Friday, June 19, 2015

How To Attract Millennial Volunteers (A Series): Let Them Be...RELATIONAL

“"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

      It's not a huge surprise that relationships mean a great value to Millennials. Social media is their lifeline to potential connections with others. I consulted an organization that was trying to retain young volunteers and one of the simplest things they could have done was to allow their volunteers to do things together. Even if it was as simple as changing a light bulb, Millennials stuck around when they had a friend beside them. Relationships are THE biggest motivational factor for Millennials’ participation at work, at church, and at a non-profit. If you want more Millennial participation then provide a relationship-building factor to their service. This generation wants friends but often finds themselves so spread thin that they don't have many authentic relationships. Be a space where volunteers can comfortably find deep and meaningful relationships. Let volunteers work in pairs, even if it doesn’t seem logical. Eventually you will gain long-term volunteers for your organization by providing outlets for them to serve and to build friendships. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

2 Ways to Create a Work Culture that Attracts Millennials

During the spring, I studied the motivations behind Millennials and their participation in work and service.  My study focused on Millennials ages 18-35, and predominantly Christian. I am a Christian Millennial myself and try my best not to be biased. My study provided me with great insight into the minds and hearts of Millennials and now I want to share the knowledge to all of you. Here are two clear ways to grab the attention of Millennials in your organization.

1.  Provide Altruistic Space
      My husband works for a technology company here in Denver. The organization is full of Millennial types who are not only interested in having good pay, but also want to work for an organization that has an altruistic culture. My husband’s office encourages its employees to take two days a year to volunteer at the organization of their choice. Then the company donates a certain amount of money to that organization at the end of the year. 

When I first heard this I thought, “Who wouldn’t want to work for such a servant-minded company?” 

      But I quickly learned that this holistic company is one of many that are providing opportunities for their employees to give back. Millennials are motivated by opportunities that allow them to do participate in something bigger than themselves. This generation’s "American Dream" is not the white fenced house or nice car, but it is to become more and more altruistic. Consider allowing your employees to have fun and serve their organization of choice. This will generate long-term employees, as well as, a great reputation with the wider community.

      2. Provide Learning Space

      The Millennial generation is the most educated generation to date. When asked to rank their top values, education is number three on the list (following family and friends). Keeping the brain alive and fed allows Millennials to practice a discipline they have been doing most of their lives. Not only does an employee learn on site, but also offering ways for them to participate in an online-class, a conference, or a night class shows that you are interested in their personal education. It will only serve your organization better to have employees who are inspired and equipped.

The creative ideas they will bring back to your company will keep you relevant and resourced.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Volunteer Retention: If They Got It, Let 'Em Flaunt It

Have you ever done something you got so enthralled with that five hours went by like that, you forgot to eat a meal, but you still feel rejuvenated?! I feel that way about crafts and creating presentations because both allow me to express myself and my thoughts. Both activities allow me to use some of one of my favorite skills- finding ways to connect people to new ideas. When people are using their skills- the things that they thrive upon- difficult tasks become less annoying.

When the creators of Toy Story worked on the movie, they felt like the story wasn’t going anywhere. The plot had no heart and no purpose. The creators went back to the drawing board to try and make the toys come to life and reach people in a more intentional way. Finally, the creators remembered the toys were happiest when they were played with. That became the mission of the toys! To constantly strive to do what they were made to do- be a young boys best toys.

People are happiest when they do what they are made to do!

An amazing technique for long-term volunteers is allowing people to work from their gifts and passions. Sounds like a no-brainer but, you would be surprised how many volunteer coordinators don't do this.

I have seen this work successfully at one of the many non-profit organizations in Denver. They have three phases of receiving volunteers, and the results speak for themselves. The organization:
- never struggles to find volunteers
- has many long-term volunteers.

Although their three-phase process is simple, it is also very deliberate. It’s a trade-off. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up!

