S2 Ep 28: Volunteers Wanted!..(needed and appreciated): A conversation about achieving volunteer stability, satisfaction, and small changes that can make a big difference for everyone.
7:34PM Jan 29, 2022
Shelli Ann Garland
Hello, and welcome to A Dash of SaLT. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. SaLT is an acronym for society in learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal, so let's get stuck in shall we.
Welcome to A Dash of SaLT. Today I'm joined by Karen Knight. Karen is a consultant, volunteer leadership expert and a dynamic and engaging speaker. As district director of Toastmasters International, Karen oversaw a budget of a quarter of a million dollars, with 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them all volunteers. Karen currently serves as vice president of the board of Directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association. And she's used her 25 years of experience as a leader and mentor in the not for profit sector, to develop a proprietary framework for turning volunteers into enthusiastic, reliable and committed teams. She is passionate about all things relating to volunteers and volunteerism. I'm delighted to have you on the podcast today to talk to you about your experience as a volunteer coordinator, formal and informal learning through volunteering and volunteer leadership and its impact on our local communities. Welcome, Karen,
Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
So I'm going to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about your own past volunteer experiences. So you can take it as far back as you want to go and share with us your own volunteer experiences that you've had, what has kind of led you up to the point you're at now.
Okay, it goes a long way. And it's quite extensive. So I won't cover it all. But I think my first volunteer position was helping call bingo at a senior centre where my grandparents were living, and they needed somebody to do it. Their regular person couldn't do it all of a sudden, and I was there. So I said, Okay, I'll do that. And, and that just kind of led into a whole joy of being able to help other people to see how little things that I could do that really don't take much time or effort on my part can make such a big difference in the world. And that that kind of got me hooked on volunteering. And from that point on, I volunteered, I volunteered with senior care, I volunteered with animal welfare, I volunteered with with kids, I volunteered, just in as many things as I can get involved with. And then you mentioned in the introduction that I was with Toastmasters. Now, Toastmasters is a volunteer organisation from the top down, right therir,. Our international president is a volunteer. And it's a wonderful way to learn about how to help other people. So that's, and then, yeah, now I've served on boards of directors, I've been the leader of volunteers. So volunteering is just a huge thing for me.
And how old were you when you first started bingo calling?
Oh, I was probably about 11 or 12. somewhere, somewhere in there. It was pretty, pretty young. Like I said, I would just happen to be there when someone couldn't do it. And they were complaining, well, we couldn't have it because they didn't have somebody. So I said, Well, I can do that.
So do you think that you've learned from your volunteer experiences? And, you know, take a minute to think about like, what were some of those aha moments for you. In some of your volunteer experiences, your own personal experiences that you've had?
Probably the thing that made the biggest difference for me in in my entire life and it's really changed my whole mindset around things is I was working with an organisation that helped people who are new immigrants to Canada, and I got exposed to a lot of people from different cultures. I grew up in a very, very racist and bigoted family. And I had these notions I didn't even know that I had in my mind. And working with people from so many different parts of the world, opened my eyes in a way that I just the whole world expanded for me. And it, it made a turn around in my thinking. So that now, Equity Diversity and Inclusion is something that is so important to me now. And I made a point from that point on, to learn about everybody who is different from me. So not just different cultures, but different gender orientations, different age groups, different socio economic statuses, anything I could find that was different. Instead of seeing it as something bad, or something to be cautious about, I saw them as an opportunity to expand my own world, learn new things and add things to it. So that was probably the biggest change that I got through volunteering, is that opening up the world, to people who are different in different ways of doing things?
You know, it's interesting, because, you know, one of the things that you had said was, you know, your notions and your own experiences from, from your family experience, you know, that those unconscious biases that we have, and we we often don't realise that we have them. And, you know, one of the things I had asked you was the aha moment, and that's what I heard for you was, you know, when you have that experience, you have that aha moment, like, wait a second, this isn't this, these people and, you know, these lifestyles, and these types of things are not, you know, the same as what I experienced, and wow, it's so different. And, and I think that, um, you know, that type of learning, I've heard that from many, many people before who have volunteered, and we're going to talk a little bit later about sort of my, my own research and, you know, the experiences of, of the participants that I had in my research and, you know, the, the learning that they had from, from those types of things. But the thing that I think struck me that you said was, you know, sometimes we can sort of take negative experiences that we have in our own life, and they contribute to how do we positively contribute going forward. So sometimes negative experiences negative life experiences don't always impact negatively on the rest of our lives, they can have positive influences, and how we change and how we move forward.
