said, George Bernard Shaw, and I agree.
Ever wanted to put your hand up but hesitated in the face of negativity? Ever watched while a single doom-monger, with a well-timed outburst, puts off a whole crowd who are working on a good idea?
You may have just encountered a pessimist. Pessimists will often sound like this: He tried whatever you are suggesting once (just once, mind!) and it didn’t work. She did something similar to what you are suggesting and it didn’t work. They know someone who tried something ……..
What to do? Here’s a simple 3-point plan:
Gather strength in numbers
Separate yourself from these negative people. You will never change them. They may be people who have always had trouble seeing the positive or they have had a past experience that has put them off.
Dismiss their discouraging remarks for what they are – usually an isolated or historical example not relevant to the plans in progress.
Gather strength in numbers if there are more of you with positive ideas on what CAN be done, stick together. Support each other.
What ever happens, don’t let a lone negative voice disrupt the way of progress and good ideas. If all else fails, quote George Bernard Shaw at them!
And see for here for more inspiration
I just want to say you drive me forward. I do what I do because of you. Your loyalty, your support and the satisfaction of working with you keeps me going more than the end result. I am immensely proud of what we achieve. Sometimes it feels that there is so much left undone but if you look at where we are now, you can see how far we have come. So thank you to all of you. Thank you for your commitment and dedication. I would be nowhere without you.
If you are one of my volunteers (or if this strikes a chord anyway) please leave a comment below.
Here is the first of two real life examples to help answer that question.
Freshly repatriated from abroad, I found myself unable to return to my previous career. While abroad, like many of the “trailing spouses” I had engaged my brain in voluntary work and for several years I had been an editor. This role kept my computer skills up to date at a time when things were changing fast. On returning to the UK, I was welcomed with open arms at the local primary school when I offered to help in computer lessons. From there I became the official photographer and went on to build a website for the school – all as a volunteer. Little did I know at the time, but these skills were going to be a ticket to a new career direction.
First of all, though, I had to do my apprenticeship. I started teaching basic computer skills to career-break-returners – mostly mums who had been out of the workplace for a while. So ironically, there I was, also in my first job after a break, teaching other adults skills that I’d learnt as a volunteer. At this point, things were going really well and I embarked on the next level of teacher training. And while I was on the training course, one of the tutors spotted me. They noticed that I had previously taught English as a foreign language, while abroad, and was now teaching IT. This was a combination of skills the college had been seeking for some time. On the strength of this they offered me a great job – teaching IT to international students on university foundation courses. And so without even looking, I had landed myself my next post where I spent several satisfying years working with ambitious and interesting young people.
Can you get a job without having an interview? Well, I did. In fact, I’ve never had a job interview! Apart from my first job after university I have not applied for anything I have ever done. All my work has come my way, directly or indirectly, as a result of my volunteering. I’ve made career changes by getting to know people, by people finding out about me by word of mouth and by being in the right place at the right time.
For some other ideas, take a look at Volunteer your time, you may find a job
What useful skills have you learnt as a volunteer? Please leave a comment and tell me.
- Do you coach your kids’ football team every Saturday?
- Are you a student doing your “volunteering” towards your Duke of Edinburgh award?
- Have you marshalled at one sports event to get a free entry at another?
- Are you a parent listening to children read at your own child’s school?
- Have you joined a neighbourhood working party to clear a pond or maintain a local wild space?
On the one hand the British Olympic Association says the London 2012 Olympics will be the “Twitter Games”. And on the other, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) are telling their volunteers that they should not share their experiences via social media.
The athletes have had strict guidelines for a while, but recent publication of rules for the volunteer “Games Makers” is causing a bit of a stir. Some of these rules might be justified in terms of privacy such as not taking photos of areas closed to the public. But others seem to be unenforceable nonsense – not talking about a VIP or celebrity and not disclosing breaking news about an athlete. Social networks will be humming with this sort of news, surely.
