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VolunteerToday.com~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

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~ June 2004 ~ Topics

Why Watch Trends?

Effective professionals in any career track are people that plan now for the future. This makes them “futurists,” individuals who track trends. So, why do the do it?

  • To have an “early warning” system. Making note of changes in the environment provides opportunities to be ready for new programs or plans to deal with crises.
  • To ready others for change. Most people dislike change, but life requires it. Tracking trends helps the manager prepare administrators and volunteers for changes to the program.
  • To aid in planning. Balancing current goals with future needs is a juggling act. Knowledge about future trends helps make that balancing act more realistic.
  • To be well-informed about one’s chosen profession. Leaders in any profession are those who look to the future, with some sense of where things are going and how they might get there.
  • To have an edge. People have choices of where they would like to volunteers. Having a “cutting edge” program based on current needs and future trends is more likely to attract new people.
  • Build personal and professional confidence. Looking ahead provides a view that others do not have and provides a level of confidence that those with shorter views do not have.
  • To track trends in other fields helps in planning for your own. Knowing about trends in demographics, education, the economy and the like aids in planning for tomorrow’s volunteer program. It can also make the manager of volunteers invaluable to the administration of their organization. For he/she is the person who knows what needs to be done now to prepare for the future.
  • To prepare for the days ahead. Episodic, or short-term, volunteering continues to rise. The trend tracking manager of volunteers is readying the organization for the day when the majority of volunteers do it short term.

How to Be a Trend Tracker

Here are some methods or techniques to track trends.

Consulting Others Gather a group of managers of volunteers together and do a futuring exercise. "What will volunteering look like in 2025?" Two heads are better than one and the ideas generated are likely to produce more than one opinion about the future. This is why belonging to a professional association is important. Regional, state or provincial conferences are an excellent place to discover new ideas. National and international conferences also provide new perspectives on the future in a chosen field. Build it into the budget.
Brainstorming Brainstorming can be done inside an organization. A small group of knowledgeable people, staff and volunteers gather to think creatively about the future. Exercises are set up to have people build on one another’s ideas; idea mapping, impact analysis, or identification of variables.
Visioning Visioning is about prediction. Usually this begins with a review of history, analysis of the current situation, and then visions of the hoped for future. It moves from the general to a description of specific ways to move in that direction. For example, if the organization wants to engage episodic volunteers in more meaningful ways it might set that as a vision, but the specifics are likely to begin with a “jobs assessment” process for all volunteer positions.
Scanning Probably the most common form of trend tracking is scanning. It is a regular and systematic assessment of the world beyond the organization. It is most often based on survey reading of newspapers, magazines, and journals. Other media can also provide such information, but print media is still the best sources for trends.
Case Study Analysis In this form of trend tracking, a scenario is imagined and a group of individuals might discuss what would happen good and bad in that eventuality. A trend of the future is high cost and less availability of oil as an energy source. What does this mean for the organization and most specifically the volunteer program? The analysis would provide the basis to redesign positions for volunteers and ways to serve clients or members.

Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Building Better Relationships with Volunteers by Nan Hawthorne and Volunteer Recruiting & Retention, A Marketing Approach, by author and managing editor Nancy Macduff. For more information, check out these books and more at our online bookstore.

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The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.

By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center.
This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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