volunteer managementAs 2019 approaches, we’re putting together a free mini-series of six volunteer management blog posts and free tools to help you kick off your best year ever. This week, we start with setting the right mindset for success.

When you think about planning your volunteer strategy and initiatives for the year ahead, do you see a chain link fence or a wide open field? Do you see gates and fences or the road ahead? Do you focus on scarcity and lack or see endless abundance and the potential for success?

How you think about your future matters.  It can have a decided impact on the success of your coming year.

There are plenty of things we tell ourselves that may or may not be true. Consider buy-in, for example. Do you need everyone to agree with your plan in order to get traction at your agency? In order to be to be successful, do you need to spend a lot of time and effort convincing a majority of people to support you?

The truth is, it may not be as hard as you think.

It Only Takes 10% to Build Buy-In

Some researchers estimate that a small percentage of “committed minorities” are needed to tip  group consensus toward a new way of thinking.

In fact, the prevailing majority opinion of your co-workers can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction of people who are committed to your change and are distributed throughout your organization. The only requirement is that they consistently talk up the change and are immune to changing their minds.

Specifically, when this committed fraction grows beyond 10%, the time it takes for the remainder of the group to adopt the new viewpoint rapidly increases.

So, building buy-in may be easier than you think.  But, if you don’t believe it’s possible you may never try.

Our Thought Patterns Can Stifle Success

How we view the probability of success (whether true or not) can intrude on our subconscious and stop us in our tracks.  In the busy world of volunteer management, as leaders, we need to level up how we manage our inner selves.

We must proactively correct the impulses that work against us, including how our brains work.

In our attempt to understand the world, we humans have a built-in tendency to create patterns in our minds. We learn rapidly by associating different things to each other, giving birth to recurring thoughts that dominate our world view that calcify into a rigid mindset.

According to Sources of Insight, “Mind-sets are those collection of beliefs and thoughts that make up the mental attitude, inclination, habit or disposition that predetermines a person’s interpretations and responses to events, circumstances and situations.”

Mindsets aren’t just any old beliefs, though.  They are beliefs that drive our reactions and subsequent behaviors.

These tendencies aren’t all bad — they’ve helped us survive as a species. The faster we can recognize danger, the quicker we can take off running for the trees. But they can hurt us, too.

The problem with our awesome ability to create shortcuts is that sometimes these connections are false and potentially harmful.

Based on the assumption that past experiences dictate future realities, we foster limiting beliefs that create false boundaries. These largely subconscious conclusions often block movement forward.

In the end, our mindsets tell us what we can’t do, what we can’t achieve, what we can’t be.

The ABCs of Limiting Beliefsvolunteer management

Although it may not always feel like it, you have the power right now to change your limiting beliefs and your life. You can take action. You can choose to respond in a creative, positive way to any situation by changing your mindset.  

But, your ability to bring about change depends on you. You must believe you can before you succeed, not the other way around.

So, as you prepare for the coming year — what limiting beliefs might you need to tackle?

You Can Change Your Thinking for the Better

When we react to adverse situations, we form limiting beliefs, but they are not “Truths.”

A limiting belief is nothing more than electrical impulses that live in your brain and have power only as long as you continue to hold on to them.

What do you believe you or your volunteers can or can’t achieve? What limits do you place on your ability to lead your organization to the next level? What things do you accept as inevitable and which are mutable?

Though your beliefs may feel comfortable, they may be working against you and clouding what is possible. But, just as you have chosen to hold limiting beliefs, you can choose to let them go, one by one. You can replace them with something that serves you better.

Reframing Your Beliefs About What Your Team Can Achieve

Transforming negative, limiting beliefs into positive, enabling ones can exponentially increase your faith and confidence in your abilities and those of your volunteer team.

But, first you must disrupt your thought patterns by becoming aware of your own knee jerk reactions.  If you do this consistently, you will form new thought patterns and belief systems in the brain that will serve you better.  