They can be a catalyst to something beyond even what you dreamed possible, right? There. There's things like, some of the Indian festivities, like Dali Wal and and the festival of Holi and things like that. They're just, I mean, I couldn't even have imagined such things. And is just such a Yeah, no, I get it, I get really passionate.
And we should also mention, I don't think I mentioned this in the beginning, but you are Canadian. And so a lot of the things that that you may talk about, you know, whether it's indigenous people or things that have come probably or will be your experiences from a Canadian aspect. It is good, because I do have international listeners and Indians and things like that might mean different things to different people in different areas. So I did just want to clarify that for the listeners. Um, so. Okay, so you've given us a great sort of opened us up with a great background of your experiences, your own life experiences, as well as your volunteering experiences. What made you decide what was that deciding moment, that that made you decide to pursue, not the nonprofit field as as part of your career and as part of everything that you're all about now?
Actually, that change came fairly recently. So I haven't been I've been a volunteer and leading volunteers and boards and things like that for decades. But to do it as it's my living is actually a fairly recent innovation for me. I am actually a cabinet maker by trade. I am a bench work Joiner. I build furniture. I build kitchen cabinets. This is what I've been doing for four years. Right? So it's not not I mean, you can't you can't see behind me but I've got a library behind me and I built my own all the bookshelves or everything like that, and, and I love doing that. But I was I was working for a cabinet company and I I had a fight with my boss. And I was sitting there thinking, Is this really what I want to do? Do I want to make a difference in the world? And what I'm doing right now is just making rich people's houses fancy. So I want to I want to make a difference in the world. And this, isn't it. So that I, so I left my work. And then I had to sit down with myself. I said, Okay, well, what do I want to do? Like? What can I do? That will make a difference? Where do my skills come in? Where does my passion come in, and it all came back to volunteering. Now, personally, I'm someone who gets bored easily. So I figured, just to work for an individual company, like, or individual agency or organisation, I would be great for the beginning. And then after three years, I'd be bored, and I'd want something new. So if I decided if I become a consultant, I can work with all sorts of different organisations, right, and I can, I can touch the world, through them in so many different ways, and still have the the volunteerism, the the skills that I have, be the core of it, but I can have, every every organisation is different, how they use volunteers is different, all that sort of thing. And this is a way I can make a real difference in the world. And, and still do something that I love.
It's interesting that you that you touched on that the idea of how organisations use their volunteers, because that is something that we're going to talk a little bit more about. But in also the fact that you said that you know that the volunteering, stuff that you've always done is not really ever been around what you've what you've done for a living. And I think that's another important element that I want to talk to us a little bit more about is, you know, that volunteering, I think volunteer organisations should recognise that, you know, what somebody does, what somebody brings to the table as a volunteer should not always be around what they do for a living, or they do for their career, um, because that often will contribute to, you know, short timers, people who get burned out very quickly, because they're, you know, they're, you know, doing the same thing at work. And then they're coming in, you know, whether it's keeping the books or, you know, as you said, bringing you on to sort of build shelves and do things like that, you're not getting to sort of, you know, come along and do something different, that would bring you more passion and joy, and bring you back to the roots of why why do I want to volunteer, I want to make a difference. And, and I think that that's, that's a really important thing to keep in mind. And I don't know if you agree with me on that, or if
there is, in many cases, yes, absolutely. I wouldn't want to volunteer as, as a cabinet maker, I'll do it. If I see somebody needs it. Yeah, I can, I can throw myself in there. But in some cases, it's what people want. For example, if somebody is studying to be a chef, and they volunteer at a food bank, so they can get practice with their work, right, so that it helps them improve. So we, I think, with all volunteers, sit down with them and have a discussion, what do they want to get out of it? We quite often look at a volunteer, and we think, Okay, well, we need this, and we need this. And we need that. Can you give us these? Rather than say, what can you bring that we might be able to use? Yeah, right, we have to we have to see both sides of it. And that's how you keep volunteers committed, is by focusing more on them, and not quite so much on on the needs of the organisation.
