By Julie Adamen
Many communities, if not most communities, suffer from a shortage of volunteers. People are busier than ever, and their time is precious. After a full day's work, it seems like a real waste of that precious time to spend it at a sleep-inducing Board or Committee meeting, away from family. The net result is that the available population of volunteers diminshes and Boards soon discover they can't find anyone to replace retiring Board members. The result: Communities end up being managed by a small group of the same folks for a very long time.
Why are we so often unable to procure new volunteers, or fail to retain the ones we have? Unfortunately, lost volunteerism can almost always be traced back to the Board of Directors that does not endeavor to nurture the volunteer, place them in the right position, listen to their contribution or acknowledge their input. Volunteers receive their remuneration through satisfaction of process participation. No satisfaction means no participation. Let's talk about a few ways that volunteerism gets killed.
Ignoring Volunteer Input. The input of any volunteer - Board member or committee member - is just that: Input. That input does not have to be agreed with or followed, but it must be acknowledged. Many Boards are under the false belief that acknowledging the input of volunteers means 1) The Board agrees with the input and 2) the idea must be implemented. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Micromanaging. Often at a loss on how to operate within the community association structure, Board will try to keep a hand in everything in an attempt to understand or keep track of what's going on. Unfortunately, this usually leads to 1) not really knowing what's going on at any one time because there is too much of which to keep track, and 2) Dreaded micromanagement. Focused on detail in a misguided attempt at control - or a misguided attempt to feed an ego - micromanagers will stop volunteerism in its tracks every time.
Lack of follow up. When you become a Board member, you must answer email, return phone calls and make personal visits in a timely manner. Not doing so makes volunteers feel as if their input is worth little to nothing. Like it or not, if you are on a Board of Directors, especially if you are the President, you are going to be the de facto leader of the community.
Appointing people to positions that ill-suit them. Anytime it's possible, Boards and their management staff should try to match the volunteer's strengths with position best suited for them. By taking in to account whether or not that person has the required skill, personal attributes and can commit the time involved in the volunteer position, the volunteer will be able to contribute to the greater good and the community will reap the benefits of the volunteer.
Unproductive Meetings. How many meetings have managers, Board members and committee members sat through with their eyes rolling back in their heads, waking up only to check their watch every ten minutes? Way, way too many. Endless debate over meaningless minutia or non-agenda items, ad nauseam. In short, make your meetings productive: 1) Speak only to those items on the agenda, 2) Know that if a decision can't me made in 5 minutes, the Board is not ready to make it. Period. Unproductive, long - and, well, stupid - meetings kill volunteerism.
The good news is, volunteerism can be saved, resurrected and thrive with a few simple operational tools.
Adopt a Mission and Vision Statement. Adopting a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement give the Board (and community) focus on where they want to go and how they will get there.
Adopt Governing Policies. All Boards should adopt a governing policy, or a method of standardized operation. For example, adopting Roberts Rules of Order prevents disorganized, long and unproductive meetings and gives Boards a tried and true platform on which they can hold more effective meetings.
Adopt Policies Governing Committee Operations. All Boards should give their committees a standardized guideline on how the committee is expected to conduct itself in relation to committee meetings, management, the Board, owners and vendors.
Conduct Annual Strategic Planning, facilitated by an impartial third party. This can save Boards and Committees hours of time over the course of a year by giving the entire volunteering entity (and staff) clear direction on which goals are important to achieve on behalf of the community.
Acknowledgement: Long and loud and public. At every turn, the Board must, must, must acknowledge its volunteers and their hours of hard work and service in newsletters, in person, at meetings, on the website. It is particularly incumbent upon the President, to "spin the halos" of each and every one of those valued team members who work for the common goal of the betterment of the community.
Outstanding, positive communication with all owners. Positive communication from the association fosters volunteerism because people want to be a part of something positive. This means a monthly newsletter that is more than "Don't park here!" and "Pick up after your dog!" because good news measn good morale. Good morale means more volunteers.
Most of the tips on developing and retaining volunteers and satisfaction of process participation are easy and take very little time from the Board. Why must leadership nurture volunteers in their communities? They are the fresh thinking future Board and committee members, and current volunteers will feel supported and a welcomed and appreciated part of the process.
Adamen Inc © 2013 All rights reserved.