July 24, 2010

Leadership for Volunteers

Posted in Leading Volunteers at 3:07 am by Sue Hine

Look what I found one day on a Google Search and a bit of surfing the net:

Providing leadership for volunteers can be exhilarating, frustrating, exciting, tedious, rewarding and demanding, all at the same time.

I do not need to be told this!  It is all too self-evident in every day experience. 

 If you want to see what is being said in your name then go to http://www.joe.org/joe/1998october/tt2.php.   I do not know who Joe is, and his item is more than ten years’ old, but his message still resonates in my 21st century.  Here is the abstract:

The failure of volunteer organizations is commonly attributed to a lack of leadership for the organization. The failure problem may be more closely related to unrealistic assumptions rather than the lack of leadership. Identifying common assumptions about organizational goals, volunteer roles, information flow, and feedback is crucial. Addressing those assumptions by learning the arts of active listening, mentoring, public dialogue, and evaluation and reflection is critical to the success of an organization.

 There is a lot of good sound commonsense in this article.  Here is what I have taken to heart:

  1. I need to think about everyday assumptions and challenge the premises.  Will they hold up?  What do I need to change in my practice, in my thinking?
  2. The four arts of managing volunteers: yeah, they sound good, though I would probably want to add recruitment and training, the whole support and recognition stuff.

If I was looking for a framework for leading volunteers here is what I would like to find:

  • An outline of appropriate and relevant Knowledge, Skills and Attributes for the role and its responsibilities
  • Recognition and acknowledgement of volunteer contributions, written into the organisation’s mission and strategic plan.
  • And in the interests of continuous improvement I would really like access to a mentor for myself.

The leadership of volunteers should not start and stop with me.  It is the responsibility of all people engaged in the organisation to acknowledge and appreciate volunteer contributions, right from governance level.  That’s how you keep volunteers wanting to join your organisation, and to keep them for years to come.  And at http://www.bettystallings.com/ideas.htm you will find a salutary reminder to appreciate staff for their support of your volunteer programme.  Better still, download a pdf.doc on 12 Key Actions of Volunteer Program Champions:  CEOs Who Lead the Way – every organisation should have a copy.

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