Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stuck in a Rut

The Southwest/West Central Volunteer Network met this week at Bremer Bank- Willmar's community room. Participants took in the second of the three-part series "Dilemmas in Volunteer Management - 2009." Debi Brandt, Community Relations Director for Heartland Community Action, headquartered in Willmar, presented on a dilemma many volunteer managers experience from time to time:

Do you sometimes sense resistance in the ranks that “we’ve always done it that way” as you try to float new methods and ideas in your organization? The program titled "Stuck in a Rut" covered how to encourage long-term volunteers to accept changes within your organization. Among Debi's tips on ways to influence change in others:
  • Get the volunteer's perspective - Start by understanding their view of the world. Value your volunteers opinions and they will feel part of the conversation.
  • Acknowledge their perspective - Even if you don't agree with your volunteers' assumptions and concerns, let them know it is a valid view. People resist being changed because they don't feel validated or acknowledged.
  • Speak to their interests - By acknowledging volunteers' perspectives as valid, their mind will likely be more open to hearing a new perspective.
  • Recognize natural tendencies - Be aware that not everyone moves at the same rate; some volunteers are more open and move quickly to a new approach; others are more cautious.
    Be patient - Give your volunteers time, and let them reflect on new information and approaching changes

Thanks Debi for a great presentation! Valuable networking and sharing among peers on this topic also took place.

The third installment in the "Dilemmas" series is set for Monday, Oct. 5, also to be held at Bremer Bank - Willmar from 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. “How Much Longer?” or “Now I’m BORED…”

Presenter will be Marge Hanson, Membership Service Specialist, Girl Scouts of Minnesota & Wisconsin Lakes & Pines Council. Here's a sneak peak at the content: Who hasn’t experienced the drudgery of necessary trainings and meetings? Whether you’re the trainer or the trainee, you just want to get through it. This topic will cover how to make meetings and trainings fun, engaging, and interesting even when the subject matter is not.

The best part about the Southwest/West Central Volunteer Network and meetings: peer-to-peer, locally grown trainers and training! The "Dilemmas" series began in June with the program, "That's Not Fair!" given by Evy Hajstillianos, Volunteer Coordinator, Rice Hospice in Willmar, on the topic of different ways to acknowledge a volunteer’s good work, without alienating the group. The idea for mini training sessions around thorny issues that all volunteer coordinators experience at one time or another was hatched by a core group in the Network; then volunteers leaders with skill, talent and experience on the various topics were identified and invited to design presentations; and the series was on its way!

I have been thoroughly impressed by the first two programs, and know that the third one is destined to be a hit also. We are learning that volunteers coordinators have both much to share and much to learn from each other. This is what the SW/WC Volunteer Network is all about.

For questions and more information on SW/WC VC, and the Minnesota Assn for Volunteer Administrators (MAVA), which support our local network, contact Chair, Deb Mortenson; 320-235-0850.

Posted by Lois Schmidt, NRS, Willmar

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