By Susan Lesh
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller
On Oct. 19, our Board and Council were once again treated to Heidi Finkelberg’s gracious hospitality at her beautiful Pocono Mountain home. It was a glorious fall day and Heidi’s gourmet lunch and snacks provided marvelous sustenance for the day. Thank you, Heidi! And thank you, Ken, for helping throughout the day.
The topic for this year’s retreat was “Volunteer Leadership Development.” As with many volunteer-heavy organizations, we rely on our community’s time and talents to make our vision for a better world a reality. As newcomers to Ethical Culture, my family and I explored what being an Ethical Culturist was by experiencing platforms and participating in Sunday School, social events, and festivals. As we developed relationships within the community, we were part of the discussions of the Long Range Planning Committee and learned a bit more about Ethical Culture and how we all shape its vision. After many years of being involved in committees and helping arrange social events, David and I are now part of the Board and Council.
The retreat topic this year explored ways to foster leadership in our community. We used some key findings from a VolunteerPro 2013 research study about volunteer commitment. One of the findings was that the number of trainings the leaders participate in relates to commitment; we then discussed providing some varied training opportunities. Look for some Adult Education offerings in the near future.
Another finding was that volunteers may be more committed when they devote less time to attending meetings. This sparked a discussion about having some committees be like a “hub and spoke”; members can perform discrete tasks and report back to the chair. A final finding was that teams that operate more interdependently with a shared load are more committed. Our Program Council was created for just this purpose. When members from different committees talk about the same activity, many members can be engaged in the same activity.
We are not a top-down organization, but rather a bubbling-up organization. We all help each other. We’re going to be trying to gather interests of our members to help people find each other, so they may feel like leading an effort that we can get behind. It’s important to remember that WE are Ethical Culture and we are all leaders in its mission.
Susan Lesh is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.