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  • How Volunteer Programmes Fail

    Created: 20/05/2024
    News/Events Category: Volunteering

    Have you ever wondered why some volunteer programmes fail, even though they seemed strong?

    Karen Knight, Volunteer Management Strategist and Mentor, compares these programmes to the stages detailed in the book How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. These stages include: 

    1. Hubris born of success

    When organisations have been successful for a significant period of time, it's easy to get complacent. If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll always get the same results. It's key for organisations to stay humble and remain flexible to deal with changing circumstances. 

    2. Undisciplined pursuit of more 

    When a program is thriving, it’s tempting to look at ways to expand the mission. Sometimes into areas that have nothing to do with the main reason for your existence. When the expanded mission takes time away from the key mission of the organisation, volunteers become disengaged and start to leave. The ones that stay can begin experiencing burnout from the extra responsibilities. You must think carefully about how you'll grow, and build capacity to support that growth. 

    3. Denial of risk and peril

    When signs of decline begin to emerge, such as dropping volunteer numbers, there is a tendency to ignore or downplay them. Putting the blame on things like Covid or that "people just don't want to volunteer anymore" prevents you from taking proactive measures to address the real problems. Accept that the world is changing and your program will have to change with it. Or fail.

    4. Grasping for salvation 

    Once a leader accepts that a programme is broken, they may panic and look for 'silver bullets'. However, volunteer programmes fail because of fundamental issues, and if those aren't dealt with, new volunteers coming in won't stick around. 

    5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death 

    Once the leaders, volunteers and stakeholders lose faith and interest, the programme is done. Despite all the silver bullets, it becomes clear that the programme is broken beyond repair. At this point, if the organisation itself is still functioning, the programme leader will need to completely scrap the programme as it stands and rebuild from scratch. 

    Read the full article here.

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