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The Reason I Volunteer – Ashley

Ashley is next in the spotlight in our #TheReasonIVolunteer campaign.

This girl is a powerhouse in the most understated way possible. Not only does she work a full-time job at a church, but Ashley is currently finishing up her MBA as well. As an undergrad, Ashley majored in English and minored in Music. She volunteers at her church in the orchestra, playing the violin.

Here is Ashley’s WHY:

“I serve through the music ministry because God gave me a gift. Serving and sharing it with others is a way I say thank you to Him for giving it to me. The problem I sometimes have is forgetting who gets the glory. Usually, when I forget and get wrapped up in MY talent, He “allows” something to happen, like, my mic not to work for a spoken word-violin duo performance, or me completely forgetting what notes I’m supposed to be playing during a worship service. He alone should get the glory, and when He does, no one using any gift He has given them will ever be put to shame. I always want to be used in whatever capacity. Right now, it’s through music.”

The more stories like Ashley’s that we hear, the more we get inspired to make the most of our skills and gifts! Her interest and knowledge of music led her to give back, and she consistently keeps her focus on what’s important. Ashley gave a great reminder that volunteering is NOT ABOUT US. It’s all about serving God and others. A simple concept, but so easy to forget.

Thanks, Ashley for the fun opportunity to hang out with you and hear your story!

If you’re enjoying the #TheReasonIVolunteer series, be sure to comment below and let us know. Follow along with our campaign with #IAmVolunteerU #Volunteeru on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

 

Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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The Reason I Volunteer – Silvia from Dorcas Ministry

On our social media, we’ve recently begun a campaign called #TheReasonIVolunteer turning the spotlight on some terrific volunteers serving in their communities. (By the way, if you haven’t connected with us online be sure to click on the links below!). It’s been a fun way to hear stories of real-life heroes who donate their time and skills to make our world a better place!

Our very first post features a dear friend of mine, Silvia.

I wish I had time to go into detail about Silvia’s life exploits and her past as an entrepreneur selling commercial cleaning supplies, renting bicycles in Mexico, and being an extra in a movie, but alas, with our limited time I’m focusing only on her most recent endeavor as a volunteer for Dorcas Ministry.

Dorcas Ministry is an incredible group that repurposes pillowcases into dresses for little girls in developing countries. These beautiful dresses have been sent to children in El Salvador, Ecuador, Nepal, Poland, Mexico, and Togo.

Silvia explains, “I like to use my gifts (sewing) to help others. We have a responsibility to use our skills for more than just ourselves. I like knowing that doing something as simple as sewing is going to make a difference to a girl and her family. Plus it’s fun!”

Here is one of the precious little girls in Nepal who received one of Dorcas Ministry’s dresses! This sweet girl and her mother were so happy the photographer Alex, couldn’t help but capture the moment.

Just one example of the far-reaching impact a volunteer can have!

Keep an eye out for more of our #TheReasonIVolunteer posts in the upcoming weeks! And follow along with our campaign with #IAmVolunteerU #Volunteeru on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

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Recruiting LIKE A BOSS

One of the most frequent questions we get asked at Volunteer U is, “How do I get more volunteers?”

This is a common issue; especially for churches and nonprofits where non-paid individuals make up a majority of the positions. Sadly, although leaders know the importance of recruitment, it is usually one of the very last tasks on their busy to-do list. What leaders don’t always realize, is that a little bit of strategizing and effort now can save a lot of stress later on. Having a solid recruitment plan in place will keep a steady flow of volunteers coming through the pipeline.

Below are the three steps of recruitment and the three keys to an effective recruitment strategy.

STEP ONE. Explain the Need

This is where your salesmanship should come out. Spare no details. A flair for the dramatic is helpful here too. Even a monotonous, dirty task like cleaning the parking lot can sound exciting if you put the right spin on it! Serve your community, build friendships, and help keep our parking lot clean! Sounds like a pretty nice way to spend a few hours Saturday morning.

