Becoming a "Workplan” or “Mission Driven” Association

Lori Halley 18 November 2013 0 comments

Is your association or membership organization struggling to figure out how you can accomplish your goals, provide member value and encourage increased member involvement with your limited resources? Maybe you should try moving to a “workplan-driven” or “mission-driven” framework.

Many small membership organizations are challenged to do more with less. You’re trying to provide high value member benefits and services to entice and retain members. At the same time, you are looking for ways to keep your long-standing as well as your younger members engaged and active. But at the same time, organizations that rely heavily on volunteers to help meet these goals are facing an additional challenge - a changing dynamic and expectations of Gen X and Y. 

As we noted last week in our post, Forget Millennials - What About Gen X and Boomers? -  in the the next few years, as the Boomers begin to retire, Generation Xers will be moving into leadership positions at associations and more Gen Y’s will be getting involved as active members. This generational shift may have a huge impact on the work ethic and cultural environment in both the workplace as well as associations and non-profits. Some say this changing environment calls for a new way of doing things and perhaps even a new governance structure as well.

As the 2013 Millennial Impact Report suggests, “Millennials are most likely to get hands-on with causes they care about when organizations offer a range of volunteer opportunities, from one-time commitments to long-term, pro-bono skills-based opportunities.” In addition, “Millennials view volunteer opportunities as a way to socially connect with like-minded peers, which moves them beyond technology (social networking) to in-person action.  ...This generation also wants to know upfront what their time will achieve, so sharing positive, direct results signals to Millennials that you value and respect their time.”

A "Workplan-driven” Framework

In a post on Association Advisor - How Smart Associations Grow Membership -  Hank Berkowitz quoted Greg Melia (chief membership and volunteer relations officer, ASAE) as suggesting:

...forward thinking associations such as ASAE are transforming how staff and volunteers work together. Traditionally, an association was either staff-driven or volunteer-driven. Instead, it should be "workplan-driven." Under this framework, ... associations engage members and volunteers in developing a "plan of work" for the next year. Each project has detailed roles for volunteers and staff. "That allows us to work together and make volunteers feel they have ownership of the organization. It helps accomplish things that neither volunteers nor staff could accomplish on their own,"

Focusing on a "Mission Driven" Volunteer Model

But perhaps it's more than just moving to a "workplan-driven" framework, perhaps it's also time to re-frame our view of volunteer roles. In their white paper, The Mission Driven Volunteer, Peggy Hoffman, CAE, and Elizabeth Weaver Engel, MA, CAE suggest that the committee-based volunteer model used by most associations is broken. Hoffman and Weaver Engel propose a new association model:

It begins with a volunteer role and philosophical approach that draw their significance from the organization’s mission rather than from a particular title or level in the committee structure. Mission-driven volunteer roles are built around what the association needs to accomplish, not what positions the association needs to fill. A significant contributor is changing your mindset to building teams around projects, not the fiscal year. Function first; form second.

As their Mission Driven Volunteer white paper suggests, “The hallmarks of a mission-driven volunteer program [would] include:

  • Projects are evaluated based on how they contribute to mission.
  • Structure is built around project-oriented teams rather than the budget cycle.
  • Volunteers are selected based on competencies and skills rather than for position title, tenure, or political reasons.
  • The litmus test for maintaining standing committees is breadth of oversight (e.g., fiscal oversight, leadership development/nominations) or legal requirements (e.g., state or federal laws requiring an executive committee).
  • It embraces and enables micro-volunteering
  • It democratizes volunteering, allowing more people to participate and for those volunteers to create their own opportunities.

What do you think?  Is the "committee-based" volunteer model on the way out? Do you think your organization might benefit from embracing either a “workplan-driven” or “mission driven” structure? Let us know in the comments below.

Image source:  The Words Plan A,B, C, D - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 18 November 2013 at 8:30 AM

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