Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 Review – It didn’t kill my Volunteerism spirit.

Not too much can I say about the year gone by. I know that in 2017 people will volunteer in their millions once more. I sense more people will become interested in doing more for their community. Proof? Not in yet. Just some observations and some articles I’ve seen. See earlier blogs.
I get a sense of people watching the news on TV feeling helpless. How can I help? What can I do to make a difference? There is an opportunity here for Humanitarian organisations to connect with the armchair viewers of the chaos going on around us. Because everyone can make a difference.
Nobody need feel helpless.
Everybody can do something.
But then there is the community division. A person may volunteer for a great organisation and do important work for some vulnerable people in our community. Yet that same person may be a proponent of banning Muslim immigration. They may be anti-refugee in their sentiment. But they volunteer in their local hospital or local pet shelter. They may be doing great work with the homeless.
How do we look at this narrative?
How many thousands of people who voted Donald Trump volunteer in the American community?
“Volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.” This is the definition of volunteering according to Volunteering Australia. Does it apply to those who volunteered for both sides of the campaign in America?
Does it apply to those who volunteer for One Nation in Australia?
Who decides what common good is?
Volunteer activists who break the law? Common good?
Is the law always common good?
Volunteer leaders must be struggling with these issues across the globe but it’s a bit of a taboo topic. Which is a pity. It’s good to air the difficulties we face. And help each other.
We like to keep sex, politics and religion out of our volunteer team discussions! But it’s easier said than done.
For me it’s about aligning to the values of whatever organisation we work with. It’s that simple. But engaging with people around this is the challenging part.
If I work with a humanitarian organisation I expect that I have humanitarian values.
If you are challenged by some views from your teams check your organisations mission and values. Maybe in this day and age you may even need to reassess them.
For me the “Common Good” in the volunteering definition speaks to decent Humanity. Maybe every organisation that engages volunteers need to embrace humanitarianism first.

"Activism can be considered volunteering. This definition is aligned to the current UN position on volunteering that states: ‘When people participate in peaceful activism, for or against animal research or building of a dam, both sides seek what they consider to be beneficial outcomes. They are included in our definition. Activities involving or inciting violence that harm society and actions not corresponding to the values attributed to volunteerism are not included in our definition’

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Is Volunteering increasing post U.S. election and Brexit?

One interesting trend I have noticed emerging is the spike in volunteering and giving since the US Presidential election and BREXIT. I came across one article about this last week but even since then more evidence is appearing.

It will be an interesting trend to keep an eye on.

“The Charities Aid Foundation has published new research into how people feel about their community and society in the aftermath of the EU referendum. It reveals that people are more likely to believe that their community is more rather less divided than it was at the start of the year.

Perhaps as a result, people are becoming more socially active, whether through joining political parties, campaigning on social causes or volunteering to help in their local community. The increase is particularly prominent among younger people.”

“Volunteering makes a positive contribution, and as the holiday season comes upon us, the traditional interest in volunteering is higher than ever, reports volunteer opportunity signup and management site Golden.

Since the presidential election earlier this month, Golden has had double the normal level of usage by volunteers each day. A representative indicated the company sees the huge increase in volunteers seeking the site as a combination of people wanting to focus on something positive after the contentious election and the normal holiday volunteerism. Volunteers in the hundreds or thousands are visiting the site daily from every state in the U.S.”

And this from The Atlantic:

“But perhaps the most notable (and most concrete) action to follow the end of the divisive election season has been a surge in donations to various organizations whose agendas counter those proposed by President-elect Donald Trump. In recent days, groups that champion causes like civil liberties and women’s health as well as focus on immigration rights and anti-discrimination initiatives have seen record responses to the election, in the form of contributions and volunteer applications”

From Rolling Stone:

“Nabeelah Naeem, communications coordinator at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says its national office has not only seen a large spike in monetary donations, but has also fielded more than 500 inquiries about volunteering and skill-sharing in support of the organization.”

New York Cares, one of the largest volunteer groups in the city, announced on Wednesday that the week after the election saw the organization receive its biggest increase in new volunteer registration since Hurricane Sandy and that people were specifically interested in its projects focused on serving people who are still learning English and preparing for their citizenship tests.”

Friday, September 23, 2016

My prediction from 4 years ago just came True!

Tonight while researching something about volunteering on YouTube I came across a video posted By Dave Carroll.

After watching it I was stunned! While I predicted that this might happen some day I didn't predict that the person who inspired my original post would make my prediction come true! I think I must meet Dave!

So, firstly have a look at the original post I wrote in 2012 and then watch the videos!! (Dave's original song below and his latest above!)

