We often talk about the importance of working with volunteers and the relationships that we build. Recently, I had an opportunity to experience a challenge in this area, and the next day a member of our staff made a comment about the need for more volunteers and their greater commitment to projects. That made me want to share some thoughts.
I was challenged to convince someone that professionals were even needed. He told me that they could do Scouting without us, that he only saw us when we wanted something (bet you have heard that one before!), and we were “unprofessional” in both appearance and manner if we did show up. (I was the first professional he had talked to in several years so don’t worry – it wasn’t you. But could it be next time?)
We have to show our value. We are three-fourths of the council budget and essential to the growth of the program. But we have to prove that we are worth it.
I think we often fail because we don’t get enough volunteers to help us be successful, and/or we do not give them the support necessary to be successful. Sometimes we just do it for them because that is easier. But that is not to say that we need to abdicate to them! We need to provide the tools and support to make them successful, and we need to make sure they do it by maintaining communication.
Perhaps even more importantly, we need good, active volunteers – and lots of ‘em – to make the full impact that we are capable of on youth. We cannot do it alone. And we need to treat them professionally regardless of personality challenges.
We need to see and be seen. If we do and are, folks will be more likely to help us make Scouting happen with their time and money. And a few years from now some future professional will not have to have a conversation like I did on Wednesday.
A couple of questions:
When was the last time you went to a unit meeting – without needing to be there to pick up something or pass out something? You just went to be a Friend to the leader and show you care about the time they give.
When was the last time you went to an Eagle Court of Honor? I went to one the day I wrote this and I am really glad that I did. The unit was very happy to see me and I saw the impact of the hours I/we spend in the lives of five young men and their families.
Do you go to events (roundtables, training, camporees, etc.) and show your support for the things they think are important (because they are!!), or do you just make an appearance – or worse not show up? We received a lot of positive comments when our entire staff spent the whole weekend camping at a Council Encampment and when we visited a church Scout encampment?
There are some good tools about relationships with volunteers. They are probably not new to you, but perhaps they have not been on a front burner lately. I challenge you to review them again.
I especially want you to reread the one titled Good Volunteer-Professional Relationships: A Strategic Issue for Professionals. I want you to read it as soon as you get your hands on it. It will be time well spent if you take it to heart and use it.