The New Volunteer Manifesto Series – Part 1: The Big Picture

As part of my New Insights from a New CAE weekly column on SmartBlog Insights, I’m delving deeper into my New Volunteer Manifesto that I published here. In Part 1 published last week, I looked at The Big Picture.


The New Volunteer Manifesto: The Big Picture

Deirdre Reid, CAE is an association consultant, speaker and trainer focusing on member engagement and social media at Deirdre Reid LLC and Leadership Outfitters. Connect with her @DeirdreReid.

I recently published a call to action for associations, a New Volunteer Manifesto. Now with your input, I’d like to dig a little deeper into that. First, here are my ideas on the big picture.

View all members as strategic assets whose talents can be shared with the association. Focus on developing ways for them to contribute their talents.

Invest in the infrastructure necessary to effectively recruit, develop, place, recognize and retain volunteer talent. You might have to admit that your current systems aren’t working as well as you’d like. What percentage of your membership is volunteering now? Your association is a community of talents — more work is accomplished with more hands on deck and more members invested in the goals of the association.

Slay your sacred cows! Can we get that on a t-shirt? Get rid of committees, programs or pet projects that aren’t moving your association toward achieving its goals. Establish sunset reviews every two or three years.

Beware the leadership bubble! Put that on a t-shirt too. Leadership can develop an insular perspective and won’t always see what members really need and value. Their view could be colored by their association service, their age or career stage. Make sure you have multiple perspectives participating in decisions that affect your membership and the future of your association.

Find new jobs for your deadwood leaders. If they’re not open to innovation and new perspectives, ease them out. Their fear of regret (for not taking a risk) should outweigh their fear of failure. If anyone says, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” be very scared. Or, “if it’s not broken, why fix it.” Is mediocrity good enough for them? Will they even know if something is broken? If a leader isn’t concerned with the future needs of the association, or isn’t interested in growing as a leader, bid them adieu. This isn’t about a title; this is about leadership and vision.

Align committee work with association goals. Are your committees charged with goals to achieve? Are they accountable? Do they have the autonomy to choose how best to achieve those goals, or are their strategies and tactics imposed from above? Do they report back on progress made? Your committees must do meaningful work in meaningful ways to avoid stagnation.

Make all your leaders accessible to each other. Is there regular communication amongst your leadership – board members, committee chairs, and other formal and informal group leaders? Are they really a team, all of them? Are they in a position to help each other? Learn together?

Choose the right chairs. Make sure the members who are leading your association, not only the board, but also committee chairs, have the right motivations to be there. They’re not in it for the ego or title. They want to help the association achieve its goals and bring along others to help them do it. They’re enthusiastic about sharing the benefits of leading and volunteering. They have social capital — they can recruit others to get involved. They’re forward-thinking and receptive to new ideas and perspectives.

Appoint a Community officer as part of your leadership team, perhaps your incoming president, whose main responsibility is to develop and retain a huge corps of volunteers. Just as you need to focus on your budget and reserve to ensure the financial health of your association, so too do you need to focus on your volunteer corps and reserves.

What do you think about these ideas? Have you tried any of them?


Thursday in Part 2 I’ll discuss Finding Volunteers. Stay tuned to SmartBlog Insights!

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Author: deirdrereid

Deirdre is a freelance writer for companies serving the association market, who after more than 20 years in the association and restaurant industries, is enjoying the good life as a ghostblogger and content marketing writer. Away from her laptop, you can find her walking in the woods, doing yoga, going to shows, journaling, cooking, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of something tasty in hand.

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