United we broke our Volunteer! By DJ Cronin 2012

Volunteer managers have great responsibilities. More so than other managers in many cases. When we engage volunteers we engage the community. This is not the same as engaging paid staff. Yes engaging paid staff incurs great responsibility. Your organisation prospers by keeping motivated staff. Having motivated and engaged staff is key to your organisations success.
Having motivated and engaged volunteers is even more important in my opinion as you are engaging a voice that has more freedom to speak. Volunteers provide a greater community buy in. Volunteers as I was once told many years ago by people who were scrutinizing my organization for accreditation purposes were the “eyes and ears of the organisation”
This is why I have for many years considered volunteers to be consumers and customers. Actually, what I mean to say is that I have tended to treat volunteers that way. I know some of you will jump up and down with that description but that is how I have treated volunteers and that is why I believe I have had great success in the recruitment and retention of volunteers.
Here is why:
·         People can volunteer for a myriad of organisations. Volunteer managers need to sell their organisation
·         People now volunteer for a myriad of reasons. The days of altruistic motivation as the only motivation for volunteering are long gone. Volunteer Managers need to capture this new breed of volunteering and sell why their organisations can accommodate same.
·         Episodic volunteering has been the biggest trend that has impacted my volunteering programs. I know I must sell my organisational flexibility to entice these episodic volunteers. And it works!
Volunteer interviews should now be a two way street. While we still traditionally do the interview that seeks to determine what type of person or character we are engaging and whether or not their skills and attributes suit our organisation we are also needing to be interviewed by them on whether we are worthy of their donated time!
I once met a volunteer manager who “binned” applicants that did not meet his/her interest. And they never even heard from him/her.
Today in the social media age every move you make has the potential to be scrutinized. Think now about the consequences if you don’t reply to the following:
·         An email request about your volunteer program
·         A tweet about your volunteer program
·         A Facebook message about your volunteer program
And have a think about how existing volunteers are communicating about your volunteer program and about your organisation!
Because if you work for a large or small organisation and one of your volunteers has a bad experience and if you don’t manage this effectively then you have the possibility of a social media savvy volunteer sharing their experience on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media outlet!
 Imagine having a volunteer sing a song about their bad experience at your organization and it becoming a hit on YouTube!!!
Perish the thought!
A guy called Dave Carroll had a bad experience with United Airlines. He was a customer. They treated him badly. In fact they broke his guitar!  He wrote a song, put in on YouTube and has had over 12 million views.
I am a great fan of Dave (he has some great songs apart from this hit). He is also one of the most genuine “stars’ I have come across! I have contacted him in the past and he has always personally taken the time to respond.
If we start treating our volunteers as customers we stand a better chance of retaining great people once we understand good customer service! And if we don’t get customer service we are behind the eight ball when it comes to volunteering!

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Once upon a time…
8.25 am You wake up. The clock has not gone off this morning. “Damn” is your very first thought. You jump from bed and hit the shower. The water is too hot and you stub your toe getting out. In your mind, the day’s activities are being played out. You have three meetings, a training session and an induction to do in the afternoon. You can’t find your wallet. You eventually find it where you left it. You take your usual walk to the station. You hurry your walk until you nearly find yourself jogging. You see your train sitting on the platform and you begin the sprint. You push by someone on the steps and lose your footing and come crashing down on the platform. Your bag slides across the ground hurling your paperwork everywhere and the wind picks up right then and carry them with mean intent across the railway lines as your train pulls out. You shout the F word as the lady you pushed out of the way a moment ago walks past you smiling slightly.
You hail a cab and bemoan the 50 bucks this will cost you. The taxi driver irritates you because he seems so happy. You suspect he may be on something. You arrive at work. The receptionist says good morning and ask you how you are. “Don’t ask” is your gruff reply. In the office your mood pervades the atmosphere. You walk in to the meeting ten minutes late. Someone only has to look at you for you to say – “Don’t even go there” and the meeting carries on. But you can’t really hear what is going on. You are now hot and sweaty and the water from the jug seems tepid.
After a tough day you sit on the train on the way home totally annoyed at the guy sitting behind you whose music is too loud even though he wears headphones. You look at the newspaper and there is violence everywhere. Bombings and threats. Anger and hate. You find something in the story to hate as well. You look around and everyone looks angry.
You get home exhausted. You munch down the tasteless pizza you picked up and decide to hit the sack. You fall into bed and begin a deep but troubled sleep. You don’t realise that in your haste you have forgottento set the clock.
8.25 am You are awake. The clock has not gone off this morning. “What a great sleep” is your very first thought. You sit on the edge of your bed, close your eyes again and take some deep breaths. Outside you can hear a bird sing. You look out the window. The blue sky is splattered with bright fluffy wool like clouds and you smile. In the shower you feel the water run down your body and gently awaken your skin. You dress, grab your wallet and take your usual walk to the station. There is a cool breeze and it caresses your face as you walk. The trees make noise as you pass them by, the wind dancing between their branches. On the platform the train sits patiently. As you arrive at the platform stairway the train departs. You know that there is a train every fifteen minutes and you welcome the opportunity to pick up your book. You sit on a bench smiling at the lady next to so and she returns the smile. You open your book and read:
Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”
At work the receptionist greets you warmly and you greet your colleagues likewise in your office. You walk into your meeting late, beam at your audience and tell them that you slept in a few minutes and have now the advantage of feeling twenty minutes fresher than them. A good natured and productive meeting ensues.
After a rewarding day you sit on the train on the way home. You observe the different people around you, most looking down at an iPhone, some listening to music and some reading papers. You turn to the window and watch a sunset, newer and more spectacular than ever!
You get home feeling still. You eat a delicious pizza you picked up on the way and know that it was made with love as you take your time to enjoy the mingling tastes. You decide to hit the sack early. You set the clock and slide into bed and begin a deep but peaceful sleep. And dream.
“Once upon a time, Chuang Chou dreamed that he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting about happily enjoying himself. He didn’t know that he was Chou. Suddenly he awoke and was palpably Chou. He didn’t know whether he were Chou who had dreamed of being a butterfly, or a butterfly who was dreaming that he was Chou.”
The End.
With thanks to Alan Watts and Master Chuang

