Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

Sep 15

Where did the spinktank blogs go?

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized


You may be wondering where the mostly-monthly-ish spinktank blogs have gone recently. I’m happy to share that I’ve been co-writing posts for the Points of View section of the e-Volunteerism Journal online with the amazing Rob Jackson, stepping in for the incomparable Susan J. Ellis.

Points of View is a wonderful opportunity for me to expand my blogs into a dialogue with a broader audience, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing these past months. I hope you agree they continue to meet the spinktank blog goal of inspiring, informing and challenging our thinking as leaders of volunteers.

Here are the last few posts we’ve published:
“Laddering” In Volunteer Management: What It Is and Why It May Be Important- July 2018
Not Everything That Is Voluntary is Volunteering
The Past Year, The Year Ahead: What Will Be Your Legacy in 2018?

I’d love to hear your feedback by commenting on each article.

Till next time,


Nov 04

“Be the Voice” but don’t forget actions speak louder than words

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized

So here we are, another year and another International Volunteer Managers Day. Thanks to the hard work of peers like Andy Fryar and Rob Jackson, we have another inspiring campaign of “Be the Voice” and this year, a blog carnival thanks to Liza Dyer.

I love the theme of “Be the Voice” because we have a non-existent leadership pipeline in this profession- but I’ll talk about that another time. Playing devil’s advocate though, it could be argued that one of the reasons why the profession has barely advanced is because ‘talk is cheap’ and talk is pretty much all we’ve done (mostly bitching too, and I’m as guilty as any!). I don’t discount for a second the hard work, true efforts and real advancements we’ve seen over the years but I would argue that now is the time for action more than talk.

By all means, “Be the Voice” and talk loudly and proudly about our work. Yet how amazing would it be to see an upsurge in tangible actions too? Actions like joining a professional association or volunteering in a leadership capacity for one of them. What about participating in working groups like those formed after the National Summit conference in Minnesota? Even simple things like documenting and sharing new innovations with others by submitting articles to eVolunteerism make a difference by building a body of knowledge and keeping it current. These actions all serve to advance broader initiatives that benefit the entire profession. There are so many things you can do that would contribute in profound ways towards our shared goal of moving the Volunteer Engagement profession forward.

We must be more than voices- we must be examples of the incredible potential and impact that can happen when talented professionals connect community to our organization’s missions. When that happens, more than just being voices, our actions will speak louder than words.

Jun 27

Let’s check our VEgos: we can’t take all the credit or the blame

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized

There’s a saying that parents can take neither all the credit, nor all the blame for how their children turn out. Removing the parental references, I believe the same concept applies to Volunteer Engagement (VE) professionals with volunteers.

Let’s face it, few of us would argue we have enough leverage, influence and autonomy in our organizations that we can fully control how a volunteer’s experience really turns out in an organization. But neither should we ignore or deny that we are able to help set a strong course for an organizational culture that values volunteers. The biggest obstacle I’ve observed is ourselves.

Clearly, that won’t be a popular sentiment, and it’s not in any way an absolute truism. What I hear consistently, however, from peers is a struggle to present the value of volunteers to upper management and to have volunteers’ role and ours recognized. It’s a fascinating paradox that we are at once both central yet removed from directly impacting the quality of a volunteer’s experience if we are skillfully performing our jobs. That kind of complexity and nuance doesn’t fit well in an ego’s duality of credit or blame.

To say we don’t have enough influence is not the same as saying we have none. Smart Volunteer Engagement professionals mine their sources of power and grow them strategically, not as an exercise in self-congratulations, but as a means to an end. As our influence grows, we have more power in shaping volunteer experiences than if we were the direct staff partner, because we are changing the culture, dynamics and framing of volunteer involvement for all.

So let’s be a little less quick to take credit when a volunteer has a great experience and instead take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves what more we can be doing to help our organizations deliver on better quality volunteer experiences.

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