By Dr. Amy Alfred, Jewish Learning Venture Organizational Consultant
On March 14th, Jewish Learning Venture hosted a workshop on creative ways to engage volunteers in the 21st century. Rabbi Phil Warmflash and Dr. Amy Alfred worked with both professional and lay leaders who came from synagogues both near and far.
There was a lot of excitement in the room as a different way of approaching volunteerism was discussed. The central theme was “matterness,” and how making volunteers feel that they matter is a central piece to recruiting and retaining volunteers. This concept comes from the book, Matterness: Fearless Leadership for a Social World, by Allison Fine. Matterness is described as the intersection of people and organizations when they come together in a positive and mutually beneficial way, where their unique needs are met and where a greater whole is formed.
Participants in the workshop learned that making people feel that they matter, that working from abundance and not fear, that talking WITH people and not AT them, along with aligning online and on-land communication, were solid tools to consider when approaching potential volunteers in their communities. Since there is so much changing within the synagogue culture, leaders needed to consider many different ways, some that might be “out of the box,” in order to reach their constituency effectively.
Participants left with new knowledge about how to listen to members in a different way, to try to meet people where they are, and to think about gathering different people around the table to find various points of connection.