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The great beauty about the internet is that in 2016 we can still form an opinion. A free world means that we can look at a blank page and write what we like! Lately I've come to the realisation that this free world is under threat.

Rather than create another page I hope to write on such matters in this page. Even though this page is based on volunteerism the very fact that we live in a world where free speech is being curtailed means that volunteerism itself may become under threat. Because at the end of the day once we are curtailed in our thinking; Volunteerism ends!

Please be prepared for a different type of blog! But it must be!

Long live the volunteering mind!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The simple act of kindness.

How we learn from our children! This post was inspired by an act of my daughter. When her mum arrived at work today she found this simple note written on a serviette in her bag. Simple. Real. Kind. Thoughtful. Loving.
It is easy to get disheartened with the world today. There is almost a danger of becoming desensitised to the daily news of turmoil in various countries. Women, children and men are being killed daily by conflict. Hospitals are being bombed.
The internet for all its advanced technology has brought out people who are angry, fearful and bitter. Sometimes loving kindness is mocked, seen as a weakness or laughed at.
And yet simple acts of loving kindness happen every day. You see it through volunteering. You see it through community building. You may have heard the following story before but if not:
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley

I am finding myself smiling at people more. It can’t hurt. Yesterday on leaving the train I said to a random stranger that I hoped they had a great day. And meant it. First she looked surprised but then a smile filled her face.
How can we become more aware of our capacity to show loving kindness? Is it present in your work? It should be. The world needs to change this way. People should make an effort to greet one another. People should ask “are you OK?” every now and then. We spend most of our life at work. Even this needs to be re-examined. Most of us work five days a week. Why? Because that is the way it is. Could we not be just as productive or indeed more productive if we worked four and took the other three to try and slow down a bit, to reenergise, to spend more time with family and friends. Oh but we can’t do that! Says who? We are responsible collectively for our own destiny. Perhaps we could spend our extra day volunteering for our community? Why not?
We need new thinking. Because the thinking of the world is not working.
Russell E. DiCarlo put it well when he said “Our drifting awareness, our tendency to take the path of least resistance by being less than fully awake to the present moment creates a void”
And how our awareness drifts these days! Preoccupied with the latest gadgets, so called reality shows and I wonder if our necks will morph into something else down the evolutionary cycle as many of us are constantly looking down at our IPhone whether we are on a train, bus or walking down the street oblivious to the world around us and the people there.
The Indian philosopher Krishnamurti once said many years ago “We look at conditions prevailing in the world and observe what is happening there – the student’s riots, the class prejudices, the conflict of black against white, the wars, the political confusion, the divisions caused by nationalities and religions. We are also aware of conflict, struggle, anxiety, loneliness, despair, lack of love, and fear. Why do we accept all this? Why do we accept the moral, social environment knowing very well that it is utterly immoral; knowing this for ourselves – not merely emotionally or sentimentally but looking at the world and at ourselves – why do we live this way? Why is it that our educational system does not turn out real human beings but mechanical entities trained to accept certain jobs and finally die?”
So what are we to do? Sometimes I feel that if the world population suddenly lost its memory we would start again. Meeting people in the present we would have no prejudice, bias and conditioned behaviour towards each other. There would be no history to refer to, no memories of the 100 million people we slaughtered in one century alone. It would be a new earth.
All we can do today is try in our own way. Some people will run towards politics to change the world, some people may or have formed movements to change the world for good. But what can I do?
I want the world to change. I want a better world for my children and theirs.
From today, please try a simple act of kindness each day. You never know what your simple act might then inspire. It may be passed forward. It may not change the world but it could change someone’s world. Share it here as it may inspire others.
The mind of a ten year old child today found the awareness to write a note of love. We owe it to the future world to create a world of love.
And we will.

