Buying your volunteer role

Now I understand why someone would start their own non-profit or focus on major gifts (aka give BIG money). Some would say it’s about control and there’s an element of truth in that. It’s also about focusing on what you think is important. As a person who has made a career of operational excellence, I’d say it’s about getting the job done.

Trying to add strategic value as a volunteer is very difficult. There is tremendous resistance. So if you want to do strategic volunteering you’re going to need to buy your way in.

There’s no belief that you’ll stick around so there’s this pervasive feeling that if they just wait, you’ll give up and be gone.

Yes, many volunteers have conflicting priorities that often put other commitments ahead of their volunteer work. Or they may consider volunteering a lighter commitment than family or work. For the most part, no one holds volunteers accountable so there is no pressure to keep promises. I would also say that not all volunteers are the same. Some are more committed than staff.

There’s a hard line between volunteer and staff roles. Staff are happy to pass along routine activities needing just time and hands, as this frees them to focus on higher value work. But they are not inclined to partner or share higher value work.

In this rushed world it may be considered easier (faster) to do it themselves. And faced with a professional from the corporate world, there is a bias that these folks couldn’t possibly add value as they just don’t get it (besides business practices are unpalatable to most non-profits).

There’s a surprising lack of creativity in this sector that is continually burdened with limited resources. You’d think that creativity would rule as non profits are constantly challenged to do more with less but the general solution seems to be to ask for more money.

Given the choice of getting $50k or getting $100k in guaranteed services, I bet they’d go for the $50k and hire more staff. They are keen for partnerships but these are either sponsorship partners (generally providing money, venues, food, press or the like) or non-profit partners (bound together for an aligned purpose). Offer operational help and they don’t know what to do with it and don’t seem to want to think about it.

And yet non-profits will jump through hoops to provide services to meet funding models, sacrificing core objectives or creating operational nightmares.

So my conclusion at this moment in time is to pay for a program that needs to be done and tie the funding to an operational model with metrics that will drive targeted results. Use these programs to prove value and encourage operational excellence. And the program I have in mind….operationalize a model to make best use of professional level Boomer volunteers.


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