Archive for September, 2013

24
Sep
13

To pay or not to pay?

Intern name tag

Photo courtesy of myjoboption.com.

Not that long ago, interns were known as the coffee getters, copy makers and phone answerers. In other words, the grunt workers. Or office gophers, perhaps.

Thankfully, those days are gone (for the most part).

Now, interns are treated as valuable members of the team, often attending meetings, working on projects and managing social media accounts. They bring a fresh perspective to the workplace and employers welcome their enthusiasm.

But the question of whether to pay interns continues to perplex employers. It’s not a question of free labor, but rather regulation. Are you required to pay your interns? And, if not, should you anyway?

These days, it seems that to find a job after college, students must engage in at least one internship during their academic careers. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that most employers expect it.

And it seems that paying interns is the way to go.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the results of its College 2013 Student Survey showed that 63.1 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer, whereas only 37 percent of unpaid interns did.  That’s not much better than the survey’s results for those with no internship—35.2 percent received at least one job offer.

But it’s complicated for nonprofits, which are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which mandates for-profit companies pay their interns at least minimum wage.

Since the ruling in the Black Swan case, there’s been a lot of buzz about what constitutes work and what doesn’t. In June, a federal judge ruled that unpaid interns at Fox Searchlight Pictures violated the FLSA by not paying interns during the production of the 2010 movie “Black Swan.” The judge ruled the interns performed the same work duties for which others were paid, and that the internships didn’t provide an educational environment, but instead benefitted the studio.

While the film industry is notorious for not paying interns, the decision could turn other industries on their heads.  Now, employers are asking: Will unpaid internships soon be history?

Black Swan movie

An artistic rendering of the movie, “Black Swan.” Photo courtesy of wallpapersus.com.

There’s a fine line when it comes to unpaid vs. paid internships, so in 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor released a fact sheet to determine under which circumstances a company could use unpaid interns. According to the department, there are six criteria that must be met to justify unpaid interns:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

It’s not easy to navigate the mumbo jumbo of labor laws.  But if you’re thinking of starting an internship program, and if you’re debating about whether to pay your interns, Prima Civitas, a nonprofit economic and community development collaborative, offers a good resource. Prima Civitas’ Employer Internship Toolkit outlines what a successful internship program might look like and what an intern might do.

Next week, I’ll talk with Cheryl Ronk, president of Michigan Society of Association Executives, about the association’s successful internship program. I’ll also be doing some research to find other examples of successful programs, so I look forward to reporting back to you in a couple weeks.

But in the meantime, tell me: Does your association or organization use interns? If so, how? And do you pay them?

17
Sep
13

No more burnout blues

Yes notepadAs a working mom of three, I rarely have a free night. Usually, my husband and I taxi our children to and from sports practices and games, scouts and church youth events.

It seems to be the new norm for us GenXers, who juggle jobs, parenthood and extracurriculars. So it’s amazing to think most of these groups are run by volunteers. Case in point: I’m PTA president at my kids’ school.

But even if you’re not a parent, I’m guessing you’re a professional and social juggler, and as such, enjoyed last week’s post. Whether you volunteer personally or professionally, do you feel burned out?

Mission driven volunteering could be the solution.

Last week, I wrote about the whitepaper “The Mission Driven Volunteer” by Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist of Spark Consulting, LLC, and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing.

As a follow up, this week they wrote a blog post recapping some of their main points. Read it below and share your feedback with them on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel.

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Wouldn’t it be amazing to have an abundance of engaged, highly motivated volunteers who are brimming with ideas your association actually implements?

Unfortunately, our world tends to look more like this:

  • Difficulty recruiting volunteers
  • Do-nothing committees
  • Poorly attended meetings
  • No new ideas
  • Volunteer burn out
  • Disengaged and disheartened volunteers

    Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

    Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

We believe that’s because the current model of association volunteering, based on standing committees, is broken. All that dysfunction is an artifact of a system that values form, position and title over function, meaning and action.

This model is pathological for several reasons:

  • It  ignores the reality of generational differences.
  • It  handcuffs organizational decision-making.
  • It  limits opportunities for involvement.

