Nonprofit Insights: The Brave New World of Engaging Skilled Volunteers

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

head shots of professional people and their faces.In today’s connected world, new ways of involving volunteers in your organization’s work are popping up all the time.

Have you thought about how volunteers with specific skills could help your nonprofit?

The Brave New World of Engaging Skilled Volunteers

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

Join VolunteerMatch and LinkedIn on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, for this Nonprofit Insights webinar about the benefits of engaging skilled volunteers, and best practices for setting up a skilled volunteering program in a strategic way.

With 300+ million potential skilled volunteers on LinkedIn alone, connecting with the help you need doesn’t have to be time-consuming or scary. We’ll show you how to make the most of the unique partnership between VolunteerMatch and LinkedIn, including real-world examples of how other nonprofits have successfully connected with skilled volunteers via LinkedIn.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

Adaptability, Volunteer Engagement, Chickens and Eggs: Which Come First?

Guest post by Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler Group

To learn more about leveraging volunteer talent, join guest blogger Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler Group President, for a free webinar at November 19. Click here to register!

Adaptability, Volunteer Engagement, Chickens and Eggs: Which Come First?Scan the shelves of the business section of a book store or scroll through the popular TED talks these days, and you’ll be sure to find a lot of information about innovation and flexibility, nimbleness, and entrepreneurship. So much so that your eyes may glaze over and you may get a bit overwhelmed by the jargon.

Nonetheless, there’s a reason that so many are talking, writing, and thinking about nimbleness and entrepreneurship and it is not limited to business. These concepts are equally important to volunteer engagement. In fact, there is a growing pool of data that demonstrates how strategic volunteer engagement is related to organizational innovation and adaptability. Paying attention to these topics is worth the time – and investing effort in implementing some of these strategies has a significant return on investment.

One place to start is the research upon which the Service Enterprise model is based. Originally conducted by Reimagining Service, TCC Group, and Deloitte, this research has informed the development of the Service Enterprise model, with a Service Enterprise being defined as an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills to successfully deliver its mission.

According to the research using the Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT), only 17% of nonprofits studied self-identified as having strong volunteer engagement practices, leaving the vast majority of nonprofits with at best satisfactory ratings or, in nearly 20% of the cases, weak practices.

When the researchers looked at the top performers in terms of volunteer engagement, they found that those organizations were also strong in other core capacities – namely leadership, management, technical, and adaptability. Adaptive capacity is the ability to monitor, assess, respond to, and create internal and external changes. According to TCC, leadership and adaptive capacities are the most critical, as stated by TCC Group, they are “the two capacities that separate effective organizations from those that are less so.”

Similar observations were made in the new book, The Abundant Not-for-Profit: How talent (not money) will transform your organization, by Lynda Gerty and Colleen Kelly. In this book, the authors paint a vision of what’s possible when organizations embrace strategic engagement as a core business value and practice. They refer to these organizations as “abundant not-for-profits.” Based on their work helping nonprofit organizations throughout British Columbia, Canada, to embrace skilled volunteer engagement, Gerty and Kelly share what they have observed to be the traits that characterize successful abundant not-for-profits. They are:

  • Exceptional Leadership with a highly collaborative work ethic
  • Strong Management with an individual with initiative to develop and champion projects
  • Communication that keeps staff and volunteers engaged and informed
  • Adaptive Capacity marked by a passionate, entrepreneurial spirit with capacity to take risks and manage change

Once again, we see “adaptability” as a key element relating to success. Yet, being adaptable means being open to change, effectively making the case for change, and being able to manage change effectively not only personally but among colleagues (both staff and volunteers) and other stakeholders.

For an organization to embrace volunteer engagement as a key strategy to the extent that would deem them a “service enterprise” or an “abundant not-for-profit,” it needs to engage volunteers at all levels of the organization, for their skills, and in leadership positions – as leaders of teams, as leaders of projects, and as leaders of initiatives. For most organizations, this means adjusting policy, adapting current practices, and changing the way they do business.

As we all know, change is challenging for staff and the volunteers who are already connected to the organization. We can all think of examples of groups of volunteers who are reluctant to change the way they engage with an organization, and we can think of staff who are equally resistant to change. Yet, there are also many who are excited by the chance to be part of change. There are many entrepreneurial volunteers today whose skills can help your organization be more adaptable. In other words, there are volunteers who can help you and your organization learn to be more nimble, more entrepreneurial, and more flexible.

The research on organizations and volunteer engagement show a strong correlation between adaptability and robust volunteer engagement – but the research does not reveal causality. Does one cause the other? Do we know which comes first? No. They are intertwined. I believe that they are intertwined because those organizations that embrace volunteers at every level of the organization benefit from the entrepreneurial skills and spirit of those volunteers. Entrepreneurialism of the volunteers both feeds off of and fuels the entrepreneurial culture of the organization. The two benefit and strengthen each other.

While there is no clear answer to, “Which comes first – the entrepreneurial volunteers or the adaptive capacity of the organization?” there are some proven paths to getting started on both. That involves being open to change and engaging volunteers with you as partners in developing and implementing innovations at your organization. What better place to start than with volunteer engagement?

For tips and ideas on how to engage entrepreneurial volunteers with you in piloting a new volunteer engagement practice, join me on November 19 for the webinar Leveraging Volunteer Talent for Organizational Change.

Beth Steinhorn is a nationally recognized leader, writer, and innovator in volunteer engagement and nonprofit management. As President of JFFixler Group, she leads consultations, facilitates workshops, directs research, presents keynote addresses, and publishes blogs and articles. Throughout her 25+ year career with nonprofit organizations, Beth has worked to help organizations and their leadership to achieve their missions through strategic and innovative engagement.

Nonprofit Insights: Making It Last with For-Profit Companies

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Join the webinar about corporate nonprofit relationships with VolunteerMatch and Bruce Burtch.The world of corporate-nonprofit partnerships is shifting – in a major way. The simple partnerships that used to characterize how nonprofits and for-profits worked together have become complicated, integrated relationships.

Making It Last with For-Profit Companies

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

If you want to increase your organization’s fundraising, brand awareness, volunteer involvement and build highly-effective partnerships with for-profit organizations, join VolunteerMatch for a webinar with Bruce Burtch, a leading expert in the field of cross-sector partnerships and cause marketing. Bruce will walk us through the sea change occurring in the nonprofit/for-profit relationship, and share strategies for attracting and securing partnerships with companies that can create long-term benefits beyond simple funding.

No matter what your experience working with companies, join us to gain an updated perspective on how nonprofits can build strong, lasting relationships with companies.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

Nonprofit Insights: Engaging Volunteers on Facebook

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Join the free Nonprofit Insights webinar about engaging volunteers on Facebook.With all the buzz recently about Facebook and organic reach, one question remains:

How useful is Facebook for nonprofit engagement? Can nonprofits build support on Facebook? How??

Engaging Volunteers on Facebook

Register for this free event.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

Join John Haydon, nonprofit marketing expert and author of “Facebook Marketing for Dummies,” for a Nonprofit Insights webinar focused on de-mystifying the process of engaging supporters on Facebook. John will walk us through today’s version of the popular social network, and provide concrete strategies for how our nonprofit organizations can connect with potential supporters and build real relationships with volunteers that can exist online, offline, and wherever we need them.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

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!