STEP TWO. Prove why THEY are needed

People want to know that they are needed. When you recruit, you need to make a case for why they are important. When we ask people to serve, everyone automatically believes someone better qualified will step in. We need to show volunteers that everyone is needed and can contribute. It’s also important to make people invest emotionally. Explain what you need and how their unique gifts and skills can make an impact.

STEP THREE. Call to Action

Our call to action should be simple and to the point. Ask for help with a specific project or encourage people to come to your volunteer orientation. Give them one simple step that they can take right away.

Most churches are so desperate to get help, that they try to make the volunteer process as easy as possible. I think that’s a mistake. We want to put a few steps in place that will act as filters. We’re not just looking for anyone. We’re looking for the right people. Trust me, it’s much better to be searching for someone to fill a spot, than having to clean up a mistake.

We need to build in some safeties to help make sure we get the right people in the right roles. Background checks should be standard practices for anyone working with children or youth, but asking people to become church members, or attend a mandatory training/orientation will help weed out those who aren’t committed.

3 Keys of Volunteer Recruitment

#1 Put Your Current Volunteers To Work

Recruiting doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. It should be built into the culture of your organization. Current volunteers should be your biggest advocates. There’s nothing that can compare to word-of-mouth advertising. 84% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues [1].

#2 Hold Volunteer Fairs

Two of the biggest reasons people tell us they don’t volunteer are 1. They don’t think they’re needed. 2. They think someone else will do it. People won’t know what you need until you let them know. Let them know all the different ways they can serve.

#3 Have a Social Media Presence

Social media has a huge reach. Your organization should have a consistent presence online to generate interest and keep people engaged. 58% of consumers share positive experiences with a company on social media and also ask their network opinions about brands [2]. This is your chance to handcraft a perception of your organization.

References

[1].  Nielsen (2013, September 17). Under the Influence: Consumer Trust in Advertising. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2013/under-the-influence-consumer-trust-in-advertising.html

[2] SDL Survey Reveals Consumers Want Brands to Offer Consistent Experience (2013, May 15). Retrieved July 24 2017. http://www.sdl.com/about/news-media/press/2013/sdl-survey-reveals-consumers-want-brands-to-offer-consistent-experience.html

 

 

Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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70, Twenty, & 10. How to Train Volunteers Informally.

You may have already heard of the 70:20:10 Model. Originally created by Lombardo, and Eichinger at the Center for Creative Leadership, this 1980s leadership development theory suggests that individuals get 70% of their knowledge from challenging assignments (experience), 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from formal training/education.

If this is true, 90% of our volunteer’s education is informal. Their knowledge of your organization, how to perform their tasks, and how to develop as leaders is mostly learned through observation and in-the-moment performances. They are learning as they go, taking both the good and bad experiences and turning those into informative memories to use in the future.

It makes you think…are we intentionally developing our volunteers during the hustle of services? If most of their knowledge is coming from job-related experiences, are we doing our best to make those experiences hand-tailored lessons that drive home the culture of our organization?

Since people are learning “on the floor” we have the incredible opportunity to train volunteers in an informal setting. One of the best ways to do this is through a mentoring program. The term mentoring program probably implies more formality than it should.

Basically, we want to pair a more experienced volunteer with a new one. The newbie will get the chance to connect with and learn from their experienced counterpart, and the more seasoned volunteer will have an opportunity to stretch as a leader and pass on specific lessons that the organization wants to press on their team.

This covers the 70% learned from experience and 20% learned from interactions with others. We can’t ignore that 10% of formal training though. Don’t underestimate the power of a volunteer orientation class. The formal class setting at the beginning of a volunteer’s journey sets the tone for the rest of their time with the organization and it’s the perfect opportunity to really drive home your organizational culture, verbiage, history, values, and “the way you do things.” Being intentional in the development of your volunteers will pay off big-time when you realize you have a volunteer staff who are firmly focused on your vision and continually growing into better leaders.

References

[1] Lombardo, M.M. & Eichinger, R.W. (1996). The Career Architect Development Planner. Minneapolis: Lominger.

 

 

Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

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A Leader’s Guide to Building Trust

Leaders will need to prove themselves trustworthy before workers will feel comfortable enough to allow themselves to be led. The only way to establish trust is through time. The only problem is, time is something that leaders (especially young leaders, with no proven track record) feel they can't afford.