There is another way, though: mission driven volunteering.

A number of research studies and innovative volunteer-supported projects provide us with a new working definition for volunteerism: giving one’s time and talent to drive the mission. This new definition draws on two intrinsic motivations to volunteer, with the focus on the outcomes of volunteering and the functions needed to drive those outcomes. This turns the image of volunteering, which traditionally starts with a board and trickles down or begins with the job title and then the description, upside down.

Mission driven volunteering takes advantage of the top five drivers to volunteering, as delineated in the American Society for Association Executives’ 2008 research report, “The Decision to Volunteer:”

  • It’s important to help others
  • Do something for profession/cause important to me
  • Feel compassion for others
  • Gain new perspectives
  • Explore  my own strengths
Peggy Hoffman

Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

Mission driven volunteering also embraces adhocracy as a governance model and micro-volunteering, which allows your members to contribute their time and talents in small, convenient increments.

This isn’t an easy switch to make. However, the era in which members had ample time and resources to serve on traditionally-organized committees that made all decisions slowly, deliberatively and collaboratively is over.

Data show that your members still very much want to contribute their ideas and energy to your association, and, through you, to the profession or industry you serve. But they are asking for new things from your association. They want to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them and make a demonstrable difference, in small bites, and on – and only on – their schedules. They are mission-driven volunteers. Are you ready for them?

Editor’s Note: If any of you are aware of successful volunteer programs within your organizations, please share links and information here!

10
Sep
13

Mission possible: Finding and keeping volunteers

It’s the first board meeting of the year and the room is packed with enthusiastic volunteer board members. And later that month, committee members flock to your building to discuss the assignments for the year.

But slowly, throughout the year, people stop coming. Projects hit roadblocks. And by the end of the year, you find it harder and harder to recruit – and keep – volunteers.

Sound familiar?

It may be that your volunteers are bored, says Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

Elizabeth Engel

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC

Unfortunately, many organizations are stuck when it comes to volunteers, she said. Like zombies, committee members engage in busy work instead of generating new ideas to further the mission of the organization.

Part of the problem is traditional committee structure doesn’t allow for quick decision making, Engel said, and that doesn’t work when GenXers and millennials are accustomed to 24-7 information and networking. We get impatient.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, these generations – which in 2011 surpassed Baby Boomers for volunteerism – value virtual networks and don’t often communicate face to face. But because of traditional volunteer models, defined by committees, boards of directors, meetings and high levels of commitment, these young professionals may be hesitant to jump in.

So that’s why associations must embrace mission-driving volunteering, Engel said. She and Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC, recently co-authored a whitepaper, “The Mission Driven Volunteer.”

“Volunteers’ work has to have meaning and impact, where they can clearly see it advancing the mission of the association,” Engel said. “That’s the cake. Recognition, rewards, honors and all that jazz are nice, but they’re the icing. Get the cake right first.”

For example, there should be volunteer opportunities other than joining committees or boards of directors.

“The most innovative volunteer opportunities I’ve seen recently are related to tasks like crowdsourcing,” Hoffman said. “The most innovative association staff positions are volunteer services director, director of member engagement and volunteer coordinator – all of which allow someone to focus on this area.”

When volunteers feel empowered to contribute to the good of the organization, using their own skills and passions, they’re more willing to give their time, the authors wrote.

According to Engel and Hoffman, here are some hallmarks of a mission-driven volunteer program:

  • Projects are evaluated based on how they contribute to the organization’s mission.
  • Structure is built around project-oriented teams rather than the budget cycle.
  • Volunteers are selected based on competencies and skills rather than for position title, tenure or political reasons.
  • The litmus test for maintaining standing committees is breadth of oversight (i.e. fiscal oversight, leadership development/nominations) or legal requirements (i.e. state or federal laws requiring an executive committee).
  • It embraces and enables micro-volunteering.
  • It democratizes volunteering, allowing more people to participate and for those volunteers to create their own opportunities.

