Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thank You Speeches for Volunteers

About this time last year I wrote a guest post on DJ Cronin's Blog.  As we reflect on another year I feel that it is timely to repost this thank you message to volunteers. 

One of my favorite quotes is “To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.”

You may never know the profound effect that you may have made on a person’s life. A kind word, a gentle touch or a listening ear can mean so much to someone who is sick, in pain or lonely. You generously give your gift of time to make contact, provide support and encouragement and perhaps provide humor to make someone’s day a bit more bearable because you have taken the time to care and to listen.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Change: Why does it scare us?

"The world we created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking".  Albert Einstein

“We do not decide our future.  We decide our habits and our habits determine our future”.  The Abundance Principle, Jeff D Strandridge and Tim Kellerman

"I cannot control what goes on outside but I can always control what goes on inside".   Wayne Dyer
Stephen Covey in his 90/10 Principle believes that 10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react.  He goes on to say that we really have no control over 10% of what happens to us.  We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in traffic.  We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90% by your reaction to what happens to you.

“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922)

"Until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of change, people will choose to remain the same".  Anonymous.

Are we so scared of change that we are content to remain the same and yet are na├»ve enough to expect things to be different?  If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.  Do we embrace change when it comes, seeing it as an opportunity to grow, to try something new, to boldly go where no one has gone before or do we cling on to the past traditional ways of doing things,  lamenting being torn away from what is comfortable and familiar.  Are we scared to try something new because we fear failure or judgement by our peers?

The following quote resonated with me.

“To laugh often and love much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to give of one’s self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived . . . This is to have succeeded.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 5, 2011

International Volunteer Managers Day

Happy International Volunteer Managers Day to all of the volunteer managers and coordinators who play an important role in the effective engagement of volunteers.  I would encourage you to visit the IVMD website and consider ways which you could support and celebrate IVMD.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shamelessly Self-promote Volunteer Programs

The following post is a response to the Energize October 2011 Hot Topic by Susan J. Ellis “What Leaders of Volunteers Can DO to Gain Executive Attention”.

Thank you for your hot topic Susan.  It provides valuable insight in how we can gain attention for our sector.  I would like to perhaps extend your first point to include – Shamelessly Self-promote!

In the very competitive promotions industry, "shamelessly self-promote" was the catch cry of the printing franchise of our home based printing business.  While my career may have changed, I have continued this mantra as I feel it works for any industry including the volunteer management sector.

Volunteer Management is about having well designed and managed volunteer programs, which utilize the skills, abilities, intellect, passion and time of volunteers, to address community needs or value adding to an existing service.  However, as you suggest Susan, there may be some people within an organisation or in the general public who may be unaware of the extent of the volunteer programs and the role which volunteers play within an organisation.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Make it Fun!

Have you ever heard people lamenting that it’s Monday or saying “Thank god it’s Friday”.

No matter how much we love our jobs there will always be moments when we can’t wait for the weekend.  Moments of frustration over plans gone wrong with too many interruptions can sometimes wear us down.

I read a book a while back called “The Fish Omnibus” by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul and John Christensen.  This is a compilation of several books based on “The Fish Philosophy”.  It is not a book about fishing; however it is a book about a Fish Market in Seattle in the U.S.A. – “The Pike Place Fish Market”.  The Pike Place Fish Market has been written about, been featured in videos and is known in training circles throughout the world.  Why did a fish market become internationally significant?  They revolutionised how they treat customers and in doing so made their own workplace fun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Change Your Way of Thinking.

