(Here are some of my notes from Cynthia D’Amour’s Lazy Leader Road Show “Creating A Surplus Of Volunteers” which recently stopped in Dallas.)
Martyr leader volunteers! Our organizations are rife with them.
They are the survival strategy for many nonprofits. Yet, focusing on them can actually kill an organization.
The Awful Truth About Our Current Volunteer Strategies
We reward volunteers who are over-achievers. The ones that throw their entire lives out of balance each year in the name of volunteering. The harder the volunteer works, the more likely they are to get an award.
We shine the spotlight on them as our organization’s best, brightest and most effective. We incentivize their competition against other volunteers for the Martyr Leader Of The Year Award.
We reward those that give 110%. Their blood sweat and tears. Their determined commitment. Those that put volunteering above their families and relationships.
Most of these volunteers do all the work themselves. They are the ones that say, “It’s easier for me to do it than train someone else.” Or they say, “Others may not do it right.” Or, “I can do it quicker, better, faster.”
Those watching the martyr leader’s rise to glory sit in awe and say, “I could never do that. I don’t have time.” Or, “I can’t give 110%. I can only give an hour a week.”
And we wonder why more people won’t step up to replace these bright, shiny, martyr leaders.
Nor do realize that these martyr leaders are actually risk management issues. If they die, all of the knowledge about the projects they lead (translation: do by their self) dies with them.
Time To Rethink Our Volunteer Strategies
We’ve got our thinking about working with volunteer leaders backwards.
“We need to shift gears and create new volunteer leader strategies,” says the Cynthia D’Amour, maven of the magnificent lazy leader concept. “We need to create lazy leaders that focus on developing people rather than doing the work. They create teams of excited volunteers who share the workload.”
We need leaders that get the work done through others.
Changing The Volunteer Pitch
D’Amour says that organizations need to change the way they ask for volunteers. Most have a yearly cattle call for volunteers. Many look at a potential volunteer’s profession and then try to plug them into a committee that aligns with their profession. That doesn’t always lead to success.
People volunteer for organizations for three reasons:
1. Personal or professional development. Skills development.
They are looking for a safe place to learn some new skills. They want to improve their personal and professional lives.
2. To make a difference.
3. Meet new people.
These volunteers are looking for community. They want to be part of the party. They enjoy networking.
Instead of an annual volunteer fair, volunteer recruitment is done all year long. Staff and leaders are trained to quickly identify the hot button of the potential volunteer. As new people attend meetings, leaders ask, “What brings you here? How can I help?”
Then with some gentle questioning, the leader can identify the volunteer’s hot button. Aligning the potential volunteer’s hot button with the right role leads to success.
This is one of the first steps to create lazy leaders and organizations with a surplus of volunteers.
What do you look for in a volunteer opportunity? How can we help organizations shift from martyr leaders to D’Amour’s Lazy Leader approach?