Browse through the Twenty Hats archives and you’ll find plenty of actionable ideas.
After eight years and 164 posts (including some awesome guest posts), the time has come to wrap up the Twenty Hats blog.
Needless to say, this was a tough decision. Volunteer engagement is endlessly bloggable because our profession is about people, building community, and transforming this world for the better. There is always something new to share – a different perspective, an emerging trend, or a real-life example of a volunteer manager with a brilliant idea that deserves attention.
On the other hand, I feel like the existing posts do a good job of articulating my volunteer engagement philosophy: that quality volunteer engagement cannot occur without motivated, dedicated, and well-trained volunteer managers.
All that’s to say that I reflected more than usual on what to convey with this post. To figure that out, I took my own browse of the Twenty Hats archives and found the three posts that articulate other important messages. And while these posts have never landed on my top ten list, they deserve your time and attention.
1. What’s Behind the Why of Working with Volunteers
As leaders of volunteers, we focus a lot on the role of volunteers within our organizations. We strategize to demonstrate volunteer impact, or obtain adequate technology, or train ourselves and our co-workers on the art of volunteer management.
I know, though, that the most rewarding part of the job has less to do with management and more to do with the joy experienced by volunteers. We feel gratified by watching our volunteers find meaning and personal growth within their roles.
This post affirms the satisfaction gained from a thriving volunteer corps. As I said then, “our desire to nurture and cultivate what is best in others is essential to improving our communities.” The care and support that we give our volunteers is just as important as our leadership skills.
2. How to Rock Social Media and Give Your Volunteers an A+ Experience
Our work provides plenty of opportunities for educating our volunteers about the lived experience of our clients. How often, though, do we build these teachable moments into the volunteer experience?
In this post, one nonprofit chose to debrief with volunteer groups after their shifts, helping participants articulate and share what they had learned about homelessness from interacting with the clients. They documented the volunteers’ takeaways and then shared them on social media, building a following through the insights of the volunteers.
The post goes to show that marketing and education are not mutually exclusive. In fact, “True marketing is all about communicating the value of a service.” If you have considered this type of debrief but have not put it into practice, perhaps this post is the nudge you are looking for.
3. #LOVols, what might you discover with these five questions?
One of my favorite things to do is hold retreats for volunteer managers, where we have time and space carved out to connect with our larger purpose. It’s energizing to think about the possibilities, about how we can use our skills in talents in ways that are meaningful to us and benefit our communities.
The challenge is to find the right questions to ask. And while there are plenty of life-purpose resources out there, I stumbled upon my favorite questions at the end of an onsite training session, where a Director asked the staff to consider these five particular questions.
The five questions demonstrate that purpose is not a fixed concept: it shifts over time and may hold different meanings on the job and outside of it. As the post notes, “our purpose is ever-evolving. It’s influenced by the organizations we work for — and the organizations we work for are influenced by us.”
If you feel due for some reflection on your own professional purpose, you’ll be well-served by answering these five questions.
If there is a common theme to these three posts, it’s this: as leaders of volunteers, we are gatekeepers for a tremendous source of power – the power of volunteers to expand on our missions and ultimately transform the world for the better. You know that’s an important role. And while leaders may not always recognize your value, I do. Thank you for the contributions that you have made, are making now, and will undoubtedly make in the future.
Elisa, you have been one of the most thoughtful, articulate leaders of volunteers and I have always looked forward to your insights, sense of humor and love of life and people. And you can dance, my friend! What could be better than a leader who dances? Thank you for your contributions, wisdom and willingness to share your knowledge and experience with us. And especially your heart, because your heart always shone through your posts. Much love to you.
Thanks, Meridian! I have so much respect for you and your blog – your comments mean a lot to me.
Elisa, thank you for everything you’ve put into this treasure trove of knowledge left for the field. It’s a blog I’ve sent many a new volunteer manager to (or tried to get them there at least). I’ve also enjoyed your zoom discussions. Know that you’ve done a huge service to our field by amplifying voices of leaders of volunteers, putting a light on the elephants in the room and bringing our wins to the surface. I hope you have many adventures in 2022!!
Thanks, Corina! You’re right – volunteer managers have a lot of wins to celebrate (and a few elephants to exposes 😉
Your first post above omitted one of the most rewarding parts of the job are the volunteers themselves. They are some of the nicest, most upbeat people around.
Thanks for years of advice and thought provoking articles. I wish you equal or better success in your future endeavors
Great point, Kurt. Thanks for being a regular Twenty Hats reader!