Volunteer Coordination

May 31, 2009 at 10:37 pm (Uncategorized)

extreme makeover

Volunteering is an important resource. There is always a need for free labor. I have donated time and labor to many causes and have realized from my observations of others that there are two types of volunteering; “this makes me feel good” and “this makes someone else feel good.” This article is focused towards the leadership role of a volunteer opportunity. My expertise is in project management and I love to share my knowledge and experience to create the best use of resources. If you are in a leadership role – take note. If you are an abused volunteer, stand back up. Jobs pay the bills but volunteering creates a better world.

The picture above was taken on an “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition” episode that I spent some time on. I actually built the bed in this room and worked with some other awesome craftsman on various projects here. This was definitely a “makes me feel good” even though I went into it hoping to make someone’s life better. I think the kid probably enjoys his new bedroom – he should, we went sleepless for 4 days making it. But in the end, here I am talking about it with pride for what I did and the TV stars that I met and interacted with. I don’t even remember the family’s name on the project. I spent more thought about how I would be on national television than what I was actually doing for good.

I think that as good citizens, we need to focus more on the “this makes someone else feel good.” We should take a little more selfless attitude to the tasks we perform for others. I can’t count the number of times that I have heard someone come back from a church missions trip talking more about what they suffered through than who they actually helped. I recall several events where there was a mandatory “volunteer day” by a company”s management for a good community public relations event. Is the focus on someone else’s needs or selfish ambition?

I want the main focus of this post to be ambition. Why do people volunteer? What makes volunteers productive? Often organizations (churches, non-profit organizations, etc.) wonder why their volunteer events are a flop or why not much gets accomplished. So called “work days” turn into 3 die hard old-faithfuls getting anything done and the rest just show up for obligation’s sake. Leaders need to look at ambitions and skill sets in order to harness productivity and pride.

People have things that they love to do – yet I have seen so many times that work assignments kill the enjoyment of volunteering. For instance, lack of leadership sends a guy who is skilled at handyman projects to a task of serving drinks to others. Likewise, a skilled chef is overlooked and is asked to fix door hinges or change light bulbs. People love to volunteer within their comfort zone or skillsets and they are more productive and effective if they are tasked accordingly.

Again, this comes down to leadership and determination of ambitions. Someone initially goes into a volunteer opportunity to make someone or something else better. In the end, their motivation wains from a lack of accomplishment. The event turns into a negative experience because either they were not used to their full potential (skill sets) or not coached to be as effective as they had hoped to be. This severely impacts the volunteer’s desire for the next opportunity.

If anyone is interested, I have several great tools for leaders to use in volunteer coordination and organization. Volunteering is so much more than having people show up. People want to make a difference. People want to be effective. As leaders, the ability to harness that desire for a cause can turn the “do it for me” into “do it for a cause.”

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