President’s Message October 2014

spinning platesFor most of my professional life, I have been a one-woman show, “building” vibrant volunteer “programs” from scratch and “managing” them from start to finish. I prided myself on cranking out the numbers and expanding activities to their very limits. When I reached a point where putting even one more spinning plate into the air seemed impossible, even suicidal….I did it because that’s what I thought it meant to “do a great job”. And for most people, that is what it means….more, more, more! Burnout just comes with the territory, doesn’t it? Then about a year ago, I realized that I had hit my ceiling. On my own, I couldn’t do more, couldn’t manage more, couldn’t accommodate more and still maintain any kind of balance or quality. It was either change…or flatline. Does this sound familiar?

So back in January of this year, I made a resolution to myself to work smarter, not harder, but I didn’t really know yet what would have to be different or how I would have to change in order to make that shift. And then along came the Service Enterprise Initiative.

Now I’m really excited. My organization is in the process of making a real paradigm shift in the way it engages volunteers and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. We are only at the beginning of the process and, while we still have a lot of excruciatingly hard and scary work ahead of us, the process is going to be revolutionary. Here are some of the things we have done or are planning to do as part of this paradigm shift:

• Back in August, we conducted a survey designed to assess staff attitudes towards volunteers and we had a return rate of almost 40%.
• This week, independently facilitated focus groups will occur in three separate regions of the state, again focused on areas of staff resistance and obstacles to expansion of volunteer engagement efforts.
• In two weeks, the entire staff will gather in Williamsburg for a mandatory all-staff meeting focused on….you guessed it! We will spend five hours thinking about, talking about, and learning about what we need to do in order to become certified as a Service Enterprise by the end of 2015.
• Later in the year, we will conduct work groups designed to revise all staff position descriptions so that they articulate specific expectations of how staff should engage with volunteers as part of their jobs.
• And starting early next year, we will launch a staff training series on the elements of effective supervision, support, evaluation, and recognition of volunteers.

A year ago, I would not have imagined that any of this could even be a possibility. Now it is happening. And yes, it does take a village…and without that village, we would not be embarking upon this path! Take it from me when I say that it is both the scariest and most exhilarating thing in the world to relinquish full control in exchange for genuine collaboration, but for those of us who are in it for the long haul, it’s either that….or flatline!

So….are you doing something right now at work that frightens you and electrifies you and gives you panic attacks and makes you jump joyfully out of bed in the morning? If so, we at GRAVA want to know about it because that’s what GRAVA is all about! Block off your calendar and be prepared to shout it out at the next GRAVA meeting on November 6 (which is also, by the way, the date of our International Volunteer Manager’s Day celebration). If not, then you owe it to yourself, your organization, and your profession to come and be inspired by your GRAVA colleagues who are. Your professional development path is waiting for you, and GRAVA is ready to help you find it. See you on November 6!

At Your Service,
Alison Jones-Nassar

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