Lost in Strategy

I made the mistake in a discussion with a volunteer committee of saying that we did not have a coordinated strategy, and I will not make that mistake again. The result of my misstep was that everyone wanted to define a different approach. The intention of the meeting was to brainstorm ideas and mobilize the committee behind some specific tasks that it should do. But, when we started talking about a strategy, no one wanted to talk about actions and assignments anymore. Instead, they all wanted to set direction.

In the future, I’ve decided that I am going to be very careful with my use of the word “strategy.” Volunteers love to set forth a strategy– especially when they are unsure of themselves in the assignments they are being given. If a volunteer does not understand the actions they have been asked to, such as making a solicitation, using social media, or inviting their friends to a fundraising party, they would much rather talk about a strategy.

Because of my mistake, I have now added an additional step. Instead of getting into the work the committee was set up to do, I first have to prove to the workers that a strategy is already in place. Initially, I had assumed that everyone felt and was on-board with that strategy. Once I’ve brought everyone back to a comfortable place, then I can settle into committee work and accomplishing this strategy in specific tangible ways.

Have you had a volunteer meeting get off-track because of a discussion on strategy? What did you do to fix it? Do you involved volunteers heavily in the process of developing strategy?

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One Response to Lost in Strategy

  1. Derek Link says:

    Hi Jason,
    I’ve found working with volunteers that the more definite I am about what I need from them, the more comfortable they are. This gives them comfort that they aren’t going to A) waste time, B) have to commit more of thier time than they want to because they have to figure out what to do, C) they are confidence in the organization’s leadership.

    I would go back to them with a strategy and ask for their input on how to best implement it, rather than asking them to modify it. It is definitely safer – and easier – to sit around talking strategy than it is to have to move into action.

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