Monday, January 19, 2015

Page Views Hit 1/4 of a Million!

Wow! When I started out on this little Blog I never in my widest dreams expected so  many page views!So thanks to all of you that have visited and read my posts whether you have agreed or disagreed!  Thanks for participating and sharing and thanks for your commitment to Volunteering and Volunteer Management!

If you want to touch the past, touch a rock.  If you want to touch the present, touch a flower.  If you want to touch the future, touch a life.  ~Author Unknown

10 quick tips for busy CEOs with Volunteers in their organizations

The life of any CEO is a busy one. If you are reading this then you have taken some time out to think about the volunteers in your organization. If you have mostly volunteers in your organization then you probably champion their effort a lot. If you have many paid staff and volunteers hopefully you champion both! Here are some quick tips for you to ponder.

  1. Resource your program: Do you have Volunteering Services as  a Department in its own right with a budget. If not, consider it. Volunteering doesn't just happen. Effective programs are never for free.
  2. The Volunteer Manager: Have you got a Volunteer Coordinator who is the only person managing your organizations volunteers? Then they need to be your Volunteer Manager or Manager of Volunteers or Director or whatever title that suits most. They are not just coordinating. Is your HR boss the HR Coordinator? 
  3. Hire Expertise: If you want to hire someone to manage your Finance team or Marketing team then you will look for a professional in their field with a proven track record. Volunteer Management is a profession. Treat it accordingly. 
  4. Don’t fall for the “look after the Vollies” syndrome (LAVS): LAVS is when you decide to start a volunteer program or have one for awhile where you approach someone in your organization and ask them to “look after the Vollies”. They may be that lovely PA or that friendly office person or whatever fluffy person you have in mind. I have seen volunteer programs fail or underachieve because of LAVS. Read tip #3 again! 
  5. Avoid the OAYITT speech: The Once A Year I’ll Thank Them Speech usually happens during National Volunteer Week or International Day of the Volunteer. This is where you stand up and ramble for a few minutes about volunteers being “The lifeblood” of your organization and what “lovely” people they are and that you “couldn't do without them”. You don’t realize that this may be the same speech you give every year and that the stitched on smiles sitting in front of you may be a telling sign. And the loud applause may be because you have finished talking. Get rid of OAYITT by engaging with volunteers across the year. In an authentic way. See Tip # 6 The LAVS and OAYITT speech are a deadly cocktail that when drunk can ruin volunteer programs.
  6. Highlight Volunteering: When you write in any of your publications do you mention volunteers? Do you contribute an article to the Volunteers Newsletter/ do you even have a Volunteer Newsletter? In emails to your staff with news or development do you say “Dear staff and volunteers”? Do you turn up at the occasional Volunteer meeting? Do you have volunteer meetings? Are any volunteers serving on any of your organizational committees? When I visit your website and see no mention of or link to volunteers then how seriously are you taking volunteer effort? 
  7. Position your Volunteer Manager (VM): Does your VM sit on management committees and attend management meetings. If your answer is “No – they are a coordinator” see tip # 2 again please. Your VM probably deals with so many parts of your organization if they are utilizing volunteers. Utilize their knowledge and networks!
  8. Training: What type of professional development can your VM access? Do you invite them to leadership workshops with the other managers? Are you sending them to conferences and workshops on volunteering and volunteer management? Are you giving them time to network? 
  9. Research: Allow your VM time to Research the Volunteerism world each week. Accessing  the many sites online that deal with Volunteer Management should be a must  do to keep up with current and emerging trends. 
  10. And finally discover International Volunteer Managers Day: Surprise your VM on the day and tell them you did it after reading these 10 tips.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What I learnt from shooting volunteers!

Ok. So maybe the title got you in. But it’s kind of true. Last year I came up with an idea for National Volunteer Week. Well actually I came up with the idea a few months beforehand after seeing a similar YouTube video and I decided to apply it to Volunteers. The concept was that I would video some volunteers and ask them about volunteering. In fact I would ask them just one question and wondered what might happen. What occurred went beyond my wildest expectations.

But first I asked myself how this plan could work. I have no filming experience. I also thought the project might be too expensive if it were to look right. But thoughts become things according to Mike Dooley so I thought the good ones. Lo and behold a volunteer joined my team who happened to own his own production company. I’ve always believed that if you have a vision and can dream the end result that all you need to succeed is the will and determination. Sometimes things just fall into place when you follow this path.
So one day I sat down with this volunteer and told him of my plan. He loved the idea and offered to volunteer his service and company to make it happen.

