Big Hopes for Volunteer Engagement Folks at the Conference on Volunteering and Service

This year's Conference on Volunteering and Service promises to be more valuable than ever before for people who engage volunteers.I’ve been attending the Conference on Volunteering and Service with VolunteerMatch since I started in 2007. (In fact my 3rd week on the job was at the conference in Philadelphia!) And while the conferences have been fun, and great for meeting new people, they haven’t had consistently great content for those of us who work to engage volunteers in meaningful work.

This year promises to be different! After years of creating a separate pre- or post-conference event specifically for volunteer program managers, this year there is a conference track dedicated to volunteer engagement.

The track sessions and the workshops have been developed and selected by a team from Points of Light with additional leaders from the field, and I think we’ve done a good job of creating opportunities to connect with others as well as providing real opportunities for learning around this year’s theme of “Breaking Boundaries and Building Bridges.”

Here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to:

I’ll be doing my own workshop on the importance of including impact when sharing the story of volunteer engagement. If you’ve attended a webinar, or seen me speak in person you know I talk a lot about how important it is to answer the question: why? I’ll be discussing this in detail, we’ll have a group discussion, and I’ll leave you with some resources. I’ll also be leading a “dine about town” on Tuesday evening.

I’m really hopeful that this year’s conference, with its focus on volunteer engagement, is an opportunity for those of us who work with volunteers to connect, engage, and feel inspired in the work we do – as well as have a few laughs and a few cocktails! (And, if registration numbers are any indication – you all are looking forward to it, too! If you haven’t selected your sessions yet, you might want to do so soon, before everything fills up.)

I hope to see you at conference! (You can find me on Twitter @JenBennettCVA if you can’t find me at the conference.)

Why the CVA Certification is Worth Your Time

Join VolunteerMatch for a free webinar to learn more about the CVA certification.I’ve written before about why I personally pursued my CVA (Certificate in Volunteer Administration), and when I was asked to join the Board of CCVA (Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration) in 2012 I said yes for many of those same reasons.

I still believe in the effective engagement of volunteers, and that it demonstrates my knowledge and experience in the field and reinforces my organization’s commitment to the profession of volunteer management. And, if you’ve joined any of my trainings you know that I often talk about how the experience of pursuing my CVA helped me craft the philosophy and framework for the volunteer management curriculum offered in our Learning Center.

Since joining the Board I’ve had the opportunity to learn a little more about others who have pursued their credential, and thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes facts.

Did you know:

  • The US has the most CVAs in the world, with Texas leading the pack with 78.
  • Canada has the next largest concentration, with Alberta and Ontario each home to 11 CVAs.
  • There are also CVAs from Australia, Bolivia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, and Switzerland!
  • While the minimum requirement to qualify is 3 years of experience managing volunteers, the average candidate has much more experience: 8.7 years.
  • And in 2013 almost half (46%) of CVA candidates came from health and human service organizations.

It clear from the interest in the credential, and the increase in candidates that the CCVA has seen, that others working to engage volunteers are finding a CVA valuable in their work. Check out what previous candidates have said about why they pursued their credential.

Now that you know some trivia, what else do you need to know?

  • This is a credential program – it verifies what you know and have learned on the job, it is not a training or certificate program.
  • You’ll need to have at least three years experience engaging volunteers. This can be full or part-time, paid or volunteer work.
  • It is a lot of work! You need to have time to prepare for an exam and write a portfolio. (But in my experience it was well worth it!)

If you’re ready to pursue your own CVA, you can learn more and register here. (Do you have a VolunteerMatch account? You qualify for a discounted rate – just check the box!)

Still looking for more information, want to learn more, or have questions about the process? Join me and CCVA Executive Director Katie Campbell for a free webinar on January 16, 2014.

4 Webinar Titles in January You Don’t Want to Miss!

Learn something new. Attend a free webinar!

In December we announced our new webinar training schedule for 2013. This month we’re kicking things off by getting back to the basics! Our webinars in January will cover everything from introductory tools trainings to professional development in the realm of volunteer management.

VolunteerMatch: Getting Started

If you’re new to VolunteerMatch, or you’re looking for a refresher be sure and register for our Getting Started webinar. We’ll introduce the basics of accessing and maintaining your account. We also walk you through the opportunity posting process step by step.

Best Practices for Recruiting Online

The follow up to Getting Started, Best Practices for Recruiting Online teaches you how to make the most of your VolunteerMatch account by creating volunteer opportunities using our best practices. This webinar covers the eight simple steps to making your opportunities stand out on our website giving you all the tools you’ll need to be a VolunteerMatch expert.

The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit

If you’re also new to volunteer management be sure and register for The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit. Designed for new practitioners this webinar introduces the key components of volunteer engagement. It also covers other useful topics like risk management and volunteer retention and recognition.

The CVA Credential: A Mark of Excellence

Only hosted once a year, this popular webinar introduces the CCVA and the process for applying for and receiving your CVA. Learn about this unique performance-based credentialing program, the process for becoming Certified in Volunteer Administration and how it can benefit you and your organization. I received mine in 2009, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career. I’ve also just joined the Board of the CCVA.

For more information, please visit our Learning Center.

Be sure and join us for a webinar this month. Register today!

Have You Hugged Your Volunteer Manager Today?

