Time To Say Goodbye

May 3, 2010

Hi everyone!

As this is my final blog article, I would like to sum up my volunteer experiences which I have gained in the past months in combination with my marketing project for my University course.

My Favorite Volunteering Activities

As I have already been an active volunteer for approximately ten years, picking only one favorite volunteer task is quite difficult. However, in the past months I definitely enjoyed two activities most: First, accompanying the Sternsinger (Christmas carol singers) was a great experience, because spending time with children and being responsible for them is my most favorite task. Also, conveying the spirit and story of Christmas together with the most adorable and incredibly motivated children was a lot of fun.

Second, I really enjoyed the youth masses I organized with some other volunteers. The idea of organizing youth masses on a regular basis was developed during my focus group interview, which made me very proud of my project. It showed me that doing this project was actually really useful. Also, I absolutely love singing and playing during the mass with other young volunteers, because I get the chance to combine my passion for music with my faith and belief in God by spending time with my friends.

Volunteering as a University Module

At this point I would like to thank my module leader for creating this great course. Applying the hands-on experiences gained during my volunteer work to an academic marketing project was sometimes quite challenging. However, I absolutely enjoyed learning more about volunteering, reading about motivation theories and using my knowledge to actually create a real project. Not only did this project help me to develop a deeper understanding of volunteering, but it also helped my volunteer organization to gain an insight into the motivations of the young volunteers and what they would like to improve.

Conclusions

I would like to conclude my final blog article by stating one more time how important volunteering is. Volunteers are a necessary part of many organizations and they can really help others with their skills and talents. There is an incredibly large number of volunteer opportunities out there, whether it be emergency medical services, religious organizations, fire brigades, sport events such as the Olympic, or simply helping your neighbors with their daily tasks – volunteers are needed everywhere.

I am encouraging everyone – in particular young students – to volunteer. It is the ideal way to meet new people, to gain new experiences, to do something good by helping others and simply to have a great and fun time.

Thank you for following my blog over the past months. I really enjoyed posting my thoughts and ideas about my volunteer commitment.

Bettina

My Volunteer Project: Results

April 26, 2010

This week I would like to give you a brief summary of the results of my focus group interview. As mentioned before, my project focuses on the motivations and anti-motivations of young volunteers, the importance of faith with regard to their work, cooperation and integration within the parish community and appropriate information channels.

Motivations

Generally, all participants were motivated for volunteer work. Regarding their reasons for volunteering, the participants mentioned for instance that they were asked, that friends invited them, that they want to show children what they experienced as a child, that they want to convey they faith and belief, that it is fun and that there was nobody else motivated to organize certain activities. The participants are all very proud of their groups and their work and they have a strong feeling of responsibility for “their” children and the team.

Christian Faith

Concerning the relationship between their Christian faith and belief and their volunteer work, the altar servers stated a strong relationship, whereas the Jungschar leaders mentioned that their faith is barely connected to volunteering. However, the participants showed high interest in changing this and they stated that they would be interested in learning more about how to integrate their faith into the program at their group meetings. Also, the Jungschar leaders were hoping for more support from the reverent.

Integration within Parish

Only some of the volunteers felt fully integrated in the parish community and one participant mentioned that she was not very integrated in the youth group. However, all participants were very excited to integrate her more in the group.

Information Channels

Regarding information channels, the results of the discussion group absolutely showed that e-mails are not an ideal tool to communicate with young volunteers, as they do not check their e-mails on a regular basis. However, the participants suggested sending text messages with for instances reminders for the next youth mass or activity, due to the fact that they will see it immediately and can easily reply.

Suggestions & Conclusions

Summing up, it can be said that the expected lack of motivation of young volunteers at my parish should not be generalized because there are a few volunteers who are extremely motivated and show great potential for future activities and improvements. The participants are motivated for more youth activities, such as a monthly youth mass, which is actually now already taking place thanks to the focus group. Also, the participants suggested a closer cooperation between the altar servers and the Jungschar leaders, as they could both benefit from each other’s experiences, for instance fun outdoor Jungschar games or knowledge about how to talk about religion and faith with children.