Monday, July 4, 2016

10 ways to lose Volunteers!

Having managed volunteers for close on 19 years I have gained the best knowledge from volunteers themselves. I like to probe, constantly. Why did you volunteer? Why did you chooses this organisation? Have you volunteered before? What was that experience like for you? What keeps you volunteering?

An effective Volunteer Manager has a curious mind. Curiosity may have killed the cat but in our field we can gain great learning from it. Why does John, who volunteers every Thursday morning and has done so for the last 12 years continue to do so? Why does Skye make time for volunteering despite her busy university life and social life?

The Volunteer interview is my favourite place to get valuable information about people, their motivations and their past experiences. It is also the place to get to know their expectations. How many of us forget to ask about their expectations? Does it become a place where we simply “Tell” them what is expected and then prattle on about the many rules and regulations? Then we wonder why they leave after a few weeks. Yes, you can pretty much lose volunteers at the interview itself.

So here’s my list
  1. The interview is too formal and serious. You spend most time talking about your organisation and not the prospective volunteer. You spend too much time on “The Rules”.
  2. Your orientation program is cold. That is to say the process is as formal and boring as the interview was. Yes, critical training and messages must be passed on but for goodness sake lighten it up a bit. Are you inspiring people at this stage? Are you telling stories about what the organisations volunteers are doing? Are you demonstrating their impact? How? Or are you just saying “We have 400 lovely volunteers who are always lovely!” Please. Volunteers want to see the difference you are making and how that is being achieved.
  3. Nobody is too sure what the volunteer should be doing when they commence. Sure it’s a rare enough occurrence but it happens when it shouldn’t. Ever! On site orientation and getting to know everyone is critical. If you haven’t planned professionally for the volunteer starting then you are in trouble.
  4. Volunteers see other volunteers doing nothing or simply not being very nice to each other and no one says anything because “they are volunteers”. Volunteers may not say it but they expect good leadership. If they come into a program and see volunteers who may have been there for years and are stuck in some ways that are troublesome because no one addressed them, then they will soon disappear. Effective Volunteer Management ensures it is a safe and enjoyable volunteering space for everyone and knows how to manage the difficult conversations
  5. A volunteer finishes a few shifts and wonders if they are making a difference at all. They may leave and never tell you why. Volunteers should leave every shift enabled, empowered and inspired. I’ve volunteered for organisations where I’ve felt this at the end of every shift so it can be done. Sometimes stopping a volunteer during the day to say “You know what, what you did today was amazing and I’ll tell you why..” is enough to put a spring into any volunteers step and have them looking forward to the next shift!
  6. Change without consultation. Need I say much more on this? Change is inevitable. A good leader brings their teams along with them in a consultative way.
  7. No ongoing training opportunities. Most volunteers are keen to learn and to try new things with your organisation. Maybe they don’t. But have you asked them?
  8. Nobody says thanks. You will often hear volunteers espousing that they do not do their work for thanks. Yet nobody likes not being appreciated, not being acknowledged and not being validated. Don’t fall into the trap of saying your “Thanks” only during National Volunteer Week or IVD. Do it and do it often.
  9. Lack of communication. Imagine something big happening at your organisation and you share it with your paid staff and no one remembered to share it with the volunteers? Use every means of communication you can. Embrace Social Media! Re read number 6!
  10. Lack of flexibility. Volunteer’s lives like everyone else can change rapidly. Can you help the person who used to volunteer one day a week to one day a month if this is what they want? Can you take back that volunteer who wants to leave for six months to travel or study? Can you make it as easy as possible for people to volunteer and stay volunteering? Ask yourself what are your top 5 barriers to people volunteering with your organisation.

Of course this list could be extended and I am sure you could add a lot more. So please do! :-)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Volunteer Day - The Public Holiday

Next week in Victoria we have Monday as a public holiday to celebrate the Queens Birthday.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens leader Richard Di Natale both support, like Mr Turnbull, an Australian republic with the Labor leader promising to make it happen within a decade.

