So in working with volunteers, I feel is the best policy to upfront with them as to what you expect from them.   It puts both you and them on the same page and if you should ever need to de-volunteer them you have predefined the reasons for releasing them from their commitment. 

I have put a version of my volunteer contract below.  Of course I usually modify it for the organization that I am working with but the basics remain the same.  Note that I don't have abilities in the list of issues since I have found that most of the issues that have caused me to release a volunteer have more to do with other areas.

Volunteer Contract

We believe that you have a place to get involved in serving.  That place may or may not be where you think it is and part of the process of getting involved in an area is to determine if this is where you “fit”.    Not fitting in one area is not a negative to you in any way.  It just means that there is another place for you to get at this time.  Your fit may change in the future as your path moves forward. 

Due to this process, it is understood that situations may arise that may cause your volunteerism in this area to come to an end, either through your choice or not.   The continuing acceptance into this area will be determined by your ability to fit into this department and to maintain the qualities of a valuable volunteer.  

Those qualities are as follows:

1.  Faithful
     Being Cheerful – having a good attitude
     Being Teachable – willing to take instruction
     Being Flexible -  able to follow the changes as they happen
     Being Timely -  showing up when required
     Being Honorable – maintaining quality in words and deeds.

2.  Communicable
     Being Communicative - for when issues arise (going to be late, etc)
     Being Contactable – having good email and phone habits

I, the undersigned, have read and understood the above and agree to abide by the policies of this organization.

Signature _____________________________________          


Printed Name_____________________________________

the difference between a professional and a volunteer

A Professional can cover his mistakes...most of the time.

A Volunteer doesn't have the experience or knowledge to do such and therefore watches the mistake explode in all of its glory for all to see.

Ever watch a cat fall off of something? It usually gets right back up and either has this look of confidence "I meant to do that!" or this look of disgust "Who pushed me and caused me to fall!".

That is a Professional.

the point of diminishing return

So where is the spot where things are Excellent but still not Perfect?

In the recording world there is a saying that you can work on a song forever. But if you never stop working on it, you will never get it out to the public. So what good is that? So old saying goes that you should ask yourself this question....

Will the little old lady listening on the radio in her convertible hear what I am doing? (or.. Will the audience notice what I am doing?) If the answer is yes, then continue. If the answer is no, then stop working on that and continue on to the next thing.

That is the point of diminishing return.

But how does this translate into live production? Even if you are being paid by salary, you are costing your organization money every hour you put into something. So if you are spending hours working on something that the audience will not even notice, then you are wasting not only your time but also your employer's money.

We were preparing props for a live event. The Creative insisted that we put these little clear glass beads on these tables that were put on and off the stage. Because I was under the person, My stage crew was forced to deal with these little loose beads that wanted to roll all over when hauling these tables. And, we only had 2 minutes to get them on the stage during a blackout. We pulled it off, but because the stage is higher than the flat floor, the audience could not see them at all. Because the beads were so small, they were not even noticeable in the camera feeds as well. It was all done for the ego of the one person.

In my television classes in college there was one point that was hammered into us. Everything done must be proven as meeting an audience need. That is whole point of all productions and even religious services. When you start doing things that is beyond that, you are at the point of diminishing return.

grace for humanity

Beware of loosing your grace for humanity when working with volunteers.

In today's entertainment there are very few live events and even fewer done without lots of practice. On TV you have sports, news, awards shows, and SNL. Everything else is shot and edited, making it able to cover mistakes (yet how many continuity mistakes are seen even in those productions?). Most touring events, whether plays or concerts, have many weeks of rehearsals. Most awards shows have weeks of rehearsals that people don't realize happen as well.

Because we are so surrounded by these perfected programs, it has become an assumption that church techs should be able to pull off something perfect without any rehearsals with a new something each week. There seems to be a lack of understanding that even the true live events have a massive staff of professionals to cover their specialty niche of the production. Yet, in the church world, they can't afford professionals and demand that volunteers pull off the same quality.

Superbowl 2011 halftime was criticized in the media for having so many mistakes. I read an article in a trade mag written by someone on that tech crew. You see because of the freak weather, there were not any rehearsals. So the crew of highly trained professionals (these are some of the same guys that pull off other major events like the Grammys and such) made mistakes that you would normally not see on a major national event. This shows that even professionals, not given the opportunity to rehearse, are human as well.

Now think about the insanity of what many churches are asking of their volunteers and blaming their single staff person for not pulling off... a perfect service every week?

Organizations that utilize volunteers need to find and keep a grace for humanity in clear view.

perfection vs excellence

It seems that some people see these two concepts as being the same when in all actuality, they are not.

You see I am diabetic. I check my blood sugar periodically with a blood sample and a glucometer. But when I see my doctor, I get an A1c test. The glucometer gives me an instant reading of the blood sugar at that moment. I can test again in an hour and the results will be different. But the A1c test gives a general view over 3 months. Both tests are important because I might be all concerned over the details of each glucometer test but when I see the doctor, I find out that my overall success is actually pretty good.

