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How to Apply the 5 Rules of Improv to Volunteer Management: What I learned at PAVRO’s 2016 LiVe Conference

Posted By Kasandra James, Subscriptions Coordinator, June-03-16

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

 

I had the pleasure of attending PAVRO’s LiVE Conference for the first time this year at the beautiful Nottawasaga Inn Resort. From May 25 to 27, volunteer managers from across Ontario came together under the theme: Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Reality – Retreat, Recharge, Realize. Over 3 days, we engaged in workshops that covered a range of topics from the Power of Storytelling and Workplace Safety, to Human Rights & Diversity and Servant Leadership.

However, as a first-time attendee, the most intriguing ideas came during Thursday’s lunchtime keynote from Jennifer Spear of Cleanslate Strategies. During her presentation on how volunteer managers could Lead Unscripted, she encouraged us to apply the 5 rules of improvisation to our role as volunteer managers:


1.   It’s Not About You

 In improv, what’s happening on stage is never about you, but about your co-performers and your audience .The same applies for volunteer management. The work we do is about the clients we serve, the volunteers we lead and the people we work with. Keeping the focus on them ensures we are in tune and ready to address their needs.


2.   Our Common Goal

Improv performers all want the same thing – to tell a great story that entertains and engages their audience. Volunteer Managers must lead in a way that ensures that our programs are mission-focused and aligned with other stakeholders in our organizations. Our programs, volunteers and systems must all work towards our organizations’ goals.


3.   Accept All Offers

On stage, it is the duty of every performer to accept all offers – that means saying yes to everything! Volunteer managers maybe can’t say yes to EVERYTHING, but we need to remain open to ideas and offerings from those around us. Nothing should be dismissed without thought and consideration.


4.   Yes And…

 More than just accepting every offer, improv requires that performers build on what they’re given in order to move the story forward. Being an unscripted volunteer manager means taking what volunteers offer and bringing them to the next level –incorporating great ideas and making changes to the way we work that can better serve our Common Goal.


5.   Be Present and in the Moment

The greatest challenge of improv (as far as I’m concerned) is that it requires you to be in the moment at all times. To effectively capitalize on new ideas and fluid situations, performers and volunteer managers both need to be out of our heads and in the moment. This can mean getting out of established mindsets of how things have “always been” and reacting to what is happening right now.


 

 


As Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 

 

Tags:  improv and volunteer management  new forms of volunteer engagement  Volunteer Management 

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