Crafting a Strong Volunteer Program with Rob Jackson

Putting the “People” Back in Volunteerism

Groundbreaking Volunteer Management Ideas with Rob Jackson

Putting the “People” Back in Volunteerism

Groundbreaking Volunteer Management Ideas with Rob Jackson

by GoldenburgGroup

Volunteers are the backbone of so many nonprofits. While many nonprofits could not keep their doors open without them, volunteers and volunteer programs are often overlooked. These volunteers come from all backgrounds and serve at all levels, from experienced professionals to four year olds, from board members to office assistants.

On this episode, Rob Jackson shares just a few of his groundbreaking ideas to ramp up your organization’s volunteer program. Join us as we shake up the norms surrounding who makes a great volunteer manager and how to retain volunteers.

Listen to the Episode Here!


Rob Jackson’s Website

e-Volunteerism Website

The Book: From the Top Down

The Book: The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook


(4:52) Volunteerism as a fabric of U.S. society

(7:43) Problems with volunteer management accreditation programs

(15:15) The equity of reimbursing volunteers’ expenses

(21:56) Adapting to the changing nature of volunteerism

(26:44) Segmenting volunteers


Dolph Goldenburg (00:00):

Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host, Dolph Goldenburg. I am so glad that you have joined us for a conversation with Rob Jackson, who is an internationally renowned leader in volunteer engagement. Rob has over 25 years of professional experience leading and managing volunteers. You might be saying, so what? There are thousands of people on the planet who can say the same thing. But Rob has risen to the level of trusted thought leader and influencer. He’s coauthored three books on the subject. The most recent is called From the Top Down, and he’s also coauthored The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook as well as Turn Your Organization into a Volunteer Magnet. That one, by the way, is actually available for download from one of his more recent blog posts and it’s free. It’s from 2007, it’s now downloadable, and completely free. But do you know what I really admire about Rob’s work? He’s a little bit of a contrarian, kind of like me, and he refuses to just regurgitate what prior experts or associations have said is a best practice or a leading practice. If you spend just a few minutes at his blog, it is very clear that he contributes an important voice on things like accreditation for volunteer managers and paying out of pocket expenses for volunteers. So if you’re curious to hear his voice on any of those subjects, please join me in welcoming Rob Jackson to the podcast. Hey, Rob, welcome.

Rob Jackson (01:41):

Thank you, Dolph. How are you today?

Dolph Goldenburg (01:43):

Gosh, I am doing great. I know we had a little bit of technical difficulties, and you kind of sounded like a Dalek on my end, but thankfully you don’t anymore.

Rob Jackson (01:52):

I was putting my weekend voice on for you.

Dolph Goldenburg (01:55):

So now that we all sound like humans, let’s maybe jump into this conversation by you sharing how you got your career in volunteerism started.

Rob Jackson (02:05):

Okay, so I’ll try and keep a very long story reasonably short. The first memory I have of being a volunteer is back in high school, back in the eighties and the days of the yuppies, when one of our teachers decided that he was going to translate his Filofax concept into something that we could use as students. I didn’t know it was called volunteering at the time, but I helped out with that and I suppose that sowed a seed in the back of my head. So I continued volunteering off and on as I got into university where I ended up doing a placement, completely unrelated to my degree, where in essence I was doing volunteer management. So like a lot of us, I fell into it completely by accident. I think the only person in the world who’s ever said, “Mommy, daddy, I’d like to be a volunteer manager” was my youngest son when he was about four years old when I told him what I did for a living. It kind of has gone very fortuitously from there, from one role to another role to another role in a variety of different organizations, including some time at Volunteering England. For the last nine years I have been a consultant, trainer, and speaker. I quite often describe myself as an itinerant volunteer oppinionater for hire. That seems to be the way that my life is professionally defined these days.

Dolph Goldenburg (03:24):

And I’ll say it is quite itinerant. I know before we got onto this recording, we were talking a little bit about your travel schedule, so I know you’re going to be presenting in D.C., you’re based out of the UK, you’re going to be presenting in D.C. later this year, and you’re going to be presenting in Auckland, New Zealand even later in the year. So definitely quite the itinerant volunteer opinionator.

