So far this has been a good week on several fronts, I have been able to move various aspects of my life forward and in particular the engagement and involvement in various community and social endeavours where one relies of volunteers and the goodwill of others to give of their time and energy to a cause.
Volunteering is not easy, it can be hard, those that give their time and expertise need respect and recognition without fail and also just as importantly understanding around what they can and cannot do and when they can and cannot help. For those that organise and secure volunteers most volunteers themselves they need the same respect but they also need to understand how not to judge other volunteers. It is all to easy to judge people harshly who do not deliver or a little unreliable and to apply those same professional standards you use at work to the world of volunteering. I certainly apply those same standards myself but have to be as a leader more understanding of others who get drawn into volunteering for many different reasons, not all altruistic, such as
- It’s a condition of their children’s involvement in something that their parents help
- It is politically astute to volunteer as it looks good
- It is about an area they are interested in and will get something back from it such as new skills, certification, career improvement in some form
- Their wife or husband set them up and volunteered them without asking and now they are stuck with it!!!
- They feel they need to do it for their children’s, partners, parents sake as it allows an insight into what is going on at a school, care home or area someone cares about
Many of these are far from the Altruistic ideals many claim, but in my experience what ever the reasons people do it, you need to spend time understanding it and adapt your engagement to support that context. I am also certain that how people feel about volunteering changes over time directly as a consequence of their experience and how people respond to them. Classic mistakes I see time and time again are:-
- Judging others poorly because they are not as good or as reliable as you
- Not being sensitive to the simple fact whatever reasons someone does volunteer they are volunteering and we need to show respect and appreciation for that at all times even when someone acts like an idiot, is petty or unreliable, we need to help them through the stages of volunteering
- Not saying thank you because as the organiser you feel you work harder than they do, being the leader is about leading and motivation not dumping crap on others and thinking you are working harder than they do
So in simple terms the volunteer needs to be helped through the key stages of volunteering
- Stage 1 – Saying yes to doing something, anything however small
- Stage 2 – Doing it and realising it was not so bad and being thanked for it
- Stage 3 – Doing it again and finding it easier and being thanked again
- Stage 4 – Fitting it into their daily life so it becomes part of what they do and who they are
- Stage 5 – Taking on something else, a little bit more and being recognised for it
- Stage 6 – Recruiting someone else to help as well / ongoing but the first time is key
- Stage 7 – Taking on a little bit of coordination and leadership of other volunteers (optional but highly desirable)
- Stage 8 – Telling people about how easy and how much fun it is and how rewarding it is
- Stage 10 – Understanding the value you are bringing to the cause as a volunteer and being profoundly affected by the difference you can see yourself and others making in the cause you volunteer in
- Stage 11 – Wanting to do more and offering to do more
The people that lead volunteer organisations or take on big roles within them have to see this as a pipeline of development and have to find ways to make it fun and engaging and help people move through the stages, it’s not a job, income and career are not affected in most cases but actually your family and friends are and so is the community you live in, which potentially is far more important
So lets help people feel the power and passion of volunteering but lets work one stage at a time. I had a great week as a volunteer and as a leader of volunteers, some of the conversations were tough but I feel energised and enthused by the week just gone.
I am at Stage 10, I am struggling to do more, but on top of a full-time career, volunteering in three distinct settings within my community and my principle mission in life being the best parent I can be and supporting my wider family, I would say balance is getting there.