But as anxious as we may be to develop fantastic relationships with our followers and create the perfect team right away, the truth is great leader-follower relationships usually are years in the making.

Trust is difficult to gain but incredibly easy to lose. Here are four ways to speed up the trust-building process with your followers.

1. Showing Consistency.

It’s a steady trend over time. It’s repetitive actions. You make a promise, and you follow through. You make a promise, and you follow through. You make a promise, and you follow through. Every time. The same pattern. Until it is expected. Assumed. Until there is no doubt that your word is always supported by your actions.

2. Meeting Expectations.

In every relationship, there is some level of expectation. Whether realistic or not, these expectations are there. When we’re working to build trust with followers, we have to be ready to meet the anticipation of our followers. In the leader-follower relationship, each expects the other to perform their role (whether those expectations are vocalized or not) without being monitored. Where most people run into trouble, is when those expectations are assumed by one party and not the other. Open communication is vital to making sure all expectations are met.

3. Removing Uncertainty.

The enemy of trust is ambiguity. When people are unsure, it seeds fear which in turn leads to doubt. The best way to keep building a relationship of trust early on with followers is to remove their uncertainties. This means paying attention. Leaders should always be listening (and paying attention!) to conversations with followers to catch wind of any doubts. It's not enough to identify concerns; you need to address them.

4. Living Authentically.

The world is changing. Gone are the days of leaders pretending to be perfect or having all the answers. Followers prefer real to super. In fact, research shows that people are more attracted to competent leaders after they make a little blunder. In psychology, this is called the Pratfall Effect, and it just goes to show that people look for ways to connect. They’re looking for leaders who are relatable. Real. A hero they can look up to because although the leader has shown herself to be fallible, she has learned to overcome. Authentic leaders build trust.

Time is a necessary ingredient in any relationship, but with these four tricks, you'll be on the fast-track to connecting with your followers.

As a leader, are you being intentional in building trust with your followers BEFORE you expect them to follow you?

 

Christina Angelakos has a doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. She loves working with teams in both the corporate and nonprofit marketplace. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaAngel

Get more great content about developing a stellar Volunteer Team!

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Embracing Conflict

If you’re like me, you tend to shy away from conflict. In fact, I used to try to ignore it altogether. Distracting people who were mad became an art form for this peacemaking middle child.

I finally learned the positive power of conflict when I did something that was completely unnatural for me…I embraced it.

Here I was facilitating a group discussion that suddenly took an aggressive turn. One of the participants had been interrupted several times by another group member, and she finally snapped. The two sat facing off and then BOOM. An explosion of what I can only assume were pent up emotions from several weeks of working together.

The tension-filled moment made me feel a mixture of dread and worried energy, as my mind quickly ran through different ways to diffuse the situation.

As I nervously looked around the room, I saw similar expressions of discomfort. The friendly eye-contact that had been the norm so far in our little meeting place abruptly ceased as everyone in the room suddenly found their fingernails, notebook, or watch of vast interest.

The tension was so thick in the office it was palatable.

I took a deep breath and went against every natural instinct in my body. Instead of ignoring the pressure, I leaned into it. “This is interesting, you guys. Let’s keep going with this.”

The next twenty minutes were extremely uncomfortable…and remarkably productive.

Here’s why conflict can be healthy for your team:

It highlights underlying dangers. Conflict is typically a symptom, and if you ignore it, you will never find the disease at its root. Small spats of discord are usually red flags that there is something else going on. You may need to dig a little, but if you ask the right questions, you might find that a team member is going through a difficult situation at home, or perhaps that someone is in the wrong position.

Tension is necessary for growth. You don’t get taller without some growing pains; you can’t start a fire without a little friction. It’s all part of the growing process. What should really worry us is when there are no issues, no disagreements, no opposing forces. That’s a sign of stagnation and may mean that we are missing out on innovation, creativity, and chances to branch out.

It’s an opportunity for team members to bond. Nothing makes or breaks relationships like a little disagreement. Typically, working through disputes brings people closer together and ends up strengthening the team bond as they learn to work through differences.

