Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Volunteer Perspective

Today we welcome Sandra Weingarten to the Conference Blog! Ms. Weingarten is a member of the League's Volunteer Council and the Eugene Symphony Guild. You will see below that we'll be keeping our volunteers busy in Chicago.

Posted by Sandra Weingarten:

As a member of the Volunteer Council, I have a great opportunity to connect with orchestra volunteers from all parts of the country. In addition, I am a volunteer with my orchestra and with its Guild. I know first-hand how passionate volunteers are about supporting their orchestras, how hard they work toward this goal, and the many challenges that stand in their way. These include attracting new members, identifying new leaders, creating a harmonious working environment within the organization and also with the orchestra’s staff and board. And mostly, the challenge of raising more and more money, which is needed and often expected, and which is an ever greater challenge in these economic times. I hear from other volunteer leaders that we all face the same issues and that we have many ways of meeting them.

Why are volunteer leaders coming to Chicago? Sure – there is the chance to socialize, to attend great concerts, to boast of accomplishments, to air gripes, to share challenges and ideas. But mostly, they come to learn.

We on the Volunteer Council, being volunteer leaders ourselves, have all been there. We understand what our delegates are looking for and our goal is to provide the best possible learning experience. Author Jill Fixler will address the challenges of attracting, working with and keeping younger generations of volunteers in the OLA session on Wednesday morning. That afternoon Jill will be guiding us through the new paradigm of engaging the contemporary volunteer – those of the “boomer” generation especially, and discussing how to utilize their wisdom, skills and resources.

Identifying and cultivating leaders is a constant challenge for volunteers these days. Our workshop “Great Leaders = Great Organizations” will address that very problem. This session will begin with roundtable discussions, where participants can talk about what leadership means to them, followed by a panel of diverse volunteer leaders commenting on the topic. Volunteers can learn all about identifying new leaders, developing new leaders, convincing members to become leaders and maintaining good leadership. This panel discussion anchored by Volunteer Council members includes question and answer opportunities and could be the help volunteer organizations have been looking for.

And of course volunteers want to learn about best practices in fund raising and other volunteer-led projects. The all-time favorite sessions are those including volunteer projects that have been selected by the Volunteer Council for awards recognizing excellence. After brief presentations of these projects, there is time for questions and discussion about what makes these projects great and how they can be used and/or adapted by other organizations. Here is where volunteers can learn more about successful fund raising, or outstanding educational projects, or new ways to collaborate with orchestra staff, or exciting examples of community engagement from those who have done it. The questions are stimulating, and the discussion lively.

Yes, volunteers come to Conference to learn. And learn they do. We hope that they will return to their organizations not only educated, but inspired, energized and optimistic.

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