Volunteers: The New Breed- vol 3

 In Christian Camps in Ontario, Tell the Story

You’ve Got Mail!

How many of you remember when DOS was the operating system and one of the first laptops looked like a small carry-on? I had a Compaq portable, and it had a 20 megabyte hard drive for storage — huge capacity! It had a red screen. I could connect it to a telephone jack in my office and an entire new way of communication was born: email. I remember one of my vendors walked  into my office, saw this amazing machine on my desk, and asked me where my red phone was to call the military.

Technology has made great strides in both hardware and software, and in the way communication has evolved.

In today’s blog I want to continue looking at our list of 10 seismic shifts in our culture. This will help us to better understand the New Breed of Volunteer that is so necessary in all our organizations.

In earlier blogs, I covered the first four seismic shifts: Family Dynamics, Isolation, Flexibility, and Generations. Now, I want us to look at the next two: Technology and Professionalism.

Seismic Shift 5 : Technology – From Face-to-Face to Cyberspace

Volunteer Recruitment in the last century was primarily done in person, face-to-face, or on the telephone. Communication development in digital and video form has gone beyond our imagination. The reason: the Internet  (remember USA Presidential Candidate Al Gore stated he invented it during a campaign speech a long time ago).

We still have face-to-face today, but to do this we now use Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, or any number of Cyberspace Apps.

The Internet has changed everything — just look at retail stores (like Sears and J.C. Penny) and how the purchasing experience has moved from in-person, to online through ebay or Amazon. Look at the impact on the music industry; from vinyl, to eight track, to cassette, to CD, to downloads, and now sharing apps. Look at the public library, the digital age has almost made paper books obsolete. Look at news reporting; from radio, to TV, to YouTube, texting, and twitter.

Our connectivity to the new knowledge-based culture is transitioning us from landline telephone communication/desktop computing, to cellular/laptops, to smart phone/tablets and data plans, to email, to texting. We love to be connected and yet…

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project (The Social Side of the Internet) found that social media users are more likely to be active in volunteer groups: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.

The Pew report raises a very important question for those that recruit and lead volunteers: How can we take advantage of the social media opportunities to enhance our own volunteer community?

In today’s world, social media is huge for getting the word out broadly and quickly, especially when we see the response to natural disasters around the globe.

It has been said that Facebook is the fourth largest nation in the world. Think about it, if that is where a vast majority of our world is spending their time communicating, then certainly the new breed of volunteer is fluent in the language. So what elements do we need to consider?

(Side note: Believe me, I’m not personally fluent in all of these channels, but I will suggest a few that I use to assist with our charitable work.)

1. Website

Today, website are a given if you are to experience the reach you want to have in recruitment.

I love it when I speak with our marketing partners and they use the term ‘landing page’. Wikipedia defines a landing page as “a single web page that appears in response to clicking on a search engine optimized search result or an online advertisement.”

This is the main hub of information, like a bicycle wheel, with differing spokes of interest generated at the centre and passing along a channel giving strength to the whole. From here a foundation is laid; information, education, process, registration, training, sales, etc…

You can probably think of many more reasons for your organization’s website then I have listed, and that is great. Learn the language of the New Breed.

2. Facebook

Yes, I am a member of the 4th Largest Nation and so is Countryside Camp/Camp Shalom —  check us out!

We have found that using Facebook has worked very well for communicating to a specific audience that wants to see (photos and videos) of their children and friends/family in our programs. We ask the parents of our campers and guests to like our page so they can see our daily updates and view the photos in real time.

I have learned from our experience (and yours might be different) that our greatest impact is coming from using this digital platform as a link (it’s just one click away) from our website. It’s like hors d’oeuvres, the small taste that keeps you coming back for more.

I have also created a closed group Facebook page specifically for Staff Alumni, for the purpose of communicating events, needs, opportunities, and historic information. Throwback Thursday works well on this page.

3. You-Tube/Vimeo

This is another online channel where we post larger video format clips of activities and causes pertinent to our charitable mission.

4. Linkedin

This is a great platform for headhunting a specific skill set. I use it for Board of Director candidates, Event Volunteers, and Corporate engagement with our programs. I like it because it is business, and is not focused on all the fluff, like Facebook.

5. Twitter

This is real time and something I have not engaged too much with, but it will resonate with millennials.

6. Instagram & Snapchat

More real time platforms for promoting and sharing opportunities that resonates with millennials.

