Monday, November 4, 2013

International Volunteer Managers Day 2013

As we approach another International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD), I ponder the true meaning of the day.  The banners and posters on the IVMD website suggest that IVMD is about thanking “Leaders of Volunteers” for fighting for and enabling volunteers and working their “Magic” or to perhaps “Go Crazy” celebrating the day or that a person who managers volunteers is some sort of “Miracle Worker”.

To me the message is clear.  If you value volunteers, you value volunteer managers!

It is not about being miracle workers or working magic.  It is about leadership and direction of volunteers, valuing their contributions by providing meaningful tasks within a professional, safe environment and acknowledging the donation of that very precious commodity, time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thank you speech for volunteers NVW 2013

"People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." Dr. Thomas L. Garthwaite

Volunteers share their joy and laughter and sometimes shed a tear.  They bring a kind word, a warm heart and empathy for a person who is unwell or lonely or scared.  They are dedicated, compassionate and willingly give their time to help others.

What volunteers receive in turn is a sense of achievement and satisfaction of being able to help someone in need.  They gain experience in communicating with people. They develop new friendships amongst the other volunteers and they grow in confidence.

I have seen powerful personal journeys where people have flourished as their confidence has grown through their volunteering.  The roles they perform, the people they meet, the time and compassion given and through all of this, they have achieved great personal growth.

Thank you for allowing me, in some small way, to be a part of that amazing journey.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What will be your goals for 2013?

One of my favourite Facebook Pages is Leadership Freak Coffee Shop!/LeadershipFreak

Yep it is a strange name for a Facebook page.  I came across it when I was looking at twitter # tags on leadership.  What I like about this particular page is that the author posts the start of a sentence and invites readers to complete the sentence with their own comments. 
The most recent sentence posted was this one:

My goals for 2013 include ________________

When I last visited the page there were 19 comments which included things like, being more organised, spending more time with family, blogging more, focus, growing professionally etc.

I have given this sentence a lot of thought and while all of the above comments are also true for me, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year and on the experiences that have shaped my life so far.  Sadly for one family, 2013 will start with a funeral.  My dear friends lost a father-in-law/father on Christmas day. Another family I know lost 8 family members throughout 2012. My thoughts are very much with these people and others who have experienced such sadness in their lives.  Tragedies such as these provide opportunities for thoughtful reflection on what is really important.  For me this was truly a wakeup call.  It is not what is important but who is important. I am fortunate to have family, friends and colleagues in my life who provide friendship and insight.   It is my family, friends and colleagues who are important to me.  Now with clarity of thought and a different perspective I am able to complete the above sentence.

My goals for 2013 include
Stress less, enjoy more, carpe diem (Seize the day), be creative and just Be!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Take Time Out for IVMD

As we approach IVMD, I look for inspiration on something to write and find it in front of me. 

I came across an article written for my father’s retirement.  After a long career in the electricity industry, my father had reached the position of Deputy General Manager.  However,  it was not the position that he achieved that was the highlight of his career but a time when he and his team had an “8 month rush to build Tennyson package plant, a 10 megawatt station needed in a hurry to stave off nightly blackouts in 1952”.   QEC Newsline Published for the employees of the Queensland Electricity Generating Commission No.333 September 1986.

I couldn't help but draw a parallel to my own career.  It is not so much the position that I hold that motivates me but the satisfaction which comes from meeting the daily challenges of coordinating a large team of dynamic, inspiring, individuals.

Whilst my father’s career and mine were vastly different, I believe that we shared a passion for people, teamwork and meeting challenges.

Take time on IVMD, 5 November, to look at what you do in your role each day.  Look at the many interactions that you have, the satisfaction gained from meeting challenges and achieving goals.

IVMD is an opportunity to take time out from your busy schedule and invest some time in yourself to value what you do, to network with other Volunteer Managers and Coordinators and to share positive experiences. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

