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!


  1. You had me going there with the title. A great tribute to your volunteer team.

  2. Thanks for the comment! A great tribute to volunteering everywhere! Feel free to share the video and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @thedjcronin for updates on new blogs!

  3. Just thought I'd mention that some other volunteer groups out there are doing the same. Maybe we can start a trend!


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