Engage your volunteers in fundraisingWhen I started managing volunteers in 19 (ahem) 94 I had no idea what I was doing, and no idea that I would end up making volunteer management a large part of my career. I don’t think I even knew it was a career, and I definitely didn’t start out to be a volunteer manager – I fall into the “accidental” volunteer manager category.

I am so glad, though, that I found it, and that I stuck with it. In 2009 I went through the process to receive my CVA (Certification in Volunteer Administration) and it was one of the most rewarding and validating things I’ve done.

Volunteer management is not always pretty, it’s definitely not always easy, but it’s always makes me feel like I’m doing something important and making a difference.

Here are some of the things that I appreciate about being a volunteer manager:

Volunteers will challenge you to be a better manager.

I often tell people that I feel really lucky to have learned to manage teams and people by working with volunteers. My first attempt at managing volunteers was ugly. I was young, right out of college, and I thought I knew it all.

The team of volunteers I was working with really did know it all – many of them had been volunteering with the organization for over a decade – and they essentially told me to sit down and be quiet and stay out of their way. I realized that I needed to get with the program, to realize that I didn’t know everything, and to learn how to be a good volunteer manager from them.

I continue to learn from my volunteers. If I have a position I can’t fill, if I starting get push back over a new program or policy I ask “How was this position different from what you thought it would be like?” or  “What would you need to know about this new policy to be able to support it?”

When it’s right – it is SO right.

When you find that perfect volunteer, and you give that person the opportunity to do something that he or she has always wanted to do – to change something or make something better – it makes your day. Sometimes it makes your whole week. I love the feeling I get when I can see it all come together, and I just know it’s going to work out.

I’ve learned to trust my instincts.

Just like when it’s right, it’s right, when you think it might not be right, it’s usually wrong. I’ve had a few volunteers surprise me, but most of the time when I suspected that a volunteer was the wrong fit, or the little voice in my head told me to say no – I should have listened.

Earlier in my career I often said yes, brought on volunteers that I didn’t think were a good fit because I didn’t want to, or know how to, say no. It never ended well, and sometimes it ended spectacularly badly. Now I trust myself, and I’ve given myself permission to say no to a volunteer. I share some of this earned knowledge in our webinar “Managing Difficult Volunteer Transitions.” Join us on Dec 8th.

Every day is different.

Yes, some days are different in a more difficult way, but I want to be challenged and I want to have the ability to solve those problem creatively. Volunteer management lets me do that. As volunteer managers we’re probably not going to have all the resources we need to run our programs, we’re going to have to be the loudest ones to sing the praises of our volunteers and ourselves, but I can do that.

I believe that giving someone the opportunity to make a difference or change something is worth the work. If I couldn’t meet new people, or make those amazing connections, solve those problems or teach a volunteer that yes, she can do something she’s always wanted to, I think I’d be less happy.

If you’re currently dealing with the difficult part of volunteer management, reach out! You might be the only volunteer management professional in your organization, but you are not alone. Join a local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) or find support online.

Hopefully you’ll get some recognition from others for the work that you do, but if you don’t, give yourself a pat on the back – what we do is amazing and awesome, and given the choice, I’d choose this career path all over again.

To all of you accidental and intentional volunteer managers out there I say, “Happy International Volunteer Manager’s Day!” Learn more about the day and how you can get involved here.

So now take a minute and reflect – what do you appreciate about being a volunteer manager? It’s too easy to get bogged down in the little stuff, the daily struggles, and forget that what we do has a positive impact on our organizations. And more than that, we give our volunteers the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and make a difference in the community. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Photo from CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm.

Updated Opportunity Listing Form Can Help Your Organization Recruit More Skilled Volunteers

newformIf you’ve added or edited a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch in the past few days, you’ve likely seen some changes to the opportunity listing form.

The Required Skills field has now been divided into two sections: a Skills Title and Description field, and a Requirements field. This gives you the opportunity to highlight up to three distinct skills, and let prospective volunteers know about any additional requirements for participating.

For example, a Skill Title might be “Accounting” and the Skill Description could be “A working knowledge of bookkeeping and QuickBooks.” In the Requirements field, you can put information on anything additional such as required orientations or background checks, and qualities that aren’t technically skills, such as “great with kids” or “enjoys giving back.”

We’ve also added a Keywords field, which allows you to associate other words with your listings to make them easier to find. And, if you have volunteer projects that would be great for groups, you can now specify what size group your opportunities can accommodate.

Why the changes?

We made these changes to make it easier for organizations to find volunteers with certain expertise and experience, and they are the first of several steps we’re taking to help volunteers find opportunities that utilize specific skills.

Over the last year, we’ve been keeping an eye on the type of information that organizations were including in the Required Skills field. Some were using it to identify the skills needed in volunteers, such as “graphic design”, while others were including prerequisites such as “must complete background check” and other information.

The changes now let your organization highlight both skills and additional requirements, and help volunteers better understand what opportunities are right for them.

We also know that the popularity of volunteer opportunities for groups is on the rise, and that there’s a big difference between accommodating a group of five friends and successfully engaging 25 employees. We hope the new group size menu will help you better find the volunteers you need.

Want to learn more? Join VolunteerMatch for a free online Webinar to go over the changes and how to use the updated form effectively:

Thursday, February 11
9am – 10am PST

Wednesday, February 17
11am – 12pm PST

Tuesday, February 23
11am – 12pm PST

Ready to get started with the new form?  Log in to your account.