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Volunteer-Matters

When it comes to leading, managing is not enough

Ways to lead strategically

Do you find yourself caught up in the day-to-day minutia of getting things done? Are you constantly head-down trying to accomplish individual tasks?

Once you lose sight of the overall mission, you become a manager, not a leader, and your organization needs leaders.

Yes, the work needs to be done to further the mission but if your sole focus is on the tasks and not on the mission, both suffer. Leading volunteers involves a lot more than just getting things done. As the person in charge of your organization’s volunteers, you are a leader. You have the opportunity to make a real impact on the organization. Never mind your job title, or your perceived level in the organization; as the leader of the volunteers, you are vital.

Start by advocating—Be an advocate for volunteers. Articulate to staff and the board exactly how volunteers support the organization and further your mission. Demonstrate the real value of the volunteers. Fight for things that will benefit them, whether that’s a budget to hold appreciation events, or the opportunity to attend diversity training. What do volunteers need to be the best they can be? Remember, the more you help them, the more they will help you.

Develop a vision for your volunteer program—Know what a “perfect” volunteer program for your organization would look like, and determine the gap between that and where you are now. Certainly, no organization or program is perfect, but the closer you can get, the better. Look at the areas where you are farthest away from the ideal, and start working to make them better. Over time, you’ll see a big difference in the effectiveness of the program, and that will take your mission farther.

You need a vision, too, for the volunteers—Set a goal, leading toward the accomplishment of the mission. Make it achievable but challenging, and have them work toward it. Get them involved in the creation of the vision and in brainstorming ways to achieve it. The more they are involved right from the beginning, the more committed they will be toward accomplishing it. Once volunteers are fully committed to something, they will move mountains to achieve it.

Be strategic—Structure all your work around the organization’s strategy and mission. This helps you prioritize your tasks and make better choices about where you’re spending your (and the volunteers’) time. You might be surprised at the number of tasks that you do that aren’t actually necessary. It also helps you strike a good balance between operational and strategic priorities. Working in this way will demonstrate to your colleagues that you are a strategic thinker, and it will increase your influence. That, of course, will allow you to make an even bigger difference.

Leading strategically will advance your mission faster, with less effort—Set strategic priorities, advocate for volunteers within the organization, and set a clear vision for the program and for the volunteers. By doing this consistently, you can supercharge your volunteer program and advance your mission much faster than you would if you just focused on each task as it comes up.

It may take a bit of a mind shift, but it’s worth it.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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