I hope that my results are interesting for you. If you would like to receive more details, feel free to contact me.

Bettina

Article Discussion: Managing Volunteers

April 19, 2010

I found an interesting article in an Austrian newspaper about the management of volunteers and how to combine volunteers and paid employees in one workplace. The article is called “Freiwilligenmanagement: Zahlungsmittel Anerkennung”, written by Claudia Dabringer, published in Die Presse.

The article cites managers of various volunteer-dependent organizations, such as the Caritas. Generally, it is said that the basic leadership principles for volunteers and paid employees are similar, but that there are quite a few management differences, such as the payment. Therefore, the managers suggest different trainings, seminars and workshops about strategic volunteer management, how to deal with volunteers or becoming a volunteer manager. (Dabringer 2010)

It is said that last year Austrians volunteered approximately 15 Million hours, which could be summed up as 425,000 full-time workers working 40 hours per week (Dabringer 2010). Therefore, the right and appropriate management of volunteers are of high importance. Volunteers and employees should be able to cooperate. According to Martin Lesky, responsible for the volunteers at Caritas in Tyrol in Austria, managers can learn quite a lot from their volunteers: (Dabringer 2010)

  • Looking at the overall picture – keeping the organization’s philosophy and staff in mind at all times
  • Personal Attributes – every volunteer is important, everybody can volunteer with their own personal skills and talents

I think the article is very interesting, in particular the part about what managers can learn from volunteers. Dealing with volunteers is sometimes quite challenging and in my opinion trainings and seminars on volunteer management are a great way of helping managers with this challenge. The cooperation between paid employees and un-paid volunteers can be difficult to coordinate, as volunteers often need different motivation and encouragement due to the fact that they do not have any monetary benefits from their work. Therefore, such workshops can help managers to learn about the right motivation and leadership of volunteers and I think that they are a great idea.

See you next week,

Bettina

Reference:

Dabringer, C. (2010). Freiwilligenmanagement: Zahlungsmittel Anerkennung. Die Presse (online). Available from: http://diepresse.com/home/karriere/karrierelounge/556124/index.do?from=suche.intern.portal [Accessed 7 April 2010]

Faith & Volunteering

April 12, 2010

As I am volunteering for a catholic organization, I would like to talk about faith in relation to volunteer work.

In Austria, religious and faith-related activities are the third most popular type of volunteering, following arts /culture and sports. The average time spent with volunteering at religious institutions is 2.4 hours per week. Another interesting fact is that Austrian women are more likely to combine faith and volunteering than men. (Statistik Austria 2008)

According to a UK study (Institute for Volunteering Research 2002), the four main categories of faith-related volunteer work are:

  • Routine tasks (volunteering on a regular basis e.g. fundraising, organization of classes)
  • Welfare activities (e.g. preparing meals for others, organizing social activities)
  • Volunteering at festivals (e.g. decoration, organization, promotion)
  • Volunteering at specific occasions (e.g. earthquakes, floods)

My volunteering can mostly be found in the first and third category. My weekly Jungschar group was a routine activity, my organization of events can more be related to festivals.

Some of the main motivations and reasons for members of faith communities to volunteer are to help others, to support each other, to act according to their faith and pass on those practices, to support their community or to socialize (Institute for Volunteering Research 2002).

It can be seen that faith-related volunteering is based on many spiritual factors. I agree to a certain extent to this as my faith is one of the reasons why I volunteer. However, I also volunteer because I enjoy having a fun time with my friends and spending time with children. If you want to share your experiences with faith-related volunteering, feel free to comment on my blog.

