October 21, 2017

Promoting Volunteer and Staff Partnerships

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 060Effective volunteer programs usually have one key ingredient. They have a professional volunteer manager who is an integral part of the management team and who advocates for both volunteers and paid staff.

When it comes to creating successful volunteer and staff partnerships, one of the most important things you can do is to design a volunteer engagement philosophy statement—one that defines how volunteers will partner with staff to support your organization’s mission and strategic goals.  Then let your staff, board, volunteers, funders, clients and community know about it.

Here are three tips that will help your organization foster strong staff and volunteer partnerships:

1.  Prepare and train your staff to supervise and support volunteers. 

Preparing and training staff to supervise and support volunteers is a key step and one that is often overlooked.  Staff preparation should begin during the new employee orientation process.  But don’t stop there.  Require that staff who supervise volunteers attend a volunteer supervision course, provide them with a volunteer supervision handbook, and send them easy-to-read volunteer management articles.  This ongoing education process will help reinforce the role and importance that volunteers play in your organization.

 2. Identify ways that volunteers can support the organization’s strategic goals. 

Volunteers are increasingly asking for positions that will allow them to utilize their skills and talents to support an organization’s mission and strategic goals.  Volunteers who help meet an organization’s goals help staff better serve their clients and community.

A good example of a strategically focused staff and volunteer partnership is happening right now at Hartford Hospital (CT).   Despite having fall prevention strategies in place, many falls still occurred at Hartford Hospital.  To solve this problem, staff designed and implemented the Fall Prevention—Safety Monitor Program—an innovative and nationally recognized volunteer program. Trained volunteers inspect patient rooms for potential hazards, monitor staff compliance with fall prevention protocol and remind patients of their role in fall prevention. In three years, falls were reduced by 47% and falls with injuries by 71%. Hospital leadership attributes much of this success to Safety Monitor Volunteers.

3. Recognize and reward staff. 

Staff will more readily team up with volunteers if the organization officially acknowledges the partnership. If a staff member supervises volunteers, then that role or function should be reflected in the employee’s job description.  And, they should receive feedback during their annual review.  Conducting routine volunteer surveys and exit interviews will also provide staff with excellent feedback, and, will ultimately help improve volunteer retention.  Finally, it’s important to highlight staff and volunteer partnerships in your internal communiques.  When you have formal volunteer recognition events, be sure to invite the staff who support the volunteer team.

Resources

Creating a Statement of Philosophy on Volunteer Engagement, Betty  Stallings

Asking for Advice

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 003I just read the article, Is Your Association Courageous Enough to Ask for Advice? The premise is that associations should be broadening their conversation and engaging industry practitioners regardless of their member status. The article went on to say that associations don’t react to disruptive innovations until it’s too late because they are focused on fulfilling the needs of their current members while ignoring the needs of future members.

I’ve been working for, speaking to and consulting with healthcare volunteer programs throughout the US for several decades. I’ve watched most auxiliaries, in particular, peak about twenty years ago. At that time, the majority of hospital’s required member-only-status before an individual could be a volunteer. Today, as the average age of many auxiliary members creeps up to 75 years, those barriers to member-only service are finally breaking down and hospital administrators are realizing that volunteers can play an important role in solving strategic issues such as enhancing patient-centered care and raising HCAPHS scores. But, unfortunately, for some auxiliaries, they’ve waited too long to engage in critical conversations, strategically plan and prepare for their future members. Many are now disbanding or being pushed aside. And, as they go, so goes the careers of some hospital volunteer directors.

Surveys and research have long shown that next generation volunteers often want short term, flexible, and project-based opportunities. They want lots of choice when selecting their volunteer position, and are increasingly saying that they will volunteer if they can utilize their skills and talents. While this trend was identified at least twenty years ago, most organizations have been slow to offer multiple-choice volunteer opportunities.

The latest disruptive innovation in the volunteer engagement world has been gaining steam thanks to the Taproot Foundation. Taproot’s mission is to make “pro bono business talent available to organizations that seek to improve our society.”

Pro bono — short for pro bono publico, “for the public good” — has come to mean professional services delivered at low or no cost to social change organizations. Taproot defines it as professional services (marketing, legal guidance, human resources, fundraising, technology, financial consulting, and so on) donated to a nonprofit to further its mission.

Taproot estimates that professionals donate over $15 billion a year in pro bono services—that’s four times the amount donated by corporate foundations every year. And, many businesses with a supply of skilled professionals are being overlooked by cash-strapped nonprofits.

A 2006 Deloitte / Points of Light Volunteer IMPACT study found that “77 percent of nonprofit leaders believe that skilled volunteers could significantly improve their organization’s business practices, yet only 12 percent of nonprofits actually put volunteers to work on such assignments. Furthermore, this study found that 40 percent of volunteers actively look for opportunities to apply their professional skills.”

