When Volunteers Fall Off the Radar

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

How do you manage volunteers who have dropped off the radar screen? Twenty Hats turns to a pro for the answers.

When Volunteers Fall Off the RadarWhat do you do when a volunteer drops the ball – either fails to fulfill their responsibilities or just plain falls off the radar?

It’s a scenario that causes plenty of heartburn for supervisors who are then placed in the uncomfortable position of holding a difficult conversation. And for some volunteer supervisors, the dread around addressing this unfortunate issue makes it hard to even begin a potentially difficult conversation.

It IS possible to frame those conversations in a way that keeps your volunteers engaged. Just ask MaryAnn Wohlford.

Meet a Supervision Pro

MaryAnn is a supervisor at my former workplace, Fairfax CASA. Hands down, she is the most experienced volunteer supervisor I have ever known. That’s partly because MaryAnn worked in human resources for 20 years and child advocate programs volunteers for another 13 – and partly because she has an intuitive sense of what works to bring the best out of people.

MaryAnn’s volunteers rarely if ever fall off the radar screen. Instead, they fulfill their extensive commitment to advocating for an abused or neglected child, earning the respect of judges, attorneys, and social workers for their dedication to the children they serve.

The Bottom Line

I asked MaryAnn for her pointers when dealing with an absent volunteer. Her approach is based on the rapport she builds with each volunteer.

“The bottom line is that the relationship between the volunteer and the supervisor needs to be collaborative. When there is frequent communication, a volunteer feels supported and valued.”

That means regular check-ins – first to identify what the volunteer needs to do next and then to follow up.

“Some volunteers drop the ball because they think no one is looking — or they think what they are supposed to do is unimportant because no one is asking about it.”

The Accountability Factor

MaryAnn holds volunteers accountable even when their schedules get busy.  Knowing that her volunteers are clear about what is expected of them and have made a commitment, she might start the conversation by saying, “That’s a concern. How can we arrange things so that you can still fulfill your obligation?” or “Is there any way I can help?”

Sometimes volunteers find themselves in situations that cause discomfort or they don’t know how to handle. In those instances, she frames the conversation collaboratively, letting them know that difficult situations can be worked out. “Most important, I always follow up in these instances to make sure the problem is resolved – and I give them kudos for taking care of the issue.”

Recognizing Burnout

When burnout is the root of the problem, the approach is somewhat different. “I sense that you are feeling frustrated. Tell me what’s going on.” She listens, validates their concerns, and then reminds the volunteer of his role and his accomplishments.

Regardless of the situation, the key is not to let the volunteer off the hook, but instead problem-solve collaboratively to keep the work going.

As MaryAnn says, “Volunteers need to feel that they are not alone. They need to know that you have the same interest in the work that they have, and that you are working together to get the job done.”

Tweet this post! If you agree with my POV, feel free to send this message:

When a volunteer falls off the radar, problem-solve collaboratively & maintain accountability http://twentyhats.com/?p=1678 @THNonprofit

9 Quotes to Inspire Your Volunteers (And Yourself!)

Guest post by Lesley J. Vos

Inspire Your Volunteers!Even the most devoted volunteers experience a lack of inspiration and motivation from time to time.

As a volunteer leader, it’s you who can change this. You can encourage your volunteers, engage and motivate them to grow, and become a source of inspiration!

There are many ways you can do this. What is one simple way? Sometimes the right words can perform magic, helping us reach new horizons and inspiring us to do good for others.

Share these awesome quotes to inspire your volunteers (and yourself next time your organization can use a little extra motivation!)

Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all of your own.”
~Albert Schweitzer

Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can study government and politics in school, but the best way to really understand the process is to volunteer your time.”
~Rob McKenna

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”
~Elizabeth Andrew

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
~Winston Churchill

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain loving one another.”
~Erma Bombeck

You may not have saved a lot of money in your life, but if you have saved a lot of heartaches for other folks, you are a pretty rich man.”
~Seth Parker

Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in”.
~Author Unknown

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.”
~Oscar Wilde

Keep Calm and VolunteerDo everything you can to create an amazing, inspiring experience for your volunteers– and you won’t regret it.

Because isn’t it a true happiness to help others?

