By Jody Weyers, Volunteer and Communications Director
This past Thursday and Friday, I attended and presented at the Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinators Association (WVCA) conference in Wausau. There were 200 volunteer managers ranging in experience from 40 years to the newbie of 14 days.
There is nothing like being in a room full of people who share your same drive, passion and career goals as you. The conference kicked off with key-note speaker Tom Krause. Tom was a retired teacher/coach of thirty-one years in the Missouri Public School system, and he was a 20 time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.
He shared with us heartwarming stories during his coaching and teaching days, that came back to the same inspirational message:
PEOPLE COUNT – PEOPLE MATTER
YOU COUNT – YOU MATTER
YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
This statement really resonated with me. The more I am in this profession (13 years now and counting) I am learning it is not about finding people to fill the needed roles of your volunteer organization, but it is more about connecting people with the right opportunities for them to serve in our community. Everyone has talents to share.
As a volunteer manager, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone recognize and help facilitate that perfect volunteer match. Granted, overtime, that perfect role might change, but then we have the challenge of connecting people with new opportunities and making that match again and seeing them thrive and find success.
I was up next to present to a crowd of 52 people. My presentation was on “Networking On and Off Line.” I am a believer that if you have a best practice, why not share it. To this day, I continue to be humbled and honor for all the community support I received during my fundraising campaign for Dancing with Our Stars for the American Red Cross. I contribute part of my success to being able to connect to people. The internet and social media, has allowed me to broaden my net. I would not have the success I have had if I was not able to transition that connection to people online, into offline relationships.
After I got done presenting, one of the greatest things happened. I was packing my stuff up, and I had a few people in line to ask me questions, so I stopped packing up, and this gentleman was before me and I asked him if he had a question. He said “No, I just want to give you a hug.” So, of course I hugged him.
I felt so honored, that he wanted a hug from me. It also made me laugh, because, Hector, the photographer I worked with on my national deployment to Colorado last September, called me “the hug whisper.” If a hug from me makes people feel better, I am all for it, it also makes me feel pretty darn good too!
There was another really great moment that also came from this conference. This was an “ah ha” moment when I knew that I was in the right career for me.
I was in the hall between sessions, and a women came up to me and she began to tell me how my presentation last year (3 R’s in Volunteer Management – Retention, Recruitment and Recognition) helped her in revamping her program, and the success she was having. I seriously teared up. I was so touched that she took the time to share this with me how helped her, and now I was the teacher. I am so grateful for my many mentors and now for me to be the person mentoring someone; it was a pretty cool career moment!
The next day, our morning kicked off with Paul Schmitz, CEO of Public Allies. It is an amazing thing if you can fire up 200 people who already believe in leadership and service, and get them to want to do more. That is how I felt, anyway. I am excited to read Paul’s book “Everyone Leads – Building Leadership from the Community Up”. His talk was about where is the leadership we need to solve our most pressing community problem? It is all around us!
His three points and definition of leadership included:
1. It is an action everyone can take, not a position few hold.
2. It is about taking personal and social responsibility to work with others on common goals.
3. It is the practice of values that engage diverse individuals and groups to work together effectively.
After saying my goodbyes to my fellow volunteer managers and getting in the car to drive home, I had sense of peace wash over me knowing, that I am in the profession, that I am meant to be. I hope everyone can experience this feeling, and maybe if you can’t find this sort of peace in your career, maybe you can find it in service. I encourage everyone to keep searching for it!