See you next week,

Bettina

Reference:

Institute for Volunteering Research (2002). Faith and voluntary action: community, values and resources. Available from: http://www.ivr.org.uk/researchbulletins/bulletins/faith-and-voluntary-action-community-values-and-resources [Accessed 27 March 2010]

Statistik Austria (2008). Freiwilligenarbeit in Österreich (aktualisierte Version vom 17.12.2008). Available from: http://www.statistik.gv.at/web_de/presse/029570 [Accessed 27 November 2009]

My Project: Theory of Planned Behavior

April 5, 2010

Happy Easter everyone!

Today I would like to talk a little bit more about my volunteer marketing project. The basis for my project is a theory called “Theory of Planned Behavior”, created by Icek Ajzen in 1991. The theory is quite complex to describe, but very useful for my project as it focuses on the motivations, intentions and attitudes. It was created on the basis of Ajzen’s “Theory of Reasoned Action”.

Basically, this theory tries to explain why people show certain behavior in certain situations. The main focus is on the intentions to behave in a certain way, such as a volunteer’s intention to start volunteering. (Ajzen 1991)

For my project, I am using Warburton and Terry’s test of the Theory of Planned Behavior (2000), as they divided their study into different useful sections:

  • Intention (Will I volunteer next month?)
  • Attitude towards volunteering (Do I consider volunteering as fun? Boring? Interesting?)
  • Subjective norm (Does my family support my volunteer commitment?)
  • Perceived behavioral control (Can external events easily stop me from volunteering?)
  • Moral obligation (Am I obligated to volunteer?)
  • Behavioral norm (Do my friends volunteer as well?)
  • Behavior (Did I volunteer last month?)

My questions for the focus group considered a similar approach and tried to cover the above mentioned sections. I will write about the results of my research in a few weeks, once my marketing project is completed.

Enjoy the rest of your week,

Bettina

References:

Ajzen, I. (1991). ‘The Theory of Planned Behavior.’ Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 50, 179-211

Warburton, J., Terry, D.J. (2000). ‘Volunteer Decision Making By Older People: A Test of a Revised Theory of Planned Behavior.’ Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 22 (3), 245-257

My Volunteering: Volunteering at Events

March 29, 2010

If I think about my volunteer experiences at events, I have to divide them into two categories: volunteering at events organized by others, respectively my international volunteer experiences and volunteering as an event organizer, for instance for my parish.

International Events

In 2007 I did a 5-month exchange semester at a University in Canada, respectively on Prince Edward Island (PEI). As part of my studies I got the great opportunity to gain some volunteer experiences at two events: the PEI Marathon and the Atlantic Educators Conference. At both events I was responsible for the registration (registering the participants, handing them their welcome package, providing information, etc.).

My international volunteer experience taught me quite a lot about the different working styles between Austrians and Canadians. The atmosphere of the conference was very fascinating, as the volunteers were treated in a very professional way. In comparison to that, the team of the marathon was very energetic, loud and cheerful and they tried to convey the spirit of the sport event to every single volunteer, for instance by organizing volunteer parties. I consider both experiences as very valuable and I can absolutely recommend volunteering at international events, especially at sport events.

Jungschar & Youth Events

At my parish I was involved in the organization of numerous events. I have already talked about some events like the Long Night of Churches, but there are a few other events that I organized and that I would like to mention:

A few years ago, another volunteer and I organized a huge event called “Come Together”. The event started in the afternoon with performances of all Jungschar groups, the youth group and the youth band. The Jungschar and Youth event was a huge success; however one should consider how time-consuming this organization was. Creating the program, building the stage, promoting the event, setting up the sound system, organizing sponsors and many other things had to be taken care of. The two weeks before the event I spent every single day at the church, even if it was just to copy some flyers.

Another event I would like to talk about is our annual “Pfarrgschnas”, the carnival party of my parish. Once a year, usually in February (carnival season in Austria), my parish has a carnival party. Every time over 50 adults and children dress up according to the theme (e.g. “Wild West” or “Famous Hollywood Couples”), play games, dance, sing and eat together at this party. I organized this event 3 times and the organization included for instance music, DJ, food, drinks, invitations, promotion, games, program or photographers.

