The pandemic, social injustice, and economic struggles have taken a toll. People are tired and fragile, including your volunteer leaders, especially those at your chapters, many of whom can’t find anyone to step up and take over chapter leadership. Members say they don’t have the bandwidth to volunteer. The ones who do agree to serve don’t want to dedicate that much time to training sessions.
Volunteer training is a tough sell when it’s not aligned with a member’s goals. But training has to be aligned with the association’s goals too, otherwise, volunteers won’t have a sufficient understanding of association operations and governance; committee chairs won’t be prepared to lead a team or facilitate a meeting; and board members won’t have the necessary leadership skills or strategic mindset.
A more sustainable, mutually beneficial volunteer model would help, say Peggy Hoffman, FASAE, CAE, of Mariner Management, and Kristine Metter, MS, CAE, of Crystal Lake Partners. They’ve been working on a volunteer model that offers resilience to busy, stressed out members and staff. By aligning volunteer training with a member’s motivations and aspirations, members feel a sense of progress and accomplishment as they move along the volunteer pathway. This model—the volunteer learning journey—treats volunteers as lifelong learners, fits their busy lifestyle, and helps them fulfill their aspirations.
When Peggy and Kristine introduced the volunteer learning journey model to an advisory group of association executives and component relations professionals (CRPs), the feedback was positive. Because the model encompassed the entire volunteer journey, the group described it as a refreshing and holistic approach to volunteer management. Its design could involve staff teams from across the organization—membership, education, and governance, in addition to CRPs. The advisory group believes this approach takes the volunteer conversation up a couple of notches.
We’d like to thank our advisory group members:
- Michelle Champion, CAE, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
- Lindsay Currie, CAE, Council on Undergraduate Research
- Ann Dorough, CAE, American Institute of Architects
- Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD, CAE, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
- Becky Folger, American Mensa
- David Jennings, CAE, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Community Associations Institute
- Wendy Mann, CAE, CREW Network
- Susan Mosedale, IOM, CAE, ASIS International
- Diana Tucker, CAE, NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association
INTRODUCING THE VOLUNTEER LEARNING JOURNEY
The volunteer learning journey is modeled on the customer journey we explored during the Association Component Exchange (CEX) a few years ago. During CEX, we took that concept and worked together on mapping chapter member journeys. Peggy and Kristine also drew on the learner journey concept for association education programs described on the TopClass LMS by WBT Systems blog.
The volunteer learning journey helps you visualize volunteer and association needs and desires for each level of volunteering—from first-time volunteer to board member. It helps you map out a volunteer training and development program that teaches volunteers the skills they need to succeed in different roles—skills they can use to both serve your association and advance their career or grow their business.
This series of blog posts shows you the entire spectrum of possibilities for designing a volunteer learning journey as a framework for volunteer management, but you can pick which elements you want to use. You may not have the bandwidth or resources to implement all the pieces we describe, and that’s okay. Focus only on a few volunteer roles to start.
Keep in mind the ultimate goals of this learning journey concept: providing volunteer experiences that fulfill a member’s motivations and aspirations and designing a framework for training volunteers and developing their skills so they’re prepared to take the next step in their volunteer and leadership journey.