My Goals for Mapping our Future and Strengthening our Voice as Volunteer Engagement Professionals

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Last week I had an opportunity of a lifetime. I spent several days learning from and engaging with leaders in volunteer engagement from all across the globe at the 2017 National Summit On Volunteer Engagement Leadership in St. Paul, Minnesota. While at this summit, I was inspired to do better; be better. I was challenged by new innovative concepts of “regenerative volunteer management,” applying principles of sustainability to engagement practices. However, the single most influential thought that continued to surface as I reflect on the past week, came from Rob Jackson, Director of Rob Jackson Consulting, Ltd. At the conclusion of a fringe session (Beyond Volunteering: Why You Might Choose to Lead More Than Volunteers) I had the opportunity to participate in, Rob encouraged us to write down one action item that we’ll commit ourselves to. I believe that we can go to conferences, attend workshops, be challenged and inspired, but it’s all for nothing unless we choose to act. So I’ve taken Rob’s advice and chose to make public some goals to work towards.

I choose to lead more than volunteers. A month ago I decided to leave my position as the Manager of Volunteer Services at my organization for a more senior position. I believe that through my new role as a senior manager, I’ll have greater influence on the culture around volunteerism and for volunteer engagement professionals. Through this new position, I aim to act on the following;

  • Advocate for those who engage volunteers: Wherever possible, be the voice for those who may not have one through their title; staff and volunteers alike. For professionals in a “coordinator” or entry-level position, I will empower them and lobby (through human resources and leadership) for more fitting titles reflective of true roles and responsibilities. I’ll do so by shedding light on the depth of knowledge and work that volunteer engagement professionals work.

I choose to mentor and educate. It became clear that those working in the profession of volunteer engagement don’t always see a clear progression, nor do many consider volunteer engagement a career. I will work to inspire a change in thinking by taking these measures;

  • Mentor other volunteer engagement professionals: I’ll work to hone the leadership and advocacy skills of volunteer engagement professionals. By working to instill confidence in others, my aim will be to help them find their professional voice, be bolder and to seek development. I’ll lean on my many successes and failures, and help navigate others through potential pitfalls and to work through others to enact the change they want to see.

I will challenge the status quo. My intellect was stretched last week by some of the breakout sessions attended. One in particular broached the concept of “regenerative volunteer management,” which applies sustainability principles into the process of engaging volunteers. While this concept may be too conceptually new for many professionals who are still of the traditional management mindset, I believe that we need to keep challenging the industry through thought diversity.

  • Listen and debate: Listening can be an incredibly strong tool, allowing for the digestion of new ideas that may be outside mainstream thought. Allowing for new ideas (even those you may oppose) challenges and stretches our limits, making us better. In times where I have a differing opinion, I will debate, rather than shutting down dialogue. At the very least something new is likely to come from the conversation.

Gandhi once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” While I’m not a person who normally quotes others, I’m a firm believer that in order to establish change, you have to act to be that change that you want to see.

While these actions will be relatively small in reach at first, I intent to be the change, even if just for a single person. If you’ve been engaged in similar advocacy, or just want to share your thoughts, I welcome you to comment and even question. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Note: The thoughts and views expressed in this post reflect my personal views alone and are not those of Marriott International or any of its brands.

About the author: Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Volunteerism for Marriott International. Prior to that Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome is a board of directors member of Peace Through Action USA and also serves on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the US Navy.

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Social Good advocate for CSR, Volunteer Engagement, and Sustainability. Veteran. Manager of Volunteerism at Marriott International. Visit

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