Don’t Waste Your Gifts

“If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving. If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging. The one giving should do it with no strings attached. The leader should lead with passion. The one showing mercy should be cheerful.”  (Romans 12:7-8)

Have you ever noticed others around you taking the credit for something you created, an idea you shared with them or advice you gave? If you’re a creative, productive person seeking to make a difference in the world around you, I would expect that you have experienced this more than your fair share of times.

Some may ask if they should make others aware of their situation and I would suggest that it is rarely worth the time spent even contemplating it.

We’re all given gifts and talents to share with the world and specifically, those around us who can benefit from our help the most. We’re called not to expect any type of reward or acknowledgement for sharing our gifts because that’s exactly what we were created to do – share.

The minute we start expecting something in return for doing the right thing is also the moment our gift can be changed or taken from us. Gifts and talents are to be used for His glory, not ours.

If we allow our egos to get in the way of His plan for our lives, we’re just wasting our gifts and denying someone else an amazing blessing.

God will always bless you in more ways than you can ever imagine when you listen to His voice instead of your own. Use your gifts wisely and share them freely.

 

 

What Will Be Your Legacy?

He was known as Preacher. I was simply Ms. Catherine.

He had been battling cancer for many years and although no one wanted to admit it, deep down we knew he was losing.

I was busy putting the final touches on our new Welcome Center for the children’s area as he walked up the hallway toward my office. With each footstep, he slowly shared these words with me,

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

At the time, I had never heard the poem nor its origin, but the words were a welcome encouragement to a very long day. They were not the first inspiring words he had ever spoken to me but they would be among his last.

Preacher was one of the most encouraging leaders and mentors I have ever known. It is a part of his legacy.

He wasn’t just my boss or my Pastor. He was the kind of leader that others would do anything for and not because he would reward them for it or could promise them some kind of future payback. He inspired people because he willingly invested his time into building others up and equipping them to become all they could be.

He saw potential when others saw mediocrity. He shared his vision when others hid plans for fear of future competition.

Under his stewardship, a new bread of leaders were developed and because of his legacy, the seeds he planted years ago continues to see new fruit to this day.

When people have an inspiring leader, it makes them want to do everything in their power to be as good as those around them believe they already are.

Whether you are a Volunteer Coordinator or the CEO of Google, you will leave a legacy to someone. What that legacy will be depends entirely upon you and the way you choose to teach, treat and lead those whom God has entrusted to you.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? Resolve to make it happen starting today!

Top 3 Reasons Why Seniors Make Amazing Volunteers!

You know your volunteer program is moving in the right direction when Seniors choose to volunteer with you!

1.Seniors can afford to be “picky”.

 Many Seniors have the luxury of having a little extra free time on their hands, but they take their time to choose the causes they really want to lend their time and talents to.

If they’re choosing to serve with your organization, you must be something doing right!

2. Seniors aren’t afraid to say, “No”. 

Seniors know how to set boundaries and are confident enough in themselves to not be talked into something they don’t want to do.  They know what really matters and what doesn’t.

If they’re serving with your organization, what you’re asking them to be a part of must matter!

3. Seniors invented the word “commitment”.

Seniors know the value of hard work and are willing to put their time, money, heart and soul into something, if they believe it will make a real difference. If it’s just for show,  they’d rather go bowling. (I love that saying! My Preacher used to tell us that if we were coming to church just to punch our cards or see a show, he’d rather us go bowling.)

If they’re willing to go all out for your organization, you should feel honored because Seniors can smell the real thing from a mile away!

If there’s any reason your organization hasn’t been reaching out to the Seniors in your community, I can promise you that the rewards will be more than worth your taking the time to start today – or I guess you could always go bowling instead:)

Does Your Volunteer Program Have A Purpose?

Successful volunteer programs are driven by a delicate balance of the needs of the organization and of the volunteers who choose to give their time and talents.

Thriving programs grow when they seek to provide fiscally sound solutions to the problems their organization face by finding innovative ways to motivate its volunteer team.

Inspiring volunteer programs consistently point toward the mission statement of the organization it serves.

Purposeful volunteer programs will encompass each of these attributes:

  • It will be a successful program when volunteers know their time means something concrete to the organization.
  • It will be a thriving program when volunteers understand the value they bring to the organization.
  • It will be an inspiring program when volunteers share the same mission-minded focus as the employees of the organization.

If your volunteer program doesn’t have a purpose, your volunteers will be the first to know it and it won’t be long until they find somewhere else to make a difference.

purpose1-1024x680Find your purpose!

Encourage Your Volunteers TODAY!

Read all the books. Listen to all the podcasts. Skim all the professional blogs about, “How to Grow Your Volunteer Base” but if you don’t take the time to do one very important thing, you will never have a successful, thriving volunteer team.

Reminder them WHY they choose to volunteer.

Sounds simple enough but it takes work on YOUR part. The volunteer leader/manager/coordinator/director HAS to remind everyone they are leading in multiple ways throughout the year or be prepared for the time when they will leave and find someplace else to serve.

Just because they got into their car and made it to you at their assigned time – none of that means they are fully engaged, encouraged and motivated about what they are doing. That’s where YOU come in!

Not everyone is born with the gift of encouragement or motivation but there are endless ways YOU can keep them excited and constantly looking forward to volunteering. Here’s just a few ideas:

Picture It – display several picture collages of volunteers giving their precious time. It’s human nature; people like to see and remind themselves of the times they enjoy the most. (Don’t take the easy way out – I’m not talking about Facebook entries.  You need to display REAL, CURRENT pictures on a focal wall where people will see the difference volunteers are making.)

Put It In Writing – Blog about how amazing your volunteers are on your organization’s website. List some of the most current projects your volunteers have contributed to in your group newsletter, bulletin or on your website – do it everywhere you can, do it often and keep it current.

