Dealing with a rogue one
In our last edition of C-says, D-says, I made brief mention of a few of the challenges that can often be faced by boards of directors and, more specifically, association executives. One of these was the dreaded ‘rogue volunteer’.
A rogue volunteer or (shudder) rogue committee is a person or people who act outside the parameters of an organization’s policies and procedures, often making unilateral decisions that have the potential to cause a tremendous amount of damage.
How? Well, in a lot of ways actually.
Rogue volunteers can be a resource drain, wasting an association’s valuable staff time or financial resources. They can also diminish the enthusiasm of good volunteers if they are perceived to be overstepping the decisions made by the wider group. And perhaps most damaging, a rogue volunteer can seriously impact the credibility of an organization, especially if they’re speaking in a negative way about the activities or stated missions of the association in question.
Sometimes, these volunteers are well-intentioned and truly believe themselves to be working in the best interest of the organization. But more often (and more dangerously) rogue volunteers are working for their own personal agenda, usually related to building themselves higher profile within their industry or perhaps in an effort to drive business their way. In either case, the situation has to be identified and diffused as soon as it’s discovered. Ignoring the effects of a rogue volunteer is often as egregious a crime as the rogue volunteerism itself.
To that end, volunteers gone rogue are situations requiring strong and experienced leadership, from both an executive and a staff perspective. This is one area in which AMCs excel.
Great timing on this topic. Did you know April 15 – 21 is National Volunteer Week? I know you will join me in celebrating volunteers of all stripes, especially the ones that make the world (and associations) a better place.
Unfortunately, rogue volunteers can give all volunteers a bad name, or worse, drive good volunteers out the door. But hallelujah, rogue volunteers are few and far between as I have only spotted 5 or 6 in their natural habitat over 28 years.
The key to managing volunteers is recognizing their strengths early on, as well as their weaknesses. We have sharp insights to both spot talent and identify problem behaviour that could be disruptive later on. Allowing a volunteer to go “rogue” never, ever goes well. All the more reason to nip rogue behaviour in the bud.
So, when my intuition tells me that we have a rogue volunteer in the house my first step is to try and work with them to try and channel their “enthusiastic” behaviour into more acceptable and productive actions. Failing that, it is up to the association leadership (President, committee chair or someone else with authority/profile) to connect with the rogue volunteer; peer to peer, to let them know that their behaviour is not aligned with the association’s mandate and that it is not okay. This is when our best practices, collected, cultivated and refined over the years, come into play.
Often times we discover that the rogue volunteer may not be involved in the organization for the right reasons – i.e. they only joined a committee to get their name on the website or to gain access to potential customers.
And I think you will agree that It is incumbent upon the association’s leadership to focus their energies on what is in the best interest of the organization; not what is best for the volunteer.
C-Says/D-Says is a regular blog column created and written by Constance Wrigley-Thomas and Doug Duke of Essentient Association Management, Burlington, ON.