Volunteers are thin on the ground. We hear this at just about every community get together and every government conference we are involved in, but if it is true, then how do you a explain community where one third of the population volunteers in community activities?

For many communities there is a core group of volunteers, they are small, involved, passionate and often very very tired.

This group of volunteers often fall into two different camps one that is tight and controlling and one that is desperate and demanding. The first you have to break into (but only if you are prepared to follow orders and do things the way they have always been done), and the other is so desperate for new membership that when they get someone new in they suck the very life force out of them, demanding an unsustainable amount of their time and effort.

So which group would you rather be volunteering in? Quite frankly neither! Volunteering is not about being someoneā€™s lackey or living in a town for 50 years before your opinion is valued, and it is not about martyring yourself for the cause.

Volunteering in a community is about participation, the opportunity to share ideas, create something and work with peers on a shared interest.
If the controlling group wants more membership to enable it to create change, it needs to let go of the reins and let everyone get a say in what the future looks like.

If the all or nothing group wants more membership it needs to let people contribute what they can and appreciate what they get, letting people contribute in the idea or the action space if they are so inclined.
Whilst it is true that not everyone has 80 hours a week to volunteer, if groups were more flexible and responsive to the way that volunteers could participate then more may be inclined to join in.

By the way, that town with 30% of its population volunteering, it does exist, Girgarre population 150 (my home town) and totally rocking!

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Written by Lisa Smith

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Lisa is a professional thinker dedicated to helping people unlock their innate creativity and to empower them to think differently ā€“ for themselves. She is passionate about building innovative cultures and about harnessing and engaging talent to create thinking communities. Lisa holds an MBA, specialising in organisational change and innovation, which forms the nucleus of her work. She relishes opportunities to share the Minds at Work thinking strategies with government bodies, socially responsible corporate, educators, community groups and farmers, helping them to turn their big ideas into realities.