Not only are you recognizing the work of quality people around you but these little “mentions” also serve to publicize your group’s commitment to volunteerism and advertises your organization in a wonderfully positive light!

Put It In Writing (again) – This time make it personal. Set aside time every week to write out a personal “Thank You” note to a few volunteers. Though they are very important, I’m not talking about the ones who volunteered the most hours. Focus on the single mom who’s working two jobs and still shows up to serve week in and week out without ever complaining – she needs to hear from you. Focus on the one who came back after being gone a few weeks because of an illness or family emergency – he needs to know you missed him and that his time matters to you just as much as it means to him. 

Please don’t send a form letter. Please don’t have someone write out a card and sign your name to it. Make it personal and make it count. Personal cards are rarely done by busy people anymore but when they are done with a good heart and nothing but sincere appreciation, it makes all the difference in the world.

Volunteer Perception 101

We all feel passionately about something for a specific reason. Those who grew up poor will often lean toward volunteer roles to help those in need and the list of ways to help is endless. Depending upon our resources, we could

  • offer free financial advice to low-income communities
  • donate clothing or blankets to homeless ministries
  • provide and/or serve meals during the holidays

The ways we find a way to make a difference can be corporate or private but ultimately, the organizations we choose to facilitate our service through will depend upon our perception of its leadership. We may excuse a few missteps but when we choose to dedicate our personal time and resources to a group whose leaders are most often paid for their expertise in coordination, they need to understand that volunteers are more perceptive than they realize.

Some of the most important questions a potential volunteer will ask with their eyes and ears include:

  • Are you organized?
  • Are you passionate about what you do?
  • Are you happy to be there?

1. Are you organized? We’re not talking perfection here, but published volunteer schedules shouldn’t be messy or incomplete. If you have yet to create printed schedules for your group – do it today! Schedules set the tone. They show everyone how much you value people’s time. Schedules are at the top of any organized person’s list but they won’t work if they’re not followed – so make sure you lead by example with your schedule.

2.Are you passionate about what you do? You can’t fake passion in the workplace or the volunteer environment. You may think you can but trust me, it’s not possible. If you’re an AWANA Clubs Commander, you better love those little Cubbies and their Leaders more than chocolate! If you don’t feel the need to spark the heart of children through every means possible (i.e. pictures, music, bulletin boards, stories, phone calls, cards…..) then why are you working with them? If seeing people go without a healthy meal or warm coat doesn’t cause your eyes to swell with tears, how can you inspire others to give of themselves and help?

As a leader, YOU have to care more about your ministry or other nonprofit organization than anyone else who walks through your doors. If you don’t, they will notice it immediately and wonder WHY you don’t. This doesn’t mean you have to personally do everything but it does require an honest self-assessment and the willingness to surround yourself with those who can help fill-in the blanks. Volunteers don’t always care HOW or WHO gets things done but they do notice when they’re not (or when leadership doesn’t appear to care).

3. Are you happy to be there? If you’re being paid a salary, complaining about being overworked to an unpaid volunteer is an absolute no – no. We all get overwhelmed and need to vent but never in front of a volunteer – no matter how close you may think you are with them. Once you are perceived as being a complainer or lazy, few will want to serve under or alongside you.

It can’t be emphasized enough that volunteers are a very special breed. They need encouragement (even when they don’t ask for it), consistency (among all the change) and leadership who values the fact that their volunteers have jobs, family and endless other responsibilities.

It takes a lot of motivation and personal fortitude for people to step-up and choose to serve – make sure you don’t give anyone an excuse to question their decision.

Making those Critical Calls

It almost seems too simplistic to say, “people need to know you care” but just to make sure we’re on the same page:

“PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW YOU CARE!”

Knowing when to pick-up the phone will make the difference between a successful, thriving volunteer team versus one barely limping along.

Call the first time a volunteer doesn’t show up to serve.

Why? Because that’s the right thing to do. CAUTION: Please believe the BEST about people – something MUST have happened to keep them from fulfilling their commitment. Maybe they were sick…maybe they lost their car keys…maybe they just plain forgot! Whatever the reason, your concern for them should be the most important thing you focus on when making the call. If it’s not, stop and check your motives. Why would anyone want to volunteer under a leader who doesn’t care about them?

Listen for the truth and hear it.

Now is not the time to be defensive. None of us are perfect. There will be times (and plenty of them) when the words you hear on the other end will in some way involve how they feel about volunteering under your leadership. No matter how new or experienced a volunteer may be, there is always a nugget of truth in what they are willing to share with you. BUT, you have to be open to hearing what they are saying.

Maybe it’s simply not a good fit: they volunteered to help with the babies but cried the whole way home because they didn’t realize just how fragile little ones can be.

This overwhelmed person needs a few lifelines to help her through: maybe she needs to spend more time shadowing a more experienced volunteer…maybe she needs to be with older children…or maybe she’s not giving you the real reason she’s not comfortable. It’s your job to find out but you’ll never know, if you don’t make the call.

If they do agree to come back – call them again for another check-up.

Part of having an amazing volunteer team is having a leader who cares equally about providing a good “person to position” match vs. the goals and needs of the organization. If all you care about is filling a slot, your volunteers will know it and you’ll lose them faster than you can find them.

If you try and talk people into wedging themselves into a round peg when they’re obviously square, they will happily catch a bus straight out of volunteer town.

If you don’t genuinely care about the relationships you are building with and alongside them, it won’t be long before you will become even more frustrated and disillusioned than than the people around you.

I tend to think it takes one who has been a volunteer themselves to fully understand that nothing is more precious than the time a volunteer gives. It may involve a little more work on our part, but even if it takes a hundred phone calls to remind them how much they are appreciated – you’ll find it’s more than worth it!