Rob Jackson (03:44):

Yes. I made a purposeful decision in 2013 that I wanted to do some overseas travel with work. It’s difficult because we’re now in an age with technology where you don’t necessarily need to travel to work. For me, volunteer management is the same the world over. The basics of volunteer management doesn’t matter if you’re in sport, arts and culture, social services, different countries. The difference is the cultural and societal context that goes around that. And you can take the same issue that somebody may be dealing with in London and you can view it in New York or you can view it in Oakland or you can view it in Melbourne, and there’ll be subtle differences to it because of that context. I can then take that idea back; it’s almost like being a cross pollinator of ideas. So the overseas stuff is wonderful and I’m really looking forward to being back at Points of Light this year and working in Minnesota, Australia, New Zealand, and some of my favorite places in the world. So yeah, it’s going to be a good year, I think.

Dolph Goldenburg (04:44):

Can you give an example of one of those issues that maybe you take in the UK and it’s really different in New York and really different in Johannesburg?

Rob Jackson (04:52):

To me, one of the big differences between the States and the UK, for example, is that volunteering is far more embedded in the fabric of society in the U.S. that comes down to people having to help each other when they were moving West as the country was being colonized. If you didn’t help your neighbor, which is after all volunteering even if we don’t call it that, then not only did you die, but your community died as well. Whereas here in the UK, we’ve got that very philanthropic “well-off doing to the less well-off” connotation. Our first piece of charity law was over 500 years ago from Queen Elizabeth the First. 

Rob Jackson (5:37):

And then you add in the fact that we have a very strong public sector in this country, not only in the national health service, but a lot of other things as well. Since the Second World War, there’s been a mindset that, if the job’s going to be done, it’s going to be done by a professional, by which people mean a paid employee. That throws up this interesting cultural dynamic between volunteering in the two countries. I remember looking around a hotel room in Bloomington, Minnesota at a fundraising rally with people wearing t-shirts that said “volunteer,” and they were in Costco and it said “volunteer.” I think the only time that’s happened here was at the London 2012 Olympic games.

Dolph Goldenburg (06:15):

It’s interesting, and I may have mentioned this maybe 30 or 40 episodes ago, in freshman English here in the U.S. we had to read the journal of Alex to Tocqueville, who was this European fellow who traveled around the colonies pre-revolutionary war, sometime in the mid 1700s. One of the things he noticed was that colonials had developed this interesting system of civic organizations that weren’t in continental Europe or in the United Kingdom, at the time England. Historically, I think I can absolutely see how that came about. In the U.S., from our earliest founding, for survival we had to have these civic organizations, whereas they were not necessarily native or indigenous to England.

Rob Jackson (06:58):

As the late, great Susan J. Ellis used to say, Paul Revere was a fantastic volunteer; nobody gets paid to start a revolution. So the distinction between our two nations came very much through the act of volunteering, and thank goodness it did.

Dolph Goldenburg (07:11):

I love that. I am going to steal that line because that is such a good line. Now I do have to say, back when Paul Revere was a great volunteer or when Alex de Tocqueville, a couple of decades before, was traveling around the colonies, there was no certification or accreditation for volunteer managers. It’s funny, I think you and I might have really similar sentiments about this, although for me, it typically falls around certification for fundraising. Can we talk about certification or accreditation for volunteer engagement managers?

Rob Jackson (07:43):

Yes, of course we can. One of my favorite subjects. I will say that part of the reason why I am not the world’s biggest fan of accreditation programs or certification programs for leaders or volunteers is because, and I’ll be completely honest about this, I’ve got nearly 26 years’ experience and I don’t have accreditation or even a university degree in volunteer management. And I don’t think that makes me a worse manager of volunteers. I can see why we have these accreditation programs, and I think there is a lot to be celebrated about the CVA in particular. They have helped a lot of leaders of volunteer engagement gain credibility internally within their organizations and have helped them argue for greater salaries and influence. But my question always comes down to: What are we accrediting?

Rob Jackson (08:44):

Are we accrediting the things that make somebody a good leader and manager of volunteers? Or are we accrediting the ability of people to follow the rules and do the systems and the processes, which are important, but do not define what makes somebody a great leader of volunteers. And I ask the question occasionally in my workshops and I have done it online before: Please define what makes somebody a great leader of volunteers. People struggle to answer that question. If we struggle to answer that question, how can we confidently codify something to give us an accreditation that says we are good at that role?

