Robert J. Rosenthal, Director of Communications for VolunteerMatch, wrote an inspiring post on Beth Kanter’s blog following the June 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. He wrote about how volunteer coordinators could help their organizations become networked nonprofits.
He made several thoughtful observations, the richest of which was captured in his quote:
“Yet I think it’s another fear [beyond fear of failure] – fear of the unknown – that’s one of the biggest limits. When things are unknown, they can’t be envisioned at all. The earth remains flat, and it’s hard to eliminate the barriers that stand in the way of exploration.”
We know that our volunteer program are no longer working. We know that at the chapter and component levels, we are in dire need of volunteers. Even at the national level, while we may have the number of volunteers needed, we don’t have the right volunteers. Yet, the thought of changing our programs stirs up such fear. Attending a meeting recently of a national association where we talked about changing the leadership structure at the chapter level, I saw this fear firsthand. Because the change couldn’t be envisioned in a concrete way, some volunteers kept saying it would not work. Yet, the current system isn’t working either. They know the current system and that is the difference.
So how do we paint a picture of the future? How do we make the unknown more familar? We could cite examples such as the proving that the earth is indeed round. Maybe we need to just make the change and let those who can’t believe without seeing, stumble on the truth.
In the case of recreating our volunteer programs, it may mean a new role for volunteer coordinators – we’re not just recruiters but change-agents.