Stepping Up and Stepping In To Challenges

It wasn’t an easy workshop to design and one that in some ways I had been dreading.

Even though I don’t wear a cape or Wonder Woman bracelets, the client was anticipating I would be able to address a long list of needs identified in their stakeholder survey.

In a mere two hours, they were looking to me to provide participants with solutions and tools to help engage more citizens and to address a declining volunteer base.

And, have some fun while they were doing it.

Additionally, participants attending the workshop were already stretched pretty thin, bearing out the Statistics Canada survey results showing that 10% of volunteers account for 53% of all volunteer hours dedicated to non-profit and charitable organizations.

While I was of the opinion that more time would be needed if the issues and challenges were to be addressed in a meaningful way, the time available was what it was.

Since it wasn’t my first time at the rodeo, I dug deep into my experiences to think about what I had learned, taught and applied over the years that really had an impact when it came to engaging citizens and recruiting and retaining volunteers.

While it was a lot of work, it was all worthwhile when one of the participants who spoke to me after the workshop thanked me for the learnings, the fun and for talking her off the ledge.

When I asked her what she meant by talking her off the ledge, she went on to explain that when she came into the workshop she had been planning to quit.

As a result of the workshop she decided to stay on as a volunteer.

That result in itself made it all worthwhile.

I left feeling happy that I had been able to address a tough challenge and see results.

Turns out that author Rosabeth Moss Kanter has come to a similar conclusion.

She suggested that the happiest people are those dedicated to dealing with the most difficult problems.

Most of them are working or volunteering to make our communities healthier, safer and more vibrant places to live, work, and play. They face tough challenges and are willing to serve others.

In her book Evolve! Moss Kanter identified three primary sources of motivation: mastery, membership and meaning. Another M, money, turned out to be a distant fourth. As she put it, money was a form of measurement, but it did not necessarily get people excited about getting up in the morning or leave them with a sense of fulfilment at the end of the day.

So while it’s common these days to encourage people to find their purpose and passion, she suggests that regardless of our paid work or family and home tasks, we also need to embrace a sense of responsibility for at least one aspect of changing the world.

That means we all have two jobs — our immediate tasks and the chance to make a difference.

While Charlie Brown said that happiness was a warm blanket maybe it’s more about stepping up and stepping in to a challenge and trying to make a difference.

If you’re not quite ready for that, think about recognizing and celebrating the incredible efforts of Canadian volunteers during National Volunteer Week April 21 to 27.

Posted on 04-14-13

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