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Future Factor Analysis

For use of participants at the VOLUNTAS Institute. April 12-16 at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Sponsored by the Center for Creative Community, P.O. Box 2427, Santa Fe, NM 87504. Ivan Scheier

There are essentially three steps in Future Factor Analysis:

1) Select a significant set of future factors to work on.

2) Analyze these factors for the most relevant opportunities and threats they involve for your work, and

3) Develop a plan which will minimize the threats and maximize the opportunities in these factors.


1) Selecting a significant set of future factors. Certainly, consider lists suggested by outside experts as in "Shapes and Scenarios.." handout # 1. But don't stop there, lest you miss some influences which are powerful LOCALLY and perhaps overlooked nationally. First, have a cross-section of STAKEHOLDERS in what you're doing freely brainstorm a long, long list. Then, narrow this list down to one or two by choosing factors which are judged to be

a) powerful now,
b) likely to continue as powerful influences in the foreseeable future, and
c) are at least somewhat subject to your manipulation and control (here, there's an exercise on identifying "granite", "sandstone" and "clay" factors). In determining whether a presently powerful factor will continue to be so, be particularly wary of Trait Change, Deceleration, and Reversals (Rubber band factors).

2) Any factor, however ominous, has potentially positive effects. At the same time, danger may lurk in the most promising factor. OPPORTUNITY-THREAT ANALYSIS must be highly aware of BOTH potentialities in any factor. This is the lemon as bitter but also as a prime ingredient of lemonade; this is also the glass either as half full or half empty. We now practice the process with factors such as the aging of the American population, the growth of mandated community service, etc. In all cases, be as complete as you can in listing BOTH potential pluses and minuses. As a starter example, population aging means much greater burden on services for the elderly but also a much larger pool of elder talent and time for voluntary involvement.

3) Now, develop an action plan which prepares you for the future by maximizing your ability to deter dangers in the selected factors while at the same time capitalizing on the opportunities they present.

You have now done what Buckminster Fuller urges: " We are called to be the architects of the future, not its victims. " Nor is the Future Factor Analysis Method the only way of becoming an architect of the future. Another strategy-- BRACKETING can be used along with it, or as an alternative.

 Volunteerism and The Future:

Scenario I, The Volunteer Shortage


There will be a shortage of volunteers, especially "traditional" ones willing to work on a regular basis in an agency/organizational setting, under the supervision of paid staff.


Desperate desire to do it the way that always used to work Cut volunteer program across the board or drop it entirely Try to get more out of (assumed) fewer volunteers buy analyzing what they do now and removing inessentials Assume we need only to get the recruiting message out in a more mass, modern, media fashion Try to get more from present sources of volunteers, by more efficient use. Explore new, previously unexplored sources for volunteers Alter styles, roles, job designs to accommodate to volunteer convenience and work style

Volunteerism and the Future:

Scenario IA. Volunteer Shortage Plus Concurrent Staff Freeze or Cutback

Some possible resultants:

1. Increased potentiality for (uncreative) conflict or tension between volunteers and paid staff.

2. Volunteers asked to take more responsibility for implementing programs

3. Volunteers are also given, or begin to demand, at the same time more responsibility for planning/designing programs.

4. Volunteers asked to do more in the way of advocacy for the organization, along with service and policy roles

5. Volunteers asked to do fundraising, along with service, policy, and advocacy roles.

Challenge: Rate these results according to which you think more or less probable. You may also wish to add other possible results and rate them. Then take the most probable results and set up the most likely choicepoints you will have in dealing with these resultants.

November 1987
Ivan Scheier
The Center for Creative Community
P.O. Box 2427
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Tel. (505) 983--8414


A. Increasing emphasis on mandated service or "prescribed participants" for example, obliged youth community service and alternative service offenders. Questions are:

***In what ways can this impact traditional volunteerism positively? Negatively? On balance?

***Should volunteers and mandated service people be combined or mixed in the same program? What are the considerations pro and con?

***What implications does obliged service have for society as a whole?

B. More attention given to the potential of volunteers working outside of agency settings or programs, mainly in the entirely volunteer group and as freelance independents ('social entrepreneurs'). See handout 'Enhancing Entirely Volunteer Organizations'

*** Do you agree that this is a possible (albeit quite new) trend?

*** What significance might such a trend have for the director/coordinator of volunteers working in a agency setting.

C. The rise of the career volunteer. Same questions as B, Handout on New Road Map Foundation; VOLUNTAS experience.

D. Increasingly, "empowerment" is being offered as an incentive for volunteering. Assuming we can agree on what we mean by "empowerment" (maybe a huge assumption):

*** What kinds of people do you think the "empowerment" incentive will most strongly appeal to?

*** In what ways do typical, traditional volunteer programs empower volunteers?

*** In what ways to they frequently fail to do so?

*** How can we build more empowerment into our volunteer programs? Will management likely cooperate in this?

E. Branchings are emerging in the career of volunteer administrator, with names like "community resource development coordinator," "all-volunteer groups consultant," "program producer," "internship counselor," etc. ("Creating Careers for Volunteer Coordinators", attached)

Which of these (if any) do you think holds most promise, in terms of opportunity and feasibility?

What can we begin doing now to make these "come true" sooner and more completely?

(Please incorporate in the above discussion any other emerging career tracks for volunteer coordinators, not mentioned in the initial listing)

F. Some real possibility we are moving toward reorganizing the resource structure in support of volunteerism, away from top-down hierarchy towards a more network-like system, from-the-top-up (See "Take Back the Vision" and Doing DOVIA Right…")

Do you think this is happening, and if so, how do your evaluate its implications.

6. Out of desperation, if for no other reason, a revolution in fundraising is brewing, with rising awareness of possibilities. There are names like co-promotion, dedicated business, time tithing, etc.

Have you used any of these and, if so, what is your experience with them?

Regardless of the extent of your experience with them, what do you think of their pros and cons?

For the more promising ones, what challenges must be overcome before they become established as a productive fundraising method? How long before this happens?

Ivan Scheier, VOLUNTAS, Star Route 46, Madrid, New Mexico, 87010. Tel. (505) 473-7711.

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Ivan Scheier
607 Marr
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, 87901
Tel (505) 894-1340

For comments and editing suggestions please contact Mary Lou McNatt