I absolutely enjoy volunteering at events and organizing them. Events cannot work without volunteers and therefore, I encourage everyone to participate and volunteer!

See you next week,

Bettina

“Boarding Now”

March 22, 2010

As I mentioned last week, my volunteer organization offers numerous workshops, activities and seminars – especially for young volunteers. My most favorite event is called “Boarding Now” and takes place every year in the beginning of the winter semester in September or October. I used to attend this event every year during my 6 years of leading a Jungschar group.

This one afternoon offers 12 different workshops for over 150 Viennese Jungschar group leaders, including a party in the evening. Each workshop takes about one hour and every participant can choose the seminars they are most interested in. Last year, some of the topics covered during the workshops were: (Katholische Jungschar, n.a.)

  • Authority (the use of positive authority with children)
  • Children’s rights (getting to know legal and privacy issues together with the children)
  • Exploring the bible with children
  • Singing – Screaming – Dancing
  • Theater and role plays
  • Feedback (how to give each other feedback)
  • Etc.

Every year, different workshops are offered. My most favorite workshop, which is also now one of the most popular ones, was always “singing and screaming games”. As my Jungschar group consisted of 10 to 20 boys (sometimes 2-3 girls), we needed many games and activities where the children could use all their energy. The games we learned during the workshops were really useful and very creative. Some of the games turned out to be “our” children’s most favorite ones.

The “Boarding Now” event is a great opportunity for all Jungschar leaders to get new ideas, to meet new people, to share and discuss problems and thoughts and to experience team spirit. The dinner and party after the event were always a great place for socializing and exchanging ideas, experiences and opinions.

I can absolutely recommend volunteer workshops in general, as they provide volunteers with great creative input, fascinating experiences and new friends.

See you next week,

Bettina

References:

Katholische Jungschar (n.a.). Boarding Now. die Startveranstaltung der Jungschar Wien. Available from: http://wien.jungschar.at/index.php?id=655 [Accessed 9 March, 2010]

Workshops for Jungschar Volunteers

March 15, 2010

My volunteer organization, the Katholische Jungschar, offers numerous workshops and activities for their volunteers, in particular younger ones. The events are organized for Jungschar group leaders and people in charge of youth-related activities within the different parishes. At those workshops the participants can get to know other group leaders, get new ideas for games and discussions, discuss issues such as children with disabilities, get help with problems and questions and simply have fun.

In 2009/10 the Katholische Jungschar offers numerous workshops, educational seminars and courses in Vienna, which can be summed up as the following: (Katholische Jungschar, n.a.)

Educational seminars:

  • Basic Course: This course takes place every summer. For one week potential and actual Jungschar leaders and altar servers can get all the necessary information and tricks for leading such a group.
  • Opening Events: Events such as Boarding Now help the group leaders with new ideas for the upcoming year. I will tell you more about this event next week.
  • Parish Visits: Staff and volunteers of the Katholische Jungschar offer their help and advice by visiting the parish.
  • Jungschar Forum: Everyone who is responsible for the Jungschar activities within a parish is invited to join this discussion event.

Educational seminars focusing on specific areas:

  • Weekend on Leading a Camp: Information, help and advice is provided to those who are leaders of the annual summer camps.
  • Children Bible Masses: Questions such as “how to create an ideal mass for children” or “how to talk about the bible with children” are covered in this event.
  • Let’s talk about it: Three evenings are dedicated to information and discussions about sexual abuses.

Events for Children:

  • DKA Workshop afternoon: Group leaders can come to this workshop with their group (= the children). This year, the afternoon was dedicated to India and the Sternsinger project (please refer to my blog article from 11 January).
  • DKA Movies: Children and group leaders who are involved with the Sternsinger (Christmas carol singers) are invited for a movie night.

As already mentioned above, next week I will tell you a little bit more about my personal favorite out of those Jungschar events: the semester opening event Boarding Now. If you have any questions regarding the workshops, feel free to ask.