Dolph Goldenburg (09:27):

It’s almost like accreditation is the intro training program and then the final exam you take is kind of like the final exam you take in high school or college. Like okay, you have learned what you’re supposed to learn.

Rob Jackson (09:40):

Yes, absolutely. Any accreditation program, whether it’s for an accountant or a lawyer or anything like that, has continuing professional development that goes on beyond it. I think about what has come to define volunteer engagement and volunteer management today. Andy Fryer, of Australia, talks about this. In the late 1960s, volunteer management was a people profession. Then we moved to what Andy describes as a paper profession. So if you go to a conference of volunteer managers and they introduce themselves to each other, it will be, “Hi, my name is Rob. The first question you will probably ask me is how many volunteers have I got?” As if having more volunteers than others is the ultimate badge of success. And then conversations default to risk assessment, health and safety, criminal record checks, and application forms.

Rob Jackson (10:35):

We will only ever get to talking about our volunteers as people as in saying, “Dolph, I’ve got some problem volunteers, would you like some of my problem volunteers?” For me, that’s a wrongheaded way of thinking about it. Those systems and processes are awesome, but they’ve come to dominate rather than support. My clearest example of this was in Australia a couple of years ago, when a lady, who was about the only employee for a very small organization, said to me, “Rob, should we have exit interviews and questionnaires for our volunteers?” And I said, “Yeah, probably, it’s not a bad idea to have them. But wouldn’t it be much better if you invested your effort in getting to know your volunteers well enough that you knew when they were thinking about leaving before they left?” And so in an accreditation program, we tick the boxes because we can do exit interviews and we can do exit questionnaires. That’s great. But if it takes our eye away from getting to know all our volunteers well enough to know when their motivations are shifting and changing and their interests and their passions are changing, then that’s not necessarily a helpful thing. So if an accreditation program gives you what you need, then go for it. But we have to be very cautious about accreditation being the definition of what makes somebody a good leader and manager of volunteers.

Dolph Goldenburg (11:54):

I have a similar perspective on accreditation. Admittedly I don’t have a lot of volunteer management experience, except board members, I’ve done a lot of board management. Earlier in my career, I had a about a dozen years of experience in fundraising. Toward the end of that I used to really chuckle. I was never accredited and I still have no fundraising accreditation. I remember a conversation I had with the last executive director of where I was working as a development director. After I’d been there a couple of years, she said to me, “Have you thought about becoming a CFRE? “And I literally said to her, “At this point in my career, I’ve raised about $20 million, and I kind of feel like that’s my accreditation.” She pushed it a little bit.

Dolph Goldenburg (12:39):

She essentially said to me that she felt like donors might feel differently and return my calls more if I was accredited. First of all, I think that’s total bogus. Let me tell you, I don’t think any donor cares whether or not I’m a CFRE and in the same way I don’t think any volunteer cares whether or not you’re a certified or accredited volunteer manager. But what I actually ended up saying to her was, “Okay, well let’s look at how many hours that’s going to take and then let’s figure out how much less money I’m going to be able to raise this year. If you decide that it’s worth that opportunity cost to how much less I’m going to be able to raise, okay, I’ll go do it.” So when we crunched the numbers she decided it wasn’t worth it. I imagine it is probably the same kind of thing with volunteer managers. If you are good at doing it, your accreditation is that you have happy, long-tenured volunteers or you’ve developed really great short term programs for volunteers and you have really good outcome measures on your short term programs.

Rob Jackson (13:37):

I think the other reason why volunteer managers, a perfectly justifiable reason, want to pursue accreditation is it’s this sense of wanting to be seen as part of a profession. Volunteer management still, around the world, isn’t seen as a serious profession within the nonprofit space, it isn’t seen as a serious discipline. I think that’s a very worthy aspiration and I’ve believed, for almost as long as I’ve been working in this field, that we should be more professional and that we should be seen as a profession. But I’ve also argued that we have to be careful about what we mean when we talk about being a profession because there were lots of professions that have a high level of accreditation, people like accountants and lawyers, who don’t necessarily have the greatest reputation in the public eye.

