Energize Volunteer Management Update September 2012
September Hot Topic: "Why?" Is More Powerful than #@#%!
"Why" is a three-letter word that can pack more punch than most four-letter words! Asking someone to explain the reason for a particular statement, action, or decision puts things into context and enables forward progress. Leaders of volunteers tend to avoid confrontation, but posing a sensible question - which anyone can do - is a means of taking action in a different way. Learn the power of "why?"
International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMDay) acknowledges that volunteering does not succeed in a vacuum. Behind millions of volunteers lies an equally dedicated group of individuals and agencies who are responsible for the coordination, support, training, administration and recruitment of the world's volunteers - skilled professionals who are adept at taking singular passion and turning it into effective action. IVMDay thanks them and gives an opportunity to educate others about this important work. It's "Education through Celebration."
IVMDay has grown since it began in 1999 and this year even more events are planned throughout the world. Visit the Web site to learn about them, download the logo to post to your sites, and submit your own story. Now you can also following the planning on Twitter, using #IVMD2012.
Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985, International Volunteer Day (IVD) is about telling the world what volunteers can achieve for peace and sustainable development. It is a day for all volunteers to take pride in what they do, and to promote the benefits of volunteering to others. It is a day when volunteers, volunteer-involving organizations and their work should be recognized and applauded.
Some countries use IVD as their national day for celebrating volunteers. Even if you have a designated national volunteer week, however, everyone can take note of December 5th as an international acknowledgement of volunteers everyone. Help the volunteers in your organization feel connected to others around the world.
Reminder: Complete the AL!VE and Energize Association Survey
Thank you to everyone who has already provided valuable updated information through the survey!
But still not all associations have been identified. If you are a member of a professional association, whether local, state/provincial, or regional, please first check the existing directory to see whether it is already listed or not. Then contact the best person in your association to respond to the survey on its behalf (or, of course, do it yourself), whether to identify your group for the first time or to update your information.
The survey runs through September 30. The survey and the Directory can be accessed at no cost both through the AL!VE Web site and the Energize site. Of course, there will always be a form on the site to update information as necessary over time.
This quarter's Points of View essay (always accessible to any site visitor free of charge) is Keeping the Plural in Points of View. Susan J. Ellis gives everyone the opportunity to identify key issues faced by volunteer management practitioners today. A big thank you to the 9 readers who have responded to date. Read their thoughts and add your own!
This issue continues until the next quarterly issue is posted on October 15th. Still to be posted this quarter is a Training Design on new learning technology platforms.
You can subscribe to e-Volunteerism for a full year or for 48-hour access. Note that subscribers have full access to the Archives of all twelve volume years.
Susan's Tip of the Month: Tip Your Volunteer Recruitment into Success
Malcolm Gladwell shared many intriguing observations about selling products and disseminating ideas in his popular book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000, Little, Brown). Although the book was much discussed in business circles, the information is highly applicable to nonprofit situations, including to increasing the success of volunteer recruitment techniques.
Take the Gladwell's "Stickiness Factor" as a good example. Gladwell recounts the attempt of a Yale University professor to encourage students to get a free tetanus shot as part of an experiment on fear. He produced booklets in several versions that described the seriousness of tetanus in ever-increasing vividness. Questionnaires showed that the information campaign worked; regardless of the amount of fear instilled, the majority of the students were educated about the dangers of tetanus. But only 3% actually went to the infirmary to get their shot. They were not translating their knowledge into action. Finally, the professor included a map of the campus circling the exact location of the health center and listing the hours that the shots would be available-and that "tipped" 28% of the students into getting vaccinated. Since undoubtedly many students had no real need of the map to find the infirmary, Gladwell concludes:
...what the tetanus invitation needed in order to tip was not an avalanche of new or additional information. What it needed was a subtle but significant change in presentation. The students needed to know how to fit the tetanus stuff into their lives...once the advice became practical and personal, it became memorable.
How might a volunteer recruiter put an understanding of the Stickiness Factor to work?
First, don't assume everyone knows what you might consider basic information about your organization, even who you are or what you do. This is as true for people who already have some contact with you as for those who are clearly newcomers. Organizations change all the time, as do the needs of clients and service projects. So it's quite possible for someone to be generally informed about your agency and yet be in the dark about recent developments.
You can apply this principle of "don't assume" to the way you recruit volunteers in some very practical ways:
Beware of acronyms. Always translate any alphabet soup labels applied to projects.
Explain anything that has a special name, especially if it's not descriptive. So rather than saying, "Join our Rainbow Project," the message will communicate more if it's worded: "Help children in our Rainbow Project to discover the world of books."
Consider possible misconceptions people might have about your organization, either because of outdated information or by inferring something from your name. For example, someone considering volunteering for a children's museum might understandably assume that volunteers interact there with children. But if the available volunteer assignments are behind the scenes or focused on supporting parents, an applicant who wants to work with children will be disappointed. So describe the volunteer work correctly.
Second, make sure your recruitment message means something to the prospective volunteer personally, or it won't stick. Stop concentrating on explaining the gravity of your clients' needs or the significance of your services. All this does is evoke guilt in people who simply cannot respond to every good cause. Besides, most nonprofits are worthy of support - so what makes your organization memorable?
The way to increase the response rate to your volunteer recruitment message is to develop a connection with personal interests, concerns, or hopes. Here are a few ideas:
Most nonprofit causes are overwhelming in scope and some individuals understandably feel that they lack adequate skills to be of help. You can make a real impression simply by clearly stating: "Training is provided and volunteers receive ongoing support."
So many people feel time-deprived and can't imagine fitting volunteering into their schedules. Some simple phrases added to your recruitment pitch can make a difference in response: "We offer a variety of volunteer assignments requiring different amounts of time and we can be flexible in scheduling your hours" or "Even three hours every other week can have an impact" or "We'll work together to find the right schedule for you."
Given the number of single and divorced adults today, it is reasonable to assume that a percentage of your prospective volunteers are seeking social outlets. They want to meet interesting new people while doing good. Use photos of volunteers of different ages, men and women, and other diversity - and show volunteers interacting, rather than just individual head shots. If it works in your setting, note that you have designated some shifts for "singles only."
Consider whether people might fear something about your organization: personal safety in your neighborhood, viewing conditions that are disturbing, or other concerns. Address these by preempting them. In a matter-of-fact way, note that volunteers are on a buddy system at night or provide a map showing the proximity of parking. Again, positive photographs can allay fears and attract prospects, as can audio clips of actual client voices. The content of what they say (perhaps explaining how much they enjoy being with volunteers) is not as important as the tone (gee, this person isn't scary at all).
Can you be more "sticky"?
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