Coordinating Volunteers: Two Free Trainings to Inspire Transformation
Last spring, in response to COVID-19, we started offering regular Facebook Lives to help those who were coordinating volunteers in this time of uncertainty.
We focused on both mindset work as well as tactical skills to help leaders of volunteers coordinate volunteers more effectively and with less stress.
Mindset is a primary driver of success in volunteer coordination – it is the #1 superpower for volunteer managers.
Limiting beliefs about what is possible, as well as our capacity to bring about change, can significantly hinder the actions we take, particularly when it comes to innovating.
Challenging the status quo can be risky, but the rewards are also phenomenal when organizations are willing and ready to stretch their existing frame of mind.
Transformation has been thrust upon us. Whether we like it or not, we’ve been forced to work in new ways and to question our assumptions about how, when and who to partner with in service.
We’ve begun to answer tough questions about power imbalance in our nonprofits, taken steps to build bridges to better equity and inclusion, and have sought new ways to reinforce foundations for ethical practice.
These actions and opening for growth may feel exciting, but they can also be overwhelming.
Practicing good mental hygiene – or taking care to better understand and interrupt the thought patterns that drive our behavior – can be a huge help in managing the uncertainty and remaining resilient.
These two trainings can also help.
Owning Your Opportunities
In this kick-off of our Facebook Lives for 2020, I talk about the idea of fully embracing the opportunities that come your way.
This topic had been building in my mind over the past few months. It’s a mindset that I think is holding those who coordinate volunteers back if they are not taking advantage of its power.
At the time, I had been deep into purging and organizing my closets. I also just finished a week of strategic planning for 2020.
So, clearly, my brain was feeling a need to ORGANIZE and FIND CLARITY.
And this was a good thing – by clearing my brain of unfinished work, I was better able to focus more clearly.
In this video, explain that unfinished business can actually hinder our productivity and explain the fascinating Zeigarnik Effect and its impact on our brains.
Way back in 1927, this researcher’s initial findings revealed that participants were able to recall details of interrupted tasks around 90% better than those that they had been able to complete undisturbed.
What happens in our brains is that when a task that has already been started, it establishes a task-specific tension, which improves the cognitive accessibility of the relevant contents.
The tension is relieved upon completion of the task, but it persists if it is interrupted. Through continuous tension, the content is made more easily accessible and can be easily remembered.
But here’s the kicker … unfortunately, your brain will tend to ruminate on unfinished tasks, creating cognitive overload. Thus, making you less likely to take on new tasks easily.
And, that brought me to the topic of the training – how to fully embrace the opportunities that come your way with joy and without overwhelm.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “Carpe Diem” or seize the day.
At first glance, it seems like great advice. Be active, be decisive!
Maybe that’s true, but maybe it encourages us to take on too many things and we get stuck.
As an alternative, I suggest in the training that you take a beat, and
1) be more mindful and aware of opportunities that come your way, and
2) that you purposefully decided you will pursue them (yes or no … NOT maybe).
If you can do this, I believe you will be able to de-clutter your mind, reduce overwhelm, and intentionally empower yourself to take more purposeful action.
You can do this in two steps …
STEP ONE: Become Attuned To & Know Your True Needs
- This requires you to be clear about your current and upcoming needs
- Which means that you need a plan with goals already developed
- This will help you quickly sort through opportunities and discard those that don’t align with your plan (swipe left! so to speak)
STEP TWO: Take Responsibility for Opportunities That Come Your Way
- This means keeping in mind who is actually in the driver’s seat …
- YOU are in charge of your own empowerment
- YOU can choose to have an abundance or scarcity mindset (see things as OPPORTUNITIES rather than PROBLEMS)
- YOU get to decide which courses of action makes the most sense
- YOU have more control than you think
- YOU can put projects or ideas in a “parking lot” to revisit later
As an employee, there are clearly times where you don’t always have a say in what you do, but you have more choices than you think.
AND, you have choices in what you think and how you react …
- YOU do not have to be a “victim”
- YOU can communicate the limits of your capacity
- YOU can negotiate priorities, based on the needs of your agency and your department
When you take this approach, you can liberate yourself from the Zeigarnik Effect and free yourself to focus on what can get you traction right now.
