The Heart of the Matter
October 25, 2012
The Best Practices of High Performing Volunteer Organizations


Unless you've been in a coma your entire life, chances are good that you've been a volunteer of some kind in any number of non-profit organizations. Simply put, you've been drawn to a noble cause and have pitched in.

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that many volunteer organizations, without even knowing it, sabotage the value their volunteers bring to the table.

I've recently done some informal research on the subject and have identified 27 "best practices" high performing volunteer organizations abide by. Take a peek. Then, volunteer to share the list with the leaders of whatever volunteer organizations you would like to see succeed at a higher level. Can't hurt. Can only help.

Volunteers.jpg1. Clearly (and often) communicate the vision.

2. Provide clearly written job descriptions.

3. Take the time to authentically welcome volunteers and orient them to their new role.

4. Ensure that volunteers know exactly what's expected of them.

5. Start new volunteers off small. Don't scare them off with too huge of a commitment too soon.

6. Keep the workloads manageable.

7. Communicate progress being made on a regular basis. Volunteers need to see that their efforts are having impact.

8. When there are setbacks or breakdowns, learn from them -- and share your learnings with others.

9. Be prepared so you don't waste people's time.

10. Create a trusting environment that ensures open communication, teamwork, and respect for diversity.

11. Keep everyone on your team informed of the inevitable changes (i.e. direction, policy, timelines, goals, personnel etc.)

12. Provide opportunities for volunteers to switch to different roles they might find more enjoyable.

13. Give and receive feedback (both formally and informally).

14. Provide opportunities for volunteers to learn and grow.

15. Honor your commitments (and if, for any reason, you cannot -- renegotiate them with volunteers).

16. Give volunteers the opportunity to take breaks from the project.

17. Make sure volunteers know they can say "no" if they are overextended or overwhelmed.

18. Enthusiastically acknowledge successes, especially "small wins").

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19. Be kind and respectful in all your interactions.

20. Do your best to make sure everyone is enjoying the process of participating.

21. Respond to input, questions, and feedback as soon as possible. Don't leave people hanging.

22. Build some interpersonal "chat time" into your meetings and conference calls.

23. Teach volunteers, in leadership positions. how to delegate.

24. Even when you are stressed or behind deadline, take the time to make sure your emails have a feeling of warmth to them.

25. Fill out Project Briefs on all projects you are inviting volunteer participation -- and share them with volunteers.

25. Conduct exit interviews whenever a volunteer ends their participation or is asked to step aside.

26. Share your learnings from the exit interviews with other managers.

27. Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Two volunteer organizations I am working with:
Words of Peace Global

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2012
Be Still

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2012
Be Brave!

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:45 AM | Comments (4)

October 22, 2012
Bill Hicks and George Carlin Speak

Thanks to Charles Glasser for the heads up

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October 20, 2012
Prem Rawat at Nordic Peace Conference

On Auguest 18, 2012, Prem Rawat addressed a student-organized peace conference in Oslo, Norway. Unable to attend in person, he created this video to convey his message. Its impact at the conference was deeply felt. Many students regarded it as the highlight of the conference

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:13 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2012
Is Peace Possible? THE MOVIE

'is peace possible' the movie from rohn bayes on Vimeo.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:25 AM | Comments (1)

October 17, 2012
Practice Peace

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Prem Rawat on TV
Send a PeaceCard to someone
Brief intro to Prem Rawat's message

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October 16, 2012
YO, I Say Unto You...

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Confirmed events with Prem Rawat
Videos of Prem Rawat
The Ten Commandments for Visiting a Spiritual Retreat

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2012
The Whisper


Just like water takes many forms, Maharaji delivers his message in many ways: videos, live presentations, webcasts, DVDs, CDs, websites, blogs, magazines, brochures, casual meetings, one-on-one conversations and... er... whispering.

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Whispering? Yes, indeed. Allow me to explain.

The year was 1980-something and Maharaji was giving a 3-day program at the Miami Beach Convention Center. My service, at the event, was to be a lobby usher -- a simple task requiring mostly common sense and knowing where the bathrooms were.

