Thursday, May 26, 2011

Big Hairy Audacious Goals in Volunteer Management

BHAGs stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals, an idea conceptualized in the book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by James Collins and Jerry Porras. According to Collins and Porras, a BHAG is a long-term goal that changes the very nature of a business’ existence.

BHAGs are meant to shift how we do things, the way we are perceived in our field and possibly even the field itself. Collins and Porras describe BHAGs as nearly impossible to achieve without consistently working outside of a comfort zone and displaying commitment, confidence and even a bit of arrogance.

BHAGs are bigger, bolder and more powerful than regular long- and short-term goals..

I first heard of BHAGS when I did a leadership course and they have entered my stream of consciousness ever since. I am a believer in BHAGs and have incorporated such thinking into my future planning. From the vantage point of the now of course.

I have 2 points to make here in relation to Volunteer Management.

Here’s the first:

What would be you BHAG in Volunteer Management? And we could break that down to two areas – the sector and your leadership role.

For me my sector BHAG would be “a recognised profession that has a low turnover and is seen as a vital component of Society.” People would ask “is that really Big, hairy and audacious”? Unfortunately it is in our sector I believe.

Here’s the second:

What would be you BHAG in your Volunteer Management or Coordination Role? Is it to have the best Volunteer program that leads locally, nationally or globally? Or is it to achieve recognition of your role locally.

Is it big, hairy and audacious?

In The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz said:

“In these modern times, belief is doing much bigger things than moving mountains. The most important element – in fact, the essential element – in our space explorations today is the belief that space can be mastered. Without firm, unwavering belief that man can travel space, our scientists would not have the courage, interest, and enthusiasm to proceed. Belief that cancer can be cured will ultimately produce cures for cancer.”

We so need BHAGs in Volunteer Management. There is not enough dialogue on what those Big Hairy Audacious Goals should be. And if there is – there is too little follow up.

We also need to discover our true belief. Belief that Volunteer Management will someday be a recognised profession that many aspire to.

“A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines.”
—Collins and Porras, 1996

Please share your BHAG?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tweet Volunteer Tweet Management Tweet Tweet Tweet

Yesterday I joined Twitter. I am not sure why...or indeed why now. I’ll be honest with you. I was once one of those people who said “I am never joining Facebook” not to mind anything else.

I’ve been a bit behind the times in regards to Social Media and Internet technology. I only started blogging 14 months ago. At first I was very hesitant to blog. I wasn’t sure how you did stuff. But I am so glad I did. It’s introduced me to so many new people across the globe. I thought my blog would be my little way of sharing some personal opinions on volunteerism and volunteer management. My aim has, from the get go, to find a vehicle to express my views. if you told me that I would have a few thousand page views after 14 months I would have been astonished. The reality of close to 31,000 as I write this is simply staggering.

I’ve been on Twitter less than 24 hours and I am already discovering new people in the volunteerism world and existing folk who are sharing views news and much more.

I don’t know what’s next for Twitter and I? But I would encourage all fromour sector to utilise Social media more. To follow what is happening. To stand up and have a say. To shape our future.

We simply need to keep up if we are to have a true say. Please feel welcome to follow me on Twitter. And if this encourages you to join for the first time – I look forward to meeting you there.

Now…what else can I discover???


Friday, May 20, 2011

On taking a risk

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one's ideas, to take a calculated risk - and to act.” – Andre Malaux

The volunteer recognition day is a huge day in my calendar year. It’s a ceremony and lunch that honors the contribution of volunteers. It’s an event packed with VIPs namely the Volunteers, Members of parliament, CEOs, invited dignitaries and so on and so forth.

“You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go.” – TS Elliot

Each year I MC the event. As well as planning the program I love this aspect.

Each year I try and do something different. One year we had opera singers volunteering their time. Another year a wonderful school band. This year I was looking to do something a little different. The thought struck me that it would be good to invite one of the volunteers to MC the event. The volunteer I chose was 18, bright and cheery and had told us of her interest in Theatre where she had performed. It seemed a natural choice. The face of the future in many ways.