When I talk about embracing conflict, I don’t mean to create drama, pit team members against each other, or incite unnecessary emotional outbursts. Instead, I’m suggesting that when conflict shows up in our organization, we should take it for what it truly is, an opportunity to grow and create a healthy, vibrant team.

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The Potential of Uniqueness

“Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, ‘Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!’ she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.”

– Dr. Suess

It is easier to place people in the same neat little box than to personalize our interactions with them. How much simpler to call everyone “Dave” than take the time to handcraft a unique title?

Growing up, my grandparents had several dogs. Each new dog, my cousins and I were allowed to name it, but invariably, my Grandfather would call them all the same thing. “King” if the dog was male and “Girl” if it was female. He didn’t have to worry about forgetting the new name because they were all the same.

It was easy.

When we work with volunteers, we might find ourselves falling into the temptation to treat everyone as the same “type.” It saves us mental exertion if everyone we work with gets the same end result. The same kind of reward, the same sort of encouragement, the same training, the same correction, the same…whatever.

Granted, working with large groups of volunteers forces us to standardize some aspects of the serving experience: orientation, training, annual rewards or appreciation gifts. But we start to get into trouble when we attempt to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to our relationship with volunteers (or anyone else for that matter!).

Without knowing it, we are forcing members of the team to fit the mold. Be like everyone else. Join the status quo.

What we’re saying through these behaviors is, “Because this is how the majority operates, this is how YOU must operate.” And when we communicate this to our team, they start to believe it. It squashes the creativity, freedom of expression, and the personal touch that comes with people performing in all their unique glory.

Treating people like the individuals they are instead of like an identical cog in the machine takes a little bit of effort. It requires a certain amount of attention. It forces us to get to know people on a personal level. People have complicated, imperfect lives. Things may even get a tiny bit messy.

It’s a challenge for leaders. But one well worth the effort.

What would our organization look like if we began to remember details about our team? If we showed people appreciation in a way that meant the most to them? If we used standardization as a helpful tool instead of a mind-numbing crutch?

I dare say we would begin to see volunteers who thrive in their position. We would see team members who feel valued and come to volunteer excited about their work. We might even start to see increased productivity and more effective staff.

The possibilities are infinite, it just takes a little bit of work. And a lot a bit of remembering names.

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7 Ways to Change Office Atmosphere. PART II

 

We all know how stressful work can be, and it’s difficult enough with the pressure of all our actual tasks. The last thing we need is to worry about a tense office environment.

Besides, life is too short to be anything less than fun.

You don’t need a leadership position to change the atmosphere in your workplace. In fact, this is a list of the 7 ways I changed mine without one.

I talked about the first 3 tactics last week. Now, we’ll focus on the last 4.

#4 Find common ground.

It was difficult at first to connect with some of my coworkers. But pretty soon I learned that you can find common ground with ANYBODY.

“Oh, you like bowling? I went bowling once. It’s so hard! How do you manage to drive the ball down the center without going into the gutter?!”

“You collect porcelain mice? How interesting! Do you have a large collection? What made you start that hobby? I bet there’s a good story in there.”

By the way, these are REAL conversations I’ve had.

And each conversation led to the start of a great friendship. The more you know about people the easier it becomes to establish a real connection.

You don’t have to be fake. All it takes is a genuine interest in the lives of your coworkers and you’d be surprised the incredible things you learn.

#5 Be a friend.

At the end of the day it’s all about relationships.

Yes, our goal is to perform at our best and to accomplish the goals of the organization, but we are human and there are times that emotions, personal issues, and illness will impact us at work.

I wanted my coworkers to know that I cared about them and what concerned them ultimately concerned me.

If there was a problem that I could help solve, or if I could just be there for a team member, I wanted them to know they had a friend.

#6 Collaborate across departments.

I’ve always heard that competition fuels creativity, resourcefulness, and generates new ways to accomplish goals. But if that’s the case, imagine how much more we can do if we collaborate?

Just think what we could accomplish if we collaborated not only in our own teams and departments, but if we joined forces even across industries!

