Saturday, June 28, 2008

Association Politics and Volunteering: Quote of the Day

This quote from a volunteer youth basketball coach says it all:

"I can think of several reasons to not volunteer as a youth basketball coach. Time or the lack thereof ranks high on the list, as does politics and personality conflicts. But, no matter how long that list is there is one thing that makes it all worth while. As I did in my first season, I promised all of the families one thing - at the end of the season their daughter would be able to give a sincere hug. And the hugs are what make it all worth while ... I cherished every moment of the season." - Neenz Faleafine


1. In a nutshell -- the reasons people stop volunteering or seriously consider not volunteering are "time, lack thereof, politics and personality conflicts" ... and lack of reward. In this quote the reward is the feeling you get from hugs when playing sports and the joy of making it a positive experience for the kids and their families. In associations, the reward is ... what? It's up to us as association executives that when volunteers participate with us that we figure out how to make them feel rewarded.

It could be showing them where their involvement specifically made a difference (e.g., continuing to communicate outcomes of their decisions AFTER the committee has stopped meeting), making sure you're only having committee meetings if there is something relevant to work on, providing volunteer recognition -- and seriously, anyone who believes that people "don't care" whether they are recognized should think again -- they do. I believe it's part of "being human". If they're not feeling hugged at the end of the season, they're not showing up the next season. And they're probably going to tell everyone else how bad the experience was too. Word of mouth actually works stronger on the negatives than the positives.

I love the quote because I'm so certain of its truth: If we give people ONE reason to enjoy volunteering, they will overlook the "long list" of reasons not to do it.

2. Why would any association executive bemoan the fact that "politics are played" in associations? Were you honestly expecting otherwise? It's a given. Not just in associations, but EVERY organization and EVERY volunteer group -- schools, scouts, little league, women's groups, country clubs, theater groups, and where I found more politics than anyplace I've ever volunteered in my life -- when I was a Trustee of a church. The skills you might need to pass a law in a legislature or city council are the same ones you actually need to get a motion passed at a volunteer group or to get an idea moved forward or to get a school to approve a class trip. If you work for a volunteer organization there is absolutely no reason to think that politics are not part of everything. And good ideas do not just get magically embraced. Anywhere.

3. If you're a volunteer coach, a player, or even a parent on the sidelines, your hugging skills are going to improve. This season I can remember one of those double-overtime scores where "our team" won a playoff game. And a huge group of parents (including me) were in a huddle (like the last episode of "Mary Tyler Moore") jumping up and down in a huge hug ... for a really long time. And the same thing was happening with the girls on the field. And the kids/coaches on the sidelines. Doesn't get much better than that. And even when you lose, you hug.

ASAE just started a "vodcast" (sounds like doing something with vodka) -- short videos (under 4 min.) of association news and info. First one is on the upcoming release of their "Decision to Volunteer" study/book -- Click here to watch.

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