I was talking with a friend earlier today, who is an active volunteer with a non-profit organization whose mission I know well. He was complaining to me that he puts in lots of time and energy, but when working with the paid professional representatives of the organization he feels marginalized and that at times he feels his time is wasted.
So I asked him why he didn’t do what I would do in that kind of situation. Quit.
His response: Because I believe in their cause.
It took me a second before I really appreciated what he had said. He was willing to put the cause before himself. Wow.
Often we are involved with causes for the benefits to ourselves, such as inflated image by being part of a select group, ego stroking by people who know we donate or volunteer, being part of a exclusive social group, or other less that admirable qualities.
This volunteer however, was there because of the cause of the organization, and as such, wasn’t going to let the people of the organization get in his way of having his desired impact.
I took away a few things from this conversation.
(1) Separate the mission from the people. This means that you don’t get involved because of the sales quality of their fundraisers, and you don’t stop being involved if the other professionals and volunteers drive you crazy.
(2) As an non-profit organization, the better you can sell your cause the better you can maintain the involvement of your volunteers – even if your organizational structure struggles, which they all do from time to time.