November 17, 2008

The Volunteer Experience

I was reading ASAE & The Center's Acronym blog today, and came across an interesting post from Nick Senzee called Is There a Volunteer Problem? My answer to this interesting question is kinda... How PC of me!!

I think in most instances, we have a volunteer management problem, not necessarily a volunteer problem. I think that all too often, our associations place people in a volunteer management role who have no idea the effort it takes to lead volunteers. This leads to mismanaged volunteer leaders, which leads to mismanaged committees, which sometimes even leads to mismanaged boards. This leads to an ineffectual organization, because in many cases, our associations depend on volunteers to do most of the work.

In one of my first posts ever on this blog, I talked about eight things to keep in mind to be an effective volunteer manager. I think that all too often, we don't think enough about these as tenets to live by in leading volunteers. The ideas are simple - listen to your volunteers' needs, communicate regularly, set expectations up front, and recognize their effort when they work hard.

As one of the first commenters of the aforementioned post by Nick mentioned, "There are many people who want to volunteer, however, in their past experience they probably weren't utilized in the manner they wished and thus got discouraged. Or, they felt those managing them were a bit inept." It's true. I have seen it with my own two eyes...

On the other side of the equation are the volunteers themselves, and the fact that sometimes, they take on more than they can handle. I still don't put all of the fault on them, however. As volunteer managers, we need to be able to recognize when this is happening, have a conversation with the volunteer, and diffuse the situation before it causes headaches for the organization through lack of follow through, etc.

If we make the effort to understand our volunteers' needs and desires, we can and will alleviate ourselves from having to deal with "a volunteer problem."

Am I right? Wrong? Thoughts?

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