Managing volunteers


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Managing volunteers

  1. 1. THE LIBERTARIAN PARTYS SUCCESS99 * 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100 Washington DC 20037 * (202) 333-0008 * Volunteers Dos and donts for managing volunteersDo... Dont ... Take a clipboard with a volunteer sign-up Be upset if people say they will be theresheet wherever you campaign. and dont show. Ask them again next time. Treat them like gold. Ever get angry at the volunteers. Keep accurate records of their names, Everccriticizestaff, other volunteers, or thephone numbers, etc. candidate in front of them. Give them something to do as soon as they Talk about some volunteers in front ofoffer to help. others. Remember to express your gratitude Forget to thank them for their efforts.sincerely. Remember they could be doing something else! Pay attention to each individuals strengths Let them leave non-campaign materialsand weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly. around your headquarters. Schedule 50% more volunteers than you Let the hard-core, long-time Libertariansthink you will need for any project. scare the new people. Keep them "in the loop" as much as pos- Allow volunteers with "good ideas" to side-sible. Make them feel part of the campaign. track your plan. Keep an eye open for the really competentones who may be moved up to a staff job. Make sure you have a volunteer coordina-tor who is OKwith making lots of phone calls. Always Remember: "Goushaws Rule of the 100" Help your candidate remember their names. "When you have contributed 100 hours or $100, Have the candidate show up (briefly) then you are entitled to an opinion on what Iduring volunteer events and thank each person. am doing." Try to have a job for the kids, too. Shred-ding sensitive documents is a good one. Help them to stay motivated by sharinggood news and making them feel important. Encourage the candidates spouse to par-ticipate in volunteer activities.
  2. 2. - . THE LIBERTARIAN PARTYS SUCCESS99 2600 Virginia Avenue, NW, Suite 100 * Washington DC 20037 * (202) 333-0008 * www.LP.orgKoop· Voluntoors 12 steps to keep your volunteers happy"1 volunteer!" Those two words are guaranteed to their own needs. Holding volunteers, in other words, is more a matter of maintaining their joy bring a smile to any Libertarian Party than of maintaining their conviction."leader. As a smaU, grassroots organization, the Here are Dr. Sandmans 12 reasons (slightlyLP was built by - and is still largely powered by edited). Notice how many of them mirror the- the volunteer spirit of its members. difficulties that your Libertarian Party But the words 1 volunteer" merely.begin having with yourthe process. After that first rush of enthusiasm volunteers.dissipates, LP leaders notice that manyvolunteers stop volunteering - or simply stop 1. BURN OUT. People often leaveshowing up for LP events. organizations when they are asked to do too How can we change that? much too fast. We are all familiar with the According to Dr. Peter M. Sandman - a phenomenon: A newcomer at the March meetingprofessor at Rutgers University - the secret is speaks up at the April meeting, is appointedto focus on the needs of the volunteers. committee chair at the May meeting, and In the late 1980s, Dr. Sandman was a doesnt show for the June meeting. To avoidvolunteer coordinator for the Nuclear Freeze burn out, we should try to offer volunteers amovement, and wrote an article entitled, series of slowly increasing responsibilities."Holding Your Volunteers." His advice appliesnot just to the Freeze movement, but to any 2. COOL OUT. The opposite of askinggroup that relies on volunteer support. people to do too much too fast is not asking Sandman wrote: "1 want to list for you the them to do anything at all. In many groups this12 most common reasons why volunteers quit is the number one reason for leaving: No onetheir organizations ~ or, more often, simply invited me to the workshop, no one asked me todisappear. Most of the 12 can be dealt with ,---,-, if ., help with.the [neighborhood] canvass, no .onewe are paying attention to organizational told me they needed me. The solution to "coolmaintenance. None of the 12 reasons for .out" is straightforward. Dont be diffident. aboutquitting, by the way, is people changing their ,. asking, and dont lose track of people. Beminds about the issues. Note also that none of especially careful to touch base with volunteersthe 12 is not enough time: Thats what many who missed the last meeting, so the lack of aformer volunteers will tell you if you ask why role doesnt become a reason to miss the nextthey left, but its a cover story. Their day didnt one as well.get shorter, after all; they just decided toreallocate the part of it that used to go to [you]." 3. KEEP OUT. We old-timers Instead, noted Sandman, volunteers leave inevitably gravitate to each other at gatherings,because the volunteer work "no longer satisfies especially when weve been through tough times
  3. 3. together, or when we have work to transact and 6. CANT LOSE. As many front- gossip to transmit. This leaves newcomers sitting running political candidates have learned to painfully alone, watching the inner circle and their dismay, working for a sure thing strikes pondering the invisible "Keep Out" signs we most people as just as pointless as working for a didnt mean to post. You cant stop the futile longshot. For purposes of volunteer formation of cliques, and you cant stop wanting morale, the ideal probability of success is about time with your friends. But you can consciously 40%: Were a little behind but with your help were reach out to newcomers. In larger groups you going to pull into the lead. Be especially alert can even institutionalize a buddy system. Pair for the anticlimax that follows a victory. You each newcomer with another newcomer to need to celebrate the success, of course, but be compare notes with, and with an old-timer to go sure to connect it in advance to the next step and to for basic information. the step after that, so the pause to celebrate is always following by a reason to keep working. 