June 11, 2012

Why The Structure You're Staffing is Stifling Progress

Speaking at a leadership conference for volunteers this weekend, I was reminded why some organizations struggle to get volunteers.  Let me explaining using a workplace hiring analogy:

The employee structure they are looking to staff is based on an a model of full-time help when the job seekers are all part-timers and temps.  If your mindset and systems are based on having long-term employees (i.e., the 3-5 year rotation in officers positions for your association), you're bound to be challenged when your help pops in and out for short-term assignments.

Despite ample research indicating that many volunteers prefer short-term project work versus long-term committee or board positions, too many organizations still use under an older mental operating software about individual motivation and loyalty. It's no wonder they believe only a small percentage of people are willing to get involved ... because it is indeed a smaller percentage of people who may initially raise their hand for long-term leadership positions.

And because the volunteers currently in leadership positions have to manage the existing programs, communications, and other efforts, they struggle to also reinvent their officer structure and put new systems in place to manage a larger network of help.  It's a self-reinforcing loop that won't change until someone breaks the cycle.

Let that someone be you.

P.S.  If your volunteer colleagues struggle to thing about how to organize work in the networked world in which we operate, challenge them to develop a workplace staffing model based on part-timers, temps, and consultants.  I've found some people can get their minds around that more easily, and you can then ask them to adapt their initial thinking for a volunteer workforce.

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