    Peggy Hoffman

    Peggy Hoffman, president of Mariner Management and Marketing, LLC

To sum it up, while younger generations are willing and enthusiastic volunteers, they seek different kinds of volunteer experiences, ones that are less about structure, position and prestige, they wrote. They want experiences that are focused instead on independence, meaning, impact and “getting it done,” none of which are easily accommodated by the traditional committee model.

“People like variety, so the question to ask [if you’re struggling to keep volunteers] is whether people were driven out of your organization because of a lack of variety,” Hoffman said. “And a good percentage of volunteers stop because life changes their availability – a new job, a new responsibility at work, a new baby. So the question to me is, how do we address this by crafting volunteer programs that recognize this?”

One solution: micro-volunteering. Think about it as bites of volunteer work: short-term projects, flexibility, ad-hoc committees and taskforces. Micro-volunteers contribute 49 or fewer hours per year and contribute most frequently in ways related to content (research, conducting literature reviews, analyzing data, preparing background information for regulators and press, reviewing proposals) or teaching and mentoring, Engel said. In the whitepaper, Engel and Hoffman present some questions upon which associations can reflect:

  • Which of your standing committees have gone “zombie?”
  • What does your demographic breakdown of volunteers look like? Are you seeing a surge in GenX and millennial volunteers? What are you doing to discover and accommodate their preferences in volunteering?
  • Among your current volunteer opportunities and groups, which support primarily infrastructure? Which support primarily mission? How could you go about getting more into the mission support category?
  • What types of decisions in your association would benefit from a deliberative decision-making process? Which would benefit from a more rapid decide-experiment-learn-iterate process? How do you see your committees and taskforces contributing to this?
  • What current volunteer projects could be turned over to mission-focused taskforces?
  • What current volunteer projects should be dropped to allow you to refocus volunteer and staff resources on mission-driven projects?
  • Ad-hoc volunteers give the least amount of time but as a group represent the largest number of volunteers. Can you identify yours? What do you know about them? How different – or similar – are they to your volunteer leaders?
  • Have you audited your volunteer opportunities to assure a variety of options that target low, medium and high commitment, as well as differing levels of task complexity and expertise required?
  • What do your volunteers say is working and not working for them?
  • How visible is volunteering in your association?
  • What is one action you could take today to start your association on the path to mission-driven volunteering?
"The Mission Driven Volunteer," by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

“The Mission Driven Volunteer,” by Elizabeth Engel and Peggy Hoffman

You can download “The Mission Drive Volunteer” from Engel’s website. Of special interest: It includes three case studies of associations that recently changed their volunteer programs and are now flourishing.  So read it and let us know. Do you need to make some changes?

Editor’s note: You can follow Hoffman and Engel on Twitter at @peggyhoffman and @ewengel. For more information on this topic, please read Aaron Wolowiec’s column in the fall issue of Michigan Meetings.

03
Sep
13

25 meeting management resources revealed

Aaron Wolowiec facilitates an "Ask the Experts" panel discussion during the 2013 Michigan Meetings Expo.

Aaron Wolowiec facilitates an “Ask the Experts” panel during the 2013 Michigan Meetings Expo.

I may not be your nerdy best friend; however, I was pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Destination Michigan earlier this year to help facilitate the 2013 Michigan Meetings Expo. During that event, we asked both planners and suppliers alike to share with us their favorite resources (e.g., technology tools, apps, programs, websites, blogs, books and articles).

Following is what they shared with us (in alphabetical order by category):

Apps

Blogs

Calendars

  • Outlook calendar
  • Convention & Visitors Bureaus
    • Websites
    • Convention calendars

Industry News

Lead Retrieval

Organizations

People

Productivity

And if you haven’t already, please consider attending the 2013 Showcase of Ideas (where you’re sure to walk away with even more great ideas like these). Scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 6, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Eagle Eye Golf Club in Lansing, this year’s program features a keynote presentation titled “Leading in Style” by leader development specialist Allison McClintick.

You’ll note this event is free to direct meeting and event planners. Additionally, exhibitors who register before Oct. 1 will save $100. I hope to see you there!




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, hot yoga, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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