Idea's space

This blog is dedicaded to share ideas about personal and professional development.

Posts Tagged ‘volunteer

Why volunteering is an opportunity.

leave a comment »

VolunteeringActing as volunteer implies some qualities to benefit from such experience. Each volunteer has his own reason to dedicate a bit of time to contribute to any social project. But sometimes, it appears that some volunteers are feeding only their own ambitions. I noticed this by some attitudes, or by some remarks they do. These findings make me think about the qualities people need to have in order to succeed in a volunteering experience and gaining a positive feedback, similar qualities needed in entrepreneurship.

– A question of value: You want to contribute to a better world, a better society. You strongly believe that to subscribe to values is not enough, but you have to act in accordance with your values, that are common values in the project. In other words, you are an actor, not a spectator.

– Contributing to a common goal: Contributing as volunteer will bring you some satisfaction which is probably one of your goal, but your personal goal cannot be reached to the detriment of the common goal. It implies that you have to store your ego in the closet, and acting in a way that each member of the team will gain satisfaction and value, will have the feeling to be a stakeholder of the project, a way that maximize the chances of success. You are working within a team spirit, working with and not against a team.

– Showing interest for other people: Volunteering is an opportunity to meet different people with different horizons of competences and experiences. By sharing each other knowledge and experience, you catch an opportunity to learn something, but you will get also another perception of the environment in which you are acting, you will adapt your strategy, and you will perceive more in depth the finality of your action. Such process can only succeed if you bring interest to other and not if you work only on your own.

– Curiosity and creativity: By living new experiences, you can discover in you hide and unexpected passions. It is up to you to be curious and to use your creativity to realize new things, to build innovative solutions. Moving your own limits and sharing what you do with other is an opportunity for each people to move his own limits too. Remember this quote saying that the only thing you increase by sharing it each other is knowledge.

– Commitment and leadership: Volunteering implies a commitment. The success of a project is linked to the commitment of all the stakeholders. It means that you are volunteering not to pass the time but to make succeed a project and to operate in this way. When you are filling your diary, consider volunteering as a priority, that it means to have an appointment not only with other, but also with yourself. Volunteering has to be a life project and you have to make it work.
In this common activities, consider each people for what he does and for what you can share each other. No question to consider your work as more interesting than the work of somebody else. As said previously the work of each team member will bring sense to your work. Each member work is useful and contribute to the success. Develop and show talents of leadership. Appreciate and recognize the work of others, listen to them, and you will maximize your chance to be appreciated and recognized too.

There are many other qualities we could quote, but time to time, I notice that some people are volunteers for “bad” reasons. How often some people told me that I am “doing this for free”. Yes, the purpose of volunteering is to contribute to a social and common project, not to be paid. And such remark sounds very strange from people criticizing the capitalistic system, and mentioning this as a motivation to cooperate in volunteering projects, but expecting money as reward for a service. Sometimes, in my experience, I had more satisfaction and learned more things by working as volunteer for specific projects than some days in my professional activities.
These people are often too those who attributes the collective success to themselves, and put the guilt of failures to the others. If looking for recognition is legitimate, you cannot gain it to the detriment of the other. It is a question of ego, and often, ego is inversely proportional with knowledge and capabilities.
That is why volunteering is an opportunity when you integrated these qualities. Increase your experience, discovering new interest and passions is probably the best thing you can do to maximize your chance of catching new opportunities, or to face and launch new challenges. It is an opportunity to expand the fields of the possible, to build new projects in other areas. We are not far from what Steve Jobs mentioned in his unforgettable speech at the Stanford university, when he talked about to connect the dots, meaning that you can innovate by making a link between things that seems nothing to do with each other. See your volunteering life and professional life like two things that can feed each other. Consider such experience for the long term effect you can get from it, and contributing to your personal goal, it means to build an interesting and passionate life.