Absolutely. Because I think you'll find that, you know, you'll you will find those needs and those needs will be fulfilled. Because if you bring people along, you know, to do what they want to do, that they're passionate about, you are going to find somebody there will be somebody for every role, and every opportunity that if they do what they want to do. The thing of it is, again, this is something that that came up in my research time and again, is the idea of longevity, you know, how do you do you keep your volunteers and, you know, stable and that's actually that comes into one of the questions that I was going to ask you next is, you know, nonprofits and charitable organisations really rely heavily on the responsibility and the stability of their volunteer. And many organisations are headed by volunteer boards as part of their governing system and volunteers are really a vital part of that governance, even as you had mentioned in the Toastmasters. What responsible and experienced individuals through violence through volunteering, really help an organisation with key skills and knowledge that the learner carries with them, you know that somebody who's learning as they're going, whether it's volunteering, or that kind of thing. So what makes a good volunteer coordinator?
Oh, you have to be a people person. First, you have to really like people, because otherwise you can do the work, but it'll never be a satisfying job for you. A good ability to listen to people skills is a huge one, you have to have management skills, organisation, and all this sort of thing. But people skills are probably the key thing that you have to have the ability to listen well, I've solved so many problems by not doing anything just sitting and listening, while people download, right? Because a lot of a lot of issues, they know the answer, they just need to be heard. And just listen is a huge one. And caring, it's it's appreciation, appreciation is the and I say this over and over and over again, appreciation is the air that our volunteers breathe. If they don't have it, they're gone. So love your volunteers to death, every thank every volunteer, every shift, right? Find something to thank them for. And that's, that's yet and then just be be willing to, to be an advocate for your volunteers. If they're having a problem, if they need training, you have to be the one to take it forward. Right? There's, I wrote a whole blog on on this good the skills of being a good volunteer, but people skills are the biggest one is just caring for your volunteers and doing what it takes to make sure they have their back and, or that you have their back. The rest of that organisation that's a big one
is, um, so what it's really interesting to me, and I'd like to know what your perspective is on on this based on sort of, again, my own research, I kind of wanted to bring this, this into our conversation and see as a as a volunteer coordinator. And, you know, what you felt about the active volunteer dispositions, and, you know, through my own volunteering experiences, you know, I really believe that, that volunteering does provide, you know, that, that invaluable learning and personal growth and professional growth that many that many people have that that sometimes can be an offset or an offshoot of what they initially most of the time, you and I both know that people will say I want to volunteer because I want to make a difference. We've heard you say that before. That's that's sort of the the big picture, right? But what comes is, you know, that the invaluable personal learning that we get, as well as our own professional growth and opportunities. And these can be really transformative and enduring for somebody who volunteers and I've heard it time and time again, from people's, you know, they continue to volunteer, they continue, you know, you get you as your life grows and changes. And as you grow and change, you continue, your volunteering may look a little different, but it's something that you're compelled to continue to do. And so, my PhD, my PhD research was on volunteer learning and leadership. And I was really interested in how volunteers define themselves in their role as volunteers. If they recognise their volunteering as in their participation as a form of learning, I really looked at volunteer identity through their eyes and through those past experiences that they had, and their own understanding of what learning through volunteering means. And I defined four distinct active volunteer dispositions. And these are, are looked at as novel leader tendencies, that anyone who volunteers can identify and find connection and clarity and understanding from their own unique lived experiences from and I've titled them, they are the champion, the guide, the idealist, and the executive. And these come from our own lived experiences, and they connect us to one another and makes us who we are as volunteers. So if you will indulge me for just a quick minute, I will share or just for everybody to listen, I'll share a quick descriptor of what each one of those are. And then actually, what I'd like to know from you is, you know, based on the characteristics, what would you say, Are you or have you been maybe throughout because they are dispositions, which means they're fluid and they can change over time. But I'd like to know what your thoughts are on them. If you see them in in some of the volunteers that you work with. Do you see some of them in yourself? And, you know, we'll have a little bit of a discussion on that. Sure. So perfect. So the guide is driven by that need for authentic relationships with a strong affiliation towards building and maintaining genuine relationships with others. They are all about inclusion of others, and a desire to feel personally included, is important to the guide. And they put a really high value on education, teaching and learning. And often the guides are the types of people that you'd