The result was ‘Thirty people One Question. Thirty hospital volunteers were asked to be involved. I wanted the diversity of our program to be reflected in the video. So we had young, older and middle aged. We invited men and women and people from different cultural backgrounds. 

Now back to my vision. I wanted to tell a story of what volunteering meant to volunteers. I didn’t want to simply ask what they did and how. I didn’t want to ask what effect they thought that they had on the community around them. I wanted their story. I wanted to see how volunteering had made a difference to their life.

On the day of the shoot we invited some volunteers to come to the lobby to be interviewed by myself about volunteering. They were probably expecting me with a video cam! What they didn't expect were several cameras and lights everywhere. They were not briefed. They were not told what the question would be.

The result was real people, non rehearsed speaking real words.  Authenticity in action! They spoke from the heart and although some didn't say much or nothing at all, a story was told by a smile or a look of contemplation.
So here’s what I learnt from shooting those volunteers on that day:

Happiness: Volunteering can add to that.
Confidence: Volunteering can change a person’s life by instilling self belief and confidence.
Friendship: New and lasting friendships can be made from volunteering.
People Contact: This can be restored after retirement.
Loneliness: Volunteering can be a cure.
Personal Development: A big factor.
The power of Empathy: Comforting and companionship.
Light bulb moments: Volunteering teaches us not to take life for granted.
Career lift while volunteering!
They raise me up!
Just a smile: The power of that sentiment alone. That just a smile can make such a difference!
Volunteers feel part of the community.
Volunteers love volunteering!

I now show this video at our volunteer information and orientation session. It has been shown to staff. It has been shown to politicians so that they can see the powerful act of volunteering.

Yes I know volunteering is very much about helping the community. Volunteers often say that they do it for others and not themselves. But we must tell the whole and true story of volunteering. And if we do then I believe we can encourage more people to volunteer.

So please enjoy the video. Put 4 minutes aside to hear these volunteers and their stories. Like it on Youtube and share with your volunteers, managers, CEO's, staff, boards, associations and colleagues. And most of all your communities. Because as my CEO said to me at the time that if the movie even inspires one person to volunteer then it will have done a great job!

And why not visualize your own plan to do something similar? Not only can it be a recognition tool, it can be an educational one and a promotional one for the movement of volunteering.

I received an email from a teacher who  found this on YouTube and showed it to her year 5 class. She said that she wanted to teach them about volunteering and what a difference it can make to volunteers lives. She told me that after watching it she shed a tear and her class thought she was upset. But she allayed their fears and told them that this little movie had inspired them and they went on to speak about inspiration and volunteering. Show it at your schools!

Finally I would like to dedicate this blogpost to Mark, who tragically passed away since he appeared in this Video. Your beautiful smile lives on forever!

Thanks for reading and enjoy the movie!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Michael My Nemesis!

Here’s a little tale for you. A little deviation from the normal blog. Long long ago in a galaxy far away, yours truly here was an actor in Killarney, Ireland. I worked for a Theatre group called Bricriu. I loved it. Had a passion for acting. Still do. We did improv and short one acts in pubs, did serious drama and pantomime in theatres. Imagine waking up each day and going off to a job you truly love and getting paid to do so! Now, granted the pay wasn’t that good but nevertheless we were paid. I had so many memorable experiences. We went on the road travelling around Kerry. We did a play by John B Keane in his own pub in Listowel. John B was a famous playwright who has since passed away. One of his plays, starring Tom Berenger was turned into a mega Hollywood movie called “The Field”. That night John B watched me perform in his play and was kind enough to come up to me and praise my performance afterwards. Funnily enough a few years earlier I was sitting in a pub in County Clare when I thought I recognized a man who just walked in and ordered a drink. We were the only two in the bar. It dawned on me that he was an actor as soon as I heard his American accent. I went up to him as one does and said “You’re that actor from the movie “Witness”! He confirmed that he was and looked a little annoyed perhaps because I couldn’t even name him. When I asked his name he replied that his name was Thomas Moore and he was in Ireland researching his Irish ancestry. Then he stopped talking and I kind of got the hint and went back to having a conversation with my pint of Guinness. Well I found out afterwards that Tom was shooting the movie in Ireland playing the “yank” and it was a fine movie indeed.