About the author: Lesley J. Vos is a blogger. She writes for Bid4Papers and many other websites, sharing her writing experience and helping others improve their writing skills. Lesley volunteered for Euro 2012 in Ukraine, and she had a background in volunteer teaching of French for Ukrainian students.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Catholic Charities Community Services

Linda Tailleart of Catholic Charities

Linda holding her CVA certification!

In the 1970s, Linda Tailleart taught students in a Michigan classroom. It’s here that she first began working with volunteers.

“Volunteer engagement became my passion,” explains Linda. Now, she’s the Director of Volunteer Services at Catholic Charities Communities Services in Phoenix, AZ.

“Volunteers make such a difference to our organization, community, and the people we serve, by sharing their time, talent and love which infuses Catholic Charities with energy and passion,” says Linda.

Managing the volunteer program at Catholic Charities is no small endeavor. The organization currently has at least 100 different volunteer positions, in over 20 different programs. Domestic violence, immigration, foster care, human trafficking – these are just a small sampling of the causes areas Catholic Charities works on.

Volunteer videographer at Catholic Charities

Keshia, a volunteer videographer capturing client stories for Catholic Charities.

With all of these programs and causes areas, there’s a lot of choices for potential volunteers. Volunteers fill roles from “Counseling Interns” to “Filing Ninja” to everything in between.

“My joy comes from helping a volunteer find just the right placement,” says Linda. “We want every volunteer to feel that s/he makes a difference!”

One cause area that is important to Catholic Charities is homelessness. They run 5 programs aimed to alleviate homelessness in Arizona. They do everything from offering a safe place to shower, to finding housing, to offering treatment to those who are homeless and also struggling with addiction and mental illness.

Linda explains, “When you’re homeless and isolated, a day can seem endless without another person to talk to. The LOFT Day Drop-in Center in Cottonwood provides air conditioning in the summer, heat during the cooler months and a great place to socialize, job hunt, and stay in touch with family by phone or email.”

Pat, volunteer with Catholic Charities

Pat, volunteer at Catholic Charities’ The LOFT.

One volunteer that stands out to Linda is Pat. Why? Before becoming a volunteer, Pat was homeless himself.

As a former air conditioning/heat technician from Michigan, Pat watched his 26-year-career come to an end after a back injury and then faced divorce after 26 years of marriage. Through a series of events, he ended up experiencing homelessness in his late 40s.

For Pat, loneliness was the worst part of experiencing homelessness. He worried about getting water and food, showering, figuring a way to move on with his life—but the lack of human contact felt maddening.”

“If you’re alone enough, especially if you’ve had some traumatic experiences, your mind can go to some dark places,” says Pat.

Living out of his car for eight months, Pat found his way to Catholic Charities’ The Loft, a day center reaching the homeless population in Cottonwood, Ariz. When he first arrived, it was difficult to assimilate back into society.

“I was closed off,” says Pat. “But then I got a support system and started meeting people, and it helped me to open up.”

He immediately used the shower, kitchen and laundry services. Staff helped him to come up with a plan, and in six months, he moved into an apartment. He also got support to address health issues. Then, he took another big step and enrolled in Yavapai College to start a new career in education.

Now, he also volunteers at The Loft to help others. “I like working here, because at one time, I was in the same situation as the people that visit here,” says Pat. “I know how much this drop-in day center helps people… I wouldn’t be surprised if this place has saved lives.”

Pat comes in early to start the coffee, turn on the computers, launder the towels and restock the bathrooms. Then, when people start coming in, he provides a friendly greeting and guides them to needed resources ranging from food to staff support.

“Usually, when people come here, it takes them about a month to warm up to people,” says Pat. “They don’t have much to say. But once they get connected, it becomes a community.”

Your story can help inspire others to get involved! VolunteerMatch collects stories about volunteering to help illustrate the challenges and successes of nonprofits. How have volunteers helped you? What role has VolunteerMatch played? Share your story!

Volunteers Are Your Advocates: 4 Tips to Ensure They Share Your Story Well

Guest post by Nisha Kotecha

Encourage volunteers to share your story.You spend time attracting great volunteers for your nonprofit. And they do a great job! But are you missing an opportunity by not encouraging your volunteers to share your nonprofit’s story, and share it well?

Nonprofit organizations do not have endless amounts of time and money to spend on marketing and PR, so it can be difficult to get your story heard in a busy world. Your volunteers sharing your stories is a low-cost, easy way to raise awareness of your work.

