Today’s discussion focusses on the wealth of skills that exist in our communities and five tips that may help to facilitate an environment that draws passionate people into our organizations.
Simplify your processes
Have you ever wanted to donate online and become frustrated with a website’s navigation or complicated processes? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to volunteer but when you call; the organization refers you to their website instead of answering your questions on the phone? Sometimes the way we do business creates barriers for those who want to support us.
If we truly want to create an environment that draws support from people, we need to make it easy for them to become involved in a way that is convenient for them.
Recognize and utilize the skills of your volunteers
Most organizations have existing volunteer positions and this is a good thing. However we need to stay open to new possibilities and be flexible enough to accommodate volunteers who have unique skills and insights that we may not have previously considered. Imagine how wonderful it could be to have a professional strategist assist you in developing a business plan, or an experienced negotiator working with you to bring stakeholders on board for a perceived controversial project.
If you are fortunate enough to have a professional business person offering their services as a valued volunteer, why not make them the Chair of a committee? Let them lead the process while you reap the benefits of their expertise! Don’t be afraid to solicit the support of people who have skills that your organization lacks. It does not indicate incompetence on your part, rather it speaks to your wisdom.
Communicate with your community the way they communicate with you
If someone phones you, phone them back. If someone emails you, respond by email. If someone writes you a letter and mails it to you, write a letter and mail it back to them. If they drop in to speak with you personally, sit down and have a chat. It’s as simple as that.
Invite naysayers to the table
Just who are these naysayers? It’s the family man who doesn’t want a rehabilitation centre in his neighbourhood. It’s the woman who thinks your new building will attract too much traffic into the area. It’s the neighbours who are afraid of what will happen to their neighbourhood when you build low-income housing down the street. It’s the retailers who think your operations will drive away their customers. They’re not horrible or uncaring people. They just don’t understand how your organization operates and how it will impact their community.
Swallow that feeling of dread and invite them to sit at the table with you. Listen to their questions and write them down. Follow up with them on solutions and adapt your project accordingly. Gain their confidence by validating and addressing their concerns.
Including stakeholders in the conversation will take time. Be prepared to work hard. In the end you’ll have the benefit of working out many of their concerns before you implement and you will have engaged new advocates for your organization! Remember that every concern or criticism is an opportunity to start a conversation and promote mutual understanding.
It’s important to recognize that your community is a valuable resource for your organization. Be intentional about creating an environment that supports their involvement.
Suggested Questions to start the Discussion
Non-profit organizations are often under resourced and their employees struggle with huge workloads. It can seem as if there is not enough time in the day to also engage supporting individuals in the ways suggested above. The outcome of not doing so however, may be even more costly in the long run. What are some of the issues your organization struggles with? What are some creative ways that you can set up a balance between your organization’s needs and the needs of your supporting community?
There are many individuals who want to make a difference for a cause that is important to them. They bring with them a unique set of skills that may or may not be part of an organization’s volunteer program. Are you a professional who wants to share your expertise with a non-profit organization? If so, how could the non-profit sector do a better job of facilitating these opportunities?
The purpose of The Other Bottom Line is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.