While I don’t believe managers of volunteers are the same as human resources managers, these two professions do have a LOT in common. That’s why I subscribe to the newsletter from workforce.com: they bring such fantastic articles and blogs to my attention that can relate to volunteer engagement.
One of the recent things they brought to my attention is an entry on Fistful of Talent, a blog for “recruiters, HR, consultants and corporate types on all things talent.” It’s by Dawn Hrdlica of DAXKO. She made a list of things HR managers should fight for – or, as she put it, 5 Things to Create a HR Fight Club Over. She says, “you gotta fight openly for these gems.”
I loved the list, and have adapted it for those in charge of volunteer engagement at their organizations. When I’m quoting directly from Ms. Hrdlica, I put the text in colored italics. And I’m encouraging those who manage or coordinate an organization’s volunteer engagement to fight for six things:
- Fight for your volunteers: They aren’t yours in the sense that you own them, but they ARE yours in the sense that you are responsible for them, and they are counting on you to have their best interest at heart and to make sure the organization does too! Damn it… fight for them when they aren’t being recognized or listened to. Get their contributions in the annual report and on the web site, and NOT just as “wage replacement” or “money saved.” Bring up their contributions and challenges in staff meetings. Make sure the organization celebrates them just as much as it celebrates financial donors.
- Fight for your team: Volunteers aren’t free, and it takes a huge amount of time and resources to ensure their work is meaningful for both your organization and for them. They are doing a whole lot of work behind the scenes that others may not see. It’s up to YOU to make sure that work gets seen by everyone at your organization, especially senior management!
- Fight for your time: We are all busy. But if you don’t put the ki-bosh on all the unnecessary noise… you… will… drown. Many of us say, “But to be a good customer service agent I have to, always be available”. You also have to be PRESENT. If you are overwhelmed, interrupted or constantly jump when others say jump… you will not be present. Fight for you-time ’cause no one else will.
- Fight for your budget. What gets cut first when things go bad? Volunteer management budgets. Because volunteers are free, right? Your budget must be detailed to show exactly how much time and effort it takes to engage all of the volunteers you have, and you must be able to say what the consequences of cutting your budget will be (less volunteers, and those that are left providing left sources, and numbers to back that up), in terms of real numbers. At least fight for the budget to stay in tact. You may not get it – but at least you can sleep at night knowing you’re not a coward.
- Fight for your resources. You need volunteer management software, not just a few lines of data entry on the donor management software. You need interactive features on the volunteer-related pages of your organizations web site. You need to keep your training up-to-date and, therefore, need to go to a conference or workshop that will upgrade your skills. You may need a paid part-time or full-time assistant, or more than one, to be able to involve and support more volunteers at your organization. Don’t let some lame brain tell senior management that the donor software will meet all of your needs, that you can’t have the interactive features on the volunteer-related pages that other departments have with clients and donors because it’s too expensive or not possible (because it’s NOT), and that volunteers are free. And if you need more help, prove why and fight for it. Last but not least:
- Fight for your salary. Fundraising managers, donor relations managers and even the HR manager are all making more than you. Why? Those people constantly show how all the things they do are critical to the organization. The organization believes that under-funding or cutting those positions who be disastrous to the organization. In addition, those other staff people are asking for more money and getting it. They are ASKING FOR IT. Pay peanuts… get monkeys. Don’t be a monkey.
Managers of volunteers have reputations of being nice. It’s time to start working towards a reputation of being absolutey necessary. It’s time to join the volunteer management Fight Club!