My inspiration for writing blogs often comes from either personal experience or from something that I have read.  My most recent post was inspired by a debate on International Womens day in 2010.  I found it on Youtube, used excerpts and posted the links.  One of the speakers had quoted “The Power Of Nice”, a book written by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval.  I have since borrowed this book from the library and have had difficulty putting it down.  It is brilliant!!!  Unfortunately in my enthusiasm to share this book with my work colleagues I left it at work.  I was all set to read more and become totally absorbed in the many examples of how being nice can have a profound effect in ways that would seem unimaginable but that is for another blog post, another day. 
 Instead I picked up a book which I had started to read a while ago entitled “The Idea Factory – A guide to more creative thinking and writing” by Valerie Parv.  Valerie speaks of the tendency in Thailand where the value of an endeavour is judged by how much “sanuk” it contains, which roughly translated, means fun.   So when did we start forgetting to have fun?  Did we have fun in the first place?  Who said life had to be boring and unfun?  Valerie goes on to describe the parts of the brain, the left brain which is the editor and the critic and the part that remains in charge most of the time and the right brain which is the creative side or the fun side.   It is the creative side which comes up with alternate ideas, thinking outside the box so to speak. 
Often a problem can be solved by looking at it from a different perspective to come up with a different or creative solution.  Consider the Post-it Note, born from the collaborative, creative thinking of two chemists, Dr Spence Silver and Art Fry, who turned a failed adhesive into one of the most commonly used stationery items around.  Creative people use ideas, which come from the right brain and put them into action, which is a left brain function.  So how do you know if you are a creative person?  Dr Denis Waitley suggests some characteristics which identify the creative person.
·        Optimism about the future
·        Discontent with the status quo
·        Curiosity and skill in observation
·        The ability to daydream and fantasise
·        An adventurous outlook and interest in many subjects
·        The ability to recognise and break bad habits
·        Independent thinking
So are you creative?  Would you like to be?  My challenge to you is to step away from the traditional, critical framework of thinking where we become bogged down by definitions and rigidity.  Rather, use your creative right brain to develop unique solutions.  Brainstorm with colleagues and make it fun.  You’ll be amazed what you can come up with.
Thank you for reading my blog post.
I would love to hear your creative solutions. 
So share them with the world.  Write a comment!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Power of Nice in Volunteer Management

Linda Kaplan Thaler in her book, “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness”, co-authored by Robin Koval, suggests that “nice has an image problem.” She goes on to say “Somewhere along the way, using the word nice became something you said when you had nothing else to say.”
How right you are Linda and how often do we, as volunteer managers, hear that word in reference to our roles.  In fact the other day, a colleague and I were discussing how our roles are often characterized by people, outside the volunteer management sector, by comments of “how nice!” While we cringe at the saccharine, somewhat patronising description of our jobs, we both agreed that there was nothing wrong with being nice.  In fact it was essential and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blogs, Blogs and more blogs on Volunteer Management!!!

In Susan J. Ellis’ September Hot Topic Addressing Volunteerism Issues in the Blogosphere  she speaks of all of the wonderful information available on the blogosphere and explains the best way of utilizing this media via twitter and RSS feeds without getting information overload.  The internet has opened up opportunities to communicate on a global level.  We now have access to a plethora of information, all at our fingertips.  We can also connect and have discussions with volunteer management colleagues on the other side of the world.
I started a blog over a year ago on matters related to parenting teenagers.  For me this was a sort of therapy and hopefully was of assistance to other parents also going through the challenges of dealing with wayward teenagers.  With the experience gained from designing a blog, writing posts, placing comments and following stats I felt that I was ready to start another blog; this time on matters relating to volunteer management The purpose of this blog was to support, encourage and inspire people in the field of volunteer management, through sharing information and ideas to take our sector and boldly go where no one has gone before.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

R U OK? Day?

On Thursday 15th September 2011 Australians were encouraged to ask friends, family, work colleagues, even complete strangers the question, Are you OK?
 “ R U OK? Day is a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide(Lifeline) by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.
Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide(Lifeline). Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.
It's so simple. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.”
There have been several articles written recently on the health benefits of volunteering.  The social interaction between people, the care and compassion towards others and the connectedness to a community are all benefits which can be gained from volunteering.
In recent years volunteering has evolved and even people who are time poor now have opportunities to volunteer online.  This type of volunteering is known as micro volunteering.  Even though volunteering has evolved with the advent of technology there is no substitute for a kind word, a gentle touch, a listening ear and a caring heart. 
Please don’t let our fascination for technology take us away from basic human compassion and caring for each other.
R U OK? Day

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Australian Census: A question on volunteering

There has been much discussion online regarding the recent Australian Census question on volunteering.  Some felt that the question “Did you volunteer in the last 12 months?” did not go deep enough.  In isolation this question seems very basic; however when the answer to this question is cross-classified with other information collected in the census, a complete range of demographic information can be gathered.  There is a range of census information provided at no charge.

