Volunteerism is like a living organism…

“Volunteerism is like a living organism. It grows, declines and changes in response to the stimuli surrounding it.” Mary Merrill’s quote reminds us that the volunteer of yesterday is different than the one of today who will be different in the future.

Even back before her death in 2006, Mary talked about episodic volunteer. It’s caught on. Whether you call it ad-hocflexible or micro-volunteering, volunteering has changed and will continue to change. Associations unfortunately have been wearing blinders. Associations need to act now and here are four ways:

  1. Acknowledge that volunteerism has changed – and change their processes and structures to respond.
  2. Look seriously at the barriers to volunteering inherent in our traditional association structure and fix them. You’ll find the barriers (like lack of ad-hoc and virtual positions) discussed in the Decision To Volunteer.
  3. Give volunteer management a seat in the C Suite. It’s just as important as your HR position. Yet too often volunteer management is just a few bullet points in a staff job description or parceled out among several departments depending on the level of perceived importance of the volunteer role (governance vs. leader vs. doer).
  4. Create exciting, inviting volunteer portals. Oncology Nursing Society does a good job. Here are some additional examples and resources worth a look:

Lastly take time to wander through Mary’s site. One article I enjoyed was Lessons from the Gym: The 30-Minute Volunteer Workout. It’s one of many insightful pieces about volunteerism, volunteer management and innovation. Then, join the conversation here and let’s discover ways to embrace the new volunteer management models.