Building a Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish Community

Building a Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish Community

by Charles Simon

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Build and retain a thriving volunteer culture for your organization—regardless of size or complexity. A practical guide to help you decipher the culture of your organization and implement ways to improve volunteer involvement and increase effectiveness.See more details below


Build and retain a thriving volunteer culture for your organization—regardless of size or complexity. A practical guide to help you decipher the culture of your organization and implement ways to improve volunteer involvement and increase effectiveness.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Warm and user-friendly … effectively shares insights into the many facets of what it takes to nurture and sustain a successful volunteer-professional culture where everyone feels they can make a difference."
Doug Barden, executive director, Men of Reform Judaism (MRJ)

"Volunteers are the lifeblood of virtually every well-run Jewish organization. [This] book provides astute advice to professionals and laypeople who want to maximize this precious resource."
Rabbi Ellen Flax, foundation and nonprofit consultant; project consultant, STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal)

“The book for which Jewish leadership has been waiting. Wise and practical, principled and realistic, deeply value driven and pragmatic ... should be required reading for all organizational leadership—professional and volunteer.... Important and highly useful.”
Rabbi Irwin Kula, president, CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

“A rich, informative, and upbeat guide to unlocking the latent power of volunteers…. A must-read for anyone—inside or outside the Jewish community—who wants to empower, invigorate and stimulate a rich volunteer culture.”
Dana Raucher, executive director, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation

“Makes it possible for us to re-invent our institutions to better meet the needs of today's communities, and to elevate curious individuals into roles of real leadership and vision…. You and your community will both benefit from this wonderful book.”
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies; vice president, American Jewish University

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter - Rachel M. Minkin

Does your synagogue rely heavily on volunteers? Are you a volunteer at your shul? If you answered "yes" to either question, chances are you've experienced motivation issues. How does an institution (not just a synagogue) motivate members to volunteer? And as a volunteer, what keeps members motivated? Rabbi Charles Simon, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, tackles these issues from both an organization’s and a volunteer’s perspectives. Using his own experiences as examples, Rabbi Simon illustrates how synagogues might overburden or scare away potential volunteers as well as how organizations can deal with “problematic” volunteers. The solution, according to Rabbi Simon, is to analyze the requirements of the synagogue as well as those of the volunteers and match the passions of the volunteers with the needs of the organization. This is not necessarily an easy task: leaders must address questions about their leadership style and how they manage problematic situations and people. In this easily readable, entertaining book, Rabbi Simon does not just provide easy answers. This book serves as a guide and template for leaders and volunteers alike. Strongly recommended for synagogue collections of any size, as well as other secular non-profits leaning more and more on volunteers.

Jewish Media Review - Dov Peretz Elkins

Rabbi Simon's new book is a step-by-step guide to cultivating volunteers who thrive within the Jewish community.

"We can never forget that volunteering is a two-way street. Volunteers must be motivated, but volunteer organizations also need to maximize volunteer satisfaction. Blaming one or the other for the failures prevalent today in the world of Jewish volunteering helps no one. The search is for a win-win strategy."

—from the Introduction

Cultivating successful volunteers in the twenty-first century is increasingly more challenging. Budgets are tight, hands are few, and competition for a person's discretionary time is severe. How do you develop and maintain the volunteers who are essential to the vitality of your organization and community? What can you do to avoid volunteer burnout?

Rabbi Charles Simon draws on over thirty years of professional experience to provide you with the resources you need to build and retain a thriving volunteer culture for your organization—regardless of size or complexity. In a straightforward, accessible style, Simon provides you with:

  • Methods for analyzing your organization’s needs
  • Innovative ways for creating an environment that strengthens volunteer involvement and satisfaction while increasing your organization’s effectiveness
  • Plans for developing or modifying your leadership framework, positions and styles
  • The groundwork for creating a language of inclusion that will motivate and inspire your volunteers
  • Practical tips for establishing healthy, meaningful interpersonal relationships with and among your volunteers

This book is must reading for every synagogue and organizational leader in the Jewish community.

Rabbi Charles Simon is executive director of the 30,000-member Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. He has been developing vehicles to increase volunteer involvement for more than thirty years. He is the author of books on improving community prayer, a regular contributor to CJ Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism Magazine and a contributor to Commentary Magazine and Reform Judaism. He teaches regularly at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

Jaffe and Associates Mersky

Someone recently gave me a copy of Building a Successful Volunteer Culture—Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish Community. (You can view the book at Since a portion of our clients are religious-based organizations, I thought I would skim it to see what gems I would find to share with the MJA learning community at-large. And while the book is definitely speaking to a certain population—I think all nonprofits could benefit from some of the thinking shared by Rabbi Charles Simon.

In particular, a section on "The Language of inclusion" Rabbi Simon states, quite well, that, ”For non-for-profit organizations to meet the challenge of changing motivations and demographics, Jewish Communities must understand that they are in direct competition with the leisure market.” Obviously, this is true of all nonprofits. People must choose to volunteer, attend an event or sit on a committee instead of going for a hike, seeing the latest movie or going to drinks with friends. With increasing demands on our limited free time—enticing someone to spend it involved with a nonprofit is not always easy.

That is why it is crucial to understand your current and potential consumer as well as their “nature, habits and characteristics” will help you create words and, ideally, a connection that will feel inclusive and enticing. The challenge of the month is to consider whether your organization's literature feels inclusive or exclusive. Underline three sections that give proof to your conclusion and consider three ways that you can alter and improve the impression you are giving to those who are not on the inside. At least they are not on the inside yet.

The Tisch: Rabbi Menachem Creditor's Blog - Rabbi Menachem

A wonderful review of Rabbi Chuck Simon's book Building a Successful Volunteer Culture—Shalom Chevreh.

A great resource, written by Rabbi Chuck Simon (exec VP of the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs), is Building a Successful Volunteer Culture (Jewish Lights: []) came out just a few months ago. A number of shuls have begun working with Chuck's book as a leadership-training resource for boards and professionals, and I recommend it highly.

Here is a wonderful review of Building a Successful Volunteer Culture by Sherry Israel, and the amazon link for the book is here:

Kol tuv, Menachem.

"Accessible, practical and profound wisdom for volunteers and professionals." —Sherry Israel, Newton, MA.

Building a Successful Volunteer Culture can serve as a training manual for all who lead (and aspire to lead) in volunteer-based organizations, whether as professional staff or as lay volunteers. A treasure trove of practical wisdom based on the author's almost four decades in the field, the style is casual and anecdotal, rather than systematic and academic—but underneath the deceptively simple presentation is a well thought-out and consistent approach to the basics of organizational life in the non-profit world. While written from the specific perspective of Jewish organizations, the book has much wider applicability.

Rabbi Simon offers a convincing case for creating values-based organizations, and demonstrates how to do so with interesting and apt examples. Chapters cover the key topics—understanding and shaping organizational culture, cultivating and supporting volunteers, the ins and outs of boards and committees, succession planning and board-staff dynamics. Separate chapters treat issues of difficult volunteers and the wisdom of gender-based approaches.

The author's style is accessible and engaging. Even more, the values he espouses are evident in every anecdote and bit of advice: optimism, trust, a deep and lived commitment to inclusion, flexibility, creativity, empathy and a belief that people can be empowered to be effective volunteers and leaders.

The book is a must for all who want to help the organizations they care about become people-centered and effective, particularly necessary attributes in these days of an apparent scarcity of volunteers. I have already made sure that my successor as board chair of the organization I've been most devoted to for the past several years has a copy!

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Product Details

Jewish Lights Publishing
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

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