So what does this have to do with perfection and excellence. Perfection is a goal but it is rarely attainable (some would argue never attainable), but Excellence is the result of reaching for Perfection over time. But just because something is Excellent, doesn't mean it is Perfect. And likewise, just because something isn't Perfect doesn't mean it isn't Excellent.

So the pursuit of Perfection is admirable but not consistantly attainable, because we are all human and make mistakes. But the pursuit of Excellence is attainable, even with flaws.

airline revenue boost ideas (OT)

Listen up airlines, I have a couple ideas for you.

1 - The first airline to do this will make a major media splash as well as good will (unfortunately Southwest won't be able to do it, though). Once the plane is loaded, have a random draw from the coach class to fill the remaining first class seats. It would be like winning a mini lottery. Seats are empty, why not give the coach people a break from the sardine environment in the back by moving a couple forward. Think of the word of mouth advertising and all of the media outlets will pick this one up as well - Free good advertising! All of those folks that play the lottery or gamble will want to fly your airline just for the thrill of the possibility of getting a better seat.

2 - Sell coupon space on the back of the seats. Attach a clear pocket on the back of the seats and sell the space. You've got a person's eyes for at least an hour, that is an amazing amount of time in the ad world. Plus the passenger gets to walk away with something tangible in their hand.

3 - On those planes with the individual video/gaming units on the backs of the seats, why not add coupon capability. The routes that these planes fly are usually several hours to overnight flights. Why not set up a way so the passenger can browse coupons by destination? Let the passenger enter an email address and then email the selected coupons to them to print out. If you wish to make it even more valuable, put a simple kiosk at the gate or baggage claim so that they can print them out once they arrive. All of this can be done as a revenue generating situation. And once again, think of the eye time that the advertisers get!

Maybe if the airlines could offset some of their costs through selling ad space, they could get away from this nickel and dime mentality that is so popular now. I recently flew on a carrier (who will remain nameless) that did so much selling that I felt like I was in one of those timeshare meetings.

now is the time for the volunteer

Sometime in the last year, I read an article stating that current generation entering into the workplace are looking for more than a job. They want a job or an employer that has a purpose, whether helping through humanitarian aid or doing good things for mankind through their product/service.

One of my daughters recently got married. The groom and his entourage all wore this particular brand of shoe in lieu of the traditional dress shoe. When I asked about it, I figured that I would hear about this being something in style or popular (which they are). Instead, I was told about how this company gives away a set of shoes for every one that they sell.

So this generation should be potentially the greatest volunteer workforce ever seen. It is how the people seeking volunteers present their motivation that will determine their success. I don't think that this generation will respond to the old, "we need your help" routine, rather the approach of telling how they are going to affect their world around them through their actions in assisting this cause.

I only hope that the ones seeking volunteers will catch on before the opportunity is lost.

sleight of hand

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, mixing is a large part arranging. Showing people different things as the song/song set progresses. But mixing is also hiding things. It’s not only a “look here, look there – hear this, here that” but “don’t hear this, don’t look there”.

I recently was working a gig where at the end of the speaking part, the speaker asked a musician to perform a specific song. Earlier in the music part of the event, the musician (a guitar player/singer) had broke a string on his guitar. So during the speaking part, he replaced his strings. When he got back up to perform, he realized that the guitar had gone out of tune and was frantically trying to tune. The speaker kept pushing him to start, so finally, he did. Unfortunately, he hadn’t finished tuning. So here I was mixing. I have a performer playing slightly out of tune and therefore singing out of tune (in tune to his instrument). I could hide his instrument, but not his voice since he was the soloist. So I opted to ditch all of the other instruments except the rhythm section. It became an almost guitar solo with vocal, bass, and drums. Eventually, the song went into a freeform mode where I could lose the guitar and add the rest of the instruments. And soon after, the performer realized that since it was freeform he could stop for a minute and finish his tuning while the band vamped. Then the world was back in order.

The point is that I could just have let it be what it was because it was no fault of mine that the player was out of tune. But I did a creative arrangement decision that concealed to most of the audience the train wreck happening in front of them

more. . .

People seem to always think that more is better. It can be true but if in attempting more, you can't pull it off successfully, then more is worse. The interesting thing is that when more is worse, then the people planning the more and the performers doing the more are never responsible for the failure of the more but the tech crew always is. This is one reason a divide tends to exist between the tech crew and the stage.

Less done successfully is always better than more done unsuccessfully. When a person leaves an experience, whether a restaurant, live event, or movie, the talk isn't about all of the things that were good, but the one or two things that weren't.

More also requires organization and clarity in communication. More needs participants with greater skill/ability.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against more, just that people understand that more requires more. People must count the cost before attempting more to make sure that the more is successful.

Sometimes a little more can be just as impressive as a lot more, especially when done successfully.