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!

Hunger Nonprofits: Grow Your Volunteer Program with This Free Tool

Hunger Organization Volunteer Improvement ToolWhat if you could improve your organization’s volunteer program with just a few clicks?

If you’re a hunger-fighting organization, now you can.

We’ve developed a free tool specifically for hunger-fighting organizations to evaluate their volunteer engagement programs.

Why hunger organizations?
This tool was developed as part of a partnership with ConAgra Foods Foundation, a company with a big commitment to end childhood hunger. Part of this commitment includes equipping nonprofits with the resources they need to do what they do best – create real change in their communities in the fight against hunger. And for many food banks and similar organizations, this change is dependent on volunteers.

About the tool.
In this tool, called the Volunteer Program Improvement Tool, you will be taken through a series of statements, and will be asked to select the statements that are true about your volunteer engagement program.

In just a few short minutes, the tool works its magic and generates a custom report just for you. This includes:

  • Where your volunteer program currently stands. Are you volunteer engagement novices, or is your program already running at rock-star level?
  • Specific action steps to improve your volunteer program, based on where you’re program is currently.
  • Lots of additional resources to help with your improvement journey.

Best of all, it’s completely free. Ready to get started? Access the tool today.

The Accidental Collaborator

When a short exercise went a long way towards staff engagement.

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

engaging-staff-with-volunteers-twenty-hats-300x297In my local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies), one of the most common workshop topic requests is: “How to get staff on board with volunteer management.”

It’s a complex subject, most likely because staff engagement brings us into the murky world of soft interpersonal skills. We anticipate barriers and may feel discouraged about achieving any sort of progress.

Sometimes, though, a hard skill exercise goes a long way towards nurturing staff engagement.

That was my recent take-away when talking with a volunteer coordinator who participated in my recruitment planning course. As part of the course she ran what I call a “DNA Study of her successful volunteers.

In a DNA Study, you ask co-workers who supervise volunteers to provide a list of their most successful volunteers. Then, you run the demographic data to see what commonalities surface. The information is priceless when developing a profile of your ideal volunteer.

Unexpected Results
When my student ran her DNA study, she uncovered plenty of interesting findings about her volunteers – AND she noted one unexpected consequence: the process engaged the staff. Being consulted about the volunteers made the staff curious about the study results and more invested in the outcome. In fact, my student and her co-workers are now taking things a step further and convening a focus group to better understand what motivates their volunteers.

What was it about this study that united the staff? I think there were several reasons:

  • Being consulted validated the supervisors and showed that their opinion mattered.
  • The project was simple, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  •  The exercise was data-driven, and therefore less subjective.
  •  There was a payoff for the supervisors because the project helped clarify which volunteers would most likely succeed in the program.
  • The process was fun – how often does that happen?

What’s your take?
Someone steeped on organizational management may not have been surprised by these findings. If you have ever studied the collaborative process, you probably know that rule number one is to rally individuals around a common goal.

So this one example makes me wonder: are there similar ways to engage your staff in the volunteer management process? If you have had a similar experience, where a project of yours helped bring the staff together, please email me about your project and your results. OR, if reading this post gets you curious to try your own DNA Study and see what happens, keep me posted on your results.

Nonprofit Insights: New Tools and Strategies for Managing Risk

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.

Register for the Nonprofit Insights webinarWhen your organization welcomes new volunteers, how do you screen them?

It seems every nonprofit has a different process and set of standards, and we think it’s time to make the whole experience easier and better.

Late last year, we partnered with a national identity service provider and conducted a survey to gather information about how nonprofits screen and authenticate volunteers. Thousands of responses later, we’re ready and itching to share some truly valuable insights about risk management and volunteer engagement with you – and to hear some more good ideas in return.

Join us for a special, free webinar on the best strategies for screening new volunteers and identifying potential risks to your organization, featuring Ernie Allen, founder, former President and CEO of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

No matter what your current risk management practices, you’ll gain some great insight into how other nonprofits approach this issue, and how you can determine the best policy for your organization.

Reserve your spot today!
Monday, April 6, 2014
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

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

This webinar is generously sponsored by SureID.

Volunteer Training and Development Got You Down? Consider Going Online

Guest post by Alec Green

Whether your nonprofit engages just a handful of volunteers or several thousand across the country, getting them up to speed efficiently and offering ongoing professional development is a common challenge.

Student on computer in the grass.More and more, online training is becoming a popular solution to this challenge. That’s because it’s getting easier to do. Free e-learning resources such as are available for nonprofits. (That particular open online learning site includes 200+ learning resources covering all the major job functions in the nonprofit sector!)

In addition to general professional development courses, many nonprofits need to provide training that is specific to their mission, organization, or the volunteer role.  For organizations looking to scale their volunteer management programs, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation launched the Impact Grant. The Impact Grant provides a two-year donation of Cornerstone OnDemand’s Learning Management System (LMS) and consulting services to enhance the training of a nonprofit’s volunteers, beneficiaries, and community partners.

Spark, a national nonprofit, recently leveraged the Cornerstone LMS to roll out its volunteer training program nationwide. The team at Spark partners with schools and workplaces to match middle-school students with career mentors in fields aligned with the students’ interests. Based on the feedback of their volunteer mentors, Spark is introducing a new structured curriculum which includes online training. The new online platform not only gives Spark the opportunity to expand its program; it opens up a variety of new ways to engage both their volunteer mentors and students.

How do you know if an online volunteer training and development strategy is right for your organization? Here are some ways to determine your readiness:

  • Think about what training is critical and what falls under the “nice-to-have” category. You can also talk with your most experienced volunteers to figure out what training they will need in the future.
  • Make sure your volunteers would be receptive to online training. If your volunteers are less computer-savvy, or have limited access to high-speed internet connections, then in-person training could be more effective for your organization.
  • Ensure you have executive-level support behind you. Whether you qualify for an Impact Grant or use one of the many free e-learning resources available to nonprofits, taking your training program online will require some commitment of time and resources.
  • Ask yourself if you’re ready for the time commitment. Remember that effective online learning is not as simple as uploading a PowerPoint or linking to a YouTube recording of a webinar or in-person training. But after the initial time investment, it will likely save you time in the long run.

So, do you think you’re ready to expand to online training and development with your volunteers?

Start by signing up for the free resource, browse the course catalog, and see what they offer that would be of most value to your volunteers. In addition, the 2015 Impact Grant cycle is now open, and this recent webinar will help you determine if a full LMS is a fit for your organization. By adding some form of online training to your mix, you’ll be on your way to engaging, developing, and retaining your volunteer talent.

Alec Green is Chief Marketing Evangelist at Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation.  He is responsible for developing the overall marketing plan and strategy for the Foundation, executing all outbound communications, increasing visibility of the Foundation’s programs, and building engagement with our partners and beneficiaries.