When we pull from people with differing backgrounds and experiences, we are opening the door to all kinds of innovation. Who knows what could be accomplished with such a large think tank.

Once I had built relationships in my immediate area I started widening my circle. I made friends in other departments and pretty soon I had built up a large network of collaborators. If I had a problem, it was much easier to solve with an army of people in different positions, than it would have been if I had been flying solo.

#7 Be interruptible.

The most difficult part of all this is that we still have tasks to complete. Sometimes we get so bogged down with work that it is frustrating when a coworker needs something.

But we have to be interruptible. Even when we’re not feeling it.

Consistency in our willingness to serve and love our coworkers is the only way we can build a culture of relationship.

Obviously, it’s okay to have a bad day once in a while. But overall we need to be showing consistent readiness to help and support our team.

In my case, I let people know that I was always available. There was never a bad time to ask me a question. If I was on the phone, in a meeting, or working on a time-sensitive project, they knew I would respond as soon as I was done. I didn’t let people treat me like a doormat (always doing their work for them) but I tried to make it clear from the beginning that my first priority was the team.

I hope this has inspired you to create a culture of relationship in your organization. There is so much more we can accomplish as a team than we can on our own. It all starts with one person being willing to sacrifice their comfort and serve the rest of their staff and the possibilities from there are endless.

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7 Ways to Change Office Atmosphere. PART I

I once worked in an office with an open floor plan. It was me and my co-workers, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, staring across our little cubicles. My first day I nervously sat at my desk and peeked around at the engrossed people around me. Everyone sat in front of their screens, furiously typing, hunched over a phone, or angling their chairs in a way to best avoid accidental eye contact with someone else.

That first day I left the office with a bad headache and feeling more than a little deflated about my environment.

No one was rude or mean. When I talked to people they took the time to smile. Everyone was very polite. And professional.

They were just busy. And it made the atmosphere of the office feel…tense. I couldn’t imagine spending 40 hours a week in such rigid surroundings.

Something had to break. It was either going to be me or them and I decided right then it wasn’t going to be me.

So I started a little experiment.

Over the next couple of weeks I strategically began my mission to create a counterculture in the area surrounding my cubicle. The crazy thing was it worked.

Here are the 7 tactics I used to change my office’s atmosphere without having a leadership position.

#1 Be the change you want to see.

I was determined not to fall into the present culture. I behaved in the way I wished the rest of my coworkers would behave and eventually people began to notice. In fact, they eventually began mirroring some of those same behaviors.

Sometimes the only way to start a revolution is to change yourself. Is the atmosphere at work cold, competitive, and boring? Break the pattern. Smile at others, initiate conversations, sacrifice your time, build bridges.

#2 Offer to help.

You’d be surprised how often offering a hand improves the moods of your coworkers.

For my office, I realized the feeling of tension was caused by an overwhelming workload. I figured if I helped to relieve some of that stress it would ease that sense of heaviness. So I offered to help. Big or small, there was no task I wasn’t ready to tackle. I would purposely eavesdrop on my nearest coworkers to hear if they needed anything. If I heard someone complain about the huge amount of marketing emails they had to send to new clients, I would pop my head over the cubicle wall and ask if I could do the data entry while they worked on the content.

I took out trash, picked up lunches, helped push carts, and printed invoices for a coworker whose printer stalled.

Was it a little inconvenient?

Yes.

Was it effective?

ABSOLUTELY.

In fact, this ended up being the most effective weapon in my arsenal.

#3 Listen.

The reason I was able to help was because I was listening for opportunities. I’ll admit it. I was nosey.

Complete disregard for the old adage, “Mind your own business.”

I made my coworker’s issues, my business. And it payed off.

Bigtime.

I’m not talking about listening for gossip, or prying into people’s personal business. But, it’s incredible the things you’ll pick up if you’re paying attention. Little cues and phrases that are actually signals for help or a listening ear.

Sometimes people just need to vent. Being a safe person where your coworkers can voice frustration, concerns, and anxieties, without fear of you gossiping about them or making them feel bad is invaluable.

I’ll be posting the other 4 tactics next week. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve shifted the culture in your office, class, or home!

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