I was just exiting the ladies room (after restocking the paper towels) when Doug Bernard -- one of the event organizers -- approaches me with a sly smile on his face.

"Hey Mitch," he blurts, "Maharaji asked a few of us to come up with a list of possible speakers for tomorrow night's program and... uh... we put your name on the list."

I can see that Doug is talking, but I'm not really sure what he's saying.

Unphased by my lack of comprehension, Doug continues. "So... Maharaji picked your name."

Doug is obviously speaking Swahili. What he's saying makes absolutely no sense to me.

"I suggest," he says, "that you take a break from your service, return to wherever you're staying, and get a good night's sleep. You'll need to be in the Hall tomorrow at 8 am for a meeting with Maharaji."

Huh? What? Me? Speak?

Doug doesn't linger to explore my confusion. I'm left alone, like a weightless astronaut on the ceiling, thinking someone has just made a terrible mistake. Me speak in front of Maharaji and 10,000 people? You gotta be kidding. First of all, I wasn't feeling particularly inspired at the moment. Neither was I feeling particularly clear, devoted, connected, coherent, fluent, confident, or anything else I imagined a person should feel before speaking at one of Maharaji's events.

It was a short ride back to where I was staying, but a long night. My attempts at practicing Knowledge were totally dwarfed by the recurring thought that not only was I the wrong man for the job, but I was less than 24 hours away from ruining Maharaji's event.

In the morning, my friends feed me breakfast and send me on my way.

I flash my pass at the security guy and am escorted backstage. Joan Apter and Charnanand -- the other two speakers -- are already there, looking very relaxed. I am not. We make some small talk, then Maharaji makes his entrance, smiling, buoyant, alive. He looks at us and asks how we're doing. Then he pulls out three vomit bags and hands one to each of us.

"Just in case," he says.

Call me Puke Skywalker. Not only does Maharaji's gesture break the ice, it completely diffuses my anxiety.

The rest of the day? A blur. Though I talk to a lot of people and do a lot of things, I can't relate. Every conversation I have, every thing I do is dwarfed by what I know will happen later that evening -- my walking the plank into a very large ocean.

Aye, matey! This was the high seize -- waves of love followed by waves of fear followed by waves of love followed by waves of my inner Woody Allen looking for a way out.

Now it's an hour before the program begins. There is no turning back. Joan, Charnanand, and I are ushered backstage to a waiting area where we're supposed to cool out. I see a chair. I sit. I breathe.

Two sound technicians walk by, looking purposeful. Two lighting guys adjust something. Then Doug appears, explaining I'll have 20 minutes to speak, but shouldn't worry about the time because someone will flash me a red light when my turn is up. I ask if Maharaji has mentioned anything about what the three of us should talk about.

Doug flashes me an enigmatic Zen smile and continues on his rounds.

"Oh, I get it. I'm the warm-up act. Yes, now I see... I'm supposed to kick things off... then charismatic Joan will take it from there... then Charnanand, the sage, will wrap things up. Makes perfect sense."

Doug signals Joan to stand and take the stage.

What? Joan's first? Wasn't I the warm up act?

With Joan now halfway through her talk on the other side of the curtain, I close my eyes and turn within. The next thing I know, someone is whispering in my ear. It's Maharaji.

"Hey Mitch," he says, "Joan just used all your good lines."

Suddenly, I'm all ears.

Maharaji continues whispering.

"Remember, you don't need to talk about what's supposed to happen. All you need to talk about is what's already happened."

And with that he walks away.

I feel lighter now, as if some kind of psychic surgery had just taken place. In just three sentences, Maharaji had freed me of the concept I had to say something meaningful, ancient, deep, and holy tonight. What a relief! I didn't have to be an oracle. I didn't have to be a sage. All I had to do was be myself and talk about what had already happened to me since receiving Knowledge.

The good stuff. The real stuff. The heart of the matter.

That's what Maharaji loves. That's what the 10,000 people in the hall love. And that's what the other seven billion people on the planet love. Freedom. Real freedom. The genuine feeling of life.

Yes, I had my turn to speak that night. And yes, it was something I will cherish forever. But the real meaning for me, the real experience, was what Maharaji whispered in my ear.


