Monday Buzz: The Tensions Between Volunteers and Staff

If you want to avoid strain between association volunteers and staff, it’s key that all stakeholders are on the same page. Also: Shutter an ailing online community? One association blogger says not so fast.

Unlike for-profit companies, nonprofits and associations rely heavily on volunteers. But since volunteers and staff often have wildly different perspectives, navigating the relationship between the two groups can be difficult.

“Both groups of people have their own insights and experiences to offer, and if we don’t take communication and collaboration seriously, this can really destabilize the mission of an organization,” writes Alicia Skulemowski in a recent post for Association Success.

One way to alleviate any strain is to have staff members be a part of board discussions. “This can make communication more open, and can help dissolve any politics that might creep into the boardroom given the external projects of volunteer members,” writes Skulemowski.

She also makes an argument for radical candor to navigate the different opinions and perspectives. “Unless everybody at the table is fully disclosing their opinion, people will be left without a clear understanding of why a decision has been reached, or of what to expect from a project,” she says.

Community Counterpoint

In last week’s Wednesday Buzz, we wrote about a FeverBee post that provided guidance on reviving a struggling online community. In the post, FeverBee argued that a declining brand community could indicate a conceptual problem, and it’s possible that  a brand may need to close the current community and start over.

Maggie McGary, aka Mizz Information, offers up her take on the post and argues that in the context of associations, closing down an online community is not the answer and that a poor-performing online platform signals a much larger problem.


“[A]ssociations have something that brands don’t: existing members aligned around a common issue,” she wrote. “Not providing an online community platform of some sort for those members to connect with each other 24/7 instead of once a year at annual events just means that they’ll find or build that community elsewhere.”

Read more of Maggie’s perspective here.

Other Links of Note

Working at your desk all day can do a number on your health. Nonprofit AF offers up several ways to stay healthy while you’re in the office.

Office culture is vitally important to nonprofits. The Wild Apricot blog shares a few ways you may be ruining it.

How is digital media going to change this year? Social Media Examiner shares 2018 predictions for video, blogging, and podcasting.

(RomoloTavani/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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