One of Taproot’s solutions to the problem of underutilized pro bono talent has been to publish Powered by Pro Bono–a step-by-step guide to securing and managing pro bono resources through sound project management. Taproot is also working with LinkedIn to connect skilled professionals with nonprofit organizations.

Why are so few nonprofits rolling out the welcome mat to our community’s professional and trades people, entrepreneurs and retirees? We have laws that say nonprofits must have a board of directors. Should there be a law to compel nonprofits to utilize skill based and pro bono talent? Of course not, but I wonder if, at some point, foundations will be looking for pro bono utilization as a measure of who gets their financial support.

So, how do we create the groundwork for a future that’s already arrived? How do we plan for this latest innovative disruption?

If, as Taproot says, the pro bono movement holds the keys to innovative solutions, do we have the courage to engage in greater conversations and get advice from more community members and volunteers–both inside and outside the nonprofit sector. Are we willing to open our doors wider by asking these individuals to lead a team, manage a project or serve on a task force or advisory council?

Boomers are retiring. LinkedIn professionals say they will volunteer if they can utilize their skills. More than 500 companies across the country have committed over $2 billion worth of skills-based volunteer services to nonprofits. A movement is a foot. More and more of us are out there—just waiting to be asked!

 

Related articles:

Is Your Association Courageous Enough to Ask for Advice? by Deirdre Reid on June 12, 2013. Posted in Association Best Practices, Social Media

#SHRMAdvice- Learning to Serve a New Audience, Paul Herbert

A Billion Plus Change Inspires Largest Commitment of Pro Bono Service in History, Post by Yvonne Siu, June 21, 2013

Beyond Cash:  Taproot Foundation to Collaborate with Hewlett Packard and LinkedIn to Build Online Pro Bono Marketplace,  Press Release

 

 

 

Setting Your Intention

Setting Your Intention - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard
I’ve been in the volunteer engagement business for a long time.  And, the one question that I’m most often asked is, “How do we get more volunteers and members?”

You don’t have to search too far to find volunteer management models and program audits.  Engaging in these processes is essential for creating a robust volunteer program that can build capacity and set you on the road to success.   Most experts will tell you to align your program with the organization’s mission and vision statement.  Others will encourage you to create a volunteer or member engagement philosophy statement.

And, I would add one more step—set your intention.   In other words, create a vision, direct your mind and aim for success! 

When you pay attention to problems, you amplify them.  You get more problems! Instead of saying, we don’t have enough volunteers or members; focus on what’s going well.  Take an inventory of what’s already working.
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Voluntourism Gains Popularity

Voluntourism Gains Popularity - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

School is almost over and if you’re like me, you are starting to count the days before summer vacation. What constitutes the perfect vacation is as varied as the individuals planning it, but most folks agree that it’s a time devoted to rest, relaxation, recreation, and travel.

Right now my 50-something sister is headed to a motorcycle rally in bright Texas sunshine and 90+ degree heat. Nothing in my wildest dreams would describe three days of limited air conditioning during a national holiday on the back of a motorcycle as a vacation!

So, what’s your definition of a vacation? In the early 90’s, a cause-marketing team thought it would be a good idea to combine service with tourism and invented a new term–voluntourism. This new kind of vacation which includes volunteering for a charitable cause has gained popularity in recent years and a number of websites have sprung up which make it easy for you to find something worthwhile to do during your time off.

GVI offers you once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to combine adventure, culture and the chance to make a lasting difference on long-term projects in over 20 different countries.

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Is Your Organization Ready?

Is Your Organization Ready? - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 029
In recent months the world has witnessed several tragedies: the current flooding in the Midwest, a rash of tornadoes in the South, and an enormous earthquake in Japan. These events, on the heels of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and the earthquake in Haiti, serve as reminders that disaster could be just around the corner and can happen in almost any community. If your region were hit by calamity, is your organization prepared to help? Have you thought about the strengths your agency can bring to the table — and how they fit in with the community’s emergency response plan? For this article we’ve reviewed a couple of resources that can help jumpstart a conversation within your organization regarding disaster readiness.

FEMA has released a publication called “Are You Ready?” that covers the basics of disaster planning. Their suggestion is to start by assessing the likelihood or risk of various types of catastrophe. The booklet even contains a worksheet that you can fill out to help you with this task. Much of the document is geared toward individual families but can easily be adapted for organizations. For instance, the section on maintaining family communication can easily be changed to maintaining organizational communication. One specific suggestion is to create cards with contact information for every member of the family, or, in this case, every member of the organization. Once again, the key is taking suggestions for civilians and reworking them to fit your organization.

Another great resource is The Points of Light Foundation’s publication “Ready to Respond.” The booklet serves as a guide for readying volunteer organizations to be responders in catastrophic situations. However, even if your agency is not a responder, the document still has some very useful information. For instance, there is an easy-to-use checklist to complete to assess an organization’s readiness. These are issues that any agency should be thinking about, just in case.
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