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:32 PM | Comments (8)

October 12, 2012
People Enjoying Prem Rawat's Message of Peace at a 5-Day Retreat in Australia


Excerpts: 9/10
Excerpts: 9/11
Excerpts: 9/12
Excerpts: 9/13
Excerpts: 9/14

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:53 AM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2012
Be Thankful!

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Words of Peace Global

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2012
The Afghani Cab Driver and the $250 Million Dollar Salty Snack Food


I am getting into the back seat of a yellow cab, as I've done a thousand times before, having just tipped the too-smiling bellboy too much for holding open the door and inviting me, as he had been trained to do just last week, to "have a nice day."

Here, 1,500 miles from home, at 6:30 am in front of yet another nameless business hotel, I settle into position, careful not to spill my coffee on my free copy of USA Today.

In 20 minutes, I will be arriving at the international headquarters of General Mills, creators of Cheerios, Wheaties, and the totally fictional 50's icon of American motherhood, Bette Crocker.


My mission? To help their product development team come up with a new $250 million dollar salty snack food.

It's too dark to read and I'm too caffeinated to nap, so I glance at the dashboard and see a fuzzy photo of my driver, his last name next to it -- an extremely long and unpronounceable last name -- as if a crazed bingo master had thrown all the letters of the alphabet into a brown paper bag, shook, and randomly pulled them out in between shots of cheap tequila.

Where he was from I had no clue.

"Hello," I manage to say, nervous that my driver with the long last name would end up getting us completely lost. "I'm on my way to General Mills. Do you... know where that is?"

"Oh yes," my driver replies with an accent I assume to be mid-eastern. "I know."

Small talk out of the way, I now had three choices -- the same three choices I have every time I get into the back seat of a cab.

I could check my email. I could review my agenda. Or I could continue the conversation with my driver -- always a risky proposition, especially with cabbies from foreign lands who were often difficult to understand, tired, or, seemingly angry at Americans, which, I am not proud to say, often led me to become way too polite, overcompensating for who knows how many years of my government's pre-emptive strikes -- a response, I'm sure (mine, not the government's), which even the least sophisticated cab driver could see through in a heart beat.

"Where are you from?" my driver asks.

"Woodstock," I reply. "Woodstock, New York. And you?"


Deep as we were in the middle of that war, I am stunned, my own backseat brand of battlefield fatigue now gathering itself for the appropriate response.

"Afghanistan?" I reply. "What brought you here?"

I could tell by his pause -- his long, pregnant pause, that things, in this taxi, were just about to change.


"Well..." my driver says, looking at me in the rearview mirror, "I was out for a walk with my 10-year old daughter when she stepped on a land mine."

I look out the window. Starbucks. MacDonalds. Pier 1 Imports.

"So I ripped off my shirt and tied it around her leg to stop the bleeding. Then I went running for a doctor. But there was no doctor."

For the next 20 minutes, he goes on to tell me about his three-day journey through the mountains of Afghanistan, his bleeding daughter on his back, slipping in and out of consciousness.

Villagers took them in, gave them food, applied centuries worth of home remedies, but no one knew of a doctor.

And then... a break. A man on horseback told him of some nurses from the Mayo Clinic who had just set up an outpost just a little way up the road.

With his last bit of energy, he got there and collapsed -- the nurses managing to keep his daughter alive and flying her, the next day, to the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis, where, three days later, he and his wife were flown to be by her side to enter into a year long rehabilitation process with her, so she could learn to walk with her new prosthetic leg.

"That will be $27.55", my driver announces, checking the meter.

Somehow, I find my wallet, pay, and hug my driver, lingering with him as long as I could in that early morning light.

I enter the well-appointed lobby of General Mills, get my security pass, and make my way to the room where I am supposed to set things up for today's salty snack food brainstorming session.

An hour later, fifteen 30-somethings walk in, checking Blackberries.

I have a choice to make.

Do I dismiss my journey from hotel to headquarters as a surreal preamble to the day -- one that has nothing to do with the work at hand?

Or do I realize that my journey here this morning is the work at hand -- a story not only for me, but for everyone in the room that day?

