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Find Yourself Running a Volunteer Organization? Do These Three Things

The first time I retired, I reveled in the freedom of having successfully grown a start-up from pre-revenue to profitability. I felt complete, satisfied, and ready to work on my golf game and settle in to our new home in the Valley of the Sun. That didn’t last very long. Soon I found myself at the helm of a local non-profit, managed and run completely by volunteers.

This community-based charity was 16 years old, and while the mission was still very pertinent, the image and fundraising methods were tired. In some respects, this felt similar to a start-up in need of rebranding and a new round of investment. With the Chair position came a set of opportunities that were new to me — leading an all-volunteer Board and workforce. Also, collaborating with people who had been successful in their own careers, now retired, and wanting something to keep them engaged but not necessarily “do” any heavy lifting.

Successful executives often find themselves in charge of a non-profit — the company’s United Way campaign, the Youth Group fundraiser at church, or the golf tournament for the local Children’s Hospital. Here are three strategies to help you straddle the divide between corporate executive and leader of a volunteer effort.

Over the course of the next year, my team of volunteers used these three strategies to more than double our revenue (donations). It works and you can do this too.

Build a Shared Vision

With a small core group, determine what changes in vision will bring the most excitement, growth, and commitment. Then take the concept to those who are most entrenched in the old vision, perhaps the founding members. Work with them to gain their support. This may take a good amount of validating in terms of their work to date, and acknowledging that change is daunting.

Even if you aren’t making a major change, refreshing the vision builds commitment from the leadership team. The next step is to shout it from the rooftops to all stakeholders, potential new donors, and sponsors. Make this fun, fresh, and exciting and treat it as a re-launch pulling at as many heart strings as possible.

Set Clear Objectives

Make these SMART objectives. You know how to do this already. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. Pick something that’s reasonable to achieve, in between the ideal stretch goal and the minimum acceptable. Keep everyone focused on the SMART goals and celebrate successes along the way.

Find the Right Job for Everyone

This is the biggest difference in managing an all-volunteer workforce and where the fun begins. While you’re the leader and they do “report” to you, they always have the option of deciding they don’t want to play anymore. So the key is to make this fun for everyone.

Spend time with each of your volunteer leaders, find what they like to do, what they’re good at, and then find one of the jobs that need to be done and have them beg you to do it. Then set them on their path to recruit more friends and colleagues to help. Be clear about the objectives and deadlines because once they’ve committed to do their jobs, they’re now accountable. Volunteers can be fired or reassigned. Don’t be shy about doing this if individuals aren’t working out. As long as you use grace and professionalism, your strong leadership will be recognized and valued by all.

And remember to celebrate, communicate, and celebrate some more. This is the fun part!

Executive Leadership Coaching is an incredibly valuable resource for organizations of all types. For more ideas on making bold changes to your Leadership for remarkable breakthrough results, contact BreakAway Leadership Coaching founder, Karyn Grant, at [email protected] or visit www.breakaway2greatness.com.

A leader in her own right, BreakAway Leadership Coaching President Karyn Grant has delivered outstanding business results for over 30 years. Karyn’s success is based on her belief that exceptional achievement comes through inspired leadership, strategic risk taking and empowered teams. As a Leadership Coach, Karyn works with select, highly motivated, successful executives who want to drive breakthrough business outcomes.


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