Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Reply to Circle Member not filling Role

By Ruth Topic posted 02/28/2018

Volunteers are tricky. The biggest factor for their success with the experience is what we call "return on mission" (RoM). They don't want to come in and take over, to be self-governing, and it's unfair to accept their passion without having shovel-ready actionables that are meaningful and worthwhile -- that contribute to the organization's purpose AND the volunteer's RoM. Onboarding can help (e.g., an exploratory process that surfaces their purpose and aligns it with the organization's SO THAT they can define what a successful RoM looks like in 3-months, 1-week, and at the end of the day). The cutesy "Maketeer" name might understate the importance of volunteer treatment: Jeremy must steward with dignity the sacrifice and unstated hopes/insecurities that volunteers bring. Volunteers can be equally strong natural promoters and demoters of your business. Handle with care...

That said, it seems to me that the tension has to be raised and a solution that calls out serving the needs of the volunteers (not just scheduling capacity without meaningful and worthwhile waiting in the wings or in an easy to follow set if instructions in a folder). Once a volunteers knows you have invested the time and energy to make sure the relationship is a good fit, and once they've stepped into a clearly defined role with shovel ready work to do, then they'll find meaning and value and continue showing up ... and in time, they'll start self-improving their role and the organization (after all, these are the type of folks who value what you're doing and about enough to show up without pay ... value that and they'll expand your sphere of influence).

A lot more to say. Just keep in mind that the satisfied volunteer with a high RoM will have people asking them about your organization ... and so will the volunteer who shows up and leaves feeling guilty for abusing your time and abused for having wasted another weekend or evening or time that they could have spent with family or friends.