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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Getting Shit Done in Volunteer Management while thinking big and having fun!

Tonight I sat down at this computer and I looked at my list on what I would write about Volunteer Management. I have already identified topics that I will write about but after picking one and then looking at another I thought many random thoughts. I’ve often talked about the need for Effective Volunteer management but haven’t expanded on what that means

And recently I came across a short but wonderful article from Jeff Weiner who is the CEO at LinkedIn. It had such an impact on me that I shared it in my volunteers newsletter and I have the three statement mantras now on a big whiteboard in my office.


"Several weeks ago, I shared the above Venn diagram in a status update. With 20k+ likes and comments on LinkedIn and over 2.2k retweets and favorites on Twitter, it's become the most viral update I've shared to date. As a result, thought it might be interesting to provide some additional context on where the diagram came from.
It all started in a meeting where a talented team was presenting their plan for a potentially high impact initiative. Midway through, they covered the measurable results they expected to achieve in three years. Granted, they were being somewhat conservative, but their objectives were still way off what I would have expected them to be targeting based on the addressable opportunity and the assets we were bringing to the table.
Without hesitation, I challenged the team to increase their long-term goal by roughly 20x. Regardless of whether or not they could hit the target (which I think they can), the point was to get them thinking much bigger, without constraints, and to start by asking the question, "What would it take...?"
Dream Big
Oftentimes, my favorite exchanges are with people who are naturally predisposed to think at truly massive scale and without limitations. When well reasoned, that kind of vision can be highly inspirational, change the way teams solve for a specific opportunity or challenge, and ultimately, transform the trajectory of a company. During this particular meeting, I ended up writing down two simple words to capture this quality: "Dream big," with the intention of cascading the theme more broadly.
Get Shit Done
Almost immediately after seeing those words in writing, I realized the message was incomplete. The team leading the discussion that day may have been conservative in their approach to articulating what was possible, but they were also highly capable and credible -- and had a proven track record of delivering results. Demanding excellence is an important value for us. It's something I would never want taken for granted or crowded out by the singular objective of thinking at scale. Asking people to dream big without delivering on the vision was not only an incomplete sentiment; it could carry the unintended consequence of producing pie-in-the-sky thinking without anything to show for it.
If a goal is truly visionary, it's going to be confronted by doubters, skeptics, and those threatened by its realization. As a result, there will always be walls put up on the way to achieving the objective. Some of the most capable people I've worked with know how to go over, around, or straight through those walls by virtue of their resourcefulness and sheer force of will. In other words, they just "get shit done."
I added those three words to my notes, drew overlapping circles around "Get shit done" and "Dream big", and thought about how invaluable it is to work with people at the intersection of the two.
Know How to Have Fun
It then occurred to me that I've known a number of people who embodied the ability to dream big and get shit done, but who also proved very difficult to work with. Perhaps shielded by the immense value they brought to their respective organizations, they never cultivated the ability to manage compassionately, or even cared to. Rather, they did things their way and expected everyone around them to adapt accordingly. More often than not, that's exactly what people did.
While this has clearly proven to work at some now legendary companies, it's not an easily scalable or reproducible model, it's not necessary, and in my opinion, it's not fun (I say in my opinion because there are those who will argue that winning is fun, regardless of the means employed).
I've reached a point in my career where I want to be surrounded by people who not only share a vision, but a genuine commitment to upholding their company's culture and values. They are team players, don't take themselves too seriously, and "know how to have fun." And with that, I added a third circle to the Venn diagram.
At the nexus of these three circles are the people I most enjoy working with. I'm extraordinarily grateful to have the opportunity to do that every day.”

Wow! Talk about a short article having an impact on me and one which I think every Volunteer Manager should read. I am extraordinarily grateful to work with a Volunteer team every day of the week that embodies these sentiments and I really believe these are the teams we need within organizations.

Dream Big

 I manage a team based on feedback and consultation. Yes I direct when necessary but I want everything I do to be a vision of the team as a whole. And we Dream Big! Volunteers have often given me the idea behind an innovative program.

We Get Shit Done

If my team say they are going to do something..They do something! Usually it is something amazing. I have the best Can Do Team in Australia.

Know How to Have Fun

If you are a Volunteer manager who doesn't know how to have fun then you are behind the eight ball before you begin. Stop taking yourself so seriously. You are leading a team that want to give of their time and that are often involved in serious matters but would appreciate a bit of fun in turn for their commitment.

I have great fun each day with my team. They know my humour and give it back to me in spades. But it’s appropriate humour and it demonstrates not only camaraderie but respect too. Fun is so underestimated in our profession.

Try putting these Mantras on your whiteboard. Forget the past. It’s no longer there. Don’t worry about a future that is yet to happen and manage your teams in the beautiful Here and Now. Try it! Let go a little and loosen up! 



“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour but without folly.” – Jim Rohn

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

15 Years and 15 reasons why International Volunteer Managers Day Matters.

November 5th marks the 15th year anniversary of IVMD. Personally I ask myself “where has that time gone?” its gone fast that’s for sure. They say time goes fast when you are busy. If that’s truly the case the life of a Volunteer Manager goes as fast as a rocket through space!

Here are 15 reasons why I think Volunteer Managers Day still matters

1.       It’s a day for society to pause and think about Volunteer Management. What is Volunteer Management? What does it encompass? If it attracts a few people across the globe that has no idea what Volunteer Management is about then it is doing its job. It adds to the narrative on Volunteer Management

2.       It helps highlight a sector that still has little recognition or understanding in society. Some will disagree with this point. Note the word “little”. Once there was no recognition and understanding of Volunteer Management in society. The fact that we have gotten to “little” is progress. Progress no matter how small is still progress.

