Ditch the Ladder – Embrace the Continuum

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Volunteers for all types of organizations are asking for change – change in how they volunteer, when they can volunteer and where they volunteer. They are asking for flexibility in their volunteering. Organizations that are responding are doing so by re-imaging their volunteer program.

It begins with a volunteer role and philosophical approach that draw their significance from the organization’s mission rather than from a particular title or level in the committee structure. Mission-driven volunteer roles are built around what the organization’s needs to accomplish, not what positions the association needs to fill. A significant contributor is changing your mindset to building teams around projects, not the fiscal year. Function first; form second.

This turns the image of volunteering, which traditionally starts with a Board and trickles down or begins with the job title and then the description, upside down. The picture changes from a volunteer ladder to a volunteer continuum.

This shift leverages members’ desire to engage in many different ways throughout their tenure. It’s about finding the role that’s right at the moment. This means incorporating micro, ad-hoc and episodic volunteering. Organization’s can build their own “map” by considering all of the official and unofficial ways members contribute at each point along the path. Remember to consider the micro-interactions that happen on social media sites, individual blogs, and other digital backchannels that may or may not be managed by your association.

What would your volunteer map look like if you put the ladder away?

Mariner Management & Marketing provides association management, volunteer coordinator and leadership development information for associations and non-profit organizations.