Live and Lead for Impact with Kirsten E. Ross

Matt is president and founder of Nonprofit.Courses, an on-demand, online educational resource for nonprofit leaders, staff, board members and volunteers. He’s the author of the Guide to Nonprofit Consulting, and teaches nonprofit management at several universities, via the web, and in-person in the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe. Matt’s past work includes fundraising for several nonprofits. He has an MA in Philanthropy and Development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. 

Interview Questions

What impact are you motivated to make in this world?

Matt loves teaching. He began at a young age and knew immediately he enjoyed it. He just wishes he’d listened earlier in life while others were giving him clues that could have moved him in the direction of teaching topics helpful to nonprofits sooner. 

He shared that in Daniel Blink’s book, “Drive” he says to go do what motivates you.  Helping nonprofits across the world make their impact is definitely what drives Matt.

That has been his focus now for years and he recently launched a website that provides learning to nonprofits that is time-efficient and cost effective.  Many of the offerings are free, while others are modestly priced.

What life experience motivates you to make your impact?

His time as a young man in Boy Scouts is what first sparked the realization that it’s important to pay attention to how you are sharing knowledge.  He loved how hands on the learning was there.  That made it easier for he and others to learn.

What impact have you made that really fuels your passion?

What impact are you focused on next?

What is the biggest internal or external challenge you’ve had to overcome?  And how did you overcome it

For Matt the biggest on-going challenge to success has been self confidence.  He reminds himself often, “I can do this!” and, “I am good enough!”  As a solopreneur it is often challenging to wear all of the hats.  You get good at one thing and then need to add another task.  Social media has been a recent focus.

I love what Matt says about Persistence!  He says that the outcome of persistence is what people “suddenly see when they haven’t seen all the small steps.

How do you stay motivated and moving during tough times?

What words of wisdom do you have for others who want to make an impact?

His words of wisdom to others working to make their impact:

  • Speak Up
  • Ask Questions
  • Simple Do! If something is bothering you, you might be the one who makes it happen!

And he tells himself often, “If I got a paycheck job I wouldn’t be better off!”  It helps him prod through the tougher days!

He also stresses the importance of having a good support system.  He appreciates that his wife has been on this journey with him all along

What's one success strategy that has helped you?

And, on the importance of Nonprofits, some insights I hadn’t thought about before!

Nonprofits are an important conduit to our making an impact.  The prevalence of direct giving through sites like GoFundMe as increased the opportunity to misdirect money.  He shared a local news story where the story of a homeless man sparked a large giving effort.  However, the story turned out to be false and the funds did not ultimately help the man.

In addition, he shared how philanthropy survives in a Democratic society but can’t work is well without.  In his example, he shared that if someone identified and spoke about a problem of water quality in a place like North Korea you would be seen as questioning the State, an unwelcome initiative.  And, if you further had a desire to fix it, you would be seen as suspect.

In contrast, in a Democracy citizens can point out problems and seek to resolve them through philanthropy and nonprofits.

Matt's Website:

Direct download: Matt_Hugg_Interview.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Do you have some lingering relationships ....that can be challenging …tear you down….cause grief…..have baggage…..long histories…

……these relationships can and DO zap our energy, steal our joy, drum up false beliefs about ourselves, and sometimes even stand in the way of achieving our dreams.

Yes, addressing relationship stuff can feel overwhelming, but often remedies are simpler than you’d think if you know how to define the right fix. That’s why I’ve designed the Relationship Renovation Roadmap  I can’t wait to show you how!

Go to: to check it out!

If you’ve been listening to this podcast you already know that I spend a lot of time helping people overcome their drama in relationships.  It has no place in a life built for impact.

Often drama between people boils down to a lack of trust. You can have little or no trust for someone based on your experience with them; they’ve proven with their words or actions that they should not be trusted. Or you can lack trust because you don’t know them.

Either way, when we don’t trust someone we are more apt to assume the worst or assign mal-intent to their actions.

Of course, a history of bad behavior warrants less trust. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. In businesses and nonprofit endeavors, however, I often find that lack of trust comes from a lack of knowing. Sometimes leaders don’t give their employees or volunteers time to connect.   And this creates negative assumptions and drama!

Over the years I’ve had a unique perspective into so many relationships and can say with certainty that often these assumptions are not accurate. I would even hazard to say that rarely are the assumptions driving these negative relationships true.