Advertisements

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 10, 2015 at 19:03

Sustainability and outcomes

leave a comment »

Non-profit, focused on outcomes

Non-profit, focused on outcomes

Few days ago, I attended the General meeting of the non-profit association I am treasurer of. As each year since 3 years now, I presented the financial statements to the attendees, and the budget for this year. These two documents were approved, and employees were happy about the good results of the association even if we are crossing difficult time.

I was happy of course of this, but I remember people did not have always the same reaction. When I joined the board of directors 3 years ago, some people did not see positively a financial consultant joining a non-profit association. There were probably scared about some confusion with profit and non-profit. Such reaction was understandable, as the finance people are often seen as non-flexible people, only focused on profit and performances. Here is probably a confusion that could be done by employees of a non-profit, but by financial people too.

My first challenge was to be accepted by the people of the organization. My ambition to join this project was not to have power or to tell people how they have to do, but only to join an interesting social project as volunteer, and bring some competences in order to contribute to the success of the common project. My first thought was that I had to learn about the different activities of the organization, the interactions between the stakeholders of the different projects, in order to have a global picture of the association, to understand the work of each people and to be aware about the difficulties they were facing. This was a first condition for an efficient and harmonious collaboration. By showing interest to the work of each employee and volunteer, by asking some question to them about the different aspects of they job, I was showing my real and sincere interest in this project, and people began to trust me, as they noticed also that I did not interfere in their job. Each people his own competences.

There was clearly a need to professionalize the financial and administrative processes, in order to manage things on an efficient way, but also to provide credible financial information to the requesting subsiding authorities and potential partners. It was important to deliver a clear message about this need to get a structured financial process and to explain why. The accounting and the production of financial statement are not only legal obligations, but they represent also a financial management tool. This tool allows organization and her management team to have a clear picture of the financial situation on time, but also to have a “business” decision support. We know all that the business environment is not always a quiet story, but the non-profit environment is not quiet at all too, when your sources of financing are non-recurring sources, and that you are facing some regular crisis situations. In such situations, it is important to show that you have things on control, but also that you are able to define alternative strategies and to express what precisely your needs are, when you meet some potential donator or sponsors. People need to understand that financial tool is needed to ensure the sustainability of the project.

Here again, we speak about the confusion done by some people about things that are totally different. Indeed, what I mean here is that financial management does not mean profit. A non-profit organization does not focus on profit, but it is important to keep an eye on the balance between the expenses and the revenues, in order to preserve the owned capital. The goal is not to earn money, but to avoid to loose money. If it is the case, some decisions need to be taken in order to preserve the funds of the organization, but also to ensure the quality and the continuity of the activities and the provided services. It is not financial performance that is the focus in such environment, but the outcomes. If we try to reduce some operating and administrative expenses, it is not to save the integrality of the money, but to invest in more projects, responding to a demand and contributing to the goal of the association. The saved money will not be distributed to some shareholders, but will be reinvested in future project. This is a difficult part of the equation, to be able to have a long term vision with short term financial vision.

A long term vision is necessary, and projects have to be defined to materialize this vision. An appropriate strategy has to be implemented, in order to reach your defined goal. With these criteria, you focus on the sustainability of your project and the outcomes. These two factors contribute to social cohesion and personal satisfaction of people.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 19, 2013 at 22:52

The “Working” board

leave a comment »

Board of directors of a non-profit organization

Few days ago, I was publishing a question on a LinkedIn forum about experience as volunteer. One of the people who answered to that question talked about his experience, by mentioning the fact that he was member of the “working” board of directors. He was meaning of course that he was not there because it is smart to have such title, but he was contributing effectively to the management and operations of the non-profit organization.

I really like this concept and the meaning of “working” board, because as member of the board of two different non-profit organizations, I noticed two kind of directors. There are directors who were probably invited to join the board by other directors who are friends, and they are very proud to acquire a title, but they have not specific competences of real management background. There are other directors who have a specific competence contributing effectively to the organization processes.