You could argue that Games Makers have a job to do and shouldn’t be working one-handed – or take their eye off the ball – in order to tweet. But many games makers are passionately excited about what they are doing and will be desperate to share a celebrity snippet, an ad lib moment, or a significant sports sight, with their friends and families. Can rules really stop them? Paul Adams predicts “that we will see tons and tons of footage leaking out from the 70,000 volunteers, and that the best footage from the Games will come from regular folks, attendees and volunteers, and not from official TV crews.” He also thinks “that by the time the 2016 Olympics rolls around, this decision will be laughable, and the enforcers of this rule will look like dinosaurs.”
i-volunteer is running dire predictions of volunteers voting with their feet at these social media rules. But as LOCOG have reportedly got a problem of managing disappointment of potential volunteers who are surplus to requirements, I doubt that they are too worried.
What do you think about the Olympics’ social media guidelines?
Every Saturday, about 12,000 people take part in 5km timed runs all over the UK. These events are completely free and are organised by volunteers. Yes, completely organised by volunteers! The events are called parkrun, and are the brainchild of an inspiring philanthropist who believes that it is everyone’s right to get up on a Saturday and run in a 5km timed event without paying for the pleasure.
Paul Sinton-Hewitt founded the Bushy Park run, in Teddington, with just 13 runners in 2004. In 2009 he won a Runner’s World Heroes award. This week’s Bushy Park parkrun attracted a record 1000 runners and the organisation is within sprinting distance of their millionth run. On current turnout it’s predicted to happen next weekend.
Even if you don’t run and aren’t at all interested in sport, parkruns are a shining example of what can be achieved when a group of motivated people are facilitated to make something happen. There has always been a pool of potential volunteers -runners – who collectively stood to gain from free runs. But parkrun’s runaway (!) success shows what can be achieved when a leader brings together the vision, the volunteers and a practical system that enables it to all happen. And it all happens every Saturday when armies of unskilled volunteers organise parkrun events all over the world.
Have you run in a parkrun?
All volunteers are unique and have their own set of reasons for volunteering. Here are 5 of the common reasons that make them step forward:
1 To support a team leader or friend that they respect
Don’t underestimate the strength of personal connections.
2 To meet useful people and increase their network
They are looking to see how your volunteering role could benefit them – so sell your ideas so they appeal to the “what’s in it for me” side of potential volunteers.
3 To socialise and take part in an interesting activity
Promote the social side of your opportunities and make sure your teams get along well – and that you have some well-planned activities lined up for them.
4 To support a cause that they believe in
If you are a charity, a children’s school, or local community are you inspiring your own followers and supporters?
5 To be nosy and get some inside info on an organisation
How does a publisher function? What’s it like back stage? Could you be promoting your organisation to appeal to this type of volunteer?
Organisations seeking volunteers are also very different. Do you relate to any of these motives. Do you think your organisation could use one or two of these motives to promote your opportunities?
Please leave a comment and let me know.
1. Recruit them for a finite and achievable activity
Would you sign a blank cheque for your time? No, I doubt it! Neither will the person you are looking for. It’s much better to offer a specific task with a manageable time-scale. Volunteers like a project that they can complete and then get on with their lives.
2. Tell them exactly what the role is
Keep it easy to understand. Use plain English, avoid technical jargon or you will annoy people. Paradoxically, if you make the job sound grand and high-powered this will only put people off.
3. Find out a little bit about your volunteer
If you take the time to get to know them just a little then you can try and give them a role that is satisfying and appropriate to their experience and physical ability. They will be happier and they will do a better job for you.
4. Give them enough training to enable them to do the role effectively
Make sure you show your volunteers what they need to do, or team them up with someone with experience. And giving them a written brief/map/instructions/crib sheet/contact list really helps. It can be scary being a new volunteer – if you are bombarded with important information at the start its easy to forget a vital detail.
5. Acknowledge them on the day
It is surprisingly easy to be blind to your helpers during the actual event or project because it is so hectic for you. Make an effort to know who they are and say hello.
6. Say thank you afterwards
It’s all over! You collapse with exhaustion and feel waves of relief wash over you. It might sound old-fashioned but a phone call, e-mail or letter gives your volunteers a nice warm wanted feeling. Prompt and personalized but not patronizing and ending with “See you again next time”.
Q Have you volunteered in the last 6 months? What did you do and what inspired you to do it?