Rob Jackson (14:33):

There are loads of brilliant fundraisers around the world, but as fundraising has become more professional, certainly here in the UK, so too have grown tabloid newspaper interest in it and controversy about fundraising practice. Do we necessarily want to be attracting that kind spotlight? So it’s almost a case of be careful what you wish for. So long as there is a variety of ways in which people’s professional experience and competence can be recognized and that we can build a field around that, a profession around that, then that’s fine. But I just think we have to be careful that our accreditation models don’t necessarily always deliver what we want them to deliver.

Dolph Goldenburg (15:15):

Right. I think there’s some other ways that you’re really on the cutting edge of volunteer management. As I said, I spent some time on your blog, and I loved one of your more recent blog posts where you talk about something like: 10 things you can do that will really help supersize your volunteer program. One of those is to help volunteers with out of pocket expenses, and you had a unique approach to it that I had not thought about before, which is that DEI approach. Can you say a few words about that?

Rob Jackson (15:48):

Yeah, so this is a blog post that actually winds up today, the day that we’re recording this. And it is something that I see a difference in around the world. Actually, if you go back onto my old blog site, there’s a really interesting post on this same issue from a lady who used to manage a volunteer center here in the UK who now manages a volunteer center in Adelaide, Australia. She has a very different perspective on it because of the two different countries. But in the UK, for a long time, the reimbursement of out of pocket expenses, which is governed as to what you can allow by the tax authorities over here, has been seen as, not just a financial issue, but a diversity, equality and inclusion issue. If you do not offer the reimbursements of expenses, the message that you are putting out is: we are only accepting volunteers who can afford to be out of pocket by volunteering here.

Rob Jackson (16:42):

And so the provision of those expenses is an important way of recognizing that anybody who comes to us, if they have those legitimate expenses reimbursed, doesn’t have to be financially penalized through volunteering. Now that’s easy to say. The difficult thing is getting the budget. And there’s two issues around this. One is whether or not organizations immediately look to outside funding to do that. And if they do, I can understand why they do. But that speaks volumes about their attitudes of volunteering because they’re only prepared to fund it externally. So what I always encourage volunteer managers to do is to just put in that budget request, put in that request every year for what you think is an appropriate budget level. And then again the next year. And when it gets knocked back, then talk about it as a diversity, equality and inclusion issue.

Rob Jackson (17:36):

The final thing that I would say on it is that once you’ve got that money in place and you’re reimbursing those expenses, you need to guard against this culture of people not claiming. That creates a two tier system where some volunteers don’t claim and some volunteers do claim, and the ones that don’t claim can end up looking down on the ones that do claim. It also puts in place cultural barriers that turn people off volunteering. My solution to that is you have a policy where everybody claims and then those that don’t want those expenses can donate them back to the organization. There’s a neat little trick here in the UK called gift aid where tax payers can make a donation and the government adds, I think it’s 25% back on top of it, equivalent to the income tax. And Her Majesty’s treasury are absolutely fine with that. They’re cool with it.

Dolph Goldenburg (18:31):

I wish we could get the IRS to do that, that’s awesome! You just presented a really radical idea that I’ve not really thought about before, which is most organizations that I know in the United States that are willing to pay out of pocket expenses, whether it’s cost of subway or mileage or whatever it may be, typically only do it if you ask. I love how you’re turning that around because if it’s for everybody, then no one has to ask. When you ask, you’re identifying yourself as someone who does not have as much money and, not only that, it’s almost like you’re asking for charity saying, “Well, I can come, but can you give me a subway token.”

Rob Jackson (19:10):

Especially if you’re in a more rural area where somebody has to drive to get there and they can’t afford it. You guys in the U.S. will drive much further than what we would see as an acceptable distance to drive in the UK. So if you’re talking a 30 minute, 45 minute drive each way to do volunteering and the gas cost that comes with that and you’re not reimbursing mileage at whatever IRS mileage rates are, then that’s a lot of money that somebody is out of pocket if they’re volunteering once or twice a week. And so you’re saying only those people who can afford it can be volunteers. Then we complain that we don’t have diversity in our volunteer corps and that people don’t see us as being passionate about equality and inclusion.