The 2006 Australian Census provided the following information at no charge:
Labor Force Status by Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for persons Aged 15-54 Years
Labor Force Status by Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for persons Aged 55 Years and Over
Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex
Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for Indigenous Persons

I would assume that similar information would be available from the 2011 Australian Census.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Work Life Balance: Are we all too busy?

A few months back I published a post on I-Volunteer.  Click on the heading of this post for link.  I think that this topic is still very relevant. Incidentally, my work life and home life have since become even busier.
                                                                     On Friday I rose at 5.15am drove my children to and from the ice rink, twice, got my car assessed for repair, went to the bank, assisted with setting up a garage sale for a fundraising charity event and managed to squeeze in a visit to my GP for health checkups which has now led to more scans checks and specialist visits mostly due to the 3F’s Fifty, Flabby and Family history – all of this achieved by 1pm on my day off. Ok so I did manage to have lunch with a friend after that and make yet another trip to the ice rink. I work full time and so I took a day off work to fit all of this in. After a very busy day it is not surprising that the following newspaper article caught my attention.

A major Federal Government study has revealed that one in four families have a full time stay-at-home parent compared to the 1983 figure of one in two. The rise in cost of living has placed increased pressure on families. The study reported that 45% of fathers and 62% of mothers in the full time workforce say they feel rushed. Courier Mail 12 May 2011 - “Work Consumes Parents”

So where am I going with this?

Two issues come to mind from this article –

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Credentialing Volunteer Management

Susan J. Ellis in her hot topic "Needed: A Multi-level Approach to Credentialing Volunteer Management" presented a frank narrative on some of the realities of our profession.  In her article she discussed learning opportunities, currently available, which could lead to the credentialing of our profession. Susan asks readers for their feelings on certification and qualifications in volunteer management.  She also asks about the relevance to the reader of having certification for our profession. 

My response to the hot topic is as follows:

I had the opportunity last year to gain a part scholarship for a Certificate IV in Volunteer Coordination. While a death in the family meant postponing the course, I have since given it very careful consideration and have decided against doing the course for the following reasons.  The course covered basic volunteer coordination skills.  The course was structured to provide a Certificate IV for recognition of prior learning based on evidence of skills gained on the job.  While the assumption was made by the course providers that I had no qualifications, I actually have two qualifications, a Bachelor’s Degree and an Associate Diploma in related business fields.  To invest money in obtaining a lower level qualification where I would learn no new skills or advanced concepts would be a complete waste of money, time and effort.  I incorporate the knowledge gained from my current qualifications into my career and many other aspects of my life.  I believe that study pursued at a diploma or degree level broadens the mind to think beyond basic concepts and evolves creative, innovative thought processes.

I do not fit the mould.  I never have and never will.  Some say I am a free spirit or a free thinker, a label that I am happy to wear.  Generally, I do not believe in pigeon holing, labelling or stereotyping for to do so gives a one size fits all approach.  We are all different.  How we learn and the speed at which we learn is different.  Our perceptions, belief systems, attitudes, values and the way in which we think determine how we will utilize information and evolve.

I would encourage volunteer managers to gain a Diploma or Degree in Business incorporating a major in Volunteer Management.  Many business qualifications provide a broad range of skills including, human resources, accounting, group dynamics and psychology, marketing, information technology and systems, statistics and more.  I do not believe that volunteer management is currently offered as a major of a business qualification but I think that it should be.