Walking the Talk: Building a Team to Support Volunteer Services
In this mini-training, also originally shared as a Facebook Live, I challenge leaders of volunteers to “walk the talk” and to involve volunteers in all aspects of coordinating volunteers.
It’s easy to get discouraged by the fact that others devalue volunteers or don’t understand the complexity of your work.
I think in some ways these mindsets are driven by fear – people are afraid to dream about what’s possible. They are afraid because they don’t want to fail.
But you can change people’s beliefs about the power of volunteer engagement by becoming the rock star of volunteer engagement and leadership, right in your own department (even if you are a department of one).
By showing others what can be done and how to do it, you’ll encourage them to also think about new ways to involve volunteers.
And the best news? Doing so will make your life easier!
We’ve often heard the Mahatma Gandhi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
While this is often attributed to the proponent of nonviolent resistance, what he really wrote was this – “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” In fact, he shared this philosophy of leading by example in a newspaper article where he wrote about how to take care of snakebites.
This is my challenge to you. Change your own approach first. Don’t wait for others to get in gear. Lead the change you want to see, and others will follow.
This means you must be able to delegate projects and tasks and let go of a little control.
And, there are HUGE benefits for doing so. Empowering others helps you scale beyond anything you can do on your own, and it can cultivate leadership skills in others so that you build an army of “middle managers” who can help you continue to grow in impact exponentially.
There are more benefits as well.
10 Really Good Reasons to Include Volunteers in Volunteer Services
1. Helps you pinpoint & address weaknesses in your strategy
2. Incorporates the wisdom of volunteers
3. Offers you an “instant focus group”
4. Gives you a place to test out new ideas
5. Makes you a more compassionate internal consultant & coach
6. Reduces bottlenecks in your processes
7. Makes you more responsive
8. Develops volunteer leaders with shared power & accountability
9. Helps you expand your impact & get more done
10. Gets you the help you need, so you can focus on leading
When it comes to delegation, sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.
We’ve got a handy list to help you begin to see opportunities to share the load.
Where to Look for Things to Assign
- To-Do List – look through your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly to-do lists. Does everything need your personal touch, or could you train a capable volunteer to take on some of the responsibility?
- Goals – Look at the goals you set for the year. How are you doing meeting those? Are there any that could be hastened with the help of another person?
- Processes – Take a look at your regular processes (e.g., volunteer applications, scheduling, training, etc.) Which could be managed by volunteers with some training and guidance?
- Productivity – Are there any bottlenecks that could be smoothed out if an additional volunteer were added to the mix?
- Repetitive tasks – If it’s repetitive, then you can train someone else to do it.
- Your weaknesses – Don’t waste your time on things that aren’t your strengths.
- Things you hate to do – If you hate them, they probably aren’t getting them done.
- Areas where you don’t have expertise – Don’t waste your time learning new roles or skills unless it’s essential to your professional development.
- Tasks that monopolize your time – Time-consuming tasks need to be looked at carefully for delegating opportunities, even if it’s only partial delegation.
- Tasks that remove you from the role of leader – Your role is to be a visionary and focus on growth, that’s hard to do if you’re always in the trenches.
Also, think about not only individual tasks but also teams you can form.
There are reasons for this – there is strength and wisdom in numbers. Teams are nimbler and they can back one another up if someone can’t make it. They also bring a social element to volunteering and make it fun.
So, take on this challenge to walk and lead by example. You’ll learn a lot, get more help (and be less frazzled), and you’ll inspire your co-workers to take the plunge, too.
Coordinating Volunteers: Resources for Fresh Ideas
Here are a few other helpful places to get more info on coordinating volunteers effectively.
The Miracle Mindset Worksheet – Use this free tool to uncover hidden limiting beliefs that could get in the way of YOU and the impact of your volunteer program.
FREE Online Course – The Art & Science of Volunteer Accountability – Learn to harness the science of trust for better more effective supervision and deeper connections with volunteers with this focused online course.
VolunteerPro Insiders – Our free online Facebook group for leaders of volunteers. Join and get at once connected to like-minded professionals focused on success.
VolunteerPro Facebook Page – A great place to keep up to date on our latest content, trainings, freebies, and special promotions. We post announcements first here.