When I asked her she was extremely excited. And what she then asked me came as a surprise. “Can I sing?” she said beaming. She informed me she was getting singing lessons but had never sung on her own before in front of an audience.

Here was the risk.

But I told her go for it. In fact I told her that I had a feeling that her contribution would make it the best recognition event ever. No pressure! Me? – I simply pictured the best event ever subscribing to the mantra that “thoughts become things so think the good ones”.

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision” – Robyn Davidson

And what happened? People are talking about the best Volunteer Recognition event ever!

That’s one example of risk taking that we can take. Whilst we never take risk with safety matters, hence our marriage to risk management, I wonder if we don’t take enough risks in our own personal and professional development, in our advocacy for volunteers and in speaking out on volunteer management.

Many years ago I first took a major risk by walking into a CEOs office stating that I felt that that the organisation could do a lot more to recognize volunteers and resource volunteer management.

But what exactly was the risk there. There were many. The risk of rejection. The risk of being reprimanded for not going through so called official channels. The risk that people would not get the fact that successful volunteer programs need effective volunteer coordination and management.

But the risk paid off.

“You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on.” – Paul Bradbury

How about the risk to try a new way of doing things? Or an innovative program. What holds us back from trying something new?
Do we play volunteer management safely? What about the risk of speaking up on behalf of your profession. The risk of challenging a status quo or a long held belief on volunteerism.

What about the risk of putting a viewpoint of yours down on paper and publically expressing yourself?

How about the risk of advocating for volunteers and not just coordinating them?

Or do we prefer it all to be safe, secure in doing it the way we always have done things and sailing on a calm water never rocking the boat?

Horses for courses of course.

‘Go out on a limb – that’s where the fruit is” – Jimmy Carter

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Volunteer Week, Volunteer Management and Mr Belser

I haven’t blogged for awhile. This time I will utilise the most common Volunteer Management excuse – I have just been too busy.

This week has been National Volunteer Week in Australia (NVW ) . And for me personally it’s probably been the best in a long time. So now that it’s over I can pen a few words about my experience and impressions of the week. Personal musings as it were and I hope you can share yours too.

I need not preface this blog by saying Volunteers Week is all about the volunteers…and not volunteer management. Because both are interlinked.
Although peak bodies for volunteering do much to promote these weeks, which are celebrated at different times throughout the globe by the way, I belive that the volunteer management sector have a huge role in ensuring that these weeks are successful. Now what makes a NVW successful you may ask? Recognition of volunteers? An understanding of volunteerism? More recruitment? Just thank you? All of the above?

Sue Hine in her latest blog writes a salient piece on the marketing of volunteering and it is well worth a read. Check it out through the link on this site.

On the ground and at the coal face Volunteer managers and coordinators should be ensuring that volunteers feel valued. And during this week we put in a lot of effort through recognition, promotional and thanksgiving events. All of which must be planned for and organised. Because it is at an organisational level that volunteers should feel valued. We can sing and dance about volunteering all week until the cows come home, and get plaudits from Prime ministers and Presidents but unless this is occurring at a local level then the message and purpose gets lost for volunteers.
Another reason why peak bodies for volunteering should engage more with the volunteer management sector no? It’s just common sense to me. Some are getting it though.

I attended the One Big GLOBAL Thank You run by Volunteering Queensland on Tuesday. It was such a great event where volunteers through modern technology were able to share their inspiring stories via the web. So we had volunteers from flood affected areas in Queensland connected to volunteers from the earthquake affected Christchurch in New Zealand get together online and talk.

It was very emotional and groundbreaking stuff

Another item that really pleased me was the fact that Jelenko Dragisic, CEO of Volunteering Queensland in his inspiring speech mentioned volunteer Management and the need to support VM in the future through educational pathways such as their Cert 4 in volunteer coordination.