But I digress. After a little while at Bricriu we were joined by a young actor called Michael. I remember him having an unusual last name. He would come and see some of our theatre and participated in some activity though he did a lot more after I left. He was a nice enough young fellow but I never truly got to see his acting ability and we knew each other but never had the time to strike up a friendship. Soon a sliding door was opened and I was off to Australia with big dreams in my head and stars in my eyes and I was going to make it as an actor in the land down under. Home and Away beckoned! But reality came and hit me on the head with a hammer. I didn’t act again for over five years. Australia was beautiful but I spent the first few years standing outside banks as a security guard wilting in the 30 degree plus heat. But the acting bug never left. For if one has an active imagination one can be a star in one’s head. I would stand there outside my bank dreaming of movies and Hollywood and Oscars. I was lucky because if balaclava clad people had walked past me, held up the bank and made their getaway in a pink van emblazoned with the words “Bank robbers” I wouldn’t have noticed a thing. You see, I was the Security Guard called Walter Mitty. One day I woke up, called the security firm and told them I was never coming back again. Instead I went to get further education qualifications; commenced volunteering and one day fell into the profession of Volunteer Management. Again I found myself waking up and going to a job that I absolutely loved.

The years went by. I got back into acting joining an Irish Theatre Company in Brisbane. My biggest achievement was winning a best actor award for a one act play in a state competition. Mitty was leading the life! Ever since I've acted for various amateur theatre groups, volunteering, and managing volunteer programs.

One day I heard through the grapevine that Michael meanwhile had achieved a bit of fame by starring in a Guinness Ad (What else!)

Life went on a then one fine humid day I picked up a paper to see film critics raving about a movie called “Hunger”. It starred Michael Fassbender. I was gob smacked. Wow-  he had made it good! Over the years he made it better. Prometheus, the Xmen, Frank,Shame, Twelve years a slave and the list goes on plus he got an Oscar nomination for the latter. I am convinced an Oscar will have his name on it someday soon.
I used to have fun telling my partner that he had made it but that I had made it in Volunteer management so who had really made it!? She laughed her infectious laugh and asked if  he had become a little bit of a nemesis. And more and more articles appeared about him and more and more movies came out with him and friends and family would play with my mind. Friends would ring up and say “hey – Michael is on the Graham Norton Show tonight” or “Did you see Michael at the Oscars”? It even came to the stage where my kids would show me a newspaper with a feature on Michael. Michael this Michael that blah blah blah! Ahem. Excuse me.

An actor friend of mine keeps telling me to contact him! “It could be our break he says! I laugh. I tell him Michael wouldn't know me from a bar of soap.  

So there’s a story of 2 boys from Kerry. One went on to live his dream, meet the most inspiring people in the world and the other went to Hollywood!  One became a Volunteer Manager and amateur actor and the other spends his days making movies.

A couple of years ago I  came up with my own movie pitch. Or maybe a play. It’s called “My Michael, My Nemesis “ ©DJ Cronin

My friends love the idea. Two boys from Kerry. One goes to Hollywood and DJ Does Brisbane! The movie follows the lives of both. Then one day the guy in Brisbane puts together a cast of amateur actors to be in the play called “My Michael my Nemesis”. Fassbender hears about it and decides to play the lead role. The press are amazed, it becomes a big story and Hollywood decide to turn it into a movie (Although it’s already a movie!) It’s a bit Seinfeld really!!! And then and only then do Cronin and Fassbender win Oscars. Me in the lead role of course. Michael can have the best supporting actor Oscar. I mean you cant have it any other way!!!

And then I appear on the Graham Norton Show, The Ellen Show and The Late Late show and I talk about the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life. Volunteering.

Now that’s a tale.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Your thoughts on Volunteering or Volunteer Management!

Happy New Year to all who read this blog around the world. One of my many resolutions is to get to know more people globally that are involved in Volunteerism and Volunteer Management. I’d like to start that process by inviting you to write about your experience. Maybe you have never written before? Maybe you have an inspiring story to tell? Maybe you would like to kick start a debate? Maybe you want to share stories about volunteers in your organizations or a story about your volunteering? Maybe you want to share an inspiring poem you wrote?

Why not share your writing on a blog that has had close on 250,000 page views with the most popular blogs receiving between 25,000 to close on 29,000 reads?

I am happy to volunteer my time to help you review and edit or just hear your suggestions first and help you turn it into an inspiring blog post. Nothing will be published until you are entirely satisfied. It doesn’t matter what experience you have or if you’ve never written before. Because I believe that if it is written from the heart then the story will take care of itself! J

Please get in contact with me by emailing

And don’t forget to like my FB page on Volunteering

Thanks for reading


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