The South Australian Government  has also proclaimed a special day in volunteers honour. Volunteers Day is now celebrated on the Queen's Birthday public holiday every year.

The matter of whether Australia should become a Republic is a matter for the Australian people to decide. The point of this blog is not to argue for either side but to look at some possibilities.

For example I think what the south Australian government has done is to be commended. And I believe other states and territories should consider the same approach.

Volunteering is vital to our country with over six million people volunteering. But why have a public holiday to mark volunteering?

Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women. For many countries, "Labor Day" is synonymous with, or linked with, International Workers' Day, which occurs on 1 May.

International Volunteer Day  (December 5) is an international observance designated by the United Nations since 1985. It offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions - at local, national and international levels - to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

We also celebrate National Volunteer Week during the month of May in Australia.

But consider if IVD and National Volunteer Week, as worthy as the days are, are in our public psyche. Do they cause a surge in volunteering? Do they raise the profile of volunteering to the many people who never consider volunteering as an option in their busy lives?

Imagine what a national public holiday called “Volunteer Day” could achieve? Here are a few things that could happen.

What do most people do on the Queens birthday? They have the day off and it’s a long weekend to look forward to. We have barbeques and get together with families.

Imagine a campaign where we ask everyone to volunteer on that day. Especially people who may never have volunteered before. It could just be for a few hours or a day. It would not bind people to commit but rather give people an experience of volunteering. And if they love it, which I am sure many would, they could come back to volunteering. Imagine the impact this could have on the volunteering sector. Imagine the water cooler conversation on the Friday with people asking “So where are you volunteering on Monday?”

The day could also be marked with Volunteer parades in city’s and towns around the country. As a nation we love our marching bands and we could line the streets to celebrate those true hero’s in our communities.

Each year we could have The Volunteers speech on ABC. A volunteer addressing the nation on how their volunteering impacts the community and makes a difference in their own lives. A speech delivered by different and diverse volunteers each year.

A public holiday on volunteering will be a day that truly impacts every Australian. It has the opportunity to galvanize the public into action and its innovation will be recognized around the globe and hopefully copied.

Some day Australia may become a Republic. If that day comes can we consider the Volunteer Day public holiday? The potential is there and the upshot for our sector could be huge!

Enjoy your long weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When Volunteer Interviews Go Wrong! - Episode One

The Young Volunteer

Mavis is a Volunteer Coordinator in a hospital and is interviewing for volunteers. Tracey is called in for an interview. Tracey is 21.

Mavis: Well thank you for coming in to see us

Tracey: Thanks for giving me the time

Mavis: You are rather young aren’t you?

Tracey: Er…please don’t hold that against me (Nervous giggle)

Mavis: No it’s just that most of our ladies are retired. So what are you doing at the moment?

Tracey: I’m currently in between jobs

Mavis: Well that could be a problem

Tracey: Why’s that?

Mavis: Well, we find that the young ones only stay for a short time and then leave when they get a job

Tracey: The young ones?

Mavis: That’s right. So you can imagine the frustration for us as the young ones are hard to rely on

Tracey: you don’t take on young people?

Mavis: I am not saying that. We just need people we can rely on. So what is your motivation for volunteering?

Tracey: Well, to be honest I am finding it hard to break into the workforce at the moment and I thought volunteering would be a good way to keep up my skills, to use my time creatively and to give back to the community at the same time!

Mavis: Well we can’t offer you a paid job

Tracey: I wasn’t asking.

Mavis: And how long could you commit to the role?

Tracey: Well obviously finding employment is a priority but I would like to find time to do some volunteering even when employed

Mavis: I see. I’m not too sure that you would like our role

Tracey: Well I saw the role on your website and it sounded interesting.

Mavis: Well, our ladies are great at talking with the patients. As most of our patients are elderly I don’t think you would have anything to talk about with them

Tracey: I beg to differ

Mavis: Look, I think we are after volunteers with more life experience

Tracey: Why don’t you come straight out with it?

Mavis: What?

Tracey: You are not recruiting young people

Mavis: That’s our prerogative

Tracey: Isn’t that discriminatory?

Mavis: Now listen here young lady. Its that type of attitude from young people that gets you nowhere.  I am sorry but this interview is over

Tracey: Well, I shall be contacting your management about this

Mavis: Go right ahead. I’ve being coordinating our ladies for 10 years now and they will back me up!

Tracey: We shall see

Mavis: I suggest you get some manners and then you might get a job!

Tracey: Bye Mavis

Featured Post

The simple act of kindness.

How we learn from our children! This post was inspired by an act of my daughter. When her mum arrived at work today she found this...