see in one on one mentoring relationships. They're the ones that maybe tutor or do after school programmes, or things of that nature, then there's the idealist, and the idealist is driven by that desire for meaning and purpose in their life, without strong affiliation towards doing good for others, and being a good person and interacting gently with others. And the idealist, you'd often see, they're not the kind of people that, you know, focus on one thing, but they as long as it's for the good, though, as something you said earlier, you said, oh, you know, if, if building, you know, bookcases is something that is needed, I will do it, because it's doing the most good for X organisation, right? Then there's the champion. And the champion is the type of volunteer that passionately defends people are causes that they believe in, they're very pragmatic, they have a strong affiliation with seeking truth and justice and rights for others. And these are the kinds of people that you would see likely volunteering in advocacy organisations or say pet
charities and, you know, various charities where there might be fundraising or things like that. And it's because they believe in the cause they have a belief in a belief in the cause that they're promoting and volunteering for. And then finally, it's the executive and that's that person who's driven by a sense of duty and responsibility. They volunteer because they feel that volunteering is part of their duty and responsibility. They have a strong affiliation with being highly organised, professional leaders for others. And they would be the types of people that you would see volunteering as on boards and committees, they might be the ones in the background, doing all the paperwork, or, you know, when the, you know, say, a 5k, you know, a charity is running a 5k. And they need somebody to organise and make sure everything is running in in place. So these, these would be the the simple down and dirty descriptors of those active volunteer dispositions. And I just like to know what you think about that. And, you know, if it's something that you've seen, and maybe if you identify with one more than the other,
I can see myself in every one of them. And then certainly I have done volunteer work in each of those different areas. The one I think I'm probably most drawn to myself is the guide. I love mentoring people. I love seeing, taking somebody who's there's a guy, I'm mentoring right now from Toronto, and he wants to become a public speaker around storytelling and things like that. So we get on a phone call once a month or so. And I give him whatever advice I connect him to different people. And to see him progress and get his first his first gig paid gig and things like that. It just, it just fires me up. That's, that's probably the biggest one. The next one that I'm strong on. And I see all of these kind of in a on a graph scale. Some I'm a little bit some I'm a lot. The other one that I'm kind of a lot would be the executive, like serving on boards being the organiser. I'm here in Kamloops. I'm going I've been asked to organise a volunteer fair. So all the local organisations looking for volunteers will have a big event. That sort of thing I love to do I love that kind of organising, taking charge, making sure everything works leadership type styles. So those two are probably the strongest ones. Although I don't necessarily I'm not associated, I'm forgetting the word I'm looking for. I don't relate too much to the duty I'm not doing it because it's my duty. That's that's not an issue. i It's because I want to it's not it's never because I feel like I should. That's but yeah, I can seem a little bit of myself in in all four of them.
And And what about the people that you work with? Do you think that that, you know, having having our volunteers think about where they most strongly fit in, in these types of, you know, dispositions would be helpful when we talked earlier about the longevity and the idea of, you know, getting our people to our volunteers to stay on with us. Do you think having them think about which one? You know? Okay, here's four, and maybe you see yourself in all four. But which one? Do you see most strongly, you know, identify with? And if, if, if, you know, we asked our volunteers to put themselves in that position and and think about what they're most passionate about, if that would create a, you know, an element of longevity and stability with keeping them on board.
Certainly, if our, our organisations would embrace it, then absolutely, because then we would be putting people where they get the most satisfaction. So yeah, having having a volunteer, look at it and say, This is where I identify. So therefore, these are the types of roles that I would be best in and would be most satisfying to me. If the organisation would then take action on that, you can see a massive difference, an absolutely massive difference in retention levels.
Yeah. And do you think when it comes to as a volunteer coordinator, and as you know, someone who works with various volunteer organisations, do you find that for some of them, sometimes it's actually hard to step out of the the their norms, and the way in which they've always done things to try and do something new.
It's always difficult, the nonprofit sector tends to be very conservative. And you cannot, you can see why because I mean, they have to, it's all outside funding. So they're very aware of what other people think. So it's difficult to take risks, when you always are kind of on the edge, and you're worried about what everybody else is thinking about you. Right? So we tend to be very conservative organisations. But I think, especially with COVID happening in such a shake up in the whole sector, that I think we have an opportunity now that if we see good tools like like this, to get them in place, because people know that the way they've always done it isn't going to work anymore.