When communication and connection happen, trust can build quickly. Assumptions are replaced with facts and relationships are transformed.

I worked with a group of 4 people who knew little of each other personally but had to deal with each other often to complete their work. The company called me in because the poor relationships were decreasing productivity.

I spent exactly one and a half hours with them and in that time they had many aha moments. “Oh, when you were asking me that I thought you were trying to pass your work on to me!”

“No, I’ve already tried 4 different times to get the numbers right by the time I’m asking you to clarify some things.”

“I thought you were just coming in early so that you could leave early and find things to complain about.”

“No, with the work changes I now have to come in early to get everything set up and do the inventory. I’d actually prefer not to start so early!”

On and on it went.   Gaps in fact filled in with negative presumptions quickly overcome with truth.

Each had painted a picture of the other like a paint by number gone wrong. The little assumptions all added to a perception of co-workers trying to avoid work, get each other in trouble and wreak havoc. Recent changes in roles and workflow had put them all together feeling uncertain and wary.

They needed to work together but had had no opportunity to build trust.

I am very visual so I almost always end up describing concepts with physical items.

I started using the term Trust Bucket to describe the level of trust we have with others. It’s just a nice visual.

So, an empty trust bucket means little trust.

A full trust bucket is like a full bank account of trust.

A full trust bucket and we are assuming the best of each other. If my co-worker of 10 years is late and I have assigned a full trust bucket to her I will assume she got held up. An empty trust bucket and I’m assuming the worst. “He doesn’t value my time or is disrespecting me.”

I find that people assign empty or full trust buckets to new people in different ways.

Some people tend to start new relationships with a full trust bucket.   “I will trust you unless you give me good cause not to.” At that point, they will have an empty trust bucket.

Others are more cautious and begin relationships with an empty trust bucket. “I need to see who you are first. Prove that you deserve my trust. You have to earn it. Then I will fill the trust bucket.”

If your impact requires a team of employees or volunteers it is so important to bring them together so they have an opportunity to know each other as people and fill those trust buckets!





Drama happens when trust buckets are low. As I often say, in the absence of fact, for some reason humans fill in the blanks with negative assumptions. A process falls apart and the first instinct is for employees to blame co-workers they don’t trust, “they’re just trying to make my job harder!”

Bring teams together and give them the chance to know one another and trust will develop. They will assume the best of each other instead.

So, a few thoughts and action items for you today.

  1. How full are your trust buckets with people? Do you start with a full bucket and empty with negative experiences or do you start empty and make them work their way to trust?
  2. Are there people in your life or work with empty trust buckets? Are you reaching conclusions about them out of assumption rather than fact? Are your beliefs accurate?  How can you get to know them to learn their true character?

If you are a leader, where do team members have empty trust buckets? How can you bring them together to meet, connect and build trust?

Direct download: EP_120_Build_Trust_in_Relationships_for_Impact.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

When you think about snowboarding, you don't necessarily think of Northwest Indiana. There are no mountains, or ski areas to speak of within 50 miles. However, this doesn’t deter Valparaiso resident and Army Veteran Kristine White. After a military injury, Kristine was told sports and physical activities would be limited. But Kristine chose to challenge what was thought to be impossible. She continues to do what she loves. You can view more about her at the link below:

Direct download: Kristine_White_Snowboarder.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Do you have some lingering relationships ....that can be challenging …tear you down….cause grief…..have baggage…..long histories…


……these relationships can and DO zap our energy, steal our joy, drum up false beliefs about ourselves, and sometimes even stand in the way of achieving our dreams.


Yes, addressing relationship stuff can feel overwhelming, but often remedies are simpler than you’d think if you know how to define the right fix. That’s why I’ve designed the Relationship Renovation Roadmap  I can’t wait to show you how!    Go to to check it out!


Much of what we need to get good at to make our impact in this world is related to our relationships.  Setting Healthy Boundaries is another one of those key strategies. If other people are demanding all of your time and you are not able to say no, how will you ever carve out the time you need to do what you’d choose?

It is not our job to make everyone happy.  And we cannot always give to others everything they want from us. 


What do you want, need or desire from your relationships to live happily and make your impact? Do you ever ask yourself this question?