These 4 tips will ensure your volunteers are your number one advocates:

1. Make sure your volunteers know key facts and figures about your organization.

It’s important that your volunteers understand the problem your non-profit is solving, how long you have been doing so, how many members of staff and volunteers you have, your annual income / turnover, and how much of an impact you are having. Your volunteers might get asked any of these questions by their friends and family – potential donors and supporters of your organization – so it’s important they know the answers.

2. Have happy volunteers.

Make your volunteers HAPPY!Your volunteers should be your number one advocates, not your number one critics. The last thing you want is for your volunteers to be going home ranting about their day with your nonprofit organization. A happy work environment, good training and support, and good communication will lead to happy volunteers, and happy volunteers will lead to people hearing only good things about you and your work.

3. Encourage your volunteers.

Your volunteers all have personal networks who might be interested in the work you do. By asking and encouraging your volunteers to share their volunteering story via their social media accounts you will be able to reach a large number of people with very little effort. Plus, because the story is coming from someone they know, people are more likely to pay close attention to what they are saying. Your volunteers might not know that you would like them to share their story, so it is important you ask and encourage them to do so.

4. Give them the recognition they deserve.

How to Appreciate Your VolunteersYour volunteers are not supporting your organization to get something back, but they will be thrilled if they do. Winning an award, or even being nominated for one, can show your appreciation. Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate their support and dedication on a regular basis will lead to happy volunteers (point #2).

Are your volunteers your number one advocates? How do you make sure they share your story well? Let us know in the comment below.

Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared, a website showcasing the impact and achievements of non-profit organizations around the world. Nisha also hosts the Good News Shared podcast where she interviews volunteers to highlight stories that deserve to be heard.

Starting Out as a Volunteer Manager: Advice from a Beginner

BeginningGuest post by Emma Bennett

Starting out as a Volunteer Manager can be a tough task – especially if it’s your first time in the role. I spent years and years volunteering and management seemed like an appropriate new challenge.

I was lucky enough to have previous management experience from work, but volunteers cannot be managed like employees. They have different motivations, needs, wants and concerns. I’m still in my first year of volunteer management and I love it, but it has come with its fair share of challenges.

However, the best thing about it is cultivating great volunteers; watching their confidence grow, building on their goals and being their source of support.

I’ve picked up a few things over the past few months that have helped me transition smoothly from a volunteer to a volunteer coordinator. They are pretty simple, but they lay a firm foundation to get you going with your volunteer program.

  1. Learn everyone’s name

This is so simple and so obvious, but it’s the most important thing. Find out the name of every volunteer, trustee or friend. If you struggle with names, write them down or ask volunteers to wear name badges. Do whatever you can to get know everyone as quickly as possible.

  1. Make one-on-one time

Taking on a new responsibility can be difficult and time consuming, but making some time for each of your volunteers is a great way to get going. You’ll find out about their needs and motivations, how they like to communicate, what they’re hoping to get out of volunteering and their goals. Ask them what they would like to see from you, and use this information to make yourself a better manager.

  1. Who knows what?

Let’s get to the grittier stuff. Is there an evacuation plan in case of a fire? Does anyone have any disabilities, food allergies or mental health considerations that you need to know about?

These types of questions are extremely important for compliance. The sooner you know all the important safety stuff, the sooner you can get on to the fun bits.

  1. Get organized

Working on computer.Create a mailing list with all the emails of your volunteers. If your organization does not have volunteer management software, you can use spreadsheets to collate any telephone numbers, emergency contacts, etc. Find a method for logging attendance. A volunteer database is your most important source of data.

  1. Know your policies

Every organization should have a governing document that details the policies in place to safeguard its members. It’s important to learn what the policies are for recruitment, whistle blowing, child protection, expenses and absence. If you don’t have these policies in place, think about introducing them.

Emma Bennett, Volunteer CoordinatorEmma Bennett is a Volunteer Coordinator for a Leeds Supplementary School, Trustee and Charity Blogger. Emma is extremely passionate about volunteering, young people and mental health and has worked extensively on a wide variety of Third Sector projects. She writes and works in digital for High Speed Training, who provide online safeguarding and equality & diversity courses. @emm_benn