As a woman and as a leader, I hate to admit that there is anything I cannot do….but it is one hundred percent true that I cannot be a man! And, I don’t want to be a man. If you are a woman in leadership of an organization that serves a mixed constituency (i.e. not just women), consider the role of men in your team of volunteers.
First question: Are you unintentionally excluding men as volunteers? Upon entering one church setting, my evaluation of the current state of the organization revealed that although men were involved as volunteers in the department under scrutiny, they were hidden. An individual had to go to a classroom to realize that Mr. Volunteer was a teacher there every week – and in fact, he had been a faithful volunteer for over ten years.
The challenge: Men were not visible in this organization, and thus, new male volunteers were being unintentionally excluded. In the church setting, it invariably proves true that, “Men attract men.” When men see other men getting involved, they realize there might be a good fit for them, and understand the task may be something they can do.
The fix: We created visible volunteer positions – Greeters/Check-In Attendants/Administrative Desk support persons/Safety Team – in which men could be visible throughout the whole program and attract other men to volunteer also. If you discover a willing volunteer, evaluate what he enjoys and will be good at. Remember, “being” is as much of the accomplishment as “doing”. If a male volunteer (he is “being” a man) is hanging out doing something he enjoys and being a friendly face for your organization, the task (the “doing”) is highly likely to get done….and often he will bring along another man to help out!
Second question: Are you setting men up for success as volunteers? Looking at the professional level of men in one church where I served, it was easy to see where men felt successful in volunteering. In the programs where there was a high level of preparation completed for a teacher (where they were responsible to review the lesson ahead of time, but all supplies were provided and ready to go in the classroom) there was less trouble in attracting men as volunteers. In many cases, the men volunteered more frequently, and for a longer length of time.
The challenge: Men hate failure. They run from it! Many men will avoid serving as a volunteer in your organization if they smell one trace of possible failure. Men don’t want to play on a failing team, and they don’t want to fail on an individual basis.
The fix: Communicate the successes of your organization to prospective male volunteers. Let them know that they are joining a winning team. Then, give men a foundation for being successful as volunteers in your organization and train them along the way for greater success. We started using a brief “Orientation and Tour” session to give all volunteers a starting point for success. Now, no volunteer has to use mere common sense as their only guide for success.
Bolstering a female led organization with empowered men, and learning from their perspectives is an on-going challenge. Don’t blame others. Start with yourself, and accept this challenge so your voice with be strengthened with men outside your organization. Before you know it, there will be more men inside your organization and they will keep the momentum going.