Creating the volunteering win-win
21 Wednesday Jan 2015
Last night I attended my last meeting of the UBC Victoria Leadership Council. It’s a volunteer commitment that I’ve had for the last 2.5 years; the council is made up of University of British Columbia alumni and our main purpose is to advise on events and programming for UBC alumni in Victoria.
It’s been a great group to be involved with, particularly because the leadership from the UBC side has been so professional and effective. And, they’re great people. Last night they presented information to us about an alumni survey that they have recently completed and were able to tell us all sorts of interesting stats about who UBC alumni are and how they engage with the organization. And it got me thinking – again! – about people and motivation and volunteering and why people do the things they do.
Take me, for example. I got involved with this leadership council because I was sought out personally by one of the managers at Alumni UBC several years ago. They had figured out that I worked at Volunteer Victoria at the time and they came to connect with me about something related to my work and volunteering. (I can’t quite remember what it was!) They were interested in what I did and were very complimentary about my knowledge and skills and what I brought to the table. Not long after they asked me to be part of the council; it was just starting up at the time.
Before I got involved with the leadership council I was a quietly proud graduate of UBC but a very inactive and disengaged graduate. I hadn’t been back to the campus for years (I graduated from my M.Ed. there in 2005) and I had never attended any events or reunions or homecomings since that time. I thought of UBC as more of a place that I used to work (which I did) than a place I went to school.
When I was asked to be on the leadership council though, it was (as I look back on it now) the start of a more committed relationship between myself and UBC. I was investing something in UBC because their alumni staff had taken the time to seek me out, find out something about me and what I was looking for in my life and career, ask for my expertise and then offer me a volunteer opportunity that matched what I was both able to commit to (as a busy mom and entrepreneur) and which would be a mutually beneficial relationship. (That “win-win” that we people in the volunteer management world are always talking about!)
It totally worked. Over the last 2.5 years I was able to contribute to UBC doing something that actually brings me a lot of joy – sitting around a table for two hours three times a year brainstorming ideas! I have met other fantastic UBC alumni of all ages and learned from their expertise. I have engaged in UBC Dialogues and UBC Your Next Step events around thought-provoking topics. I was profiled on the UBC alumni website. I have emceed an event with 80 people sitting in the room at a prestigious hotel in Victoria. I have met Joanne Robertson and Gregor Craigie of CBC. I have sat on one of the speaking panels of those events. And I was even inspired to visit the UBC campus last September to see how much it changed…because finally I realized I had to go and see what my old alma mater is up to these days. (A lot!)
Do you see how much I “upped” my commitment with UBC over the years simply because they initially took an interest in me? If you never knew anything else about working with volunteers, this could be considered the magic bullet. When you figure out what motivates a volunteer and give it to them, they will engage with you. If you keep doing that over time, their loyalty will increase. Sound easy?
Now it’s time for someone else to take my spot on the leadership council as (understandably) it’s a council that should have revolving membership and infusions of new ideas from new alumni. But I will stay engaged with UBC I’m sure in other ways, at the very least attending their very excellent events here in Victoria that they run a few times a year. And I’m already considering my next volunteer opportunity with a meeting that I have scheduled this week. Let’s see if they, too, have the “win-win” approach that I expect!