"We need our volunteers to do more, but if we ask more of them, we won't have any volunteers."
This is a common refrain I hear from people who run volunteer programs. You can appreciate everything their volunteers are doing, but recognize that they could be doing better or more. Or, perhaps more importantly, you can recognize that for your organization to have a bigger impact, you need more from your volunteers. However, you worry that if you set higher standards or ask for more time from your volunteers that they'll quit and you won't be able to recruit new individuals to take their place.
This is intuitive. But what is intuitive is not always correct.
I have been involved in many organizations that depend upon volunteers over the years, both as a volunteer myself and someone organizing volunteers. During that time, I have discovered what I call the paradox of volunteering: The more you ask of volunteers, the more of them you will get. This is both qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitatively, if you set a higher bar for volunteers, they will likely rise to the occasion. Just because someone is volunteering (i.e. you're not paying them) doesn't mean that they as a person or the work they produce is of less value. They are offering to do work for free because they care about the organization not because their time isn't worth something. Your volunteers are likely highly intelligent, competent, and energetic individuals. View and treat them as such and they will act as such.
Quantitatively, the more you require of volunteers, the more people want to be one of your volunteers. Part of the reason for this is that for most people challenging tasks are seen as worthwhile tasks. Sometimes it's for public recognition, people seeing a person as accomplished. Sometimes it's for personal pride, knowing that they are capable of doing great things. Most often, though, it's because if someone supports a cause, they want to have the greatest impact possible in that cause. People don't have a problem with volunteering more time. People have a problem with volunteering more time when they don't see more of an impact. If you can show that those who volunteer for your organization advance the cause in a meaningful way and that by volunteering more they will have a greater impact, you will have a greater supply of volunteers.
I want to clarify something here: There will be some who cannot commit the same amount of time, resources, or energy as others. This doesn't mean you can ask for the same thing from everyone. Not everyone will be able to dedicate 20 hours/week to your cause. However, if you establish the expectation that some people will put that much in, you lay the groundwork for others to come in and dedicate 10 hours/week or 5/hours week.
If you utilize volunteers, treat them like the intelligent, capable, and cause-oriented individuals they are and work with them to make the greatest impact you can as an organization.
There are three ways that you can build a coalition:
For the past several decades, the American “left” has been held together largely by common interests. Different interest groups worked to support one another with the expectation that by working together they could do more to advance their group interests better than by working separately. However, interests are beginning to diverge. There are active members of the “left” who support vouchers and charter schools against the interests of unions. There are working class individuals who are considering a turn to the right. Common enemies are the new tactic – George W. Bush 8 years ago and Donald Trump now – but these are temporary.
These cracks in the traditional coalitions of the “left” and “right” are a threat to the coalitions of the past, but an opportunity to develop new and more desirable coalitions in the future. Who constitutes that coalition, what provides its common basis, and how it is formed are all open questions, though.
I honestly don't know if I support or oppose Britain leaving the European Union. I have friends who have staked out positions on both sides of the issue, including friends I consider intelligent with different political philosophies from myself and friends that I consider intelligent who share my political philosophy.
In my opinion: The Brexit question was the wrong question to ask.
The question of remaining or leaving this particular institution misses the important question about what values matter in the political world. This was readily apparent from the global debate over the issue since the the same arguments were offered by different people on both sides of the question.
A little over a month ago, I summarized the most important life lessons of my first 30 years into 3 P's: People, Purpose, and Perseverance. There's a 4th P I want to add to that list: Place.
By place, I mean both where you are and your physical surroundings. One's location in the world says a lot about their relation to the world. It is the natural environment you're part of, which provides the resources that are available. It is also the social environment you're part of, including connections with both those who are alive today and those who lived in the past and made this place possible. In addition, the physical surroundings of yourself in a location deepens your connection to or separation from it. The way your surroundings are constructed influences what is easy/difficult to do, what you have access to, the way you think, and even the way you feel. The impact of this is that the place you are in influences both who you are and what you do.
It's easy to forget about the influence of your physical environment in today's digital world. I did so when drafting my reflections on turning 30. That makes it all the more important to intentionally think about where you are and the way you construct your surroundings.
I realized this while Gabrielle and I were hiking Yosemite Falls for our one year anniversary. The medicinal nature of the environment was striking. It reminded me of how important the outdoors are to human health. It also reminded me of the importance of place in all of the major events in life: getting married in the mountains of Pennsylvania, graduating from high school in my hometown, seeing the first African Students For Liberty Conference in Nigeria, and more.
In fact, the entire hike at Yosemite encapsulates the four P's: I was with the right person: my wife. We had a clear purpose: reach the summit. The hike required perseverance: it wasn't the most difficult hike in the world, but we haven't been training the same as we did for our honeymoon trip up Mt. Rainier. And the place was perfect: it was beautiful, serene, and inspiring.
So make sure you surround yourself with the right people, determine your life's purpose, and persevere through the challenges that come your way. While you're doing that, don't underestimate the importance of the physical place you are doing it in.
Originally at SFL here.
2015-2016 was both the most challenging and most inspiring year for Students For Liberty yet. In many ways, the tides of tyranny rose around the globe. At the same time, though, the student movement for liberty did not stand idly by. Over the course of the past year, SFL's students and alumni took on a corrupt government in Brazil, personally provided relief for those in need from tragedies like the earthquake in Ecuador, and introduced more young people to the principles of economic, social, and intellectual freedom than ever before.
This is why I'm pleased to share with you SFL's 2015-2016 Annual Report, which details how this past year was the biggest and most meaningful year of Students For Liberty to date. By the numbers, SFL continued to grow at an incredible pace:
That’s an 8% growth in student groups, 129% growth in leaders trained, 92% growth in conferences run, 120% growth in conference attendees, and 52% growth in media attention! These are incredible numbers. As I write in my final Letter from the President, the size and scope of Students For Liberty today is beyond anything we ever imagined when we started SFL almost a decade ago.
Beyond the numbers, every data point represents the story of a student who is learning about and standing up for liberty thanks to SFL. Take James Michel in Haiti for instance, whose story you can read about on page 14.
Jean Charles “James” Michel first joined SFL as a Charter Teams member in fall 2015 and, after completing Liberty 101, he quickly set to work recruiting for SFL Haiti. Facing obstacles like poor internet access and a hostile university administration, James met each challenge with grace and creativity. When the group found a restaurant willing to let them meet – but only on the condition that each member buy something – James bought juice for everyone present, knowing that some students couldn't afford the cost. Today, the group has grown from four students to 20, has an active presence on Twitter, and even sent a few members to this year's ISFLC.
This is the kind of dedication to that one can expect from all SFL leaders. This is the way the student movement for liberty is growing. This is how the student movement for liberty changes the world. This is the kind of story each number in the Annual Report represents.
As far as SFL and the student movement for liberty has come, there is much more for us to do. In the meantime, though, I want to thank you for being part of and supporting Students For Liberty. I hope you enjoy reading through the rest of the report and take pride in the growth of SFL and student movement for liberty.
2015-2016 was SFL's best year yet. It has laid the foundation for 2016-2017 being even better. Here's to a freer future!
This is a place to share my passion for liberty, thoughts on leadership, and other musings.