker. 

Perish the thought of what society will look like when government ceases these payments. Which they will.

This is what’s next. This is the future our sector needs to prepare for. Now.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

New Ways of Volunteer Recruitment

Today, most organisations, when advertising for volunteer roles will place an advertisement somewhere, if they can, to recruit a suitable volunteer.

They may place that ad on the internet, various websites, and peak organisations for volunteers and sometimes, depending on budget, in a newspaper or via other traditional media. Some will utilise social media but still too few do. Another topic for another day!

I would love for us to reimagine volunteer recruitment. On most NFP websites we have expression of interest forms. But too often, we steer these expressions in a certain way towards a certain role.

I think we may have things back to front. I would love to see Not for Profits engage volunteers and the recruitment of same in a totally different manner alongside their traditional modes.

I recently came across the following inspiring words. These were not written by a person managing or leading volunteers. But have a read.

“What are the gifts you bring to the world?
These times of fear and uncertainty are not a time for hiding your light under a bushel. These times call for letting that light shine.

  •  What are you good at?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What do you wish someone would ask you to do?
  • What do you want to get better at doing, and would love the opportunity to practice?”

 Hildy Gottlieb - TEDx Speaker | Systems Change Researcher & Author

 Imagine our organisations having ads like these on our websites? Imagine having ads like these on Social Media?

Our traditional methods of volunteer recruitment have been the same for years. There have been a few modifications in terms of how we engage corporate and so called “skilled volunteers” I have never been a fan of the latter term. All volunteers bring skills!
Nevertheless an ad with Hildy’s words or similar would blow me away if I was looking for a volunteer opportunity out there. Why?

1.   Its honest – it acknowledges that the world can be a dark place.

2.  It talks about the light in everyone – how an ordinary person can do an extraordinary thing.

3.   It encourages action to shine a light.

4.   It wants to know what you can offer. Everyone has something to offer.

5.  It wants to know what you already love doing – how can this be tapped into, if at all.

6.  Most people don’t volunteer because they were never asked. This asks a person what they would like to do. It goes away from an organisation telling you what to do. It’s a different form of volunteering.

7.  It asks what they would like to improve doing. Here is the key. The question about how we can help develop a volunteer but asking in a much better way.
It’s a simple ad that you put on your website. It’s an innovative model of volunteer recruitment.

Tell us what you can do for our organisation and we will be in touch!

And not every idea or skill offered will be fit for purpose. But I bet you that most will.

We have been asking people to volunteer for years but maybe we miss out on a large section of the population because of the way we frame the question.

Here is just another way. Try it!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Ten Top Traits of Volunteer Leadership

There are so many articles out there about the difference between leadership and management. When it comes to coordinating and managing volunteers I have some thoughts. We manage programs. We coordinate activity. We lead people and organisations. Here is what effective leadership means to me in the volunteering sector. I come to these conclusions after 22 years in the sector.
1.      A leader advocates for ethics in volunteering. We don’t stand for replacing paid roles to save money. We do stand with volunteers adding value to an organisation.
2.      A leader inspires volunteers. Through their leadership style they inspire the volunteer to continue volunteering for the cause week in and week out. The leader is an integral part of continuing motivation.
3.      A leader has a volunteers back. They stand up for them if they are being used rather than utilised. They stand for equal recognition of a volunteer as a staff member. They ensure their “unpaid status” does not lead to any type of discrimination as far as value and worth are concerned.
4. A leader is proactive and not just reactive. A good volunteer leader anticipates their organisations needs rather than maintain a status quo
5.  A great volunteer leader challenges their organisation around volunteering solutions. They consistently point out how volunteer engagement is an awesome resource which brings so many benefits to the organisation and therefore merits investment and resource
6.  A Volunteer leader is part of the leadership team of any organisation. They have an equal footing with HR and fundraising management. Because of their expertise in leading people they are sought out for leadership advice across the organisation.
7.      A Volunteer leader has a strategic mindset. They are constantly following worldwide trends in volunteering. They understand the various demographics and motivations of volunteering. They are one step ahead and never rest on their laurels.
8.  An effective volunteer leader networks. They actively work to see what other organisations are doing around the globe. They share their expertise as they take from others.
9. A great volunteer leader demands. They demand that their subject matter expertise is respected. They demand that volunteers have their rightful place on the organisations chart which should be pretty much high up!
10.  The best volunteer leader develops leaders. They stand back and let volunteers lead. They help create programs and give volunteers the credit they deserve. They are best pleased when they see volunteers shine and thrive.
Organisations need to advertise for leaders when they are looking for managers or coordinators of volunteers into the future. A lot of people can manage or coordinate volunteers. But find a leader and your volunteer program will excel!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

And I did speak out!

As some of you may or may not have noticed I have become more involved volunteering as an activist for a few causes. And I guess on reflection I have always been a type of activist. According to our friend Wikipedia “Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society.”  A dictionary simply states that it is “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.”For me personally, it’s a very interesting form of volunteering. It compels you to take a stand, be a voice and take some form of action. Sometimes it is not easy. It may not be great for the faint hearted! It leaves you open to criticism. You will always find people with an opposing view. It’s not for everyone but more should be doing it. Our future depends on it. And I have never believed that more than I do today. Why do people become activists? Again, for me personally, it’s about finding a cause you care about enough to take some action to support. My actions over the last 12 months have been joining organisations, volunteering my time, attending meetings, marching the streets, highlighting my causes utilising social media and writing.
What is my main motivation for doing so?
  1. My kids. I am seriously worried about the future world that they may inherit. The science is in. We have been warned. When Governments around the world don’t take action, we, the people, will.
  2. It’s political. The rise of far right players in the political world is frightening. It must be resisted. We must learn from history
  3. Volunteer Management. We could all learn so much from how these activist organisations, recruit, motivate and organise their volunteers. They are all so far ahead of traditional Volunteer Management it’s not funny. We have so much to learn. So I am motivated to learn.
  4. Connections. Activists are so connected and do it so well. I have joined their footprint on Twitter and they know how to use it to their advantage. I have made amazing and inspiring connections. With a few exceptions I think the traditional field of Volunteer Management are still miles behind when it comes to their usage of social media. On a global scale the VM sector is disjointed.
I will continue to share my musings. On a mission. Talk soon.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” - Niemöller

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