Make sure the resources you like to use the most match up with what you need

Your relationship with free stuff - Twenty HatsWhat’s your relationship with free stuff? Everyone has one, even if it sounds odd to describe it that way. Is yours more of a friendship or is it a committed relationship?

In other words, do we hang out with free stuff now and then or do we feel the need to become exclusive?

I have a definite opinion on this one: free stuff resides in the friendship zone.

Don’t get me wrong. I give away a lot of free stuff like handouts and webinars and I’m happy to do so. I know it’s a great help in developing our professional skills.

What you may not realize is that I’m very selective about what I share and feature resources that are intended to polish the skills of someone who already has covered some of the basics. These resources will never take you deep enough to really master a particular skill – that’s not the purpose.

This is where some readers may want to revisit their relationship with free stuff. Oftentimes when we work in nonprofits with tight budgets, we feel like building our skills with free resources is our only option, even if those resources don’t provide all the training that we really need.

It’s an approach that interferes with our ability to grow professionally. It’s like we are saying, “I’m willing to limit my skill base for the sake of my program.” I don’t think that’s an attitude that serves your organization any better than it serves you. What business wants to operate with a partially trained staff?

If you are unsure when to access the free and when to invest in something more substantial, here are some examples:

Go for free

You have a small volunteer program and want to start tracking the onboarding process (get a copy of my Volunteer Onboarding Tracker)


Your volunteer program is growing and it takes more than 30 minutes to input data onto your spreadsheet (time to buy volunteer management software)

Go for free

You get along fine with your co-workers, but would love to see them more engaged in using volunteers (read The Accidental Collaborator)


You are feeling frustrated because you have great ideas and no way to implement them – or you are trying to figure out your next career step (take a leadership retreat or work with a coach)

Go for free

You are new to volunteer management and not sure if you will stay in the field (just about any blog post or tool to keep you going for now)


You enjoy working with volunteers and see this as your profession (get Certified in Volunteer Administration)

Get clear on when and why you turn to free stuff to build your skills – and remember that you deserve more when you need more.

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Get thoughtful about when to access the free stuff and when to go for more,