Category Archives for "Uncategorized"

May 06

Leaders of Tomorrow and other Time Lord biases

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized

I’m not a generational expert, I’m not even an expert on my own generation. For that matter, I don’t even watch Doctor Who regularly. But it’s been increasingly rubbing me the wrong way when I hear youth positioned as ‘leaders of tomorrow’ as it clearly implies they’re not leaders right now.

I’ve spent a lot of time, money and energy studying leadership and one thing I can say with confidence is that it’s always a work in progress. Am I a more competent leader today than I was 10 years ago? Yes, I believe so. Does time provide unique perspectives and experiences that cannot be gained otherwise? Yes to that as well. However, inferring that time magically bestows on us increased competency and wisdom is false. There are people working in jobs for 20 years who have not grown or developed and there are people who have only lived 20 years who have maturity or talent that time will only enhance.

Leadership isn’t about title, it’s about influence. That’s only one of the reasons I’ve been advocating and encouraging Volunteer Engagement professionals to consider themselves as leaders for years. If Volunteer Engagement is about identifying where people shine and helping them use those talents in a way that advances your organization’s mission, then are we saying youth are a light bulb not yet at full wattage? I don’t think anyone in the profession would say so, but we are covertly thinking and acting as if it’s so when we position youth as leaders of tomorrow.

Let’s move away from our Time Lord bias of treating youth as ‘leaders of tomorrow’ and focus on the leaders they are- and we are today. That’s a tomorrow worth building.

Apr 27

Paid staff don’t have exclusive rights to integrity

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized , Volunteer Engagement

One of the most common push-backs that exist around partnering with volunteers is the concern about holding them accountable. Really, what it boils down to is the premise (false, by the way) that because they’re not being paid, volunteers cannot be trusted to follow through. Integrity, of which one definition is ‘doing what you said you would do’, is not held exclusively by paid staff because it’s got nothing to do with pay grade.

In unpacking where this set of beliefs comes from, we see it really revolves around the old ‘carrot and stick’ mentality of motivation and management. The idea goes that unless we have something to offer someone (like money) or threaten them with (like being fired), we have no control over their actions. That’s a scary head space to be in and one that puts limitations on all our interactions with volunteers. I believe it’s the same head space that much of the antiquated and awkward recognition practices, particularly relevant during National Volunteer Week, we continue to use come from.

You may be asking, if we can’t reward or penalize people, what leverage do we have? While there are a million theories of motivation, with many having some degree of merit, I think we can agree the carrot & stick method is outdated- for paid staff and volunteers. I work to keep myself “motivation bias-free” meaning that I don’t care whyyou’re here, I care more about what you do while you’re here. I’ve worked with staff and volunteers who have been moved to tears about a cause but unable to separate their feelings from what’s best for the mission; I’ve equally worked with court-mandated people who used the opportunity to begin rebuilding their reputation and follow through to get things done. To me, integrity belongs to anyone who exhibits it by doing what they say they will do, regardless of their pay grade!

Apr 06

Volunteers are the reputational assets your organization is overlooking

By Erin Spink | Uncategorized

When you list the many things volunteers add to your organization, do you list their impact on your reputation? If you don’t, or aren’t framing volunteers as a potential asset to your organization’s reputation to senior management, you’re missing out on a powerful way to reinforce the value volunteers can bring to your organization and consequently, the work you do.

Too often, we talk about what volunteers are not and struggle with articulating what they are in really tangible terms that resonate with others. One of the most undervalued assets volunteers can bring to your organization is an enhancement of your organizational reputation.

Reputation can flow both ways- negatively and positively, and there can be circumstances outside your control for the direction of that flow. But take a moment to consider what difference it could make to your organization if every one of the volunteers connected to you acted as a positive ambassador, singing your praises publicly to their networks, or conversely, damning you. What difference would it make to your fundraising, programs and partnership efforts? Perhaps you’ve seen the impact of a very happy or disgruntled volunteer- now multiply that.

When we ask volunteers to be part of our organizations, we’re letting them in behind the curtain. They see the good and the bad. I refer to this as the double-edged sword of volunteer involvement. Some use this as a rationale for keeping volunteers on the edges as ‘external’ people, however that’s a counter intuitive attempt to ‘manage’ volunteers and almost always results in low levels of engagement.

There’s a saying that no one volunteers to do a bad job and I think it’s also fair to say that volunteers come to your organization wanting to support it and contribute to your mission. They’re already inclined to grow your organization’s positive reputation- it’s really up to you, and the experience you help curate that determines whether they continue being your organization’s reputation asset or not.

So what are you doing to keep volunteers on the asset side of your organization’s reputation?