Boundaries are rules of engagement for your relationships. If you are doing all of the modifying and all of the sucking it up without speaking up you will build up resentments with the people in your work and life. You will also tend to attract people who don’t like to respect boundaries.

You want a say in how your relationships work. People who are more passive in life, in particular, often forget to put themselves into the equation of the relationship. They become so focused on meeting the other person’s needs or fixing their next catastrophe that they forget to consider their own feelings, wants and needs.


Here are 5 Keys to Designing Relationships that Support You Towards Impact

  1. Create the Boundary: If you had your way, what variables would you like to change in your relationships?  Whether it’s work or life it’s time to take an inventory. Remember, what you tolerate teaches others.

Here are some common places to look:

  • Respect My Time: be on time or let me know ahead of time that you will be late. Or, perhaps it’s a neighbor who doesn’t understand that you work from home. Present doesn’t mean available for lengthy chit chat. 
  • Give Me More Notice: are you tired of putting out fires for a person who is constantly coming to you last minute to help with a project or fill out a form? Their sense of urgency cannot always be yours. Whether it’s a child, friend, or a co-worker, stop and think what you need in this area.
  • Watch Your Tone: whether it’s sarcasm, a condescending attitude or a too loud volume, teach people how you would like to be spoken to by speaking up when their tone is out of line. When my kids were little and they were whiney I would tell them, “I can’t understand you when you talk like that.”
  • Behave Appropriately: is it a co-worker telling off color jokes or a colleague drinking too much at the company picnic? Perhaps it’s a family member during a holiday meal.
  1. Consequence is Key:humans need a catalyst to generate change, it’s just the reality of things. Change is uncomfortable. If others are accommodating us in our current state we are unlikely to do anything different.  So, while in some of your relationships the fact that you’ve taken the time to share your feelings will ignite a positive reaction, in many instances the people in your life will need a bit more motivation to heed your request. If they don’t comply with your request, what will you do? The consequence should be related to the boundary.  Don’t think of the consequence as a punishment.  Instead consider an action you’ll take that accommodates your own needs around their actions.  Let’s go back through our original list for some examples:
  • Respect My Time: I will wait 5 minutes and then start without you – or leave. Or, to the neighbor, “I love our visits.  However, I work from X to X.  Let’s schedule a time after my work hours.  When’s a good time?
  • Give Me More Notice: if you give me less than 2 days notice I will not be able to help you.
  • Watch Your Tone of Voice: If you continue with a sarcastic tone I will end the conversation. Feel free to schedule some time to talk later when you are able to share civilly. I will be happy to listen.
  • Behave Appropriately: I will ask you to leave, or you will not be invited back, or you will be terminated, or you will be taken off the project.
  1. Communicate the Boundary & Consequence: creating a boundary and consequence doesn’t help if you don’t communicate them. Give people in your life the opportunity to make choices that are supportive of your needs. Too often we sit in silence as we build up resentments. I hear clients say all the time, “They should just know what I need.” Well…..most people I know aren’t mind readers…so they don’t! And working from the assumption that they should JUST know leaves you feeling extra frustrated and disappointed with the people sharing your life…. and that’s not good for anyone. 
    So let them know. 

    I recommend communicating it as a request. You cannot demand that someone do anything differently from what they normally would. You can only share your feelings and ask. Calling it a request and asking puts you in a relaxed mode. Your non-verbal communication will portray the same. Your friend or colleague will feel more freedom to say yes or no. Ultimately, they have final say whether you demand or request so might as well keep it low key and request.

Outline the consequence so that they are making an informed decision. Give them the opportunity to make a different choice. It’s often hard to act on the consequences we’ve outlined. Don’t give yourself an out by failing to communicate it. I see that one often. “Well, I didn’t really tell them that I’d leave if they were more than 15 minutes late. I’d feel bad leaving without telling them.”

And you have final say in acting out the consequence. It’s okay if they continue to offend. You have the opportunity to enact the consequence that you’ve forewarned them about. They’ve been given notice and had the chance to comply.  Remember, you aren’t taking the action as a punishment.  You are taking action that is necessary for your own well being.  And, you are allowed to look out for yourself always, but especially when others are not.