My preference for courses for myself would be one to three day courses in leadership, strategic planning, advocacy and ethics to name just a few.  I am interested in advanced concepts which challenge and encourage intellectual discussion. I believe that to bring about certification of our profession we need to have a collective, positive, proactive, voice to make the changes necessary to make our sector a recognised and valued profession.

To read Susan J. Ellis'  hot topic and other responses, click on the title of this blog post.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Power of Social Media: Twitter

I am new to Twitter.  It took me a while to grasp the concept as I couldn’t understand how, with only 4 followers on twitter, that this could have an impact on traffic or visitors to my blog.  That was until two of my followers “retweeted” my tweet to their 1,700+ followers and 35 followers respectively.  So thank you Volunteering QLD and the DJ Cronin for your support which has led to an increase in the number of visitors to my blog.  As my blog is relatively new, only a few weeks old, the search engines and web crawlers probably haven’t found it as yet and so promotion of my blog through the social media is extremely helpful.

From my understanding, the inventors of twitter have taken the basic concept of “word of mouth” and utilized the technology of the internet and mobile phone systems to amplify the process globally.   

Jayne Cravens explains on her website the how, when and where’s of utilizing Twitter from a Volunteer Management perspective.  You can read this article by clicking on the title of this post.

Jayne says in a recent newsgroup message “I'm considering creating a blog on this subject, but I'd like to know more about how volunteer managers are *really* using Twitter.”

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities: Flexibility is the key

I think that there is definitely a need for volunteer managers to have the flexibility in their programs to accommodate episodic volunteers.  We lead very busy lives and the excuse of “not enough time” probably relates to the perception of the commitment required to volunteer.  In the traditional model of volunteering some organisations actually specify a time period of commitment to volunteering; a regular weekly shift over a period of 12 months for example.  What if that person is unable to fulfil that time commitment?  While it would be great to have that commitment from people, it is not always possible for people to either make or keep that commitment.  People are unpredictable and life is unpredictable.  Any number of things can impact on a person’s life and their commitment to volunteering; a change in circumstance, loss of a job, gain of a job perhaps in another state or country, commencing study, travel, health issues, either their own or their loved ones, a life changing event such as a death or serious illness in the family prompting a reassessment of priorities.  These are all very valid reasons for not being able to commit to a specific timeframe of volunteering.
We, as volunteer managers, need to have the flexibility in our programs to accommodate this emerging trend in volunteering, for to remain rigid in our volunteer program structure may mean the demise of our volunteer programs because they no longer attract as many volunteers.  This may be because emerging trends in the way people volunteer no longer match the traditional volunteering model.  While altruism may be one aspect of volunteering, many people volunteer for different reasons; for experience for their tertiary study, to gain experience for a job, to practice conversational English skills and for many other reasons.  Volunteering needs to fit into study, work, childcare and leisure activities.  The structure of our volunteer programs needs to provide a variety of meaningful tasks with flexibility to accommodate changing schedules and volunteering commitments.  A balance of traditional volunteering with episodic volunteering provides stability yet flexibility within its structure.
The aove article is a slightly modified version of my response to the OZVPM Hot Topic for June/July 2011 by Rob Jackson. Click on the title of this blog post to read the Hot Topic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is it time for change in Volunteer Management?

I posted an article in a blog some time back on  Since then I have been informed that it is the 4th most visited post on this blog. I have also published this post on i-volunteer as I felt that it may be of interest to others as well.  Click on the title of this blog to see this article on I-Volunteer.

Change management is a process that has been around for some time however, I have only recently become aware that there are consultants who actually specialize in this process and assist businesses in the management of changes within their organizations.

Change is everywhere. When you consider that during my mother’s life for example, she had lived through a depression and a world war and had seen the development of technology which brought about the advancement of computers from large mainframe computers, which filled an entire office floor, using punched cards as input, to accessing the internet from a mobile phone that fits into the palm of your hand.

Some people embrace change. There are a lot of computer savvy octogenarians out there who have discovered that they can access a wealth of information and stay in touch with friends all over the world with the advent of this new technology and all from the comfort of their own home. For these people the internet has become a mechanism for keeping in touch with people at a time perhaps when their mobility has become limited due to ill health or other issues which would otherwise prevent them from going out and socializing.

