Volunteer Engagement – the Missing Link
 
Every religious organization runs on three things: Time, Talent, and Treasure.
 
It is no secret that Ahavas needs volunteers, i.e. your time and your talents. At the time of this writing, I have committee members, but still need someone to lead the Parking Lot project, and someone to lead the Cadillac of Raffles fundraiser. Without leaders for these projects, Ahavas will be without a much-needed parking lot, and our major fundraiser will not happen.
 
•For the Parking Lot project – we already have $65,000 of the $110,000 goal without even kicking off the project.
 
•The Cadillac of Raffles has a well-worn path. We already know what to do, and Deb does most of the day-to-day work such as mailing tickets, keeping track of them in the database, etc. Still, we’re required to have a Chairperson (Michigan lottery rules) who is responsible for the overall project, encourages the ticket sellers, and maybe even sells tickets him/herself.
 
What makes people want to be volunteers?
Each person has their own motivating reasons: Many are driven by a desire to assure the next generation of Jews will be stronger than the current one; others are driven by a desire to work with others; some find that serving the community is a good way to connect with other Jews. There is no one common thread.
 
Inspiring the right volunteers to step forward to help build our sacred community is not so easy. There are reasons why.
 
Why don’t people volunteer their time and talent? 
 
•Many congregants fear that if they volunteer at the synagogue they’ll be signing up for a life sentence. 
 
•They’re afraid that they will not be supported in the work they do, or they will not be appreciated. 
 
•They’re afraid that they will have to reinvent the wheel because their predecessor is not available and left no documentation.
 
•They’re asked to volunteer for something they’re not particularly interested in. 
 
•The committee they’re working with is not very engaging, not very active, or has no direction or goals.
 
Engaging congregants as volunteers is an essential community-building tool and an opportunity to build the capacity and strength of the synagogue. 
 
Ahavas will need volunteers for implementing our congregational strategic plans!
Volunteer engagement is much more than rounding up warm bodies, coercing reluctant congregants, and waiting for the inevitable burnout. There needs to be a sense of purpose, as well as thoughtful assessment and planning. Each goal of the congregation should be met by volunteers suited for that responsibility. The volunteer culture at Ahavas can be transformed by appreciating and developing our volunteers, clarifying expectations of volunteers, giving them appropriate access to decision making and authority, supporting them in their work, and showing appreciation.
 
The new culture of volunteer engagement invites each and every member to shape and nurture the synagogue and the future of the community. This is accomplished by creating a congregation in which all members are inspired to bring their skills and passions to fulfill the mission of the synagogue. When this happens, wonderful synergy will occur. Torah study; worship; and acts of kindness will thrive.
 
There are many volunteer levels at Ahavas based on your interests and the time you have to give: 
 
1.Ongoing commitments, such as what is needed for Board and committee memberships, and teaching responsibilities.
 
2.Project-based requirements that are time limited, such as serving on an ad hoc task force or collecting for a fund-raiser.
 
3.Seasonal responsibilities, such as High Holy Day needs, landscaping, or garden maintenance.
 
4.One-time-only needs, such as substituting for a staff member on vacation, or stepping in when someone falls ill.
 
Volunteers are the life blood of this community, and we cannot function without them. Monetary contributions are great, but it’s the volunteers that get things done.
 
What are your interests or passions? Where can they be best used at Ahavas? Do you have any ideas for things that we’re not doing, and are you willing to help fill that void? Can we count on you to help out, even if it’s for a short time?
 
The challenge of the Board is to be constantly aware of the diverse needs and beliefs of the members. We must create opportunities for members to explore their own beliefs, to contribute in a way that matches their personal preferences and strengths, and which allows members to use their energy and enthusiasm to assure our future is strong and bright. 
 
Before the end of the first quarter we plan on sending out an interest survey to all Ahavas members. Please be sure to respond and let us know how and where you would like to contribute your time and talents.
 
 
 
 
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