I have been writing blogs for Bal Asha since September. Last month, I decided to take my association with them one step further and conduct dance workshops for the Bal Asha children every Saturday. It was during my sessions with the children that I understood some of the inner workings of the organization; I received insights that were not privy to me when I was doing remote content writing projects for them. Here’s what I realized.
People talk about impact in terms of numbers and metrics. Your success rates depend on how many lives you can better, not on how much better you can make them. But being at Bal Asha made me think twice about this notion. There are not hundreds of children at the home, but each one is cared for. Each child has specific needs in terms of how they should be engaged with as well as their dietary and medical requirements. The team at Bal Asha is very aware of this. There are schedules and measures put in place to ensure that each child receives special attention, kind of like we do when we are at home with our parents; all our needs are taken care of and we feel loved. Being at Bal Asha is something like that too.
It was then that I realized that the quality of care cannot be translated into metrics or monetary figures. I realized that the essence of working in this social space is not always about widespread giving, it’s about the quality of the service that we provide. That’s Leadership Rule #1 for you.
Here’s another learning from my time at Bal Asha — you are only as good as the people that make up your organization. I know this because of the way that the children at the center look to the staff. They respect the staff enough to know that they must behave (a feat I must admit I have not yet achieved; they are more than happy to run around as I chase them and play with them) and yet, they love the didis that take care of them. I witnessed this at the end of one of the workshops, when the kids requested the song ‘Zingaat’. When I played it, something magical happened. The entire energy in the room changed. I went from being the teacher to a spectator, as I watched the staff dance along and coddle the children as if they were their own. The children and the staff members knew every single word and action that went along with it. As I saw them dancing, I thought about how the real strength for Bal Asha comes from its team, which is true of any successful organization. Cue — Leadership Rule #2.
Now, for Leadership Rule #3, I would like to tell you about how valued I feel when Sunil, the director of Bal Asha, gives me feedback on my blogs. He tells me periodically about how his open rate has increased, how much time I am saving him, and boasts about my writing to anyone in the vicinity. It makes me feel like I am contributing something to a larger cause. By informing me of the kind of value that I am adding to the organization, he ensures that I stay connected to the cause. This, in my opinion, is the way to treat your supporters, employees, volunteers etc. so that they naturally feel inclined to help.
To sum up, here are the Leadership Rules that I have learnt from my volunteering experience:
1. Quality is key.
2. The team is the most important part of any organization.
3. Make your supporters feel valued by giving feedback.
One final (somewhat preachy) thought on the matter. Whether you’re interested in volunteering opportunities or internship opportunities, it is important to treat them with the same amount of professionalism that you would a full-time job. Only then will these learnings come to you.