A Volunteer Lesson from Nutcracker Ballet

As a ballerina wannabe, it was natural that the headline in the Stillwater Gazette would catch my eye: “More than roles for ballerinas.” It came to be through my Google Alerts for association + volunteer. The teaser simply said “Every year the parents of “Nutcracker” ballerinas and cavaliers are asked to log at least a couple of volunteer hours to support their children. …”

Look at that teaser again and notice the phrase “asked to log at least a couple of volunteer hours to support….”Parents respond to this graciously because (1) it’s expected, (2) the expectation is fairly minimal and there are plenty of quick jobs like poster-hangers and greeters, and (3) they are asked. There’s a great lesson here for associations. What if we presented volunteering as an expectation? And backed up that expectation with a host of short-term, ad-hoc positions, and then simply asked?

The story goes on though as the reporter discovered that two volunteers in particular put in about 20 hours a week from September through the December performances as the ticket managers. One of these parents explained that she was putting in lots of unfocused volunteer hours and it was “time to take responsibility for something.” The ticketing job was a match for her skills.

Notice that she became more involved after her ad-hoc experience. Plus, she became involved because there was a job that matched her skills. Two more lessons for us in associations: draw members in through small jobs and help volunteers match their skills to larger jobs.

Even though associations have been around as long as many community organizations, we have much to learn from them. They have invested in their volunteers and their volunteer development programs far more heavily than associations.

What can you learn from C3 and community service organizations?