3.       It is a day for us to get together and celebrate our profession. We are not gathering to set off fireworks and pat each other on the back. We are gathering to reflect on what we do and the difference we make.

4.       It’s a wonderful vehicle for education. It’s the one day when people ask us what IVMD is all about, where we can share the inspiring role that Volunteer Managers can and do play.

5.       It gives us the opportunity to engage with our own organizations. Our own organizations hopefully value volunteer effort. This is our opportunity to talk about what Volunteer Managers do and how they contribute to the success of volunteer programs. Of course we should be doing this all year round but it’s about having a day to really push a message through.

6.       It’s about Recognition. We can’t say “Recognition” is a dirty word especially when “Recognition” figures prominently in how we manage volunteer programs. For me recognition of effective Volunteer Management and recognition of volunteers are the same side of the coin!

7.       It advances the sector. I imagine that 90% of the population doesn’t see us as a sector. As IVMD grows that will decrease.

8.       It’s political! Sometimes we find it hard to engage with our community representative i.e. MPs, MEPs, TDs. Etc. IVMD gives us an excuse to engage. Today I tweeted a message about IVMD to my Prime Minister, the opposition leader and to my local MP where I work. The local MP has already retweeted.

9.       Social Media: 15 years ago Social Media was hardly used or existent in many forms. Today it is so easy to spread information on IVMD.  You can search for IVMD on Facebook where it has its own site. You can tweet about the day. You can blog. You can use the hashtag #ivmd14 and connect with leaders across the globe in seconds.

10.   It’s a day for Volunteer Management Awards! When I was president of the Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators I gave birth to the idea of recognizing Volunteer Managers. Today AAMOV recognizes Volunteer Managers with its annual Volunteer Manager awards, something that has never been done before. Can you do the same in your country?

11.   It connects us with peak bodies for volunteering. Whether it is Volunteering Australia, Volunteering Canada, Volunteering Ireland or Volunteering Queensland and Volunteering New South Wales it give our peak bodies a platform for discussing Volunteer Management (hopefully) and if your own national or state volunteering body has no dialogue on those who manage volunteers it gives them the opportunity to explore and discuss what we do. It encourages you and them to engage!

12.   It gives Volunteer Managers around the globe an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the cause. The IVMD committee is always looking for new members and new innovative ideas. Join them. Make a difference globally!

13.   It can and should be directly linked to volunteers. It’s time to inform organizations that if you value volunteering you value effective Volunteer Management. Volunteers themselves should be harnessed to support IVMD. Volunteers should know about IVMD.

14.   It should be a vehicle for promotion with traditional media (as opposed to Social Media). Are there articles and letters in your local or national paper on Volunteer Management? If not can you make a contribution? Are there articles today on Pro Bono News, The Charity Channel, Third Sector , ABC, BBC, CNN, ITN, The Huffington Post etc. If there are not then we only have ourselves to blame. Utilize IVMD to write. If you don’t get Media attention write and write again and get more of your colleagues writing.

15.   Finally, it’s a day to say simply, Thank you. Thank you for choosing this profession or calling or whatever you choose to call it. Thanks for being there for volunteers. For leading them. For coordinating them. For creating programs where individuals can shine and inspire. For facilitating circumstances where people needs are met. For making a real difference to society. Thank you. Happy IVMD!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Back Blogging and my Top Ten reasons for doing so


It’s been well over a year since I last blogged. As inundated as I was by the 1435 emails in total asking why I had not blogged recently or where had I gone I had decided to take a hiatus. There were a few reasons and I’ll be honest with you my blog reader or fan (both of you)

1.       Life got very busy: Kids. Work. Theatre. Social life. Enough to silence any blogger.

2.       Disenchantment: a feeling that the Volunteer Management sector was going around in circles and going nowhere and I was getting dizzy.

3.       Health; Not the best of years.

So 3 real reasons. I’m not doing too badly now to those 504 people who are about to post a comment if I am OK. And my sarcasm has not been dented at all.

But suffice to say I am back on my horse and those Sacred Cows of our sector should be shaking in their boots. I have much to say.

Nearly a quarter of a million page views have made this blog and I am looking forward to passing that mark soon.  Here are some of the topics I plan on covering in the next 12 months. If you are interested you will come back. Here are my top 10:

1.       Student volunteering: why we are driving them away
2.       Educating paid staff on Volunteering
3.       Why International Volunteer Managers Day Matters more now than ever
4.       Volunteering Definition: Get with the program
5.       On why we are focusing on the wrong issues
6.       Volunteer Management Associations: How are they going?
7.       Where are all the VMs gone and why are we not tracking their reasons for leaving?
8.       Volunteering worth billions? – why no one is listening
9.       What is Effective Volunteer Management?
10.   What do volunteers want when it comes to volunteer management?

If you have any other topic that you would like covered or any questions that I could cover please let me know.

I may be back – but mark my words, I aint holding back. Watch this space!

Real life comments on DJ Cronin’s writing:

“Well DJ – I think the wonderful thing is that it is an Irish man pushing the envelope – pity we can’t all sit down with a Guinness and have a good old chin wag about this!”

“Congratulations DJ for bringing out into the open one of the areas of discussion that we as a sector need to have.”
“I say bring on more discussion about our “Sacred Cow” issues to that we can continue to challenge ourselves and set up true, achievable and evolving benchmarks for our sector.”

“Thanks DJ for putting your head above the parapet and being prepared to share your thoughts.”

“Thanks again for more laugh out loud moments (a health giving exercise I understand’! )”



“I have no idea what he is on about”

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