Volunteer Program Improvement Tool: What We’ve Learned So Far!

The tool specifically for hunger-related organizations We launched our Volunteer Program Improvement Tool for hunger-related organizations with the hope of creating something that volunteer program mangers could use to take their programs to the next level.

But we also wanted all of that sweet, sweet data.

Since its launch a few months ago, over 300 people have used the tool to get personalized information and resources for increasing the effectiveness of their volunteer engagement program. We’ve aggregated the data and calculated benchmarks, and now we want to share what we’ve learned.

Why is this data important to you?

By knowing where your program falls in relation to other similar programs, you’ll be equipped with knowledge to effectively advocate for your program’s growth. One of the main goals I had for this tool was for leaders of volunteer engagement to be able to use these benchmarks and aggregate data to advocate for additional resources – time and money – to build and support their volunteer program.

Join me on Tuesday August 18th at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern for an informal, interactive webinar. I’ll walk through the information we’ve gathered about how hunger-related organizations are currently engaging volunteers, and what’s in store for the tool in the future. Register today.

I want to make sure that the information we’re sharing is the information you need! So be prepared to participate in polls and share your priorities for information and resources.

And if you haven’t done so yet, check out the tool, or learn more about it and our partnership with ConAgra Foods Foundation.

Put Some Spark in Your Volunteer Program!

Sparkler FireworkFor many people, July is the time of year for  fireworks and camping. For many volunteer program managers, it can also be the time of year when needs and programs increase, and volunteers go on vacation.

When I worked at a wildlife hospital, the 4th of July was always super hectic – the height of busy animal season – but not a day most people think about volunteers. For others, things slow down a little – school programs are on hiatus, staff on vacation. Whether your July is a volunteer vacation or your busy season, think about spending an hour (or two) on one of the upcoming VolunteerMatch webinars posted on our Learning Center.

I’m kicking off the month with a session on Single Days of Service on July 14th. So many individuals and groups want done-in-a-day projects that have real impact. It can be tricky to create single day opportunities that are both meaningful and impactful. I’ll share some ideas and how to start working with others – volunteer leaders, paid staff, and corporate partners – to make this a reality. Perfect timing to get your opportunities posted for 9/11 Day of Service!

Speaking of impact, I’ll be discussing how to talk about the real impact of volunteering in your organization, and how to tell that story on July 16th. Telling the Story of Volunteer Impact is one of my favorite topics. So often, when we talk about volunteers, we leave out the good stuff. I’ll share some best practices for telling your story, and show you a video from an organization that’s getting it right. (You might want to have a Kleenex handy…)

Too often, we don’t think about how volunteers can help us run our programs, better engage volunteers, or help us develop opportunities. So on July 21st, I’ll be asking you to Walk the Walk: Engage Volunteers in your Volunteer Engagement Program. We can model the type of meaning volunteer engagement we’d like to see from other departments in our organization, as well as get off the hamster wheel of daily activities.

Any time you make a change, whether it’s including a done in a day opportunity or engaging volunteers in the recruitment, screening, or training of other volunteers, it can be challenging. However, not many people are comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with change. On July 23rd I’ll be talking about Managing Difficult Volunteer Transitions, including what to do when it’s time to ask a volunteer to leave your organization.

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 this summer!

Sharpen Your Skills this Summer with VolunteerMatch’s Free Webinars

Learn new volunteer skills this summer“What are you doing for your summer vacation?”

Because VolunteerMatch participates in the Cristo Rey program, we have high school students in our office a couple of days a week. On her last day, our sophomore asked me what I was doing for my summer vacation.

For many 16-year-olds, summer means free time and possibilities. While not the same as going to sleep-away camp, what about taking a little in-office training vacation?

I have some great topics coming up this month in VolunteerMatch’s Learning Center. The focus for June is how to plan for the future and evolve your program to work with the volunteer of tomorrow.

The month starts with Engaging the Volunteer of the Future on June 9th. I’ll share some of the things we know about volunteers based on first-hand experience, and how to evolve your program to engage today’s, and tomorrow’s, volunteers.

Have you thought about how well your program is working now, and what your program should look like in 5 years? I’ll be covering both of those topics – starting with Measuring Success on June 11th, and following up with Developing a Strategic Plan on June 16th.

Measuring Success covers evaluating the impact and outcomes of your volunteer engagement program, and the satisfaction of your volunteers. This topic will give you some good ideas on what kind of information you can share on how volunteers make an impact on your organization.

Developing a Strategic Plan for your volunteer engagement program is a hot topic in the space right now, and for good reason. As our population demographics change (millennials now make up the largest percentage of the work force), we need to evolve our volunteer engagement strategies as well. This webinar will help you start these conversations and pull together the right stakeholders (including volunteers) to create a plan for the next 5 years.

I’ll end the month with one of our Core Component topics by digging into Volunteer Handbooks on June 18th. This session includes samples and ideas for keeping your policies and procedures relevant for the volunteer program you have now. I’ll also cover how to build buy-in from paid staff and volunteers for these policies so you don’t have to be the only sheriff in town!

Even if you can’t get away for the summer, I encourage you to take a short break to learn something new!

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! And, stay tuned for new dates and topics coming soon.

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.