I recently came upon an article entitled 10 Tips for Engaging a Volunteer Community. The article piqued my interest and led me to Jeffery Cufaude’s blog. Here is a quick summary of his work;
Jeffrey Cufaude is an architect of ideas …custom-designing keynotes, workshops, and leadership conferences that promote learning and community.
What most impresses me about the blog is not that Jeffrey is a musician, a teacher, or even in the arts. And yet his articles are relevant and to the point. As an “ideas architect” (something I had never heard of before), his topics are broad enough to appeal to the masses but specific enough to be useful in my day to day work.
As music studio teachers, owners, and administrators, we can only do so much with our limited resources. How do we fill in the gap? Volunteers. Throughout my career I have worked with volunteers as an organizer or recruiter. I have been a volunteer myself both in arts organizations as well as several other types of non-profits. It is a tricky job. On the one hand there is the enormous need (have you ever heard of an arts organization that had more than enough help?) and on the other hand there is the habit of using volunteers to the brink of burnout and beyond.
While reflecting on the article I began to think of my own volunteer experiences and, as a studio owner, the use of volunteers in my program. I am reminded of:
- The students’ parent who volunteers his photography skill at every studio recital and then donates the proceeds of all photo sales to a studio selected organization.
- The “studio parent” who organizes the studio recitals and receptions
- The parents and teens who run the “music store” for our annual weekend workshop
- The countless people it takes to organize and run a fundraising walk or concert for our organization
- The music students who want to perform regularly at a local senior center to fulfill their school community service requirement
- My own volunteering on several non-profit boards and committees
- Organizing the benefit concert for our scholarship fund
- Providing materials, treats, and support for the small group who fold the weekly church newsletter
- Joining the volunteer cadre of teachers who weekly give their time as teachers in the religious education program at our local church
And the list goes on. How do you use volunteer time and energy in your program? Is there someone who leads your volunteer efforts? What have you volunteered for in the past? Was it a good experience? Did you feel valued? Would you do it again? These questions led me to two highlights from Jeffery’s article.
Don’t waste volunteers’ time. Time is one of the most significant contributions a volunteer offers to an association. It is a gift we need to manage carefully.
Don’t forget the fun! Doing the work of the association is serious business, but the way we go about it doesn’t have to be dry and boring. We must engage not only volunteers’ minds, but also their hearts. Making volunteer experiences memorable will keep them coming back for more.
I hope you find a few moments to read the full article. It is terrific food for thought. I would love to hear your ideas on creating a strong and vibrant volunteer community.