Finally a CEO who was linking volunteering and volunteer management. Yes the week was all about the volunteers. But the acknowledgment that volunteer managers and coordinators make a significant difference in our sectors was refreshing.

Volunteering Queensland is doing some amazing things – you only need to search out their website.Is there a possibility of them being a global leader on how volunteering peak bodies should interact with the volunteer management sector?

On a personal level it was an emotional week for volunteers I believe in Queensland. I heard people speak of the enormous contribution of volunteers during the floods. Such as the guy who owns Drift restaurant in Brisbane. Readers around the globe may recall an image from the Queensland floods of a riverside restaurant being swept away and floating down the river. This week the owner spoke of the hundreds of volunteers who turned up to help the next day. He was touched. We all were. and by the thousands who got up one morning and headed out in our community to assist.

This week I was fortunate enough to hear Fral Streit from Volunteering Queensland talk about her memories of that week. Where thousands of volunteers self mobilized. During her talk she was moved. Everyone listening to her were too.

There was an emotive touch to proceedings to volunteer recognition events in Queensland this year I believe. And in many other places too.
And although I wasn’t personally affected by natural disaster I felt that emotion.

It was probably reflected in my own address to volunteers this year. I spoke about time and the here and now. I spoke about how we often get distracted and worried about a future that is yet to come and a past that will never return. I spoke about the gifts that we miss in the here and now. The present. And how we sometimes forget to acknowledge what happens now. The gifts that people give. The gift of time. In essence the extraordinary act of volunteering. And then I spoke of Mr. Belser. The author of this piece is unknown. It resonated with me and I hope it resonates with some of you too. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, "Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday."

Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.

"Jack, did you hear me?"

"Oh sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It's been so long since I thought of him. I'm sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago," Jack said.

"Well, he didn't forget you. Every time I saw him he'd ask how you were doing. He'd reminisce about the many days you spent over 'his side of the fence' as he put it," Mom told him.

"I loved that old house he lived in," Jack said.

"You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man's influence in your life," she said.

"He's the one who taught me carpentry," he said. "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important... Mom, I'll be there for the funeral," Jack said.

As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser's funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.

Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time.

The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture... Jack stopped suddenly.

"What's wrong, Jack?" his Mom asked.

"The box is gone," he said.

"What box?" Mom asked.

"There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he'd ever tell me was 'the thing I value most,'" Jack said.

It was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.

"Now I'll never know what was so valuable to him," Jack said. "I better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom."

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. "Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days," the note read.

Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention.

"Mr. Harold Belser" it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack's hands shook as he read the note inside.

"Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It's the thing I valued most in my life." A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.

Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:

"Jack, Thanks for your time! -Harold Belser."

"The thing he valued time."

Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. "Why?" Janet, his assistant asked.

"I need some time to spend with my son," he said. "Oh, by the way, Janet... thanks for your time!"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Thank you speech to volunteers without mention of the words “thank you!”

Giving time is a precious thing. What you do matters. There is nothing that you do that is meaningless. Words like “you are so lovely” may be true in some cases but your contribution is far more than this. Words such as “what you do is so nice” while on some level ringing true does today not truly capture the essence of what volunteering is all about.

Applying to you are words such as skilled, dynamic, innovative, diverse, inspiring, contributing, making a difference, important, leading and part of the team.

Add appreciated, valued and respected. And knowing the difference between any lip service during National Volunteer week and true appreciation demonstrated in a myriad of ways throughout the year.

Knowing why you are here. Understanding your motivation. Embracing whatever motivation brings you here from altruism to seeking experience or seeking to gain something for yourself.

Matching your skills and personality to meaningful tasks. Inviting and welcoming your feedback and suggestions. And listening.

And telling your story.

And being proud of your efforts.

Because volunteering is a great story, a powerful movement as well as an invigorating energy for our globe and you are part of that.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How do you become a Volunteer Manager?

Since discovering it just over 12 months ago I have to say I love blogging. For me it’s a bit of a hobby. I get to write, express a view, have some fun along the way and if I am giving encouragement to anyone then that’s a bonus.