7. Pinterest

This is a platform I use to promote events, gain ideas, and share ideas on various boards. It features a wider range of demographic, the majority of which is female. The program activities including; Cornhole game boards, Yard Yahtzee, Yard Jenga, and other activities were found shared on Pinterest. Great camping hacks as well!

These are just seven social media platforms that are out there. These tools are available free on the internet and, when used effectively, can assist you in your recruitment, training, education, and communication to potential volunteers — while saving you money on printing and postage.

Remember, over 50% of our society has a smartphone — especially this New Breed of Volunteer.

Seismic Shift 6: Professionalism – From Skilled Workers to Knowledge Workers

For well over 40 years, we have seen the rise of the knowledge worker not only changing the workplace but impacting the way volunteer leadership is implemented. Volunteers that have been selected (Linkedin) for specific skills needed to accomplish a goal; men and women that want to be empowered by the organization to lead, make decisions, and influence the direction on how the project or event will be completed. Finding these individuals to serve in your organization may take great effort, but when you do find them, their commitment, enthusiasm, and ownership into your organization’s WHY (Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why) will result in huge benefits.

25 years ago, I worked for the largest charitable organization in the United States, the Salvation Army, and at the largest Salvation Army Camp Facility on the east coast, Star Lake Camp. Star Lake Camp was founded in 1923 and had grown to be a 400-acre programmed facility with 75 buildings, annually serving over 5000 summer campers, 2,000 senior guests at the Lodge, and hundreds of cottagers on three of the most pristine lakes you will ever see.

As you can imagine, it took millions of dollars to operate and maintain this facility each year. One season, I was asked by the Salvation Army leadership to present our capital project needs to an individual who was a professional engineer, but served in an advisory role with the Salvation Army Advisory Board. This gentleman’s volunteer position was to help raise the capital funding for projects all over the greater New York Division of the Salvation Army, including all of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs, up to Middletown, Orangeburg, Long Island, and the Star Lake Camp in Northern New Jersey.

I remember arriving at the Salvation Army DHQ in New York City in my suit, (not the customary Camp Staff uniform) with project portfolio in hand. My supervisor, a major in the Salvation Army and serving as the General Secretary of Business Administration, escorted me downtown to a large office skyscraper. This was where I was to meet with, and make the presentation of camp capital projects to, a gentleman whose office was on one of the highest floors. I remember passing large groups of male employees wearing white shirts and ties and finally reaching his office. He was gracious, in his late 40s, and clearly the man in charge of the entire engineering firm. He was well connected, networked, and influential in New York City. One of his smaller projects was to design and build the David Letterman show facility. I had about 45 minutes to present well over $500,000 worth of projects that needed to be accomplished over the next two years at camp, and an additional/optional project that was about $50,000.

I must admit, I was nervous at first, but as he sensed my passion with camp ministry and I sensed his passion about raising the funds needed. You could feel the excitement building as he listened to my presentation and then visually formulated how he would display the drawings and plans at the upcoming meeting (to be held out at the camp) in the Lodge.

Most of my projects were infrastructure in nature, and not much fun to present for both of us, but I could sense he was shuffling the deck to see which one would sell to the audience he was making the pitch to. He loved the work the Salvation Army was doing with youth and under resourced children. Now you know why I am so passionate about our Stand in the Gap program here at Camp Shalom.

I had presented the projects from the most expensive to the least and, wouldn’t you know, it was the last project that struck a nerve. A petting farm. A project we started by restoring an old camp structure, communicating our building needs with local contractors and farmers, and then having animals donated to teach the inner city children about farm animals. The new plan showed the demolition of the original small building and the construction of three new barns, one designated for larger scale animals, a second for rabbits, and a third for poultry. The barns were positioned in a u-shaped curve, with a fenced paddock in the centre, and following one of the camps roads. The entire project would cost $50,000. I could see our audience of one getting more and more excited as I neared the end of this final presentation, and then he stood up and stated to the major and me that he wanted to make the New Petting Farm the focal point of his entire presentation.

You see, this type of professional volunteer (professional not only in skill but in his communication, knowledge, influence, and understanding of the Salvation Army’s WHY) required very little oversight and direction in accomplishing his assigned project. He was empowered and engaged because he was treated as a professional and achieved great results for many years. The Petting Farm was dedicated two years after I had left the Salvation Army, while I was serving as Executive Director of Lakewood Retreat in Florida.

Join me next time as I complete the four remaining Seismic Shifts: Episodic Volunteering, Slacktivism, Micro-Volunteering, and Speed in our journey to understanding the New Breed of Volunteer.

Tim Partridge
Managing Director

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