10 Ways to Recruit Volunteers

There are many different ways to promote your volunteer service to recruit volunteers.  Here are just some ways.  I’m sure that you can think of more.  Be creative and come up with some more ideas and feel free to comment or email me at
1.     Website – Have a page dedicated to Volunteer Services on your organisation’s website.  This shows that your organisation values volunteers.  It is also a great place to outline the sort of tasks that your volunteers do, your office hours and how prospective applicants can contact someone for further information.
2.     Promotional Banner – Shamelessly self promote!  Have a free-standing, portable advertising banner promoting volunteers.  The banner can be on display in your organisation’s foyer or it can be taken to meetings and conferences both within and outside your organisation.
3.     Volunteer Expos – Universities often have volunteer expos where different organisations, who engage volunteers, can showcase their volunteer programs by holding a stand.  It is a great opportunity to promote volunteering at your organisation to university students who may have some free time and are looking for opportunities to gain experience, through volunteering, in their chosen field of study.
4.     Internal staff meetings – addressing staff or management meetings within your organisation is a great way to promote volunteers.  Sometimes staff are unsure of the role volunteers play within the organisation and so this is an ideal opportunity to dispel myths and explain how volunteers can assist.  When staff appreciate and understand the role of volunteers, they are often motivated to tell their family and friends about volunteering for the organisation. 
5.     Information Desks  – An information desk is an obvious place to go to when wanting to find out information about anything within the organisation, including volunteering.  It is a good idea to have volunteer application packs available at the Information Desks.  An application pack should have a brochure about Volunteer Services at your organisation.  It should also contain an application form and a covering letter, thanking the applicant for their interest in volunteering with your organisation.
6.    Word of Mouth – One of the best ways of promoting your volunteer service is through your own volunteers.  If your volunteers have a satisfactory volunteering experience they will naturally want to tell their friends and family of their positive volunteering experience and encourage others to join them volunteering with your organisation.
7.     Volunteering Queensland website - This website has a database of many different organisations who engage volunteers and lists volunteering vacancies available within these organisations.Volunteering Queensland Website
8.     University Student Services offices – Student Services offices will often have noticeboards or webpages where information is provided to students seeking opportunities to volunteer.
9.     Community groups – Sometimes a volunteer, staff member or acquaintance will know about you and your volunteer program and invite you to be a guest speaker at a community group.  This is a great opportunity to promote volunteering at your organisation.  Be prepared with brochures and application forms as you may be inundated with people who are interested in volunteering after you have given your inspiring speech.
10.  Talk to anyone and everyone – If when you are out and about on the weekend or at a school function or some other social occasion and the topic of conversation turns to what you do – don’t just say “I’m a volunteer manager or I’m a volunteer coordinator”.  Follow it up by telling them enthusiastically about your amazing volunteer program and how great your volunteers are.  A passionate belief in your volunteer program and your volunteers is a great testimony for volunteering with your organisation.  People will see your genuineness and enthusiasm. 
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Power of Nice: Make someone's day

I remember some time back being in a queue to order a meal at a sports club venue.  The card reader had not being working properly which meant that payments made by card were taking a long time.  Customers were showing their annoyance.  The person who was taking the orders and payment remained calm and greeted each new customer with cheerful courtesy, despite some customers venting their hostility.  When it was my turn, I complimented her on her excellent customer service in a difficult situation.   A smile came over her face and she seemed to show a sense of relief that someone had taken the time to understand and acknowledge her ability to handle a difficult situation with excellent customer service skills and professionalism.

In an article "6 Unexpected Ways to Make Someone's Day" by Jeff Haden on INC. (Small Business Resources for Entrepreneurs) Website, Jeff Haden writes "When you see a person struggling, give them hope.  Let them know you see something in them that they don't yet see - even if, sometimes, you don't yet see it either".   
6 Unexpected ways to make someones day

I love stories like these about building people up by acknowledging their ability to handle a difficult situation in a courteous, calm, confident and professional manner.  Taking a moment to be present and to see a situation from another's perspective shows not only empathy but leadership in building someone up by providing hope and encouragement.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

50 Something: Shades of Grey

Surprisingly this is not a commentary on a certain book.  Rather it is a commentary on people’s perceptions and stereotypes.

I ponder my life at 50 something while I look in the mirror at a few more shades of grey appearing in my hair and I can’t help but notice how we as a society have evolved over the years.  We live in an era where medical technology, improved nutrition, access to information on health and fitness have had a profound effect on improving our quality of life enabling us to be active, longer.

In the past perhaps someone with greying hair may be considered as approaching retirement or at least winding down from full time work.  However in an era where 70 may be considered as the new 50, this is not the impression we want to give if in fact we are perfectly happy pursuing our full time careers, hence the propensity to get out the dye bottle and rid ourselves of the grey.

I must admit I have struggled with the concept of going grey for this very reason.  I too was guilty of using hair dye to rid myself of the shades of grey.  Eventually I stopped dying my hair preferring to wear a wig, still not ready to face the world with grey hair.  It was not until I had a break away from work for a brief holiday and after some soul searching, I realised that I was the one with the issue of greying hair.  It was my perception of myself that I was getting too old for the job.   Remarkably spending time with someone who has debilitating health issues put things into perspective for me.  Once I had faced my own demons and changed my own perceptions and stereotypes I was able to change my way of thinking and be content with who I am.   I have now abandoned the wig to reveal my own hair with emerging shades of grey.   

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Volunteer Manager’s Mission - seek out strange new worlds

I attended a seminar at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) in Brisbane, recently.  I will be honest, I was a little apprehensive.  For whatever reason, I thought that I wouldn’t fit in.  Usually when I am talking to people and the topic of conversation turns to what work do you do, I say “I’m a Volunteer Coordinator” and then hold my breath and wait for the reply of “how nice” followed by an awkward silence or a quick change of subject, because people are generally unfamiliar with the role and feel uncomfortable because they don’t know what to say next. 