  1. Consider: I’m not trying to turn you into a dictator. If they are open to engaging in a healthy conversation, listen to your colleague, friend or family member. Are they willing to acknowledge their behavior and apologize? Are they understanding of your need to set boundaries and consequences? Are they able to hear and appreciate your point of view? Is it possible that they just misread the situation and had no idea that they were offending you or taking advantage? If this is the first time you’ve ever spoken up to someone it’s a possibility. Do they have an alternate idea for how to hold them accountable?

I once had a colleague share her story of frustration about her neighbor who constantly asked her to babysit. I asked what she had said to the neighbor. Low and behold she always told the neighbor she loved babysitting. Well, from the neighbor’s perspective, she had the best situation ever and had no idea that she was frustrating her friend. Don’t be that person! It’s a waste of time to share your thoughts with people not involved. Take the time to share your feelings with the person who can make a difference.

  1. Carry Out the Consequence:Follow through on your word. Make the request, share the consequence and if they don’t comply follow through with the consequence. It will probably be hard at first, but you must.  So, tell them what you’ll do. Remember, this isn’t about punishment it’s about protecting yourself. It’s rude for someone to keep you waiting when they’ve done it consistently for years. Set the consequence that you’ll wait no more than 10 minutes and then you’re moving on without them. Leave without them once and you may see a sudden and dramatic change. Continue to accommodate the offensive behavior and they’ll have no reason to change.
Direct download: episode_118_7_keys_to_desiging_healthy_reltationships_boundaries.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Tushaar is a 19 year old Indian Podcaster. He’s very passionate about podcasting and wants to make it more prevalent in India. He also practices drums and guitar.  He wants to be a motivational speaker and hold his own conferences.

He started his Good Vibes podcast a couple of years ago using What’sApp and had only a few listeners, friends and his parents.  

His plan is to impact the world by first being kind to himself and then modeling kindness to others.  He works to be kind to himself daily with his thoughts.  For example, on days when he gets up later than he planned he keeps a good mindset and doesn’t let it derail his day.  He just gets moving then!

Likewise, when something starts to put him off the rails by saying something negative he won’t let them.  Instead he visualizes 2 roads.  One is more enticing but does not lead him towards his goals.  The other leads him to impact. 

Once he gets in motion and action he is no longer thinking but is just doing and making things happen!

His words of wisdom to those who want to make an impact is Just Start!  Don’t wait until you have everything lined up or for things to be perfect.  Just move! 

He shared how he had nothing but his phone and a desire to make a difference when he started his podcast.  He still started!  It’s okay to start small.  Just start where you are. 

Now he has better equipment and is on iTunes and is grateful that he just got going and offers words of encouragement and wisdom for people his age. 

I look forward to watching him expand podcasting in his country while he motivates others along the way! 

You can find Tushaar here:

Do you have some lingering relationships ....that can be challenging …tear you down….cause grief…..have baggage…..long histories… 

……these relationships can and DO zap our energy, steal our joy, drum up false beliefs about ourselves, and sometimes even stand in the way of achieving our dreams.

Yes, addressing relationship stuff can feel overwhelming, but often remedies are simpler than you’d think if you know how to define the right fix. That’s why I’ve designed the Relationship Renovation Roadmap  I can’t wait to show you how!

Go to to check it out!

Where are you in the making an impact process?  Are you brand new and still working through the idea in your head?  Perhaps you’ve just started to share with others, or maybe you’re well on your way and enjoying some success. 

Whether you’re announcing a new business, podcast, book, network marketing endeavor, volunteer initiative, ministry or nonprofit dream……

One thing is certain……once you start sharing your idea, those with opinions thoughts, cautionary tales, similar stories they read about, something they heard one day ……..alllllllll start sharing theirs……

As the old saying goes, “Opinions are like a***holes.  Every person has one”…..

And you end up with all kinds of feedback and words of quote unquote “wisdom” whether invited or not: 

Are you serious?  I heard of a guy who did that too and it was terrible!

Why would you waste time on that?

Those are all scams!

I tried that and it didn’t work out for me at all.  It won’t work for you either.

You can’t do that!  You’re too busy already!

You don’t know anything about how to do that.  You’ll never get it done.

You’re too much of a quitter!

You’ll never be able to create change there.

The problem’s way too big!

That’s too hard!

You won’t get anyone else to care about that!

What do you know about that topic?

Why would anyone listen to you?

You should do this instead……

It’s important to keep in mind that most of these opinions, thoughts, ideas, cautionary tales are moving through their own fear filters, and are boxed in by their own life experiences and knowledge. 