See you next week,

Bettina

Reference:

Katholische Jungschar (n.a.). Weiterbildungen. Available from: http://wien.jungschar.at/index.php?id=411 [Accessed 9 March, 2010]

Article Discussion: The Value of Volunteering

March 8, 2010

I often write about my personal reasons for volunteering, motivations of young volunteers and numerous other aspects. However, this week I would like to discuss volunteering in relation to the business world. I found an interesting article and study about how managers, employers and employees value volunteering with regard to the VSO volunteer abroad program. The study is called “Valuing Volunteering” and was conducted by the UK Chartered Management Institute in 2006.

After completing their international volunteer experience, the volunteers stated that the key skills they learned were: (Cook & Jackson 2006)

  • Taking responsibility
  • Communication skills
  • Solving problems in a creative way
  • Commitment to work

Personally, I can agree to those statements. A few years ago, I gained some international volunteer experiences in Canada and I can say that my communication and problem-solving skills improved quite significantly during that time.

However, Petrook (2006) concludes the findings of the study with stating that managers “across the UK fail to see how voluntary work boosts career opportunities and skills”. The benefits of such volunteer experiences are often ignored, although the managers could make use of such skills (Cook & Jackson 2006). I absolutely agree to this statement. For instance, volunteer experiences, especially when made internationally, increase one’s self-confidence and dedication. In many countries volunteering is considered as a special extra qualification and managers should learn to take advantage of those skills.

See you next week,

Bettina

References:

Cook, P. & Jackson, N. (2006). ‘Valuing Volunteering. A route to professional development: Views from VSO volunteers and managers.’ Chartered Management Institute. Available from: https://www.managers.org.uk/sites/default/files/user35/CMI_-_Valuing_volunteering_-_Jan_06_-_Full_Report.pdf [Accessed: 28 February, 2010]

Petrook, M. (2006). ‘Individuals fail to capitalise on the benefits of volunteering.’ Chartered Management Institute. 16 June. Available from: http://www.managers.org.uk/news/individuals-fail-capitalise-benefits-volunteering [Accessed: 28 February, 2010]

My Volunteer Project: Focus Groups

March 1, 2010

As I mentioned in my last blog, my volunteer marketing project uses a focus group interview to investigate the motivations of young volunteers. My focus group consisted of seven participants, one interviewer (that was me) and one person in charge of the camera.

What is a Focus Group?

A focus group is a qualitative research method, which “seeks to explore and understand people’s attitudes, perceptions, motivations and behaviors by constructing and then analyzing data” (Kent 2007, p.86). This means that the focus is more on the ideas, words, phrases and opinions of the participants and less on numbers and figures. Focus groups usually only require 6-12 participants, who can then discuss for about 90 minutes their thoughts about and attitudes towards a certain topic. An interviewer leads the discussion and the participants can also interact with the interviewer. (Kent 2007)

Why did I choose this method?

Focus group interviews have numerous advantages. Kitzinger (1994) states that one of the main advantages of focus group interviews is that the emphasis is on the opinions, ideas, language and attitudes of the participants. She also points out that the participants can interact with each other and might be more willing to talk openly about sensitive topics. Those positive points are one of the reasons for me to choose this type of methodology. For me it was very important that my respondents could come up with ideas they discussed together and that they can state their opinions in their own words. A further reason, besides those advantages, was that the number of young volunteers at my church is quite small.

Furthermore, another main reason for choosing this method was that I wanted the participants to interact with each other. In comparison to in-depth interviews, where there is usually just one interviewer and one interviewee (Kent 2007), during my focus group my respondents could talk to each other, brainstorm together and comment on each others’ ideas.

I hope you enjoyed my short insight into the world of research methods.

See you next week,

Bettina

References:

Kent, R. (2007) ‘Marketing Research: Approaches, Methods and Applications in Europe.’ Thomson: London

Kitzinger, J. (1994). ‘The methodology of Focus Groups: the importance of interaction between research participants.’ Sociology of Health & Illness. 16 (1), 103-121


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