Is It Time To Spring Clean Your Volunteer Program?

Spring Clean Your Volunteer ProgramFlowers are blooming, birds are singing – it’s finally spring time.

If you’re thinking about brushing some of the cobwebs off your volunteer engagement program, VolunteerMatch has some great topics coming up in our Learning Center to help you revisit or re-energize your program.

On May 7th, I’ll discuss how to design a successful skilled volunteer opportunity, how to recruit a volunteer with professional-level skills, and how best to manage the process. One of the best ways to find and recruit volunteers, including those with professional-level skills, is through social media. I’ll share some great ideas for incorporating social media into all aspects of your volunteer program on May 21st.

While we want to look forward to new ideas for volunteer engagement, we should also make sure we’re doing the best we can for our existing volunteers. As many of our volunteers get older, we need to consider their safety while respecting the contribution they’ve made to our organizations. I’ll be digging into all of this on May 5th in Managing an Aging Volunteer Corps.

Many of these situations, as well as so many other situations with volunteers, involve ethical dilemmas. Too often, we don’t think about the ethics behind our volunteer engagement decisions. The good news is that there are tools to help you! Join myself and Katie Campbell on May 6th as we talk through volunteer engagement scenarios involving ethics. We’ll provide you with tools to bring ethics into your own decision making.

On May 12th, I’ll also explore how to create a training program for your volunteers. Whether you’re looking for a few new ideas or starting from scratch, I’ll cover best practices and some creative ideas to ensure that your volunteers hit the ground running this spring!

You can find the complete list of all of our webinars here. I hope you’ll join me at one of these always free online trainings in 2015!

Remembering Jill Friedman Fixler: a Friend and Mentor

Remembering Jill Friedman FixlerWhen I joined VolunteerMatch in 2007 it was to help prepare organizations to better engage the time and talents of the wave of Baby Boomers who were beginning to retire. One of the people leading that conversation and creating those tools was Jill Friedman Fixler.

Based in Denver, Jill was part of a very active group working to support volunteer engagement professionals and expand the capacity of organizations to engage volunteers in meaningful work. Sarah Christian, VolunteerMatch’s then Director of Strategic Partnerships, was also part of that Denver group and introduced me to Jill, and Jill to VolunteerMatch.

During that same time, Jill was working on the book Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow. A natural partnership emerged and we partnered with Jill and The JFFixler Group to publish both the initial book and the follow-up Facilitator’s Toolkit.

From the beginning, I found Jill to be a kindred soul. We discussed volunteer engagement and nonprofit capacity development, but we also talked about books, and family, and the challenges of traveling for work, over delicious meals and glasses of wine. (She told me about disinfecting the remote control in your hotel room, which was both revolutionary and revolting to me.)

We discussed big ideas, co-presented at conferences, and would catch up in the 20 minutes prior to the webinars she would do each month. She was an inspiration, a sounding board, a cheerleader, and a friend.

When she retired in 2013, while I knew she was taking a step back from the field, I also knew that her ideas, her love of big thinking, and her commitment to excellence in volunteer engagement would live on – through the company she started, her partner Beth Steinhorn (who continues to lead webinars on our Learning Center, and has two great sessions coming up on engaging family volunteers and leveraging volunteer talent for organizational change), and through all of those in this field, like me, for whom she led the way and inspired us to use our time and talents to engage volunteers in meaningful work.

Last November Jill passed away, surrounded by friends and family. Jill Friedman Fixler – you will be missed.

In honor of Jill’s contribution to the field, VolunteerMatch and The JFFixler Group will donate sets of the Boomer Volunteer Engagement series for your capacity building events. If you’re interested, please email education@volunteermatch.org.

Feeling the Winter Blues? Gain a New Perspective with a VolunteerMatch Webinar.

Kermit in snow, hearing about winter webinars.Tired of the snow and winter weather? How about adding a little professional development to your week and taking a fresh approach to volunteer engagement.

We have some interesting new topics and some old favorites cued up for the beginning of 2015:

 

If you’ve missed some of our most popular webinars in the past, I’ll be discussing the role that social media can play in recruiting and engaging volunteers on February 19th, and share ideas for engaging volunteers in new ways in Where Do I Go From Here? on March 12th.

And, Beth Steinhorn from JFFixler Group will be presenting her very popular topic Leveraging Volunteers for Organizational Change on April 22nd, and introducing the idea of engaging family volunteers in your program in Family Power on March 11th.

You can find the complete list of all of our webinars here. I hope you’ll join me at one of these always free online trainings in 2015!

Fall Webinar Preview: New Heights for Your Volunteer Engagement

Take free trainings from the VolunteerMatch Nonprofit Learning Center.September always brings a new school year and a new television season – in the spirit of both, here’s my Fall Preview of all of the upcoming presentations and workshops on VolunteerMatch’s Learning Center.

Focus on Foundations

This Fall I’m focusing on the foundations and some important key components for your volunteer engagement program. Whether you’re new to volunteer engagement or just looking for a refresher, I’ve got a great fall lineup!

New Faces, Topics and Special Two-Parters

But enough about me – In October I’m happy to welcome back Katie Campbell as she joins me for a conversation around ethics in volunteer engagement. This topic was a huge hit at the beginning of the year, and we’re excited to bring it back. Read the article Katie wrote in January to learn more about what we’ll be discussing on October 15th.

October also welcomes our first new presenter. Please welcome Deanna Cole to the VolunteerMatch Learning Center family. She’s a seasoned volunteer program manager with a lot of experience in online training. Join her on October 29th, as she discusses best practices for turning volunteers into advocates.

Some topics just can’t be covered in an hour, and in November we’re starting something new – Two Part Webinars! You don’t have to attend both parts, but I hope you’ll join me and some awesome guest presenters as we do a deeper dive into some complex topics.

If you’ve attended Measuring Success (also happening on September 18th), you’ve heard me mention Tony Goodrow’s tool for measuring Volunteer ROI (return on investment). I’m so pleased to announce that Tony will be doing a two part series on how to use his tool and how to start measuring the real impact volunteering has on your organization. Part 1 will happen on November 12th, and Part 2 is cued up for December 10th.

Deanna is also going to join me for a two part series on creating virtual volunteer opportunities. We’ll get things started on November 13th with a session on how to create those virtual opps, and finish up on February 3rd with some best practices for training and managing remote volunteers. Remember while the opportunities are virtual, the volunteers are real!

Deanna is going to be doing her own two part series, as well. Mentoring can be a great way to ensure that every volunteer receives the time, training and attention that they need. On November 18th Deanna will discuss how to introduce mentoring into your volunteer program and on January 15th she’ll talk about best practices for building and managing that program.

But wait, there’s even more! You can check out the complete list of our always free online trainings here. I hope you’ll join us for a learning opportunity this fall, and that you’re as excited about these new topics and trainers as I am. Keep an eye out for blog posts from our new trainers about our new topics in the coming weeks.

Sign up for some free trainings on the Learning Center now!

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.)