Yeah. And, you know, if they're always searching, and, you know, they, and there's always a turnaround of volunteers and of people, you know, it does make it seem as if it's sort of on that, you know, that continuous wheel, like, why can't we just get, you know, some stability here, so that we can work on other elements of, of the, you know, the, the cause that we're working towards? And I think that's something that happens. And I think that's something that a lot of volunteer coordinators, coordinators struggle with, and again, that's something I want to talk a little bit more about is that idea of fatigue and burnout for not only just volunteers, but also for, especially for the coordinators, who, I think feel like they're on that constant. That wheel,
right, right. Burnout is specially for compassion, fatigue, not so much for the leaders, unless they are also hands on compassion. Fatigue is something very specific. And maybe we can talk a bit more about it later. But burnout is endemic in not for profit situations, especially when you're dealing with volunteers or volunteer leaders. It's common, that in the hierarchy of a not for profit organisation, that the volunteer coordinator tends not to be very high up on it. They they tend not to be decision makers, they tend not to be brought in to, to board meetings to discuss things. They they just deal with people, right? If we just leave them to the side, they're rarely trained. They're rarely given the support they really need. And because of that, they are often really overworked people don't understand what it takes to lead volunteers. And so Oh, she she's just the volunteer coordinator. She'll have lots of time we'll get her to do this as well. Or he can fit this in onto top of it. All he's doing is leading the volunteers. And they they don't understand how big and how complex a job it is. And so you get these people sometimes right out of high school or or who have, like I said, no training, and then you just load all this stuff up and they're scrambling to do the best they can and they start thinking I'm not getting anywhere, I'm no good at this, this isn't, this isn't working, and that kind of self talk on top of all the work they're doing can lead to burnout so fast, so, so, so fast, so unloving, that we are getting more and more of an emphasis on accrediting volunteer coordinators and volunteer leaders, that it's becoming a known profession, with training and with all this sort of thing, and people are starting to get act. So it's, it's, it's, I'm so pleased to see that, because that's what we need to do to stop the burnout in our volunteer coordinators.
And even with that, you know, having CVS and, you know, being able to also use, again, volunteer experiences, as part of, you know, credentialing and for not just volunteering, but also for your, you know, where you are in your professional world as well. One thing I did want to say, I apologise because I keep referring to you, as a volunteer coordinator, and what you are as a volunteer coordinator, consultant, consultancy, yeah, so I do want to apologise that I kept saying, volunteer,
I've done it, I've done it in the past. So I don't consider it offensive,
I just want to make sure that our listeners know that you are you consult a volunteer record, you consult with organisations about getting the most out of their volunteering, and their volunteer coordination and all of that. So I just wanted to be very clear on that, um, where you are there. So
I helped not for profits, build their volunteer programmes in a strong effective way. That's Yes, but, but I've been a volunteer coordinator, that is not a problem.
And there is, and it's a really important job. And like you said, I think you know, you know, working towards, you know, making sure that they're trained, and they're credentialed and you know, that they have a good understanding of, I'm just not moving people from here to hear it or doing this, and this, you know, they have to be able to be involved in some of the bigger decision making that happens in the organisation. And I think that's really important point that you made there. Um, I earlier, you talked a little bit about diversity and your kind of your passion for diversity. So I want to ask you, you know, what are some suggestions that you have for helping as a consultant for helping nonprofits increase diversity in their volunteers, and providing roles for volunteers that suit their own passion and interest in volunteering,
I heard a quote and I'm really sorry that I didn't write down who it was, but that we can't create diversity for other people that we have to co create it with them. So I just thought that that's it. That's, that's the thing is we keep trying to make our organisations more diverse, but we're not doing it with the people that we want to, to, to bring in, right, we're trying to sit from the outside. And it's like, a 50 or 60 year old trying to figure out what a 17 year old needs without ever asking them. So we need to co create this sort of thing. And what I tend to suggest is to look closely at your organisation, say at your volunteer team and say, Okay, well, where is there a gap? Are we mostly female? Maybe we need to bring men in? Are we mostly white or mostly black? Well, maybe we need to bring people of different ethnicities in, are we whatever, right? And then go to where those people are. So for example, if you feel you need more people of colour on your, on your volunteer team, be really strategic in your in your around recruitment, instead of just putting posts out there and saying, we welcome people of different ethnicities. Don't post go to your local immigrant society, and say we're looking for volunteers. These are what we need, you know, anybody in your community who might want it. So then you go directly to, to the people that you're looking for. And then talk to them and say, What do you need? This is what we do. How do you think you could help it and work it in that way? What What can we do to make sure you feel safe and comfortable in our organisation? So instead of us trying to, to make things to to build inclusive inclusivity into our, our organisations, by ourselves in this in a silo, we need to bring the people that we want to bring in into the conversation. And I think that's something that gets missed a lot people people want to, to fix things, but they try and fix them from one side of the fence instead of taking the fence down. Yeah.