The way we do our grocery shopping has evolved too. Picking up the essentials daily from the corner store gave us an opportunity to meet with our neighbours and catch up on the local gossip. The corner store was the hub of the local community. Nowadays shopping usually consists of a car trip to a supermarket with a plethora of grocery and other items to choose from. While we have a far greater choice due to the bulk buying capacity of supermarket conglomerates, it is to the detriment of the local community feel and the personal approach. These changes had to come to keep pace with the changing demands of consumer’s lifestyles, but at what cost? Have we lost our sense of community? Have we become more insular?

These are two perspectives of change which are in my mind both just as valid. It is all about people’s perception. As volunteer managers and coordinators we deal with change all of the time, within our own organizations we introduce new programs, recruit new volunteers or deal with other organizational changes which impact on the volunteer service delivery. We deal with changes outside our organizations in the volunteer management sector trying to establish where we fit into the professional world. Perhaps as volunteer managers and coordinators we could learn more about change management strategies to promote our sector to a world that perhaps hasn’t kept up with the changes in volunteering and is perhaps unaware of the existence of the volunteer management sector.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Volunteer Management: Who are we?

I was with some colleagues from the volunteer management sector a while ago when the topic of qualifications in volunteer management came up. I, along with other colleagues, are very keen for tertiary institutions to design courses specifically for volunteer coordination or volunteer management as it is a unique sector and we feel it requires a course of its own. One person in the group by way of illustration turned to me suggesting that it would be a good idea for me to get a qualification and that a course in volunteer coordination would give credit for skills gained while working in the field of volunteer coordination. She went on to assume that I had chosen volunteer coordination for reasons of work/life balance and that because of this I worked part time.

I am by no means suggesting that there is anything wrong with this. In fact this may be quite true of many people. The hours that people work and the qualifications that people have is a matter of choice, individual choice. However what I find disturbing is that a person within our sector, albeit perhaps not at the coal face, is making a broad, generalist assumption that all volunteer managers and coordinators, or at least all of those in my demographic, are in the job because they are either winding down or making a career choice based solely on work/life balance. What does this say about our sector? Volunteer management is only the job that you have when you are about ready to retire or the job that you have when you are balancing work with bringing up a young family. If this is the mindset of people within our own sector what message are we, as a sector, sending to the general population. Is it any wonder we may not be considered as a profession by some if this is the perceived stereotypical view of volunteer management worldwide?

There was a time when I fitted into this stereotypical view. I had a part time job which entailed coordinating volunteers. I had this job when my children were young and it fitted in with the work/life balance of bringing up young children. In making generalist assumptions about volunteer managers and coordinators, what my colleague had not realised was in fact that I already have qualifications – 2 in fact; a Bachelor of Administration majoring in Information Systems and an Associate Diploma in Business. I work full time as a volunteer coordinator and have a challenging and dynamic role which I enthusiastically embrace as my career destiny. I have been fortunate to have colleagues in the volunteer management sector who are themselves dynamic leaders and their passion for advancing the sector has rubbed off on me.

Our sector is unique in that people from diverse backgrounds with many and varied skill sets can and do work as volunteer managers and coordinators. It is perhaps one of the few professions with a broad scope of position descriptions and tenures which lend themselves to varying participation rates which meet our work requirements at different stages of our lives. However let’s not forget that we are a profession and that we need to be inclusive of all jobs within our sector and to make generalised assumptions about volunteer management as a whole based only on a part of the sector is not productive in promoting volunteer management as a burgeoning profession.
I hope that this post evokes thought to the following questions
  • Who we are as a sector?
  • Where do we fit as a profession?
  • What type of messages are we giving to promote our sector?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
I value and encourage your feedback to the above questions.
So come on be brave, be bold and be a voice to encourage others in our sector.

This post was also posted on I-Volunteer.  Click on title of this blog to see this post and comments on this site.

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...