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.)

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.