And many times, they’re just thrown out there with little thought or any attachment to your success or future.  It might just be that the person wants to look smart for a minute.  Maybe they like to think of themselves as well-informed…..and maybe, just maybe……they fear YOUR success……and the words are shared to halt your progress.

Even when well-intended, words can be unhelpful and will get in your head to cast doubt where it doesn’t need to be if we give those opinions more weight than they’re worth. 

So why do we listen?!?

You are not obligated to heed the words or warnings of every person who shares advice.

Today I give you license to let words fall as if on deaf ears.

Instead, be intentional about who you give the privileged position of speaking into your life.  Some call it trusted advisor status.  Perhaps you call them mentors.  Whatever the title, choose wisely. There are specific characteristics that someone should have before you give them this esteemed role.

Here are 7 Musts for Your Mentors or Trusted Advisors

They Must:

  1. Have Knowledge or Expert Status about the Topic:They know it, have lived it, or at least studied up on it. They can share opinions and advice from a place of fact rather than busting out with info off the cuff.  And, if they don’t have specific knowledge they’ll go find it to share an informed opinion or stay silent on the topic.
  2. Have a Unique Perspective: they’ve been where you want to go or have done what you do, but with a twist. They can offer you real life perspectives to help you achieve your goals. They aren’t going to rely on some folklore passed down through generations as a cautionary tale to squash your dreams.
  3. Understand Your Perspective:they know your passions, desires and your vision.  Or, they’ll ask questions until they totally get what you are trying to achieve.
  4. Want the Best for You: they won’t feel like a failure if you succeed. They aren’t driven by jealousy. They truly want to see you reach your goals even if it means surpassing their success or moving away from them.
  5. Put Their Own Fears, Biases, Agendas aside: they are able to provide objective and well thought out advice with the pure intent of helping you achieve your goals.

    When you are starting a business, or taking on an unconventional endeavor, you’ll often get people weighing in who have a deep fear of taking a similar leap. They will warn you out of their own sense of dread. (facilitating an executives in transition meeting) Stay away and stick to those who can put their own fears aside.
  6. Allow You to Make Your Own Choices:(we probably all have that friend or relative who always thinks they know best…..they throw out ideas on every single topic and are offended if you don’t listen…….STEER CLEAR) Mentors provide their advice and fact-based opinions, share concerns and then sit back and allow you to make the final choice. They aren’t mad, disappointed or frustrated with you if you don’t heed their warnings or follow through on their counsel. They provide their ideas freely.
  7. The Relationship Lives On:whether you take their advice or not they continue to be in your corner cheering you on and wishing the best for you. 

If someone who is not a trusted advisor weighs in just listen to their advice, thank them and move on.   Sharing an opinion does not obligate you to consider or follow through based on that advice.

For More Information on the Relationship Renovation Roadmap...

Go to to check it out!

Direct download: EP_116_7_Musts_for_Mentors_and_Trusted_Advisors.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

He is a Hypnotist who specializes in helping people through heartbreak, stress, anxiety and trauma.

One of his favorite experiences is when he helped a close friend overcome the trauma of a major breakup.  In one session, he says she was able to clear years worth of heartache and was feeling ready to date within a week.

The biggest challenge he’s had to overcome is the stigma that exists for hypnosis.  Many people are afraid to be hypnotized and worry that the hypnotist can program them to do whatever they want.  Joshua says this is completely unfounded, but understands.  Even while hypnotized no one can make you go against your moral fiber.

Internally, Joshua struggles to focus on short term goals while he creates big goals for the future.  An important strategy is to step back occasionally to re-evaluate.  Take a little time away to make sure you are focused on the right things.

What does he suggest for others who want to make their impact?  Do everything that you can and whatever it takes to do it! 

You can find Joshua here:

As you Live and Lead for Impact it is quite possible that, at some point, you will draw upon the time and talents of volunteers.  I’ve worked with many nonprofits as a coach, have started ministries and utilized volunteers myself, have been a volunteer and have also served on a nonprofit board.  And, I know that nonprofits, ministries, churches, PTA’s, or other similar organizations often struggle to find and keep volunteers.  The keys I’ll share will also apply in other organizations like Network Marketing Teams, where uncompensated time can lead to profits.

