17 minutes | Mar 11th 2020

#3 (Rebroadcast) If your job was easy I would find a volunteer to do it

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In preparation for a new episode with Eric Wolverton, we are rebroadcasting Episode 3, from October 2017 with a couple of updates. In this episode I speak with Eric Wolverton. I met Eric when he worked at the local food bank and then we partnered on projects when he was the Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity here in Flagstaff, AZ. Eric shares his insights and lessons from those jobs as well as from his early childhood growing up on a family farm. Full Transcript of the episode: ANNOUNCER:  This is Do Good, Be Good, the show about helpful people and the challenges they face in trying to do good.  You host is Sharon Tewksbury-Bloom, a career do-gooder who also loves craft beer and a good hard tackle in rugby.  Sharon speaks to everyday people about why they do good and what it means to be good.TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: This season was brought to you by VolunteerPro.  VolunteerPro provides online volunteer management training, coaching and community to leaders and volunteers at all levels.  Learn more at VolPro.net.  And stay tuned for later in the show when I’ll tell you about a special discount for our listeners. Speaking of our listeners, Oh my gosh we have listeners.  Thank you so much to everyone who has subscribed to this podcast.  It really means a lot to me.  If you haven’t yet, subscribe using ITunes or Stitcher.  If you have feedback for me, please leave us a review or email me at connect@sharonspeaks.com. WOLVERTON: I grew up in rural New Jersey on a 150 acre farm.  We had more of a tight-knit community.  To be quite frank, volunteerism wasn’t something that I heard about growing up.  We had a lot of families that actually supported our family farm and they would help us harvest and grow our produce and then in return they would reap the benefits from getting free produce for their families; usually it was working poor families that were looking for that option to take advantage of. I remember frequently watching my father weld many apparatuses together for neighbors that didn’t have the tools and the expertise to do it, and not a single time did he ever charge anyone.  It was just a matter of it was a neighbor helping a neighbor. TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Today I’m speaking to Eric Wolverton.  I first met Eric when he was working at the local food bank and then I continued to partner with him when he moved over to be the Executive Director at Flagstaff’s Habitat for Humanity.  I asked Eric about his experience working at Habitat. WOLVERTON: Well Habitat comes in, they build a house and then people can apply for it.  And it’s really meant for the working poor which used to be once upon a time the middle class.  But there are a lot of people with pride and they’re scared to participate in those programs.  And I consider them to be a volunteer in the program because, number one, they have to participate in building a home and, more importantly, they have to participate by paying off the home.  So community dollars got involved into creating the home, but now they’re paying it back to Habitat through a mortgage payment. And a lot of people don’t feel that they’re deserving, that they fit the criteria, that it should go to somebody else more in need.  Yet that’s really nice that they think that way and that they feel that way, but at the same time just because they’re dealing with the same type of struggles as a lot of people in Flagstaff are, there are still lots of opportunity for them to give back. You know, with Habitat the way their model works is for every home they build with community dollars, they’re receiving mortgages on all these homes.  And if you multiply Habitat homes, then the mortgage payments themselves, the original community dollars end up going back into the Habitat coffers to build more homes.  It’s a great domino effect.  So it’s a reason why for 40 years plus Habitat has grown exponentially, because it’s sustainable.  But it takes volunteers with checks that want to better themselves to make it happen.  And so if people feel that they’re not warranted to have that opportunity, then it breaks down the whole program.  So in that sense, it’s kind of a unique way, a lot of people don’t — again, people don’t think a checkbook is a way of volunteering, it really is. TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: After Eric left, I started thinking about his statement that the checkbook is a way of volunteering.  Lately I’ve been listening to Gabby Dunn’s podcast “Bad With Money.”  She interviews people who are often left behind or marginalized by the financial system.  On a recent episode, her guest spoke about not paying back student loan debt.  And her guest explained that she didn’t really feel guilty about taking money from the federal government without a plan to pay it back.  When she said that, it bothered me.  I realized that I do believe that paying back federally backed student loans is a part of being a good citizen. As Eric explained in this example, the Habitat model depended on people accepting help from others in the form of community dollars and volunteer labor to build a house and that’s nice and good, but the most critical part of the model was actually when the new homeowners pay back their mortgage and then that money that they pay is able to be leveraged to help other people.  For certain financial instruments like federally backed student loans, federal taxes, even credit unions, there’s an ability to help others by leveraging money.  The ability to leverage money depends on the assumption that people, at least most people, will make every effort to pay the money back or to fulfill their financial responsibilities.  When I think about doing good, I usually think about how people help others directly, though their actions, but this got me thinking about ways that are decisions about money and personal responsibility factored into building a strong community. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.  After this short break, we’ll hear more from Eric. When I first started working as a volunteer coordinator, I had no experience, no training, I was learning on the job and it was painful.  I definitely could have used VolunteerPro.  Their site has volunteer management training and coaching.  So if you were “voluntold” into volunteer management, this site is for you.  Right now they’re offering our listeners $100 off an annual membership.  Go to VolPro.net and use the promo code PROPOWER.  That’s VolPro.net, promo code PROPOWER.  Now back to our show. WOLVERTON: Volunteerism should be fun.  I’ve always told my paid staff whenever a bad day would occur at work — and we’ve all had them — and I would say you know what, I’m really sorry you’re having a having a bad day at work, that’s the reason why you’re on the payroll, and if your job was easy I would find a volunteer to do it.  But there are certain jobs that aren’t fun, that are monotonous, that are just you don’t want to go in every day and so you have to have the influence of pay to do it.  So volunteerism really should be focused on having fun, being part of a network. TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: And so I’ve been part of this thought process myself about — because I definitely went through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, how do you support your volunteers by making them feel, you know, taken care of so that then they want to give because they feel like their needs are being met.  But then I started questioning it because a lot of the people I’ve seen who are really dedicated volunteers, they are asked to sacrifice to be a volunteer. So for instance I now got involved with the theater and oh my goodness, you are sacrificing time and sleep and sometimes you’re bleeding onstage and we’ve had so many people who just push themselves to the limit to be a volunteer with the theater and yet those bonds that they form and the connection that they feel to the theater seems to get stronger the more it’s difficult and the more is asked of them. WOLVERTON: Absolutely.  Well I think that’s what brings everybody together, you know.  If it’s the trials or tribulations of running a family farm, you’re going to ask your neighbors for some help, you know.  And you’re going to grow a relationship off that and a lot of respect for those other people that are going to support you.  Absolutely.  I think that the harder the task is — again within means —  then you can definitely grow great culture.  That also has a boundary in itself because many organizations will find their shining star volunteers and then take advantage of them.  And then they will exhaust them to the point where they can’t or don’t want to volunteer any more, because they’re being treated more like an employee than a volunteer. And so there is a very fine line, taking your gold star volunteers, using them to the best of their potential so that way they can grow themselves and feel like they’re accomplishing things, but not exhausting them to the point where they end up leaving you. TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Do you think that that — because you said by treating them like an employee, but do you think it has more to do with how you value them?  Like you’re valuing the employee partly by paying them so that’s one way that you show that.  So if you have someone that’s working as many hours or has as much responsibility as a paid staff member and they are unpaid, that maybe there’s some other commensurate value that you have to give that person to show them what they’re worth to your organization. WOLVERTON: Absolutely. TEWKSBURY-BLOOM: Or else they’ll fee
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