4. PULL OUT. Newcomers may become old-timers, but they dont want to feel 7. NO GROWTH. Alienated labor is that they must. That is, people are more likely bad enough when youre paid for it; its to participate when the extent of their intolerable when youre not. Volunteer work .participation is safely under theircontro 1. .._._ should beinterestinqrat.should offer variety, Organizational commitmentsare like personal . change, achancefor.personal growth. There is commitments in this way: likes to feel boring work to be done: nf course. But spread it trapped, and so the sense that a person or group around (officers too); make it fun where you is clutching desperately provokes a strong can; and alternate it with more interesting impulse to escape while theres still time. Part of work, volunteer training, and other plums. Note, the solution is to project desire but not however, that boredom is in the eye of the desperation. The rest of it is to let the volunteer beholder. Some of your volunteers may prefer control the commitment; when a volunteer sets the conviviality of an envelope-stuffing party to explicit limits ("1 dont want to sell tickets to the tension of a Congressional lobbying visit. the lasagna dinner"), respect them. But most do not; though they may not complain (until they quit), they expect a chance to grow. 5. CANT WIN. Nothing scares Look around for volunteers who may be in a no- volunteers away faster than the sense of futility growth rut, and offer them a spicy new - either the feeling that the work is doomed to challenge. defeat or the feeling that the goals are unclear, that defeat and victory hardly apply. To forestall 8. NO APPRECIATION. this "cant win" feeling, try to build instead a Volunteers dont just enjoy being appreciated. sense .of efficacy, a sense that the goals are They need it ( they tend to lose faith. worth achieving, that the.qroup can achieve .:,in.the .value.ofszhatztbeyre doing) and they. them,and that the volunteer .is contributing .... es.erve .it. Ata.minimum, d appreciating . significantly to their achievement. This means volunteershas.fhree .components. The most defining explicit short-term objectives as well as obvious is "thank you": We are grateful for what the long-term vision, and it means making a you have done. But just as important - and far fuss each time an objective is achieved. Dont let more often neglected - is "please": We are not people go out on an afternoon canvass without taking for granted that you will do more. And a standard of how many homes, how many perhaps the most crucial aspect of appreciation signatures, and how many dollars represent a is meticulous attention to logistics: Returning successful afternoon - and dont let them go phone calls, answering notes, passing along horne afterward without crowing over the information, scheduling meetings at times the success. volunteer can make. Organizations that really
  4. 4. know how to appreciate volunteers - the doesnt produce disgruntled minorities. Even ifAmerican Cancer Society comes to mind - use your group decides things by vote or by fiat, theeverything from newsletters to awards banquets crucial need is to listen to the losing endless desktop pen sets to make the point. Volunteers who quite over a policy disagreement almost always report that the majority (or the 9. EXTERNAL OPPOSITION. chair) didnt understand their position. If youIf family and friends are opposed to a can summarize the minority viewpointvolunteers volunteering, odds are youll accurately and respectfully, the minority willeventually lose that volunteer. The obvious usually accept the decision. A coronary is thatsolution is to avoid external opposition in the volunteers who werent present when a decisionfirst place. Family and friends are in a real sense was made are the ones most likely to see it as"contributing" some of their time with the grounds for quitting, so try to make keyvolunteer; find ways and occasions to thank decisions when the dissidents are there tothem. Better still, lessen the contribution by express their dissent.involving them directly. Even family memberswho do not want to volunteer themselves may 12. NOT ENOUGH FUN. Yes, ofstill want to meet the people and get a sense of course [achieving your political goals] is seriouswhat goes on during aU those [volunteer] hours. work .. But we.mere. humans need parties .andAnd think about external opposition that rises picnics and softball teams.out of skepticism about the cause rather than "If I cant dance, I dont want to be part ofresentment of the competition. Involvement is your revolution."the best way to cope with this, too, but secondbest is to make sure volunteers bring home asteady stream of "ammunition" demonstratingthe wisdom and effectiveness of [yourorganizations] work. 1o. EXTERNAL CONFLICT.Personality conflicts, tensions, and even quarrelsmay be acceptable at home or at a paying job,but not at a volunteer job - especially not apolitical one. Part of the problem is imaginingthat people who share political values are alwaysgoing to like each other. Part of the solution isaccepting that we may not like each other. Oncethe conflict is acknowledged, the rest of thesolution depends on the style of your group.Some groups mediate the battle, some encouragethe battlers to duke it out, some urge them tomake up, and some reorganize the work so theywont have to deal with each other so much. 11. POLICY DISAGREEMENTS.Sometimes - though less often than we image- the conflict is genuinely over policies ratherthan personalities. A consensus decision-makingprocess will help here. Though it takes forever, itleads to better decisions, and unlike voting it