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New Tool Calculates the Value Volunteers Deliver

In my work, I've found that senior managers are most moved/influenced by bottom-line dollars & cents.  I tried to fine a good tool that better captured what volunteers deliver, but came up short - so I created by own tool. Check out the new Volunteer Frontier Service ROI Calculator to more accurately reflect the real benefits derived from volunteer engagement.  Show how volunteers contribute to building the capacity of an organization through saving money, raising funds, and doing more mission.  Plug in your own expenses and revenue to calculate the true financial contributions volunteers are making.  If you like it, pay it forward!  I use this and other tools when I help nonprofits and government figure out how to best engage volunteers.  Feedback is always welcome!  Let's make the tool even better.

Professional Millennials - What About Other Young People?

Earlier this year the Millennial Impact Report was released.  While it is certainly a solid and valuable contribution to the field of volunteer and stakeholder engagement for nonprofits, it is disappointing that the report focuses only on "professional" younger people.  What about the other 70% of young people who might not consider themselves professionals?  I wish the report gave a broader snap shot of all millennials - since people from all backgrounds can and do volunteer.  As a field, we should be interested and learning about how everyone thinks about engaging with nonprofits.  Check out VolunteerMatch's Blog for a terrific summary of the report.   

There's Nothing Like Being a Volunteer for New Insights

I volunteer for a number of organizations and find it very rewarding.  It's also given me a chance to see first hand how different organizations engage volunteers. When I speak to groups, I'll often ask the question, "Who's had a bad experience as a volunteer?" Almost everyone will nod that they have had their share of challenges. My own recent volunteer experiences highlight the difference in how volunteers are handled. In one situation, I volunteered with a staffer as my supervisor in an office environment. She'd already screened me and I was ready to give it my all. My first assignment was to put information into a spread sheet that she said was a waste of time to do but that her boss needed done. To put it mildly, it didn't feel like I was being valued very much, but I did it anyway. In addition there were too many volunteers scheduled, so we volunteers didn't have enough to do. I then decided to try volunteering for a political campaign. My "boss" was a leader volunteer and it was a positive and meaningful experience because I was put to work on a number of projects where I could see that my efforts mattered.  I often have thought of myself as one who doesn't need much acknowledgement or expressions of appreciation.  I must say, it felt good to be appreciated and recognized - even in small ways.  I think it would be beneficial for all nonprofits to encourage their own employees get out and volunteer on company time for another organization - at least a few times a year. We all lead busy lives, but there is no substitute for feeling the volunteer experience so we can do better ourselves with volunteers.

The Leadership Continuum Approach...

Just like moving donors to higher levels of giving, developing leader volunteers takes time.  I've found it to be the lucky exception to land a really good new and untested volunteer leader.  We've all had folks show up -promise to do it all, then fade away - leaving us holding the bag and cleaning up the mess.  Worse than that, our staff members say they'll never take another "leader" volunteer again.  I'd suggest that we develop more of a leadership continuum approach.  Many great organizations like the girl scouts and 4H have been doing this for years with volunteers taking on increasingly more responsibility and ownership over time.  One idea is to have three categories of leader.  I suggest levels like - 1. co-project leader (paired with more experienced volunteer),  2. project leader (tested & reliable), 3. program leader (more focused on leading others and longer term projects).  Within those categories you could have a number of positions or roles with some being skilled volunteers and others being more managerial or project focused people.  Some volunteers can be short-term, while others could be longer term. Check out my August Volunteer Frontier Newsletter.  It has great resources to help you move forward with grooming volunteer leaders.  If you have good ideas feel free to write them below!  What's working for you? How do you groom people for leadership positions?

Recruit A Social Media Maven!

I know your staff is already over-worked and now you've got all this Facebook, Twitter, blogging stuff to deal with that the experts say is vital to being relevant. One good option is to recruit a volunteer to work with your communications staff member (if you have one) to handle chunks of the social media work. This kind of job makes a lot of sense for many nonprofits because it offers a flexible opportunity with an easily understood scope of work.  Possible prospects could include a board member, graduate student or volunteer who's been around a while and has a knack for writing. For the volunteer - what an attractive opportunity get social media experience and see the results of more followers, twitters, etc... I'd suggest making the position commitment at least six months with an expected 2-3 hours of service needed each week.  If possible, encourage the selected volunteer to work on site at least for a while to get the lay of the land.  If you've engaged a volunteer as social media maven, tell your story below!

For Good Nonprofits - Volunteer Engagement Is Core To Effective Operations

I wanted to share a new report I wrote in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement in Washington, DC.  It’s called the Volunteer Engagement Stars Report. I felt that the field of volunteer engagement needed more case studies – especially with the involvement of agency CEOs/Executive Directors. The publication is packed with practical, real-life examples of how nonprofits are dynamically engaging volunteers in ways that deliver bottom-line results.  Download the complete report by going to the Volunteer Frontier Website. The report provides a road map to:
  • Create an Organizational Culture That Embraces Volunteers
  • See Today’s Volunteer as Tomorrow’s Donor
  • Involve the Business Community - Especially in Skilled Volunteering
  • Appeal to the “New Breed” of Volunteer
  • Integrate Volunteering Across the Entire Organization
So, what did I miss?  Any major trends that you were surprised were not in the report?  Interestingly, for the groups I interviewed, social media isn't being talked about as I would have thought. Put in your two cents!  Download the report HERE.

Ever Heard That Story - "I Tried To Volunteer, But..."

I hear "the story" all the time - about friends and colleagues who want to volunteer but can't get nonprofits to take them seriously. I while back I was at an AARP staff alumni get-together.  Many of the talented people I had worked with years ago have retired but still want to change the world.  It was inspiring to hear what people are doing and how they're using their skills to help society. But, it wasn't always easy for them to find the right organization in which to serve.

Judy, who is an expert in the field of volunteering and held a high-level position at AARP, told me that when she retired she went around to numerous charities and said she was willing to lend them her professional skills.  Not one nonprofit took her up on her offer. After a year or so of trying, Judy found a charity helping orphans in Vietnam, and ended up moving there for a number of years.

Another past colleague told me, "I was a professional writer and copy editor for 30 years with AARP. I approached this one nonprofit and told them I'd be happy to improve the copy on their website."  They looked at him and said (I'm not making this up) "Thanks, but what we really need is a driver to deliver our publications around town.  Can you do that?"

Of course, there are plenty of stories where people's skills and talents are well utilized. With the new breed of volunteer, my hunch is that organizations that don't snap up and engage talented people will start to see their support decrease.

How can we help staff think a little bit more outside the box to tap those willing to help in work outside of the canned volunteer position description?