Dolph Goldenburg (19:53):

Obviously the things I immediately think about are mileage or subway costs. What are some of the other out-of-pocket expenses? Cause, honestly, I’m blanking on them, but you’re the pro so I know you’re going to think about a couple more.

Rob Jackson (20:04):

So in the UK, one thing that employees can’t claim is the cost of their mileage to and from their place of work, but volunteers can; there’s an issue that needs to be looked at there. There is the cost of protective clothing or a uniform if they are required to buy their own as a consequence of volunteering. There’s potentially childcare as well, so what are we doing about childcare costs?

Dolph Goldenburg (20:29):

Okay, now that’s absolutely DEI. Oh my gosh. I love where you’re going with this, Rob.

Rob Jackson (20:35):

Yeah. Do we have a childcare facility on site in our organization that volunteers can access for free? If our policy is no kids on site, are we therefore saying that means any parents with kids below a certain age cannot volunteer? Or are we thinking of it less as an expenses issue but potentially as a family volunteering issue? Is this something where the parents and the kids can come and volunteer together, for example. Things like use of a mobile phone, for example if the volunteer is working remotely and needs to be checking in at the start and end of a shift or to let the organization know there’s a health and safety issue. Or a volunteer at home using a proportion of their internet connection. Are those legitimate expenses? Are those expenses that you would cover? I don’t know the ins and outs of it, but I’m sure the IRS has guidelines on what’s allowed because there may be tax implications. But it’s just considering what are the costs that make people uncomfortable, what can we legitimately look to cover that otherwise acts as a barrier as to who could volunteer, and what can we do to ameliorate the financial effects of that in order to help people become volunteers?

Dolph Goldenburg (21:56):

Man, I love that. I think that is so awesome. One of the other things I’m hoping we were going to be able to talk about is, you’ve also written and spoken a good little bit about the ways that volunteerism is changing and the nature of volunteerism is changing. For example, long-term volunteers. We read in the newspaper about those volunteers who are around for 25 years; they retire at 55 and they volunteer until they’re 80 years old. I know you’ve talked about the changing nature of where we’re seeing more and more short term volunteers. Can you say a few words about that?

Rob Jackson (22:33):

I think the important thing to remember is that volunteers are people just like everybody else and therefore they experience the same pressures on their lives, the same issues that the rest of us face. I would think it’s a pretty safe bet that the vast majority of people who are listening to us on this podcast are unlikely to thrill to the idea of having to give two days a week for the next 20 years of their lives as a commitment to volunteer on day one. I mean, I’m using a shorthand, but that’s how historically we’ve approached volunteering, that it’s a regular commitment over a long time period. Our lives just don’t fit that anymore. They’re much more complex. We feel time pressure much more. I always joke that volunteer managers will be the first people to colonize Mars because the Martian day is a half hour longer than the Earth day.

Rob Jackson (23:25):

Golly, could we use that extra half day? The way that we live our lives is much more complex now. All of the technology that’s allowing us to record and listen to this was supposed to save us time. And all the studies show people feel more time pressured as a result. So volunteering has to adapt accordingly. And that’s true for all generations. So the idea that we’re going to have millions more baby boomers who are going to behave exactly the way that their parents’ generation did when it comes to retirement is complete nonsense, because they’ve got caring responsibilities for their parents, their children, and quite often their grandchildren. They’ve got much higher expectations of how they’re going to travel and do all of these kinds of things. And maybe they are not going to live in the community that they always lived in when they retire, they’re going to move somewhere else.

Rob Jackson (24:12):

So the way that they’re going to volunteer and the shape of their volunteering is going to be very different. For me, that can manifest itself quite clearly when we talk about retention. We still, in the nonprofit sector, talk about volunteer retention as: how do I hang on to you as a volunteer for as long as possible? And I think, increasingly, the way that we keep people is by being flexible enough to let them go. That if you say to me, “Rob, I can’t volunteer with you anymore. I need to be able to go and travel the country and do this piece of work for the next six, seven weeks.” And I go, “I’m sorry Dolph, you can’t leave. The organization will fall apart without you.” 

