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How to put an end to martyrdom in volunteering and make helping out irresistible for everyone

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By Andrew Kaszowski, CMP – President-Elect

We’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, which basically means that 80 per cent of work in the world is done by a ridiculously dedicated 20 per cent of people.

There are a lot of problems with this model. Sure, the 20 per cent get things done – and they do it very well. The main problem is that this is hardly sustainable. A few crazy-committed souls lifting all the weight in an organization is a heavy burden to carry and leads to that most scary word in the world of volunteering: burnout. Volunteer turnover rates at most organizations is frighteningly high, as doing a passionate job is fun for a while but hard to keep up for many years. Consequently, when the organization loses its core force of energy year-after-year it becomes saddled with the task of orienting new blood all the time and continuity of vision and mission gets lost in the mix when there isn’t a concerted effort to overlap the veterans and the fresh faces.  Volunteers burning out is bad for the continuity of an organization. It’s called martyrdom. It leads not only to the exhaustion of the volunteer themselves, but to the decline in the vitality of the organization itself in the long-term.

So how do we put a stop to volunteers becoming martyrs and make volunteering irresistible for the 80 per cent who are sitting on the sidelines? The answer is lazy volunteering, as I learned at IABC’s Leadership Institute from keynote speaker Cynthia D’Amour. By spreading the work across the organization’s membership pool and offering little chunks of valuable tasks to as many people as possible, participation becomes both accessible and wide-spread. We put an end to disproportionately celebrating the work of those who commit a LOT of time and effort, and instead value the contributions of EVERYONE. This leads to everyone feeling appreciated, and in turn when volunteers get a taste of feeling part of the “organization’s inner tribe” they inevitably start looking for ways to get even more involved. Or not… maybe they don’t get more involved than putting forth an hour of time a year, and that’s okay too!

Across an organization like IABC London, there’s a whole tonne of tasks to do that range from a one-time commitment of an hour or two all the way to joining the board of directors. ALL involvement is important to the functioning of the chapter and making it the best it can be for our members. And all involvement is deeply appreciated.

Our challenge is to each find the nugget of involvement that speaks to us and what we can handle – no matter its size. We can all play a part.

One Response to "How to put an end to martyrdom in volunteering and make helping out irresistible for everyone"

  1. Janic Gorayeb Posted on April 17, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Great article Andrew and thanks for sharing some of your learning from the IABC’s Leadership Institute. Creating those opportunities for all volunteers will naturally create productive and engaged volunteers and their leadership skills will shine through.

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