Thursday, August 04, 2005

"If you keep doing what you do, you keep getting what you got." Robert Woodson, Sr.

Today was the official opening of the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service and the kick off featured a string of high profile people, including the rock star, Jon Bon Jovi. To me the highlight was the speech by Robert Woodson, Sr, who is founder and president of the national Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE)

Woodson's speech was introduced by a young man who had his life turn around thanks to Bob Woodson. The young man said "He was sent to me from Heaven. What I owe him is for me to stay on the straight and narrow path."

Mr. Woodson's speech lived up to this introduction and if any reader ever gets a chance to hear him, take the opportunity. Woodson started off saying, "Those of us in the trenches fighting forces of evil have made a public commitment. We do not serve youth out of compassion, but of Godly obligation." That's a powerful statement.

He went on to say "Give me strength to tell and pursue the truth, even when it is inconvenient to me." Then he said, "Self examination and self-criticism is the highest form of maturity."

All of this was meant to challenge us to search our soul for why we do what we do, and to not be settled for the easy solution. I find that the biggest obstacle I face in approaching businesses, universities and foundations is that they are so invested in what they are already doing that they are not sitting back to see if that is enough, or if that is all they could be doing.

Mr. Woodson's speech was preceded by comments by Anthony Williams, Mayor of Washington, DC, Marsha Bullard, CEO of USA Weekend Magazine and Cokie Roberts of ABC NEWS and NPR. Ms. Roberts said "business is making volunteerism a "core business function". While that may be true, I'm not sure if business is maximizing the impact of volunteers. One of the later workshops talked about "talent recruitment", which meant searching beyond one-on-one volunteers for talented people in a company who can perform many important roles in a volunteer organization.

The final remarks were from Jon Bon Jovi, who seeks to "give back to people who have given so much to him". Bon Jovi wants to make volunteerism 'hip'. He said "I want volunteerism to be the new 'black'"

Later in the day I attended two workshops. One focused on recruiting volunteers for more roles than direct service with kids. This was a valuable workshop because it highlighted an important marketing issue. Most ad campaigns like national mentoring month, or the America's Promise campaigns focus on the act of mentoring a kid. I've felt for a long time that this gave the volunteer an 'all or nothing' proposition. For those who could not mentor, there were no other options. This workshop confirmed that and said that companies and non profits should target talented volunteers who can serve other roles. Imagine if in stead of "Who mentored You" the slogan for the 2006 National Mentoring Month Campaign was "who built your web site?"

I ended the day by visiting the trade fair. I ran into four people who I'd gotten to know over the internet and met for the first time today. Two were with Business Strengthening America, one was Adam Aberman of, and one was Kristi Zappie-Ferradino of the National Mentoring Partnership. It was electric when I introduced myself to each of these people and they recognized me as someone they had come to know via internet conversations.

Hopefully some of the people I met will continue to connect with me and others in internet forums that bring us back together in the next few weeks and months. If that happens we'll be more likely to put the commitment of a Robert Woodson to work in more places.

See you tomorrow.

No comments: