You Say Ad Hoc, I Say Micro

We in associations need our definitions don’t we? All humor aside, one important indicator that the association world is beginning to accept a new concept or way of doing things is when the conversation bubbles up around two elements: definition and policy. The quest to define the new volunteer terms has clearly heated up as witnessed on ASAE’s collaborate discussion groups and questions I’ve been seeing on webinars and in session rooms.

What’s in a name? Ad hoc, micro, episodic. These terms, Ad hoc, micro, episodic, are attributes for volunteer opportunities. The message behind all is that these are also the preferred attributes for some 60% of our volunteer workforce (ASAE Decision To Volunteer). And this preference for non-traditional roles appears to be growing according to The Corporation for Community and National Service’s recent study, A Review of Trends In Volunteering since 1974.

In some ways they overlap but understanding the definitions help us rethink and recast our volunteering to engage more members, more deeply.

Ad hoc [attribute for focus]: position with a specific, narrow purpose, it refers to a discrete vs continuous role. Think one and done. It actually comes from the Latin phrase for this. Head over to Wikipedia and you’ll find two definitions – one for military and one for networking – that can help you shed a light on how this type of position offers your members opportunity to convene, make a difference, and disperse. Ex: Task forces assembled to complete a job within a short horizon (like less than 6-mo), informal local networking groups that spring up, judging team for your awards, an event planning team.

Micro [attribute for size]: quick, easy job that rarely requires any application process or training and can be completed in one sitting. In general microvolunteering is considered a form of virtual volunteering as the definition on Wikipedia notes. For a long list of examples from the nonprofit world check out Coyote Communication’s list. I would suggest that in association world, microvolunteering jobs can be face-to-face such as event greeters or room monitors. Also, check out Andy Steggles examples in The Changing Face of Volunteerism (and you’ll see another set of names to use: Term – think traditional, Task and Micro).

Episodic [attribute for frequency and adjective for the type of volunteer]: individuals who volunteer on a periodic or recurring basis rather than in an ongoing commitment.  Often associated with flexible, smaller jobs and the individuals who come and go. Episodic volunteering has actually been around for many years but was labeled irregular and rarely managed. Given the increasing rates of episodic volunteering (see the study above), this is no longer irregular and needs to be celebrated. It appears to also be a key strategy in engaging Millennials in volunteering as highlighted in the United Way blog post.  Two good reads on the subject come from Volunteer Administration in the 21st Century and Volunteer Leadership: Multi-Paradigm Model of Volunteering. Ex: mentors, re-occurring session presenters, exam proctors, new member welcomers, event hosts, article or book reviewers.

So what about virtual volunteering? Well it can be ad hoc, micro or episodic for it refers to “where”.

However you want to name your volunteering options, the important thing to keep in mind is we need to meet the needs of our members which mean creating more ad hoc and micro opportunities while enabling episodic volunteering. What are you doing to meet members needs?

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