November 30, 2022

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

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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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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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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