How do you fuel commitment and ignite loyalty that generates a dynamic team that will show up, make an impact and keep coming back?

  1. Share Clear Expectations for Informed Commitment

Too often nonprofits, ministries or PTA’s ask for volunteers without communicating expectations clearly.  If people don’t know what they’re signing up for how can they follow through? Committing loosely leads to loose commitment.

Instead, design and document a combination of volunteer positions that fulfill your needs.  Share the documented expectations with potential volunteers so they know the kinds of tasks they’ll be working on and the commitment of time required per week or per month.  This allows your volunteers to make informed decisions about the role they’ll take on.  Commitments are then based on fact, which should increase follow through.
Documenting the requirements of each role will also help you avoid scope creep.  That pesky little problem that plagues both for profit and not for profit entities alike.  Someone makes a commitment, they do great work, you need some additional help, so you ask for more.  I’ll cover this one in more detail in a minute.

  1. Inventory Volunteer Abilities & Special Skills and then Utilize Them

Too often it’s an all hands on deck, with a grab whatever you can do, mentality.  But, asking volunteers to do what might be difficult for them can make them feel uncomfortable and the outcomes they generate may not be good.

We are all born with unique gifts, those skills that are innate or come easily to us.  Most often our gifts are aligned with our passion.  We love spending time in our area of gifting.  Time flies, we feel energized at the end of our task and the outcomes we create can be amazing.

Take the time to learn the special skills of your volunteers.  The exercise of asking will help them feel known, appreciated and valued.  If you take it a step further and tap into those skills, you will also benefit from the superior output they create while doing what they love and are good at.  A great way to get the best from your volunteers.

  1. Find Each Volunteer’s Currency and Fulfill it.

Even when there is real currency involved, you want the focus of a team to be on something beyond just a paycheck.  Obviously, it’s even more important to identify the alternate currency when we’re talking about a team that is not paid money for their time.

You need to answer the questions, “what’s in it for them?”  Let’s face it, people want to get something for their time.  We don’t do much of anything unless there is some benefit to us.  There are very few purely selfless acts.

Now, before you get all agitated with me, let me explain.  I am not suggesting quid pro quo relationships where I do for you and require an equal something back.  And I’m not suggesting that we all need to get paid for everything we do.  But, if you are spending the resource of your time on something you will want a return on that investment.  It could be the warm fuzzy feeling you get from serving someone less fortunate.  Perhaps it’s playing a role in someone overcoming a fear, getting out of a bad situation, or achieving a big goal. 

Figure out what currency your individual volunteers are working towards and help them enjoy that benefit.  Here are a few potential currencies your volunteers may be working towards:

  • They want to meet people interested in making an impact.
  • A personal experience has them attached to your mission and they want to give back in a meaningful way
  • They want to feel appreciated and would love to hear some thank you’s.
  • They want to feel a sense of purpose.
  • They want the chance to use their unique abilities to further your mission.
  • They like to feel needed.
  • They want to build new skills or find achievements to add to a resume.
  • They are exploring a new career and want to learn more about the field.

There are more, but this will give you a start.  Learn what your volunteers value to help them achieve their goals to keep them engaged and coming back.

  1. Allow Volunteers to Make a Meaningful Contribution!

As I often share, humans are driven by an innate desire to know that their lives are part of something bigger than themselves.  Let your volunteers find that fuel through their work with you.  Provide the opportunity for meaningful impact each time they volunteer.  If the work they do is far removed from the main mission, help them see how their activities are still attached, helpful and important.

Value the volunteer and value their time. If you’ve scheduled a volunteer or invited them to participate in your mission in some way, make sure you have something lined up for them to do.   

I still remember the time I showed up for a large church event.  I had signed up to volunteer and was excited to help.  Unfortunately, they had signed up far too many volunteers.  A good problem to have, I know.  BUT, for me, it was not a good experience at all.  The people heading up the event were busy and dismissive.  I walked around asking each team how I could help, but every area was overstaffed. My husband and I had driven together and he had a role so, I was stuck.  I ended up spending the entire night walking around alone watching as others experienced the joy of making their impact.  I’m not gonna lie, I felt devalued and alone.  I wasn’t able to participate in the event that was getting my time.  I had no role. I made no impact.  You do not want your volunteers to feel like that….EVER!

