Increasingly many of the organisations we work with at Volunteering Waikato are facing a very real challenge – governance boards – and sometimes volunteer teams – are aging and no-one is sure where the next generation of people is coming from. A very typical situation is an organisation where many of its members have been involved for many years (sometimes decades) and are now wanting to pull back on their involvement. This group of dedicated people has invested a lot of time, energy and passion and want to know they can hand over the organisation to others who will champion and safeguard it in the same way they have.
So what can be done? Firstly it is essential that the current board assesses whether the need for the organisation still exists. If the organisation stopped offering services who would notice and who would be affected? Are there other organisations providing the same services and would a merge be possible?
Secondly - the issue of attracting new members. There is a very real trend in volunteering that shows people wish to volunteer for shorter periods of time, for projects and events – what we would term “micro-volunteering”. This trend is driven by changes in our society around work, study and leisure and provides challenges to most organisations that aren’t able to respond to this new dynamic.
In order to refresh your membership you need to think carefully about what a younger person might want to do for your organisation – run your social media, update your website, co-ordinate an event, undertake research, run focus groups, facilitate email groups, design a campaign, develop a newsletter… By starting to involve people in one-off events and smaller niche roles you are broadening your reach into your community – you start to develop a database of helpers that you can call on when needed. Some of these people may have such an enjoyable experience that they offer to help on a more enduring basis. (If this happens don’t overwhelm them with volumes of responsibility too soon. It’s not unheard of for existing committee members to exit an organisation very soon after a few new ones arrive – and suddenly the foundation becomes rocky).
The trickiest thing about this new way of working is that it requires organisations to change – change their mind set, their habits and their structure – and that doesn’t always come easy. Small steps over time can transform an organisation until the metamorphosis is complete – but leadership is needed to drive the change. Be prepared and open to new ideas and ways of doing things - be prepared to hand over some of the responsibility to someone else.
Finding and connecting with that new person is easy – Facebook and your Neighbourly network can be very effective. Volunteering Waikato has great success at advertising roles and matching volunteers to them. The renewal process can be tough, requiring all members to invest in the process with enthusiasm – expect speedbumps along the way but stay focused on the destination.
Chris Atkinson - Regional Co-ordinator, for Kumara Vine magazine