I already mentioned in a previous post the situation of a non-profit organization who received some years ago an important donation. The association was by the time wrongly advised by the bank and they lost a lot of money in their investment. But what I noticed also in their accounts during one year, was the fact there had important operational losses and that nobody reacted during the year about that. When they received the donation, they decided to hire people, but the budget was not in balance at all. What happened a day, is that there were obliged to fire people, and each member of the board rejected the responsibility of such disaster to the other member of the board. Such situations allow to conclude that these people were totally incompetent, and did not want to face their responsibilities and take difficult decisions when needed, to avoid to get in trouble with the other directors. Such disaster is the result of non-decision, as I was writing in a previous post.

Let us talk about the other type of directors. These people are joining the board of a non-profit organization because they have specific competences, and they can help to implement solutions and improve processes in the organization. Competences are really important and are an added value when the organizations have a important and critical size. As you know, the more a project is important, the more the risk to fail is high, and the more experienced people are needed. In an organization where you have around ten people on payroll and fifty volunteers, like the one I am director of, you are definitively in a small enterprise. Like in commercial companies, structure and management are essential and are the key factors of success. The goal of a non-profit organization is probably different than the one of a commercial organization, but management and strategy are essential in both case to reach the assigned goal and to sustain the activities.

This second category of directors is the most useful, specially when non-profit organization are subsidized with public money. They have to guarantee the good usage of the allocated funds in order to make a successful project and to reach the assigned goal, and will be able to do it. This is the mission of a “working” board.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 8, 2011 at 22:25

Team spirit without common goal?

leave a comment »

Volunteer workers

As member of the board of a small non-profit organization, the board of directors had recently a discussion with the project manager about the difficulties to manage a team of employees and volunteers. He was explaining the daily conflicts and tensions he has to manage, which is not an easy task for different reasons.

To describe the context, we have to know that some employees are hired in a reintegration framework. These people lost they jobs in the past, they lost the workless allowances. It means that these people are socially weakened. This reintegration program help them to find again a place in the society, to trust themselves and to reintegration the job market. These people need to be managed with clear objectives and instructions. Within the organization, these employees have to work with volunteers, and as mentioned before, the collaboration is not always on the top.

On one side, we have employees who are linked to the organization by a work contract, with clearly defined duties and objectives. They know that if they are not respecting certain rules or defined duties in their work contract, they can be sanctioned. On the other side, we have volunteers who have no specific contractual link and duties, but only a moral commitment. The tensions who are appearing is that some volunteers are doing what they want to do, and not always what has to be done. They do not accept any remarks from the employees, and the employees have difficulties to accept remarks from volunteers “who have no specific obligations and who are there for their own satisfaction and not to sustain the common goal.”

By observing this situation, we think immediately to the necessity to define goals and objectives of the organization, and to describe how each person can operate and interact to make the assigned project feasible. By describing clear goals and assigned roles to the team members, employees as volunteers, we have to ask them first if they are subscribing to the project, if there is a matching between the needs of the project and their expectations. This is an essential condition to be filled by the hired employes, but also for the volunteers. I would say that this condition is more important for the volunteers who are only linked to the project by a moral commitment. They have to understand that they have to contribute to the project on a efficient way, to operate on a collaborative way with the employees. By doing like this, they are contributing to the achievement of the targets of the organization, but they are helping also the employees hired in this reintegration program to achieve goals, to trust themselves and to empower their social links.

This situation shows how it is important to clearly define and explain what are the objectives of a project and what are the objectives of each member of the project team. They have to perceive that each project has to be structured and organized, and that each member of the team has to play a specific role. The projects are taking place in an profit or non-organization, where structure, organization and team spirit are the essential key factors of success, and that there is no personal success without common success. Peter Drucker was used to say: “Management by objective works, if you know the objectives. Ninety percent of the time, you don’t.”

Picture source: http://www.benevolat01.org

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 10, 2010 at 00:29