  1. Interview Phase: Identify gifts. The organization volunteer coordinator sits down with every single volunteer and listens to his or her story. They are listening for godliness, gifts, responsibility, and passions.
  2. Creative phase: Identify the project. This is where the volunteer and staff brainstorm what ways they could serve. It’s no longer just parking lot duty (although some may be gifted in that) but now the organization has maintenance staff, dance teachers, professional chefs, technicians, teachers, and leadership consultants! People keep coming back to serve because they are using their skills to do meaningful work.
  3. Serving phase: Identify impact. Make space for them to serve and let them do their thing. When people are working from their happy place, doing what they were made to do, there will be great outcomes.

Bailey's Volunteer Pyramid

Don Clifton the author of StrengthFinders said, "successful organizations don’t just accommodate the differences in their people, they capitalize on them." The best way to retain volunteers is to take the extra effort and time to know them, move them to the place that best suits them, and watch the magic happen.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

5 Leadership Books for Every Type of Leader in 2015

1. For the Busy Leader: When I Relax I Feel Guilty by Tim Hansel

This is an overlooked book written in the 70s, but became my rhythm of life for a while. I am use to constantly "doing." I only feel good about myself when I am working constantly, meeting others for coffee, or finding a new project. At some point along this path, I fall apart. I try to relax but feel anxious, like people will perceive me as some horribly lazy sloth. This book brings to light the myths leaders feel about relaxation in our fast-paced world and encourages us to reorient our daily rhythms. My favorite part is that the author includes a list of ways to relax for a month, a weekend, a day, or a minute.

Notable quote: "Therefore, one of the first principles we must deal with is to not be vague with our lives and God's time but to 'freely decide to create the mood of the day, rather than let the circumstances and conditions of the day rule my life. With my spirit (the breath of God in me) I will transform the raw matter of my life and make it beautiful. This is my purpose. This is my hope. This is an adventure like no other.'" (p. 69). 

2. For the Consulting Leader: Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

One of Lencioni's brilliant business fables that tells the story of a company leader that is asked to go investigate how the competition has been successful. He quickly learns that his consulting model could learn a few things from his competitors. The story is captivating as well as the principles (I read the book in one sitting, it was that great). Getting Naked is about stripping down to be your true self with your clients for the end result of progress that results from unshakeable trust.

Notable quote: "Naked service providers don't shy away from uncomfortable situations; they step right into the middle of them...Clients come to see them as having courage and integrity-- qualities that are disarming, attractive, and often rare. And so "dangerous" situations become opportunities for adding value and building trust." (p. 204-5). 

3. For the Contemplative Leader: Pursuing God's Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton

I struggle to connect well with God through sitting and meditating, but I know that there are many leaders that do. Why I like this book is because I believe teams should be led with spiritual fervor. Even if you aren't a contemplative, that doesn't give you the excuse to not guide and direct your organization towards God's will. This book provides personal and team reflections to help you better understand how to create a leadership culture that is prayerful, discerning, and reliant on God.

Notable quote: "The good news is that a leadership group committed to spiritual transformation will automatically begin to change the culture of their community...Simply by being in the flow of the community, individuals in the community will experience life change that increases their capacity to discern and do the will of God together." (p. 82-4).

4. For the Organizational Leader: The Trellis and The Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

The audience for this book is ministry leaders, but it is helpful for anyone that works with people (which is everyone). Leaders often build up the life of their church around programs (the Trellis), and forget to build up the people (the Vine). The Trellis and the Vine argues that community grows when we focus on the people, instead of programs. Thus, leaders should focus on training their people to help lead and disciple others. Be bold to rethink the way your organization is programmed.

Notable quote: "The point of using this sort of tool is not to turn Christian ministry into a set of lists but to help us focus on people-- because ministry is about people, not programs. IF we never think about people individually and work out where they are up to, and who and in what area they need to grow, how can we minister in anything other than a haphazard, scattergun way?" (p. 88).  

