Dance is a powerful art form that is constantly changing. Dance never stops evolving and growing in its definition to fit certain molds. There are moments when dance is rough and hard hitting, moments when dance flows and is seamless, and moments when there’s just nothing left to do but improvise your next move. Dancing tells stories and narrates feelings. I find this to be true of the way volunteers’ work and dedication narrates the story of an organization. So what story do you want them to tell?
I didn’t take dance classes growing up unless you consider dancing around the living room to annoy my older siblings, a class. As soon as I reached middle school I became intrigued by the way dancing and choreography tells so many different stories. My next eleven years were spent cheerleading, dancing in school musicals, and eventually joining my colleges dance team.
Everything I learned from dancing I took with me after I left my team and I still use to this day. I took the ability to follow the set routine, the knowledge of every moving part of a performance, and the ability to change formations and switch choreography at the last moment to meet the group need. Every part of being involved in dance has allowed me to look at volunteer management with a different focus. Volunteer management tells a story.
In volunteer management there are moments when you have too few volunteers, too many volunteers, and when there are not enough volunteer jobs to fit the need of the group. This is when critical thinking comes in. What can you do with the volunteers that you have? How can you divide the volunteers up to be the most effective workers for your event? And most importantly, how can I learn from this experience to use it in future events, better recruitment, and stronger storytelling for my organization?
All of these experiences and lessons build up and create the foundation to maintain a wonderful and dedicated group of volunteers. If there is a hiccup in recruitment, whether it is a seasonal challenge for a site, or rather there are certain types of volunteers that are hard to come by, take every opportunity to look at the ebb and flow of your program. What volunteers need from an organization is constantly evolving and sometimes, like a performance, you need to change the choreography at the last minute to create the best story for your organization.
What I would encourage for everyone tackling volunteer management is to get out there and practice! Don’t be afraid to fall, stretch and become flexible, and don’t be afraid to take chances. If you fall, just pick yourself up and keep dancing! Every experience you have with volunteers is just setting the stage for your next endeavor. Martha Graham once said, “Practice means to perform over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” So with that, let’s hit the dance studio and get some rehearsals in for the next volunteer event.