October 22, 2014

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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Resume Tips For Volunteers

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard
In an earlier blog article, we explored the advantages volunteerism can bring to individuals by providing them experience that can be applied to the work world. As such, make sure you continue to examine the motivations attached to the volunteers who are landing at your door. You’re probably seeing some people who are drawn to your volunteer opportunities in an effort to keep current skills sharp or learn new ones to advance beyond their present job. Others may be seeking management experience or want to acquire an entirely new skill set in order to transition into a completely different field. As you work with career-minded volunteers, this is your chance to give back in return, by offering some resume tips.

For these, we turn to a wonderful article from energizeinc.com entitled “Helping Volunteers to Market Their Experience on Their Resumes” by Mary Agnes Williams. Here are some of the highlights:

  • When applicable, rely on volunteer work to fill in time gaps between jobs.
  • Use generalized headings, such as “Professional Experience,” as opposed to “Employment History.” This allows an individual to list his or her skills without limiting them to paid positions.
  • When specifying work that was unpaid, do not feel the need to label it as volunteer. Instead, focus on the position’s title.
  • Clarify if the volunteer work is full-time or ongoing. Most employers assume volunteerism is intermittent.

Williams suggests that organizations may want to go the extra mile as an appreciation of their volunteers and host a resume workshop for them. Because, in addition to those who are volunteering specifically to gain new skills, she also points out that you may have another group of people who don’t even realize it’s acceptable to put volunteer experience on their resume. A great way to jog a volunteer’s memory to all the duties s/he performs — and to assist him or her with resume writing — is to hand out a new copy of his or her volunteer job description. Of course, managers at your agency can also offer letters of recommendation to outstanding volunteers to accompany the newly-honed resumes.

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Establishing Outcome Measures for Volunteer Involvement

Establishing Outcome Measures for Volunteer Involvement

Executives develop strategic plans with goals and objectives for all organizational programs, projects, and services and should expect volunteers to work toward those just as employees do. But it is helpful to consider exactly what you expect volunteer involvement to accomplish in any period. There is no reason to let abounding gratitude for donated volunteer time restrain an organization from setting standards of achievement. In fact, volunteers usually prefer to have some way to assess their service contribution.

In developing initial and then ongoing goals and objectives, bigger is not always better. Having “more” volunteers this year than last year does not self-evidently mean better service delivery or greater impact. Some organizations would actually be better off cutting their volunteer corps in half and holding those remaining to higher standards! The number of volunteers needed is a strategy determined by expectations of productivity….

Recognize, too, that the body count of how many people are in your volunteer corps does not translate into a standard number of hours contributed. Fifty volunteers each giving two hours a month provide the same output as five volunteers who can give twenty hours. The amount of effort necessary to recruit and support the larger number of volunteers is clearly much more intense, without the payback of more service. On the other hand, if your programmatic goal is community education, you may feel that getting fifty people to participate is more beneficial than just five. See? It depends.

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Why Volunteers Stop Serving

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 114
Introduction

In spite of the economic downturn, many individuals continue to serve in their communities–helping their neighbors and organizing service projects.

In  2008, 61.8 million adults donated approximately 8 billion hours of time, and yet, over one-third of these individuals (35.5%) stopped volunteering and did not serve with any organization the following year.  This high rate of volunteer turnover has forced nonprofits to focus on replacing volunteers instead of maximizing impact and building organizational capacity.

A July 2009 report titled Pathways to Service posted on Volunteering In America identified five barriers that may keep individuals from volunteering or returning to service.

Key Findings

1.  Personal invitations to serve are more appealing to prospective volunteers.

Many individuals said they had never volunteered because they had never been asked. These same non-volunteers also said that if they were asked, they would be open to volunteering.

Organizations need to address this misconception in order to effectively recruit new volunteers.  Having existing volunteers share their stories can help non-volunteers see that they are just like those who serve.
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