Rob Jackson (24:56):

You’re going to go and do it and you’re never going to come back. But if I go, “Yeah, no problem,” while probably still silently going, “Oh my God, how am I going to fill those shifts Dolph was signed up to do,” you’re going to leave much happier. And in six to seven weeks, when you come back, you’re going to be much more open to me getting in touch with you and saying, “Dolph, we think you’re properly back by now. Would you like to volunteer again?” You’re going to think, “Well, yeah, cause you let me leave last time so you’ll let me leave next time.” It’s a very different mindset from how we have traditionally thought about volunteer engagement.

Dolph Goldenburg (25:26):

Especially in this day and age where most of us have cycles in our work and so many of us have 8, 10, 12 weeks a year where it’s just horrible and we can’t take up a long-term volunteer engagement if we know that we’re going to have to be out eight weeks every year.

Rob Jackson (25:41):

Yeah. There’s a guy I know over here who used to define it. He wanted his organization’s volunteering to be called Martini Volunteering because there was a great ad campaign in the 1980s for Martini, which was, “Martini anytime, anyplace, anywhere.” His aspiration for his organization was, if somebody volunteers, they should be able to do that role any anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:07):

I love that. Cannot say I love the idea of Martini anytime anyplace, anywhere, but I love that as a motto for volunteerism.

Rob Jackson (26:16):

Yeah, it’s great. It’s fantastic. The only thing I would caution people to do is not go and look the ad campaign up on YouTube because being a 1980s ad campaign, it’s not very Me Too, frankly.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:26):

It’s funny, when you talked about that ad campaign, what I really thought was the tagline today would be, “Do you miss the 1950s? Martini anytime, anyplace, anywhere.” It’s really what I thought cause that sounds very Mad Men 1950s to me.

Rob Jackson (26:44):

Exactly. Talking about volunteering and fundraising, one thing I’ve always been very impressed that fundraisers do is they segment the audience. I don’t think we do that enough in volunteer management. I think we still think that, so long as a person has a pulse and is breathing, then they’re a potential volunteer. Rather than realizing a 5 year old, a 15 year old, a 25 year old, a 55 year old, and 95 year old is going to think about volunteering differently.

Dolph Goldenburg (27:09):

It’s interesting because fundraisers segment audiences in so many ways, and you could do that not just by age or retired/not retired. There’s so many ways you could segment volunteers to better utilize and engage them. Oh my gosh, another really groundbreaking idea. I love that.

Rob Jackson (27:34):

I think the big thing is to think about life stages. I’ve got a son who’s 18, he’s finishing high school this year, he’s looking towards university. So a couple of years ago he started looking at volunteering as a way to help him on his career path. In 10 years’ time, he’ll probably be busy working and he might not have as much time to volunteer when he’s got a young family, but he’ll get drawn back into volunteering through sports groups and social clubs. So we should think about life stages. I’m 46, almost, so I’m at an age when traditionally I would be expected to step up because I’ve got young kids and they would want to go and do Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and all these kinds of things. Except, I don’t have young kids; my kids are mainly grown up. At the same time, other people have got young kids when they’re in their fifties and sixties. I mean Rod Stuart’s got a child under the age of 5 and he’s about 153. So the target market for organizations is shifting.

Rob Jackson (28:27):

So your Boy Scouts and Girl Guides group probably don’t need somebody or don’t want somebody in their thirties or forties anymore. Their target market now is people in their fifties and sixties.

Dolph Goldenburg (28:37):

I assume, much like in fundraising, everybody wants the DINK, meaning double income, no kids, because they have disposable income. Again, there’s a fundraising perspective, but typically DINKs have no one else other than their life partner that they’re going to leave their estate to. So every fundraiser salivates about them. But I imagine that if you’re a DINK, you probably get segmented differently for volunteer engagement, too, because you’re not going to have childcare responsibilities. Maybe you are good for that long-term engagement or for board service or something like that.

Rob Jackson (29:09):

It comes up, particularly in something like family volunteering. There’s a piece of work being done at the moment in the UK on family volunteering, and their initial findings have shown that 50% of family volunteers are older couples with no children volunteering together, which would potentially fall into that DINK market. But the moment we start talking about family volunteering, we think about 5 year olds running round our organizations doing things they probably shouldn’t. We need to work on broadening up to the fact that the world today in 2020 is very different from how it was 30 or 40 years ago, when most of the good practice on volunteer engagement was originally established.