What I find very interesting is that I am able to track a number of things such as from what counties people are visiting, what pages they read most and how they got here. I am particularly interested in how they found me through a Google search. For example I know that a lot of people find me by googling “Thank you speeches for volunteers” and others from googling “Volunteer Management jokes” Please resist your own attempt at humour there!

Other examples are Google searches for “DJ Cronin” “Volunteer Management” and “leadership” etc.

Today I found one that prompted this particular post. Someone had found my blog after googling “How do you become a Volunteer Manager”

It stopped me in my tracks really and caused a bit of introspection.

Because really, It’s quite a good question and one that I hadn’t really thought of before. For so much of my writing and advocacy work in this sector is aimed at people already in the field.

I am confident many of us are asked “How do you become a volunteer?” I know I have. Truth be known though I’ve never been asked “How do you become a Volunteer Manager?”

If you are asked this question tomorrow how would you respond?

I contemplated this question as I took the train ride home tonight. In my own state of Queensland here in Australia Volunteering Queensland offers a Certificate IV in Volunteer Program Co-ordination.

So I guess part of my answer would be to advise someone to take this educational pathway into Volunteer Management. Would that answer suffice?

This brings up many questions:
•Would you point to an educational pathway into Volunteer Management?
•Does such a pathway exist where you live?
•Are such qualifications necessary in order to become a Volunteer Manager?
•Can anyone become a Volunteer Manager?

As with other some other blogs I write I sometimes feel that a book could be written on these matters!

Stay with me as I try my own googling experiment. What happens if I Google “How to become a Volunteer Manager” I got 10 Results! And guess what?? All of these results come from the same website! Out of interest – when I googled “How to become an HR Manager” I got 9,300 results! Hello? “How to become a volunteer coordinator” got me 7 results by the way.
And what type of results did I get when I googled “How to become a Volunteer Manager/Coordinator”?

Interesting. To say the least.

Employment Crossing, a website in the US, which appears to be a job site, gives over a full page under the title “Volunteer Manager Jobs – How to Become a Volunteer Manager”

Here’s an excerpt:

“The volunteer manager jobs are full of challenges. This is because it requires interfacing with different kinds of people doing pro bono work in a non-profit organization. Volunteerism is a noble act and although all of us are called to do voluntary work at one point in our life or two, only few among us are blessed to be given the chance to actually become a volunteer. Volunteer manager careers are also varied depending largely on the organization but in general, volunteer managers are the ones responsible in the recruitment, training, recognition, and support of volunteers in an organization.”

I see.

I could argue a few things here but might save it for another blog or wait to see some of your own comments.

They go on….”Some organizations may prefer to hire volunteer managers that have an undergraduate or graduate degree in non-profit management or someone with extensive experience in marketing or maybe someone who has exceptional communication and people skills.”

I get some of that but not all. And finally

“Qualifications needed for volunteer manager jobs include experience volunteering, managing a volunteer database, team leading personality, and knows how to choose volunteers. Being involved in the program will result to volunteers respecting your volunteer work and urge them to work harder.”


So this is the only information available on the World Wide Web for someone who Googles “How to become a Volunteer Manager” Don’t even bother searching the “How to become a volunteer coordinator?” You’ll get nowhere.

Because of the title of my post and my several references to “How to become a Volunteer Manager” I expect that many more people who Google that question will get to this blog. Simply because there is hardly anything else there.

Is this a good reflection on our field, on us?

In our echo chambers, as we debate this and that about our profession and this and that about volunteer definitions etc, do we forget that there might be people looking into our goldfish bowl as we swim around with our issues, who think “I wonder what’s going on in there?”

The lady or gentleman who googled “how do I become a Volunteer Manager’?” would be no wiser after that search. There’s something a little sad about that. What does that say about us? And what can we do to rectify that situation?

And what would you say to anyone who asks you “how do you become a Volunteer Manager?”

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