I had a similar, though longer-term experience, serving on a nonprofit board.  I was told that it was a “working board”, meaning, they wanted each member to contribute their knowledge, skills and abilities to the organization.  I was specifically recruited because of my background and was told that my talents were aligned with current and pressing needs of the organization and that, as a result, I’d be able to make an important contribution. 

This all sounded great to me.  I was not interested in spending my time as a rubber stamp or to be just a name on a list to add to some meeting minutes. I wanted to use my time as a true resource and was happy to give back in that way. 

I immediately began working on some human resource related projects, heading them up and pulling in colleagues who agreed to provide their talents as a favor to me.  I also began some work to improve processes and conducted some leadership training.

I believed in their mission and wanted to make a big impact with the team.  I was investing my time toward specific impact. 

The problem was, at every turn, my efforts were overturned or denied before implementation.  There seemed to be a “we don’t like change” mentality driving the team and an underlying false belief that change meant that the current systems were bad and they’d done something wrong. It, thus, became very difficult to make any real impact.  My investment of time was not making a difference.  I did not stay for an additional term on that board. 

I am not unique.  People want to feel valued and know that their investment of time is worthwhile.  Value the time your volunteers contribute and assure that they are able to make a difference. 

     5.  Avoid Scope Creep:

They are willing and seem to love working with you to help you make your impact.  You ask and they say yes.  What’s the harm?  Well……the truth is, some people have a hard time saying no.  And, while this is certainly something they should work on and it wouldn’t be all on you if they DID say yes when they wanted to say no, it is something you MUST keep in mind. 

Too often this scenario happens:  They keep working, you keep asking, they keep saying yes.  They are too uncomfortable to say no, or feel guilty for leaving you strapped, so they just keep doing more and more and more.    It is quite possible that the person who seems to be happily helping more and more is actually feeling really burned out, over-extended or maybe even used.  You don’t want a great volunteer who’s become overwhelmed to tell you no with their feet, as they disappear altogether! 

So, am I suggesting that you should never ask a volunteer to do more than what they’ve agreed to? No!  But, I am saying…be very careful about how you ask.  Make sure you are not adding extra pressure.  Do everything in your power to allow them the freedom to say no.  Assure them that you will be fine either way and will not think ill of them if they say no.

And, if there is anything in their body language or voice that tells you they are saying yes with duress, point it out.  “It seems like you might be saying yes when you really need to say no to me right now.  If you need to say no that is ok!  I appreciate all that you do and fully realize this would be additional work for you.  I’m throwing it out there in case it works for you but you are under no obligation what so ever to say yes and I will be fine whether you say yes or no.”

When you first bring them on board you’ve asked them to make an informed decision about the amount of time involved in volunteering with you.  And, you’ve asked them to commit to a specific volunteer role.  You, as the leader must commit as well.  Be true to the original request you made of them.  If you do ask for some additional support give them every license to say no. 

  1. Show Appreciation Often:

Humans have an innate desire to feel known, acknowledged and appreciated.  Fill that need for your volunteers. I’m not talking about all grand gestures.  Just a quick authentic thank you, a note in the mail (how often does anyone get a handwritten note these days?), a high five, a thumbs up.  Some love kudos in front of the team or at an event from the stand.  Be authentically appreciative of each gesture, no matter how small. 

I’ll share another personal story here.   I would often drop clothing and household items off at a local nonprofit. They didn’t have a pickup service, but I believed in the mission so took the extra time to drive and drop my donations.  Each time I was greeted by employees who treated my arrival like a chore.  They’d grab my items and immediately start tossing them into appropriate piles.  They were always very focused on the task and quite efficient.  It’s a pretty subtle thing but the one thing they forgot was to acknowledge my giving in any way.

Now, I didn’t take it personally or get upset.  But, since I work with so many nonprofits I’m always aware of potential problems.  And, dropping off items isn’t a volunteer position per se but it is a touchpoint with members of the community and failing to show gratitude was a lost chance to connect.  And, there are plenty of other places to donate to, most more convenient.  If someone’s currency is appreciation they were missing the chance. 

Show appreciation for even small gestures with at least a simple thanks.

Direct download: 6_Secrets_to_Keeping_Volunteers_Engaged_and_Giving_Thier_Best.m4a
Category:leadership -- posted at: 3:00am EDT