Dolph Goldenburg (29:50):

Rob, as we start to wrap up the meat of our conversation, I want to jump off the map to our off the map question. I often just let the muse bring me a question and the muse brought me a question. We were doing the soundcheck and I asked you to just say something for about 30, 45 seconds. You started to share with me that there are some really famous doodles in your child’s school. So can you please talk about these doodles?

Rob Jackson (30:15):

Okay, so I live in a town called Grantham in Lincolnshire. So for anybody that’s ever been to the UK, Grantham is about halfway between London and the city of York. It’s one of those towns that you’ve probably been through or been past but never come to. We have a boys’ school in town called the King’s School, which was refounded, not originally founded, refounded in 1500-something. The original school building is now a hall on a much bigger campus, and when you go out to the original space, it’s very much like a Harry Potter kind of environment. And you walk into the hall and over in one corner there is a stone windowsill that has a piece of clear Perspex over it. And when you look under that piece of clear Perspex, there is a piece of graffiti where sir Isaac Newton, who was a student at that school, carved his name in the stone. He was born six miles from where I am standing now in a village called Colsterworth where the apple tree, from which the apple fell and he observed and conceptualize the idea of gravity, is still there. In fact our astronauts took some of the seeds from the apple tree up onto the international space station a couple of years ago. So we’ve had from the international space station to graffiti by one of the greatest physicists in the world in our local school, which is pretty cool.

Dolph Goldenburg (31:45):

I love that. And it’s a sense of history that we don’t really have in the U.S. No one’s child in the U.S. is going to school somewhere where they would say, “Oh, in the 1650s, this very famous person etched something in stone.” That’s really just off the chain awesome.

Rob Jackson (32:02):

One of my favorite places to take people from the United States to is our town’s second oldest building, which is a pub that is 400 years old. People sit in there and think, “I am drinking beer in a building that has been a pub for more than 200 years longer than this country has been colonized.” Blows people’s minds, but that’s cool.

Dolph Goldenburg (32:24):

I’ve had that experience in Southeast Asia where I’ll be places and they’re 2000 years old and it just completely blows your mind. In the U.S. If it’s a hundred years old, it’s old, but in other places if it’s not at least a thousand years old then it’s still pretty usable.

Rob Jackson (32:37):

Yeah, exactly. Which is the nice thing about traveling and experiencing all that.

Dolph Goldenburg (32:40):

Well, Rob, I am so grateful that you have joined us to talk about volunteer engagement in the nonprofit sector. And, listeners, while Rob is located in the UK, he has so much to offer regardless of which continent you’re on. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteer engagement, Rob has several things you should check out. The first is his website, which is at There you’ll find his blog, you’ll learn about his consulting, speaking and mentoring opportunities, and, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, one of his more recent blogs. You can even download his first book as a PDF, Turn Your Organization Into a Volunteer Magnet. You also may want to check out It’s a global publication for volunteer management that’s produced quarterly. It does require a nominal subscription and I would definitely subscribe if a big part of my life included volunteer management. Then also head over to Amazon and check out both of his books, From the Top Down and The Complete Volunteer Management Handbook; he’s actually co-authored both of the most recent editions of that Handbook.

Dolph Goldenburg (33:55):

Hey Rob, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rob Jackson (33:58):

My pleasure, Dolph. Thank you for having me on here. It’s been a blast.

Dolph Goldenburg (34:01):

Listeners, were you unable to write down Rob’s URL because you’re busy on the travel site, Hipmunk, booking your tickets to Auckland to attend the Pivot Conference and hear Rob speak there? Well keep looking at those flights to find the least expensive ticket with the fewest layovers, because that can be a really painful flight if you have lots of layovers. And just know that we’re going to post all of the links that we just mentioned in our Show Notes at I am grateful that you have chosen to spend this half hour or so with Rob and I, and I invite you to keep the conversation going and connecting with me on LinkedIn. And if you want to connect with me more individually, you can always do that from I personally respond to every listener that reaches out. It might take me a few days, but I always respond. And finally, please make sure you rate, review, and share this podcast with your colleagues and your board members. That is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Dolph Goldenburg (35:12):

I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor The Goldenburg Group provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.


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