The Importance of Executive Leadership
The Importance of Executive Leadership
By Betty Stallings, a member of the Reimagining Service Council and author of the 12 Key Actions of Volunteer Program Champions: CEOs Who Lead the Way (2005)
As I read through the updated version of the 12 Key Actions of Volunteer Program Champions: CEOs Who Lead the Way study that I had developed in 2005, and thought about my observations and experiences in the field over the past ten years, I was struck with the following thoughts:
- The significant interest/response to this study was what led me to write the book, Leading the Way to Successful Volunteer Engagement: Practical Tools for Busy Executives. In analyzing the results of the study I had become more cognizant of what executives needed to assist them in carrying out these critical roles.
- As a result of the CEO Study and subsequent book, much of my speaking and training around North America centered on the topic of the team focus on volunteer engagement or the CEO role in achieving successful volunteer impact. Prior to this time, I had been hearing folks complain of lack of administrative support. Now I had the opportunity to turn the discussion into what that support needed to be and how to empower executives/administrators with the resources needed to carry out these critical functions. It has slowly been changing from a reactive to a proactive response.
- In the past 10 years, it has become increasingly evident that funders needed to understand the components of excellent volunteer engagement and the impact on missions when carried out well. Although it is a slow moving trend, I have had the privilege of joining with foundations such as the Leighty Family Foundation and have seen the power that funders hold in setting expectations, and rewards, for organizations endeavoring to reinvent their volunteer engagement to greatly enhance mission endeavors. CEOs listen to funders!
- The advent of national initiatives and campaigns such as Reimagining Service have also contributed to the fresh look at the role of the executive on a staff team carrying out volunteer leadership within an organization. Putting time and resources into this updated study was a great contribution to keep the conversation alive and moving it forward. It was my great pleasure to serve on this 3 year campaign. It was never about re-inventing volunteering but rather taking the best theory and research, adding new research and keeping publications alive and current.
- The advent of organizations going through extensive agency-wide training on effective volunteer engagement and becoming Service Enterprises has and will continue to identify and support the administrative contributions of successful volunteer engagement.
Finally, perhaps one of the biggest changes I am fostering is dropping the term: volunteer program. Until a few years ago, it was a generally accepted way to describe volunteer involvement within an organization. As I have thought about it over the years I have begun to realize that it has been one of our greatest detractors. Generally volunteering is NOT a program, it is the support of unpaid citizens who care deeply about a mission. Using the term program has positioned volunteer involvement in competition with other “programs” of the organization, mostly focused on responding to client needs. When money is tight or there is a re-organization, the folks supporting volunteer involvement are the ones, historically, who are often cut back in time or lose their job, altogether. With a CEO who truly understands the potential value of volunteer engagement, there is understanding at the highest levels of the organization of the significance of staff support of effective volunteer involvement and much more consideration and respect is placed on this work.