And I think I think, you know, there's also another level of importance to think about as well. And that's, you know, these volunteer organisations can't be thinking about filling a billet. And, you know, looking at, you know, the diversity of, of their volunteers, from a sort of a tokenistic perspective, you know, but, but thinking about how will a rich and diverse body of volunteers bring value to the organisation, but then also, again, bring value to each of the volunteers in their own specific needs for why they volunteer, and there are reasons for volunteering. Because I think what happens is, and this happens in the professional world, it happens in the, you know, the business sector, where, you know, people say, Well, we only have, you know, two women and five men on the board and, you know, you know, or we need people of colour, that that's when you start sort of creating a laundry list of who you need on and that becomes a very tokenistic, you know, it comes, it's a tokenistic perspective to a lot of people who are being approached in that way. So I think, you know, you like you said, you have to be very careful, and to make sure that, you know, that these volunteer or that these nonprofit organisations, really look at the value, not only can the value of having a diverse body of volunteers bring to the organisation, but also the value that can be given to that, that diverse body as well. Right? We,
it the, the whole reason that an organisation wants diversity is not so that they can say, Look, we have people of all these different things, it's to It's to bring in the different worldviews I mean, that's that's the, the real value of diversity is, is not the different skin colours or gender orientation. It's the different worldviews, it's how they see things differently than how I would see things. And to share that perspective, it's like to take you to take an analogy for my my furniture building thing, a table with four legs is stronger than the table with two. You know, it's more stable, because you're held up with strings that you don't even know you're missing. Right? It's the whole idea of all these different worldviews. But if we do this, I'll take another example from Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a public speaking and leadership training organisation. And all their their advertising and things talk about that communication is for everyone, it's about communication. It's not about public speaking, and communications for everyone. But if you look at all their, their print all their photographs, right? They say it's for everyone, but you don't see a single picture of a person in a hardhat. So so we tend to say things, but we don't even know that we're missing the point. Right? So if we want people we want if we want everybody we want everybody's views. It's, it's because if we only have a couple views, we don't even know the areas we're missing. We there may be whole chunks of the population that we couldn't be serving that we're not because we don't even know they exist. Yeah, that's where you hear about people falling through the cracks is because they don't have a diverse enough worldview. In their leadership.
Yeah. Karen, what do you see as the most important trend in volunteering today?
I can't speak for the the stats in any other country but in Canada, we have a very high volunteer rate is 78% of Canadians have volunteered in the last year. But they split that up into two types of volunteers, formal volunteers, and informal volunteers. Formal volunteers are those who work for the SPCA, or volunteer for the Red Cross. They volunteer for a specific organisation. The informal volunteers are the ones who just kind of do things on their own. So they help strangers they stop and help somebody along the road whose broken down or they shovelled a neighbor's driveway or something like that without actually being associated with an with an organisation. And those informal volunteers are on the rise. And the formal volunteers are on the decline. So while we still have the same number of volunteers, there's fewer and fewer actually volunteering for specific organisations. I think part of that is driven by the conservativism, that we were talking about earlier that organisations have, they have this lack of flexibility that younger people especially find really difficult, they don't want to have specific hours that they have to work, they don't want to have to go to a particular place and do a particular thing. They just want to do things on their own. And I think organisations need to take that into account to see that trend, and say, How can we turn that around? How can we leverage the passion that these informal volunteers have? Because they're going out on their own and just doing it? How can we leverage that to help the organisation itself because as an organisation, we are stronger than the same number of informal volunteers just kind of doing whatever they want. Because we're, if an organization's well, well run, it's very focused, and it can get specific things done really well, rather than a whole bunch of people going off in different directions, all working for the same thing, but in different ways. So we want people in our organisations, but the organization's have to move in such a way to encompass those people who need that flexibility. That's, that's the, that is a trend that right now, I think, is not being not having enough attention paid to it. And it can really hurt us in the long run, if we don't, don't find ways to include include these informal volunteers.
