November 23, 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