So it was with some trepidation I entered the AIM building.  I was greeted in a friendly, yet professional manner and shown where I could either sit and wait or browse through the library and bookshop while I waited to be taken to the seminar room.   The event coordinator, Simone, noticing I was by myself and perhaps a little nervous, made me feel a bit more at ease with a polite conversation and you guessed it, asked the dreaded question, what do you do?   Imagine my surprise then, when after giving my usual reply, Simone responded with “that must be challenging”, finally, someone who understood my role.  Yes being a volunteer coordinator can be challenging.  A person who coordinates events would know this.  The role of coordinating or managing volunteers is challenging, because to do it well requires matching the skills, abilities, talents and needs of people to tasks, ensuring also that tasks are appropriate and meaningful.  To get the balance right requires flexibility, understanding, empathy, multitasking, organisation and time management skills to name just a few. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Social Media: To Tweet or Not To Tweet

#1: 50% of mobile internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook. Imagine what this means for bad customer experiences.
Some time back in the early 1990s, I held the position of Help Desk Administrator. The job had a very steep learning curve but I was fortunate to have gone to a Help Desk Conference. It was a very valuable experience for me. One of the things which has been cemented in my brain was the following facts. A satisfied customer will tell 5 people of their positive customer experience, however, a dissatisfied customer will tell 12 – 20 people of their dissatisfaction. Of course this was way before social media came into being. With the advent of social media this figure has grown exponentially. A very sobering thought in deed if you have a dissatisfied customer tweeting to the world of their dissatisfaction.

#2: 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations; 14% trust advertisements.
How many of us as consumers, ask family or friends for recommendations. Whether it is an electrical appliance or a tradesperson or an airline, we ask people who have knowledge of, or have used the appliance, tradesperson or airline themselves. Word Of Mouth has also been a brilliant way of recruiting. As DJ Cronin suggests "The good volunteer experience is priceless for your recruitment of volunteers." Volunteers who have positive volunteering experiences share those experiences with friends. Such recommendations come from someone they can trust and therefore the assumption is that the organisation which their friend volunteers for can also be trusted.

#3: Generations Y and Z consider e-mail passé; some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts.
Rob Jackson recounted "....a volunteer programme working with young people that posts a thank-you message to the volunteer's Facebook timeline immediately after their shift finishes."   I am not yet convinced that a thank you post to a Facebook timeline will ever replace a genuine, heartfelt, personal, face to face, thank you at the end of a shift. I believe that appreciation for a person’s time should be immediate and face to face, where a two way conversation can take place.

In terms of an organisations “draconian rules” when it comes to social media policy, I would suggest that many organisations would be very cautious about social media because of the reasons which are sited in #1 in relation to bad customer experience. No organisation wants bad press particularly worldwide bad press.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thank You Speeches to Volunteers

As we approach National Volunteer Week my thoughts turn to volunteers and the incredible contribution that they make to society.  I was  inspired to write the following speech to volunteers.

A quote which really resonates with me is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away”.

As I look around the room I see a sea of faces.  Each face tells a story; so many faces, so many stories.  You come from many different backgrounds.  You have many different life experiences and yet you all have at least one thing in common, your willingness to give your time to help others.  

I am humbled by your generosity of spirit and your compassion for your fellow human beings.  It is all of you who so generously give your time, your warmth, your humour and your caring.  It is all of you, doing what you do, who take my breath away.  Thank you for volunteering.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Take time to notice - take time to care.

Have you ever been in a lift when there is just one other person in it and find that there is that awkward silence while their eyes and yours are glued to the display which indicates the floor level that you are on?  To be in such close proximity to another person without conversing with them somehow seems impolite.  It is times like this when I ask the question, “How’s your day been?”  This question can lead to so many different responses from “Not bad thanks” to the extreme “My mother just passed away”, so you have to be prepared how to respond, no matter what the answer.  To the latter, while it is tempting to melt through the floor wishing all the time that you had never uttered those fateful words, the response is easy, “I’m so sorry to hear that” and then leave a silence providing them with an opportunity to speak if they feel inclined to do so. 

Being in the right frame of mind and having the emotional intelligence to be able to deal with this situation may be somewhat more difficult.  I believe that our own life experiences and how we deal with them play a very important part in being able to deal with situations like these.  Knowing what gestures, words and kindnesses helped when we experienced our own periods of sadness and grief can provide opportunities to assist and console family, friends or complete strangers during their times of sadness.  
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International Volunteer Managers Day 2013

As we approach another International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMD), I ponder the true meaning of the day.   The banners and posters on the...