Red, red, wine. . .and Rube Goldberg

Patrice announced at staff meeting this morning that there are 20 days left until Christmas. In the Volunteer Maryland world this means we are approximately 25 percent through service year 24. I know; I was pretty sure that couldn’t be true, too. One of my kids is an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University. He sent me this link last week. We were both intrigued by this ingenious product designed by Kouichi Okamoto. The device consists of a bulb shaped container with the glass below. When the amount in the glass decreases, a constant amount is poured from the tank into the glass. The wine will never overflow because of the balance between air pressure and water pressure. Balance? Pressure? How did he do that? I’d bet these same questions are running through the minds of the VMCs as well. What does it take to successfully progress through the service year maintaining balance?
I don’t have the magic answer. Based on my experience as a VMC last year I do think two key components to achieving balance are communication and practice. Most of the VMCs have had site visits with their Site Supervisor, Laura, and Joy or me. We’ve reviewed their Work Plans and the VMC and the site personnel know the outline for the service year. At each visit Laura ensures the VMC and Site Supervisor have regularly scheduled opportunities to have conversations with one another. Volunteer Maryland holds monthly trainings and Joy and I schedule regional gatherings. You may remember AT&T’s old slogan: “Reach out and touch someone.” It was one of the most successful ad campaigns to date. Communication is also an important piece of the VM service year. And, as Ma Bell recognized, communication has to start with someone “reaching out. . . “. If something is on your mind, or you are confused, share it.
In an earlier post I mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s postulation that it takes 10,000 practices to be masterful. Last year I heard Robert Siegel talk about Ok Go’s latest musical endeavor on All Things Considered. He reported that it took dozens of teams of engineers and 60 takes to get to the final product. Effective volunteer management takes practice. And, while you are practicing, don’t hesitate to give some extra attention to the areas that could use more practice. Be willing to spill some wine. . .and break a glass or two. . .you will need more than one take!

Why? How? Pie?

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday last week.  I must admit, I was regretting a serving or two of stuffing and gravy as I made my way to the 15th Floor this morning.  I’m just sure it wasn’t the apple pie or baklava slowing me down!  Thanksgiving my home was filled with tantalizing aromas, delightful laughter and fascinating conversations.  We ranged in age from 8 to 80 with the college students being the ones who had travelled the farthest.  In addition to a contingent from University of Maryland, James Madison University, Ithaca College, Case Western Reserve University, and University of Connecticut were represented.  There was lots of purple attire sported too, even by other than Baltimore Ravens fans.  Some of our guests had never been to our home so good thing they didn’t heed their GPS when it said “You have reached your destination,” a half-mile from our house.  My husband is not a cook but he is a remarkable storyteller.  Since we had guests who had not met one another prior to Thanksgiving, this was very important.    As the “uninitiated” arrived, he ushered them in, showed them around and told stories about how each of the guests was connected to our family; a Thanksgiving orientation story, if you will.  Apparently they learned a thing or two about me that day!

At next week’s monthly training, each of the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators will present an abbreviated orientation.  There are three aspects to a volunteer orientation:  cause, system and social that answer these three respective questions:

Why should I volunteer here? (cause)

How will I be volunteering? (system)

How do I fit in with the organization? (social)

A volunteer orientation prepares the individual for his/her relationship with the organization much like John’s stories gave our guests contexts (social) within which to relate to the other guests.  Our purpose (cause) was to enjoy food, drink, and camaraderie as we celebrated our American heritage.  Upon invitation, guests were invited (system) to bring an appetizer, dessert, etc. to share.  By dinner time, we had some mingling going on and sharing of recipes, too.  I am looking forward to the volunteer orientations.  It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the service occurring in our communities.  I wonder if anyone will bring pecan pie?