5. For the Service-Oriented Leader: The Externally Focused Quest by Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw

The Eternally Focused Quest asks church leaders, “How can you be the best church FOR your community." The authors use a fantastic analogy of the Celtic Knot in comparison to the health of the Christian life.  The three points on the knot are: believe, belong, and bless. (p. 57). The church focuses heavily on the first two but, forget to embrace the gift of blessing others. The authors spend a great deal focusing on how the church can become a tangible blessing to meet the needs of their specific communities.

Notable quote: "In response to the observableness brokenness of the world, we often hear people today say, 'It is what it is.' But we believe there is more. As Christ followers, we should find ourselves saying, 'It is what it is, but it's not as it's supposed to be, can be, and some day will be.'" (p. 74). 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Failure Is An Option

Think back to the last time you were forced to face your fears. What was it that you found yourself compelled to do? Entering into a room full of strangers, or mabe it was jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with nothing but a parachute. For me, it was the ropes course at summer camp. I was counting the ways I could get out of participating in this particular camp activity, having no desire to leave the safety of the ground for a harness and rope. I was partnered with this wild girl in my cabin who would have no concern for the safety of my life I found out later. I began the course trying to remember the last conversation I had with my parents just in case I didnt make it down.

The hardest part of the course was this awful dread of falling off the ropes. I was shaking through every single part of the course. Yes, I had a harness on to catch me if I fell, but I didnt trust the harness. Maybe the guy who happened to fasten my harness put it on too loose because he was too busy flirting with a lifeguard? Nope, couldnt trust the harness. I didnt want to see the result of failing to stay on the ropes course. All the other girls were laughing and having a good time ahead of me, but there I was, frozen in fear with my partner. As I made my way through the couse, I came to the ultimate testnothing but my partners hands could help me to make it across the ropes. My partner did her best, but my short little legs couldnt stand it anymore, and I fell.

What happened next completely shocked me!

The harness caught me! I swung around in mid-air, all my fears dissolving. I began to laugh uncontrollably. Why was I afraid of this? Why was I afraid of messing up and falling? This was GREAT! From that point on, I found ways to slip and fall just so I could swing around and find my way back onto the course.

            This isnt the only time I have feared failure. My fear of failure leads me to overachieve and become an obnoxiously ultra-organized perfectionist. I dont want there to be any room for failure. My life becomes exhausting and stressful as I strive for perfection, ultimately leaving little room for growth.
            Any leader will inevitable make mistakes along the way, but great leaders learn and grow from their failings. Failure means we are taking risks to do things a little different. Leaders should be dreamers, unafraid to follow those God-given dreams. Sometimes, those dreams are massive successes and sometimes they dont make it off the ground, but at least we tried! Author Reggie McNeal believes the same. He believes the most-important thing about failure is that you grow from it: All failures present the leader with choices of how to deal with the failure. Whether to shrink or to grow. Whether to learn or to derail.”*

            As I look back on my ropes course story, I see the signs of my cautious, sure-footed personality, a personality bent on what is tried and true not risky and daring. Yet, a little more every day, I want to challenge myself to take some bold steps towards what God leads me to; unafraid that I might fail because I know that Hell catch me. His harness is strongHis love. Instead of playing it safe in my advice, coloring within the lines (which to be honest I couldnt do well anyway) on my life plans, or never taking on the project that pushes me to my limits. I am learning that letting go and falling sometimes isnt so bad. Just like I learned from the ropes course on that summer day. We cant be afraid of opportunities that help us grow a little, learn more about ourselves as both leader and children of God, all the while having fun through the journey.

            God works through everything; even our failures. Failure is part of His plan, refining us and drawing us closer to the intimate design He has for us. Failing is not an exception. He comes close, whispers in our ear that we can keep trying, that if we let go of our plans or conventions, our journey through the course will be full and joyful! God doesnt turn away from us in our failures. He certainly hasnt turned away from me in mine.

*McNeal, Reggie. Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2006. p.76.