The definition of Altruism according to the Oxford American Dictionary is as follows,
“altruism: noun, the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others”
An example of this would be helping the church soup kitchen to feed the homeless and not getting paid to do it. Willingly showing up every month to help out. I believe this concept is the underlying principle for all volunteering in the world but very few people are aware of how it works.
Many charitable organizations go about recruiting volunteers by using a sales method. For example they will publicly establish a need for a certain group of people. This need must be met by fund-raising and volunteering. A relationship is established with people they choose to talk to and share with. Objections are raised by the prospective volunteers and they are dealt with, one by one. Finally they are asked to give of their time, money and energy.
I think that the volunteer population in this world is at risk of disappearing. There are so many causes and so many social inadequacies the general public may feel overwhelmed by the demand on them. People have become more savvy about what they give away and to whom. From an attraction point of view, the way charitable organizations work needs to change. I felt that this would be useful information for my other Charitable organizations if it was useful to building a volunteer community. This is the first of five parts.
I just completed a Psychology course and part of the material covered dealt with the concept of altruism. The material didn’t deal specifically with volunteerism but what IS it the makes people want to give selflessly? How can I, as organizer tap into this concept effectively and in a non-manipulative manner?
The first thing I wanted, was to be up front with what I was going to tell prospective volunteers. I wanted people to understand how altruism works and whether this is something they want to take part in.
My text (Wade, Carole; Tavris, Carol; Saucier, Deborah; Elias, Lorin. Psychology: Canadian Edition. Prentice Hall 2004) stated there were five stages one passes through before taking the step to become altruistic. I believed that if I was clear and up front that this was what I was going to share, then it wouldn’t be manipulative. I did a test run with my Toastmaster group. Elections were coming up and we needed to draw new members into leadership roles. I wanted to go through these steps to actually teach people about altruism and hoped the end result would be: people stepping into leadership roles. I was a bit selfish and only addressed the replacement for my role as President.
Intervention … the first step
Before a person will even consider taking altruistic action they have to perceive there was a need for intervention in the first place. So I clearly stated we needed new people in the upcoming roles. I stated the importance of leadership for the club to remain viable. I explained I was going to use my understanding of altruism to attract them into leadership roles.
Next there was the withdrawal I wanted to deal with. Would people stop listening to me once I started talking? What would cause people to fall into a state of inaction? Well according to my text there were three things that would cause inaction:
As I stated previously, people nowadays lead busy lives. If I asked them to do just one more thing its quite possible they would stop hearing what I had to say, moments after I’d opened my mouth. I wanted them to hear what I had to say. I needed to address that with my club. I acknowledged this idea of overwhelm in their lives and I made it easy to overlook this. I was very specific in the amount of time required to fill the role of President. I emphasized the position of power one would be in and the ability to delegate the majority of work within the club. In fact I praised peoples ability to create a strong sense of leadership that would lead to people taking over a lot of the work. I also stated that sometimes people liked to do certain tasks and there was always someone who would shine if they chose to do a specific task. For example we had members, step up to create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and build an entire new website.
2. Closed eyes
Sometimes people will desire to keep their eyes shut to the needs of their organization. Sometimes it’s just a matter of educating people as I did when I dealt with their issues of overwhelm. Do what you love! Participate in an aspect of the club that you enjoy. I brought up all these issues and opened their eyes to the value of participating.
Believe it or not there are many studies done, regarding cultural influences on the concept of altruism. Children who are brought up in a community that has a strong altruistic influence are more likely to participate in a volunteer capacity. I acknowledged this in our group. I emphasized that we had a gift we could pass on to our younger generation that would influence their attitude and willingness to be altruistic and to volunteer. This was a powerful concept to bring into our club and one that they had not thought about. It made a big impression.
But this was just the first step in my discussion with my club. I had framed my entire speech around the idea of educating my members on what altruism was and how it influenced their lives. I was up front and had 5 more steps to cover.
What do you think they all chose to do?
How do you think they reacted to the entire speech?
What sorts of things do you do in your organizations to draw people into leadership roles?
Stay tuned for the next few articles to see what YOU can do to build your volunteer base.