The Cluetrain Manifesto, published in 1999, was a call to action for businesses to reckon with a new marketplace influenced by the Internet and Web 2.0. In 2010, we need a new call to action, a New Volunteer Manifesto, for associations. I’ll be diving deeper into this manifesto for the 21st century volunteer in my upcoming weekly guest column, New Insights from a New CAE, on SmartBlog Insights. I hope that you will join me there to wrestle with new perspectives on volunteering and associating.
The Big Picture
Members are strategic assets whose talents can be shared with the association. Invest in the infrastructure necessary to effectively recruit, develop, place, recognize and retain volunteer talent.
Beware the leadership bubble. Leadership can often develop an insular perspective and won’t always see what members really need and value. Cultivate multiple perspectives in your leadership.
Slay sacred cows. Get rid of committees, programs or pet projects that aren’t moving your association toward achieving its goals.
Find new jobs for your deadwood leaders. If they’re not open to innovation and new perspectives, ease them out.
Choose the right chairs. They must be leaders, managers, influencers and recruiters who are willing to share the benefit of leadership, and are forward thinking and receptive to new ideas and perspectives.
Appoint a community officer, perhaps your incoming president, as part of your leadership team whose main responsibility is to develop and retain a huge corps of volunteers.
Don’t just be an association for Boomers. Learn how to be an association for younger generations too. Be willing to experiment and change because you will have to.
Survey all members (new and current) at least once a year to find out their professional development needs, leadership experience, interests, talents and the number of hours they can give to the association per month (or quarter) so you can match them to volunteer opportunities.
Publicize all volunteer opportunities, particularly those requiring a minimal time commitment. Get creative — project them at meetings, include in correspondence, feature a few in each e-newsletter and on your web site, Facebook page, LinkedIn group or Twitter stream.
Demonstrate the value of volunteering. Answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”
Regularly make an obvious connection between what volunteers do and the success of the association’s mission.
Committee involvement may be too demanding for personal schedules. Encourage ad hoc or episodic volunteering — an hour or less here and there.
Cultivate evangelical leaders and volunteers, those with social capital, who will personally ask others to get involved.
Volunteering is a benefit of membership. Make it easy for your members to find ways to get involved. Eliminate perceived barriers. Open up your committee meetings.
Break down projects and committee work into smaller tasks that volunteers can take on. Tell your chairs to look outside your committee members for help with these. Share the benefit of volunteering.
Chairs must always share the benefit of leadership — delegate delegate delegate. Train many others to do your job.
Make meetings matter. Use a consent agenda. Build in time for strategic thinking and discussion. Don’t waste time on minutia that can be handled offline.
Make meetings enjoyable. Aim to be the highlight of someone’s day.
Encourage committees to explore new ways of meeting and working – new venues, online collaboration.
Thank every volunteer who helps in even the tiniest way.
Create a culture of learning, not only through your educational programs, but also within your leadership and your committees.
Deepen the reach of your leadership development programs. Include any member who leads up a team or project. Partner with other organizations to offer more programs.
Teach your leaders to build learning moments into committee agendas. Conduct ongoing training for leaders on how to recruit and work with volunteers.
Recognize those leaders who have led well by delegating and involving others.
New Ways of Associating
Build social networks that connect members with one another and with your association.
Give members the encouragement and tools to self-organize informal member meet-ups.
Make it easy for members to organize working groups to explore new ideas and projects.
Give younger members the means to contribute their talents and their voice.
Keep a spirit of entrepreneurial innovation alive in your leadership.
This Manifesto is my work in progress. I hope you’ll join me in sharing it with our colleagues in the association world. Let’s help our associations truly be 21st century associations.
Update: I expanded on this post in a series that I wrote for SmartBlog Insights. You can find those posts here as well — Part 1: The Big Picture, Part 2: Finding Volunteers, Part 3: Keeping Volunteers, Part 4: Creating a Learning Culture and Part 5: New Ways of Associating.