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

Tax Incentives For Volunteering?

Tax Incentives For Volunteering?
Peter Funt, second generation Candid Camera host, has turned his attention to more serious topics lately. In the past several years, Funt has written op-ed pieces, some of which have been picked up by The Boston Globe.

One of his recent articles, arguing in favor of tax breaks for Americans who volunteer their time, was picked up by the media in late December 2010. Funt is certainly not the first to bring this concept to the table, but his idea is receiving press throughout the country. Newspapers in at least twelve states carried the column, and a Google search shows that it has also been posted on several blogs.

In his article, Funt argues that unpaid volunteers in the U.S. should receive a federal tax credit that “would help Americans at all income levels pay a bit less, while also providing some benefit to the unemployed.” Following are his main talking points:

  • Volunteers should be allowed to claim $5.69 per hour donated. (This figure is based on 25 percent of the average hourly rate for all American civilian employees.)
  • Credits could be rolled over for up to five years.
  • Organizations participating must be qualified non-profits.
  • The cost to federal government for a volunteer tax credit using his proposal is estimated at $1 billion per year.

Funt acknowledges that his idea would create more paperwork for non-profits, but points out that documentation for monetary donations is already being generated. He also believes this proposal would alleviate some of the imbalance between paid workers and volunteers working side by side at the same agency. Giving a nod to possible abuses, Funt states, “But whom should the IRS worry about more: the billionaire who bends the rules when claiming a five-digit deduction, or the… (volunteer) who adds 15 minutes to his time sheet?”
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The Value Of Teamwork

Nonprofit Training and Consulting - Wendy Biro-Pollard

Have you ever been part of a highly functioning team? One where your unique talents were valued, and where you were highly energized every time you were with this team? If you have been so fortunate, you are probably in the minority.

Many of us have had negative experiences being on a team. In fact, often the term “team” is used to describe any group of people assembled in proximity to each other. So, what is a team? There are numerous definitions out there, but here is a particularly good one: “A team is a group of people who go out of their way to make each other look good.”

A team is made up of a small number of people (seven to nine is ideal) who have a common goal, who are accountable to each other and who have a diverse set of talents and skills.

Most of us have probably been involved in some form of “teambuilding” activity over the years. Although they can be fun for an afternoon, how do you create any lasting value? And why should you create a culture that values teamwork anyway? Isn’t it just faster and more efficient to tell people what needs to get done?

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