To be continued in my new book: Wisdom at Work

One more story from the book
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:30 AM | Comments (3)

October 08, 2012
Just Down the Road From Woodstock


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm a big fan of Prem Rawat and his message of peace. I've been his student since 1971 and can say without a shadow of a doubt or any sentences that end with a preposition, that what he's offering is the real deal -- a simple way to connect with the deepest part of who you are. Now, unless "are" has been turned into a preposition while I was out to lunch, everything I've said so far in this blog post is totally true. With great respect for who you are, I invite you to watch a video of him talking about his message of peace.

"But I Already Know This"
What some locals say about his impact


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2012
Simply Put...

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Prem Rawat
A few videos
A few stories

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2012
Comtemplate This

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Confirmed events
Exploring the Keys

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:55 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2012
The Ancient (Motown) Message


Marvin Gaye tells it like it is

Prem Rawat tells it like it is
More inspiring music

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2012
You Have a Choice

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Prem Rawat on TV
Recent news
Volunteer opportunities

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2012
We Are All in This Together!


The following invocation is in honor of the wonderfully inspired One Voice for Laos project -- born in Woodstock, NY, and being nurtured by inspired teens, parents, and local citizens who have come to realize that life is for going beyond ourselves and being of service to those less fortunate than us.

I speak today with One Voice,
here in this town known around the world for peace,
a place that is metaphor
for the highest aspirations of the human soul --

Silencing child in white.jpgWhat I have to say existed
long before speech,
long before teachers
and those who thought
they needed to be taught.
I speak of the time before time,
before "us" and "them",
before otherness, separation,
or the need to make amends.

Pure presence there was back then,
Isness. First light. Love.
What the wise ones among us now call
by many names according to their faith,
but it has no name,
this impulse to be,
this pulsation of life,
this truth --
what poets feel before they pick up their pens,
why dancers, quivering in their own skin,
look around the room for space in which to move.

Back then, before the yes and no, the good and bad,
the black and white, the East and West,
back then,
before our addiction to naming and thinking
and the curious claim most people make
that God is on their side and their side only,
there was only one thing,
one infinite expanse of grandeur,
one breath.
The human voice was silenced with awe before it.

I speak of presence and wonder
and the state of divine recognition,
I speak of being at home with ourselves
and with each other,
what children feel before they sleep, alone in their bed,
knowing their parents are awake in the next room --
the place where no fear of death abides
and even more importantly,
no fear of life.

In this beginning,
breath by breath,
the only path there is
is the one we make by walking on it --
the path Buddha walked, and Mohammed,
the path Jesus walked, and Krishna,
Moses, Rumi, Kabir, Lao Tzu, the Ba'al Shem Tov,
Masters known and unknown,
your neighbors, your friends,
each on fire with the possibility
of living life as it was meant to be,
each ignited by the very same power some call God,
the God whose name, lovers, no matter what their path,
invoke at the height of their passion,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Abdul,
the God of wizards,
the God of fools,
why the earth turns,
and the Sufis
and the seasons.

It is this unreasonable force, this power of love,
that joins us here together today.
The question, my friends, is not what to die for,
but what to live for.
What is your calling?
Your dream?
Your gift?
What is your responsibility?
The choice, as always, is yours.
The messenger abides within you,
comes to your threshold,
sneaks past the guards you've posted at love's gate
and speaks:

"The cave you seek is the cave of the heart.
The air you patrol is your breath.
Walk whatever path you choose,
but know that each step is also an arrival.
Slow down. Breathe deep. Trust.
Give roses to people you barely know.
Make someone tea.
Embrace humanity all you want,
but don't forget to embrace each other.
Let your weapon of choice be cupid's bow.
See God in everyone.
Have fun. Wake up! Be real!
Live as if this was the first day of your life,
or the last.
Men, be men. Women, be women.
Win the war inside you --
the battle between darkness and the light.
Rejoice in the undeniable fact that you are alive.
Find your voice,
and when you do, use it wisely.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:02 PM | Comments (0)

Welcome to Mitch Ditkoff's blog about what's really important in this life: Peace, gratitude, love, joy, clarity, and the effort required to wake up and smell the roses. Enjoy!

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