Saturday, March 31, 2012

The ART of paying volunteers!

Volunteers are not paid in money. But we forget sometimes that one can pay in many ways. And there are some ways that volunteers must be paid!
Pay is an interesting word. You can be ‘Paid” to do something” You can “pay” a compliment. Sometimes when one seeks revenge they seek “payback”. In space travel we have a payload!

I believe that ART is the currency we should be using to pay volunteers





In My opinion these three words are interlinked and similar in some ways but are the key ingredients in how organisations, government, society and volunteer managers could treat volunteers.

It is too easy to stand up and make a speech during a National Volunteer week event or a volunteer’s function and say that volunteers are acknowledged, respected and thanked. And leave it at that. The problem that we may have with these types of events is that they can be conduits for flowery language on volunteer recognition. Volunteers will know though. Volunteers will see through anyone’s attempt at ART at a volunteers function if that ART is not practiced throughout the year.
ART must be ongoing to be real and relevant. I believe that the organisation that practices good ART can have the most effective and happy volunteer program!

Let’s look at how we may practice ART


Have you ever had that moment where you are walking down a busy corridor and you see someone you know and you say hello and they completely ignore you? That person may be busy or preoccupied. They may have their attention on someone else. Sometimes they may hold positions more senior to yours. You pass by and you still think “They could have at least said hello”
Normally when this happens to me I ensure that I make a bigger effort in my greeting the next time I see them. I ensure that I always give a friendly greeting. I ensure that I am always polite in the face of impoliteness.

I’ve met volunteers who have shared such stories with me. So believe me when I say that it’s important. It’s important to ensure that staff that share an organisation with volunteers acknowledge their presence! It’s important that people acknowledge that volunteers are part of the team.


Assigning meaningful work to volunteers is in my opinion the greatest way to show respect to volunteers. Thought out and well planned roles show that you respect the volunteer contribution. Meaningful work of course can be subjective but the respect factor comes in when you have assigned the most suitable role for the most suitable volunteer. Always keep checking if the volunteer is happy with the role they are performing. Feedback encapsulates respect. If you are constantly encouraging feedback from your volunteers you are giving them the respect that they deserve.


The ‘Thanks” factor is so overlooked in my opinion. And we are poorer for that. Sometimes we ignore the human condition.

I do a job. I am paid to do a job. I appreciate the fact that I am paid. But even in my paid capacity I feel great when I am thanked for something. It’s not ego. I struggle with praise. But I appreciate a thank you!
I believe as volunteer managers we get blindsided when we fall for the line “I am not in it for the thanks”! So many volunteer s that I have encountered in my decades involved in volunteerism have said this. In fact I probably have said this too once upon a time.But it’s a kind of fallacy
How many people do you know who have rejected a thank you?

I postulate that volunteers know a genuine thank you. If you have a once a year event where the thank you platitudes are in abundance and the rest of the year is thankless then you are in serious trouble!

I still feel real in my role when I can say thank you to a volunteer and mean it! I therefore hope that when I say those words they are understood to be genuine!

There is an art to effective Volunteer Management

What are your thoughts on this ART?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

We must write and tell the Volunteering story

The volunteer that turns up during the flood or the disaster is to be commended. Their stories must be written, their bravery can be rewarded though they usually seek no such award. The Flood armies, the hurricane heroes, the storm saviors. The press loves them. Its good print. Good online material - good copy and a great grab on the TV news. And it brings the word “Volunteer” to the fore! Scenes of recent disasters over the last few years in Australia and New Zealand were heart wrenching. But hope and comfort was evident by the massive volunteering effort that touched us all. That touched humanity. And made it that little bit more hopeful.

But we must make the effort to remind society that volunteering is occurring 24/7.

They are on the streets for the homeless every day. They are on telephone lines 24 hours of the day providing counseling. They are turning up for shifts at hospitals every day; they are fundraising, advocating, protesting, and changing lives and society daily.

They are delivering meals; they are making calls to check on welfare, they are holding the hands of the dying, comforting the crying, bringing laughter to sick kids, friendship to the lonely, skills to the organisations that need expertise and knowledge.

We must tell our stories. We must show the world and its media what volunteering is doing. Not because we have to. But because our stories of hope can bring comfort to those who are disillusioned with the world, to those that see little light in the darkness, to cynics who say that the world basically doesn’t care!

I know that there are many reasons why people volunteer. I celebrate that. But right now I don my hat to those volunteers who affect change. Who make the world a more comfortable place for others. Who give hope. Who give comfort, who give a friendly smile or a helping hand.

And they exist in their millions around the globe.

The world is an amazing place…because of them!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Volunteer Recognition

Sometimes,people in Volunteer Management talk about the essential three Rs


I’ve spoken about Recruitment on this blog and now I’d like to share my view on Recognition.

I once asked a colleague how they recognised their volunteers. Their response was – “usually by their uniforms and they wear a badge”

Humour is important in our field.

I digress!

The formal recognition is important. The service medals, the ceremonies during volunteer week, the lunches and the certificates.

But to me the best forms of recognition of volunteer effort are:
• Meaningful tasks!

• Preparation – well designed tasks!

• Structure – ‘I know what to do, how to do it and where!”

