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VT readers ask questions about volunteer management and administration. Ask Connie, an experienced volunteer manager, consultant and trainer, provides the answers for all to see.
Send questions to AskConnieP@cs.com

~2014 ~

Dear VolunteerToday Followers: 

I don’t know if it’s the end of summer or it’s just me but it seems that “change” is in the air more than usual.  My guess is that many nonprofit organizations are looking toward the end of the year and deciding how to maximize resources most effectively until then.  So, this month I offer you some advice on Managing Change (and Dealing with Resistance to It!).

Best wishes,

Among volunteers there are some common reasons to resist change.  It’s important to identify exactly why someone is resisting change in order to help them move, if possible, toward accepting the change. 

  • Tradition is threatened.  You may hear long-term volunteers say, “We’ve always done it this way.”  Volunteers often are concerned that valuable institutional history or volunteer accomplishments will be lost with a change.  Volunteers can be threatened about losing their identity or even power within an organization when change is made. 
  • Change can be perceived as illogical, for example the costs of a new activity or program seem greater than the benefits.  This occurs most often when volunteers don’t know the reasons for the change or don’t fully understand the greater benefits to the institution.  Your communications with volunteers need to include why the change is being made and the benefits to the organization as well as to the volunteers.
  • Change can be perceived as self-serving.  Volunteers often ask, “Who’s promoting this change?” or “Is there a personal benefit with this change?”  Provide honest answers to these questions and don’t ignore them.  
  • The change lacks clear intention and direction, at least to the volunteers.  Change often evolves slowly, particularly in nonprofit organizations.  Rarely are all parts in place at the very beginning.  Having a written plan for change and involving volunteers in implementing the change will provide the direction and guidance that volunteers seek.
  • Change brings fear of the unknown.  This fear can produce a reluctance to trade the known, the way things are now, for an uncertain new way of doing things.  Effective communication about the change management plan is essential to lessen the fear of the unknown.  Once volunteers know what to expect and when, they can become more comfortable with the idea of the change.
  • Volunteer positions and power can be threatened.  Will the change bring reorganization?  Will power positions change?  Who will I work with now?  Again, communication is essential to neutralize this type of resistance.  Be honest but positive about why the change is necessary, what is going to happen, how and when it will happen, and the benefits to everyone once the change is accomplished.
  • sign-what does change mean to you

Just as there are common reasons to resist change, there are also common reasons for volunteers to accept change.  Acceptance most often occurs when:

  • The change is logical and its merits are understood.  This means that you’ve done a good job of communicating the change management plan. 
  • Volunteers support the change when they are involved in it.  This means that you have solicited feedback from volunteers and involved them in the steps to implement the change.
  • The change is non-threatening.  This means that you have communicated clearly the reasons for the change and the anticipated results.  Volunteers understand their role in the change and exactly how the change will impact them.
  • The intention of the change is very clear.  Again, you’ve communicated with volunteers from the very beginning, back when you knew that change was even being considered.  In this way volunteers will feel the change is being made “with” them and not “to” them.




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Do you have a question? Now you too can ask an expert!

Connie Pirtle, of Strategic NonProfit-Resources, has 25 years' experience in working with volunteers. She has consulted and/or trained for such organizations as the Washington National Cathedral, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music America, and the Association for Volunteer Administration.

Send your questions to Connie at AskConnieP@cs.com.
Connie Pirtle
Strategic Nonprofit Resources
314 E. Marie Dr. * Stillwater, OK 74075 * VOICE: 405.372.8142 or 202-306-1492

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