When you experience a problem or challenge, reflect on your conclusions about the situation. Take a moment to play devil’s advocate and to dispute your reality.

Ask yourself:

  • Is it helpful for me to think this way?
  • What might I be missing? What else could have caused the problem?
  • What proof do I have as to who’s at fault, whether the damage is permanent, or how important it may be to the overall picture?
  • If what you believe is true, is it truly catastrophic?

You can also re-frame limiting beliefs by replacing them with enabling beliefs and “acting as if” they will be true even if we can’t know for sure. Although these enabling beliefs might not be true at the moment, they will help you move toward what you want with more confidence.

Consider writing a mantra that guides your way and transforms your limiting belief into unlimited potential.

Mantras for Powerful Enabling Beliefsvolunteer management

When it comes to the brain, repetition is king. Once you’ve established a new pattern in your mind, you’ll move from uncertainty to recognition. You’ll see your new resulting behavior as acceptable, allowing you to feel more comfortable.

To boost repetitive thoughts, once you’ve decided on an enabling belief look for evidence that your new belief is true. If you seek, you will find plenty of clues and proof. As you do, you’ll further cement your new point of view in your brain.

In addition, you can achieve even greater success by embodying the belief both physically and emotionally. To do this, stand with your eyes closed and imagine yourself acting on your belief. Focus on what you are doing and how it feels. Spend a few minutes here savoring your new reality.

The more you repeat enabling beliefs in your mind and body, the better chance they will have to stick.

Five Volunteer Management Mindsets to Challenge

The following are pervasive mindsets in the volunteer management space that we see as we help leaders grow. They deserve to be examined and challenged.

See if any of these resonate with you:

  • Limiting Fixed Mindset — Leadership and supervisory talent is innate; we’re either born with it or we’re not.
    • Replace with Enabling Growth Mindset — My success is about finding the right tools and teachers and then putting in consistent effort and practice to learn to lead.
  • Limiting Futility Mindset — I am powerless to make progress in my environment where others control my access to resources, so I might as well not try.
    • Replace with Enabling Efficacy Mindset — I have the courage to set meaningful goals and, with perseverance, I can create pathways to success from where I’m at.
  • Limiting Excluded Mindset — No one at my agency understands or values what my volunteer department or team does or achieves.
    • Replace with Enabling Belonging Mindset — There are people in my organization with similar experiences and values; I can find them by reaching out and starting conversations about shared goals.
  • Limiting Passive Mindset — Because volunteers are free, both they (and I) need very little infrastructure and support to be successful.
    • Replace with Enabling Relevant Mindset — The work of volunteers expands across our agency and is vital to our success; we all require adequate acknowledgement and support for their important work.
  • Limiting Scarcity Mindset — Because I work in a nonprofit and in volunteer services, I should make extreme personal sacrifices and be content to scrape by; I should expect others (including those outside my organization) to do so, as well.
    • Replace with Enabling Prosperity Mindset — I add unique value to my workplace and am faithfully doing my part to help our mission succeed; therefore, it is my organization’s responsibility to invest in my work and professional growth.

It may feel shocking to hear some of these mindsets spoken aloud. You might even argue whether they truly limit your progress and whether they should be replaced.

But, consider this — which of the limiting mindsets listed above have served you? Have any been the bedrock of your success?  

Conversely, how might the enabling mindsets empower you and change your game plan forever?

Level Up Your Volunteer Management Game Plan in 2019 Mini Series

Ready to start planning your best year ever!

Over the next six weeks we’ll be sharing a series of free downloads to help you get a jump on 2019. They’ll appear here in our blog, so be sure to visit each week to grab your tool. Each will help you take one more next step toward success!

Your first tool is ready to go below!

volunteer coordinators


Tool #1 - The Miracle Mindset Worksheet

Start planning your best year ever! Uncover hidden limiting beliefs that could get in the way of YOU and the impact of YOUR VOLUNTEER PROGRAM in 2019.


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