• Time that is never…I repeat..Never wasted!

• The organisation talks about their volunteers in social media, internal and staff newsletters, on their website and are proud to promote their volunteer teams at every opportunity!

When organisations truly value volunteering effort it shows and the volunteer knows! This is the best recognition!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No giving is ever wasted!

As I grow older and perhaps wiser It dawns on me that life is short and that my dreams change. If I leave this life having made a difference then I have lived well. If my actions have inspired a colleague, If my words have comforted a friend, If my love has comforted anyone, If my ear has listened, If my hand has held, If my heart has shared, If my shoulder has been moistened by tears , then I have lived and made a difference.
I’ve awed at those whose actions have changed the world. But the realization is dawning on me that the smallest things can change an individual’s world. A smile, a compliment, an encouraging word. That one minute you took to listen. That card or email or text you sent. That “Like” you clicked on Facebook. That tweet of friendship. Never dismiss any action of giving as insignificant!

No matter how small.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Five recruitment tips for Volunteer Managers

1.Ensure the job’s there

What does "Ensure the job's there mean?." I’ve been at too many meetings of volunteer managers where there has been a round table introduction that goes like this. – “I am Michael and I work at blabla hospice and I have 240 volunteers! “ The next manager states “I am Janice and I work at the south homeless shelter and I have 247 volunteers” (Take that Michael!).
What I am saying is that numbers of volunteers do not necessarily equate to the quality of volunteer programs. Those that don’t quite understand volunteering often equate greatness to numbers. They couldn’t be so more wrong.

Sure yes – if you need to clean a beach 100 volunteers may be better than 20. However 20 well trained and motivated volunteers may just do the job better than the 100 who have gone without training and orientation!
To cut to the chase the point I am making in regards to recruitment is that you have to have the jobs and tasks already in place before you recruit volunteers. You are in a bind if 50 apply for a task that 20 can do. Quality is often better than quantity in volunteering.
So define your task. Define the amount of people you require and proceed accordingly! You must ensure that its meaningful work. This is the best recognition I believe we can give to volunteers.

2.The best recruitment ad is word of mouth

In my 15 years of Volunteer Management this has been true for me. Of course I realise that you must have an established volunteer program to ensure this. The good volunteer experience means so much. The good volunteer experience is priceless for your recruitment of volunteers. I think that sometimes we forget that. And I think we do that because we fail to think outside the cocoon of our day to day experience. We forget what is happening afterhours in relation to our volunteers. And it is this. They are connecting as society does. They are relating to friends and family. They are sharing their experiences on Facebook and Twitter. They are telling their stories in community forums and settings. This is where your recruitment is happening. So remember –one of the best recruitment strategies is right in front of you – your existing volunteers!

3.Sell sell sell

Time is precious. I’ve written a blog on time and volunteering that is the most read blog on my site in two years. If you want people to donate time to you then you better work hard to get that time. There are so many good causes and opportunities for volunteering out there. One can pick and choose. Traditional organisations forget this sometimes.
Take me for example. Right now at this moment I am not volunteering. I would like to. I’ve thought of a few options. But nothing is standing out. We sometimes seem to think that people wake up on a given morning and decide to volunteer for a good cause or organization of their choice. Just like that. And that happens. But there are so many people out me...Who wake up and want to volunteer but are unsure about which organisation to volunteer for. are you catering for me? How are you reaching me? Three words here. “Use my motivation!” If I saw an ad right now that said this “Looking for a volunteering opportunity and not too sure where to go? Then have a look at us!” That has my attention!

4.The Interview.

Probably the most critical part of the recruitment process IMHO. Here you get to meet the person who wants to volunteer for your organisation. Now there may be some organizations who don’t interview or who don’t put too much effort and time into this process. That may be well and good but I personally feel that if the organisation isn’t going through these processes that they may leave themselves open for some trouble down the line.

So what are your interviews like? To me they are crucial in the successful recruitment of volunteers. Please give time to this process. The interview should be like a two way sales job. The volunteer candidate is selling themselves to you and you are selling your organisation to the candidate. This is important. If we are interviewing thinking we don’t need to sell our volunteering opportunities then we are on a losing track! And If we ever think people are privileged volunteering with us then we have lost!

5.The probation

I remember once at an interview telling the volunteer candidate that there would be a probationary period. She laughed. Well actually she belly laughed for quite some time! She was a quite intelligent and articulate University student. She went on to be a great volunteer. She got probation. For great recruitment to happen there needs to be a probationary period. As I have said to volunteers this is both for the volunteers themselves and for the organisation. In your best recruitment strategy you need to be honest from the get go. There is a time when volunteers are needed ad hoc,, think emergency and disaster volunteers. People who drop everything in their normal lives to take up many things in extraordinary lives! But recruitment processes are also important. If we say that volunteering doesn’t need processes than we are on a slippery road.

My five points are thoughts of a Volunteer Manager on Recruitment. Stay tuned for more!

Friday, March 2, 2012

On working with Volunteers

I know that sometimes I look for inspiring quotes to share with people. I am now realising that inspiration is all around me and I love it!

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The simple act of kindness.

How we learn from our children! This post was inspired by an act of my daughter. When her mum arrived at work today she found this...