Communities form around a common interest
People congregate around a shared interest or cause. They join groups by the tens, hundreds and even millions around very specific niche areas. There is a group on Facebook called “I hate to wake up during a dream and it won’t come back”. It has over three million members! Patients go to the website, patientslikeme.com to find others who are dealing with the same medical issues. There is comfort in commonality.
Communities can become powerful movements that attract volunteers
Communities are changing our world. A community of relationships coupled with a compelling cause creates an environment where people want to participate. People congregate in clusters online.
Pictures of internet traffic actually show the complexity and inter-connectedness. It is all about communities. All movements of the future will be highly inter-connected through an unprecedented communications capacity. We will use these new technologies to communicate, collaborate, and compete.
Volunteers need to be mobilized
When I was 19 I was asked to mail 8,000 letters. It was an overwhelming task. I decided to contact a couple of people who were familiar with that organization that would benefit from the letters. Before I knew it, I had the commitment of 22 people who were going to help me send the letters.
I put together a plan so the time would not be wasted and that the mission would be accomplished. The evening was such a success, that these parties took place each month for the next year. I realized engaging volunteers is actually very simple when the right things were in place.
Understand why someone would want to volunteer
When asked why he volunteers, a design student responded “to work with people I like, to do something I enjoy, and the cause is just a bonus.”
This struck me as quite fascinating and I discussed it further with others. I discovered that he was stating something rather profound. In his case, he put a higher value on relationship than “the cause”.
A cause alone is not enough to motivate someone to volunteer. A colleague commented on this saying “In some cases we see a cause we value, and the community is a bonus. In others, people we care about are passionate about a cause, and their passion is contagious, drawing us to the cause as well.”
It seems that no matter what initially draws us to a cause, unless there is a viable community, people will not stay with it long term. If there’s a community, we can weather far greater challenges for that cause.
How to work with volunteers – Defining roles
Volunteers for one-time events have different needs than those who are longer-term. They may just enjoy helping out wherever needed because of who they are with and who they are doing it for. However, to move this one-time helper into a volunteer on your team, a more calculated effort should take place to engage them in their giftedness.
Equip your volunteers
If your volunteers have training, resources and know how to get assistance when they need it, they will operate much more efficiently. Make sure no one ever feels like they have to “go it alone.”
A community is developed when a group of individuals make an effort to relate to one another. Team members and volunteers will be much more engaged in their role if they build relationships with one another.
Things can easily be misunderstood in email because you can’t hear tone of voice or see facial expressions for large portions of your communication. Communicate in terms that can be easily understood and clarify issues over the phone when necessary. Communication over the phone should be followed up with written text to clarify/ reiterate.
Volunteer teams have a unique look and feel to them. The more you put into your team, the more you will benefit. One person at a time, you can mobilize armies of people where significant life change can take place.
Notes for plenary session “Mobilizing Volunteers” MinistryNet 2009
Karen Schenk, Director of TruthMedia Internet Group, a division of Power to Change