Yeah, and I think that, um, you know, it's striking that balance between your your volunteers who, you know, are hardcore in it again, you know, for the, for the organisation, and they're in it for all of these, you know, tick the box reasons why they're involved. And you'll see them week after week and month after month and year after year, then you have the incidental you know, the incidental volunteers that, you know, being able to reach out to them and say, Hey, we have this need, you know, can you help out, you know, you know, no, no, no pressure to to stay on, but help with this particular incident here, this, this particular thing there. But being able to strike that balance between you know, the ones that you do have that you can carry on the books and the other ones that just come in and sprint incidentals.
Exactly what one thing I was, I was trying to explain to somebody else that similar thing is, is an informal volunteer, maybe posting or spreading the word about the feral cat population, right? And how we need to spay and neuter. So they, they're constantly posting on internet and blah, blah, blah. But they're not volunteering for the SPCA who are doing the spay and neuter clinics, right? So if everybody goes the one way, everybody will know there's a problem, but nobody's there to fix it. So what you can do is use those people even if they don't want to come and help with the with this spay and neuter clinic, you can you can start contacting them and say, Hey, I know this is an important to you, because I've seen your post, can you let everybody know that there's going to be a clinic on it such and such time? Yeah, right. It's right down their alley, all they have to do is just put another post on, and they're already passionate, they already want to help. And away you go. And that helps you. And
yeah, that's a great example, actually, to put out there for people to think about, you know, what a very simple way. You know, it just takes a little bit of time for the ones who are invested in the organisation to contact the ones you know, who have they've seen, you know, social media can be a very powerful tool for both good and bad. But you know, if we can if we can channel that power for good in those types of ways with with you know, the incidentals and the informal volunteers, that's, that's a great way to what a great example that's all I've got to say. What should organisations not do when trying to recruit volunteers?
Don't look desperate. I see. I see that a lot. All we really, really need people. When it's kind of a psychological thing. It's like somebody was desperate For a friend, nobody wants to be their friend. Because they they come across as needy and needy people tend to want more. And they tend to cling and they tend to drag more people in. That's not very appealing. So so don't look desperate, don't don't desperately say we need volunteers because then people think, okay, yeah, I volunteer for them, even though I believe in their cause I volunteer for them. And I'm going to be working 12 hours a day to try and do things for them because they're so desperately in need. They'll put everything on to me. So instead of that, show how much fun you have show, okay, hey, look what we did this time and, and show your bowling the volunteers that you have, show them doing fun things and having having a great time. And that's attractive, rather than saying, Hey, we really need you. Yeah, right.
Absolutely. So we're coming to the end of our conversation together. And I know, we could just go on with all this great conversation. Um, but I always like to ask my guests, two questions. And the first one is, you know, do you have any book recommendations or contact information for our listeners who might be interested in finding out more about volunteering, or formal or informal volunteering, about coordinating, or about becoming, you know, coming involved with a nonprofit as a career,
right. And there's lots of books out there, and lots and lots of books out there. And there's a There's a wonderful book by Susan LS called from the top down, if you're interested in in volunteer coordination, and volunteer, being a volunteer leader, it's a brilliant book, it's really, really hits the nail on the head. And it's an easy read. There's an online magazine called or journal that comes out about four times a year called engage. And that is a wonderful resource for volunteers, the different things that are important to volunteers or anything like that. I actually just had an article published in there about compassion, fatigue, and burnout and protecting the mental health of volunteers. So that's something that's that I'd really recommend people to check out is the engaged journal. I've got stuff on my website, I'll plug my website is is Karen knight.ca. So it's quite simple. It's Karen knight with a K. And CA, because I am Canadian. So I'm Karen, I don't see a there's I've got a whole bunch of blogs on there that cover a lot of this stuff that we've been talking about.
And any final words of wisdom or advice?
I think going back to the first thing I was talking about before about appreciation, appreciation being the air that our volunteers breathe, if nothing else, show how much you appreciate your volunteers. It just gives them lots and lots of love. Because that's, they're there because they want to help you they believe in your cause. And really, it doesn't take much to say thank you. Just yeah, appreciation is the biggest, the biggest thing. So
fantastic. Well, Karen, thank you so much for spending this time talking to me about you know, the importance of volunteering and in learning through volunteering, as well as the importance of, you know, volunteer coordinator, effective. Volunteer coordinating. It's been a real pleasure to talk to you today.
Thank you so much. It's been a joy to be part of the show. Thank you.
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on a dash of salt, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Season with just the right touch of experts in education, and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to a dash of salt on pod bean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.