How to Cultivate a Spirit of Service

Guest post by Scott Miller, Garden Spot Village

How to Cultivate A Spirit of ServiceGenerally speaking, retirement communities are desperate for volunteers. Overworked staff and lack of resources often leave administration with plenty of work to hand out to volunteers.

That’s not the case at Garden Spot Village, an active retirement community in the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“The acts of service that happen at Garden Spot Village are both large and small,” says Steve Lindsey, CEO. “The value of service manifests itself in countless ways, but it all starts with a value for people, for community and for relationships – and that,” he says, “is what makes our culture very special.”

An Intentional Change

While Garden Spot Village has managed to foster a spirit of service, it didn’t happen by accident. It started in 2001 when a major expansion to the community incurred unexpected costs. Determined to maintain transparency and address concerns, the staff looked for ways to increase accountability, and the idea of service came up in several meetings.

In 2002, the community refined its mission statement and values, and “service” was listed along with teamwork, excellence, stewardship and integrity as one of the core values that provide a framework for how the organization functions.

A Top-Down Movement

This addition was a primary step in creating a top-down movement to prioritize volunteering and service. Staff members set an example by volunteering around campus in activities beyond their scope of employment. It isn’t uncommon to see the CEO or board members step up and help out in different ways.

“Our goal is to create a sense of community where people can live lives that have meaning, purpose and value…, a community where we show love to one another in practical ways as an extension of who we are and what we believe,” says Lindsey.

The example of senior staff members didn’t take long to trickle down. Soon residents began using their gifts and talents to benefit others on campus in new and unique ways. Not to be limited to their own community, they began reaching out into the greater community, serving in the local schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations. Eventually this grew to the point that residents were making a difference in the lives of people they had never met, who lived in other parts of the country or around the world.

A Contagious Attitude

Almost fifteen years since the addition to the mission statement, the number of volunteer organizations within Garden Spot Village has skyrocketed. Anyone new to the Village can easily get involved in the community in one way or another.

Service cannot be coerced. Or at least, genuine, cheerful service cannot be forced. Residents and team members value meaningful relationships that are often formed through volunteering. As a result, service happens spontaneously.

“Service is just doing good things for other people,” Lindsey says. “It’s a value that can be easily learned, an attitude that can be adopted and a skill that can be honed by anyone.”

When an intentional effort to increase volunteering is supported by administration, it won’t be long before members of your organization embrace the movement and it becomes a natural part of your culture.

Scott Miller is the Chief Marketing Officer at Garden Spot Village, an active retirement community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Scott volunteers as part of the PA Dutch County Tourism Board, and in many other aspects of the campus and surrounding community.

Nonprofit Insights: Challenging the Status Quo – Rethinking the Value of 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.

Join the free webinar about Challenging the Status Quo: Rethinking the Value of VolunteersWhat if the way nonprofits and companies are currently engaging volunteers is all wrong? How can we make sure we’re strategically involving the core value of volunteers to provide maximum impact?

Research shows that organizations that strategically leverage volunteers outperform peer organizations on all measures of organizational capacity, AND have greater impact. However, less than 15% of nonprofits currently operate this way, and this obstacle stands in the way of success for the causes that so many nonprofits, companies and individuals care about.

Challenging the Status Quo: Rethinking the Value of Volunteers

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
10am – 11am PT (1-2pm ET)

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

Join Bobbi Silten, Gap Inc.; Amy Smith, Points of Light; Karen Baker, California Volunteers; & Greg Baldwin, VolunteerMatch, for a lively conversation about strategic volunteer engagement. Whether you’re a nonprofit professional, a company program coordinator or a dedicated volunteer yourself, you’ll learn more about the research, the implications and the opportunities of strategic volunteer engagement for maximizing impact.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

Creative, Fun and Easy Ways to Engage Skilled Volunteers

Our recent announcement of a new partnership to automatically post all skilled volunteer listings from the VolunteerMatch network to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace has shed a serious spotlight on the importance and potential of skilled volunteering. Check out this special series of posts exploring skilled volunteering as a category, a strategy, and, of course, an inspiration for greater impact.

Creative, Fun and Easy Ways to Engage Skilled VolunteersYou already know that your skilled volunteer listings will now be automatically posted to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace, giving your organization exposure to 300+ skilled professionals. And we’ve discussed the strategies for success when it comes to deepening impact via skilled volunteers.

So now the hard part: Whom should you recruit? How do you design killer skilled volunteer opportunities? What if you have no ideas for the types of skills you might need?

As is often the case, the best inspiration comes from the VolunteerMatch network itself. Check out these fun, creative and high-quality examples of skilled volunteer opportunities to guide you in your engagement odyssey:

Virtual Volunteer Engagement

Often the best way to engage busy, talented people is to let them do their volunteer work from home or from their desks. Thanks to the internet, many volunteer roles can now be fulfilled virtually, and communicating with online volunteers is easier than ever.

Pro Bono Volunteer Engagement

Many people passionate about your cause realize that they can have the most impact by contributing their professional skills. Design volunteer opportunities for people in specific fields who can easily solve problems that might take your staff much longer to figure out…

Engaging Unexpected Skills

When we say “skills,” we don’t just meet marketing or lawyering. Useful skills come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your organization’s needs, and this is a great opportunity to get creative with your volunteer positions.

Activating Social Networks

Who cares if someone has over 1,000 Facebook friends? You should! Because those popular folks could put their networks to good use – for your organization.

Ready to post some skilled volunteer opportunities for your organization? Head to VolunteerMatch.org now and post them up! It’s quick and easy.

How is your organization engaging skilled volunteers in fun and creative ways? Share your experience and ideas below!

Engaging Talent in Best Work

Guest post by Stephen Ristau

Engaging Talent in Best WorkToo often I hear from highly skilled and motivated people, “I just can’t seem to find a nonprofit organization that uses my professional talent well.” And despite the great strides that nonprofits have made in recent years to design volunteer or pro bono work experiences that require advanced expertise or training, I still see a disconnect between the available talent pool and the engagement opportunities nonprofits offer.

Do you find this to be true also? Has your organization stepped up the caliber of short-term, project-oriented work that taps into the motivations and expertise of volunteers? How can we assure effective volunteer matches that meet the mutual goal of “best work?”

I am interested in hearing about your experiences, cool ideas and best practices.

Here are some of mine:

  1. Do your homework - Engaging talent (paid or pro bono) is expensive but is well worth the time and effort to do it well. Done right, you are providing a pathway for the contribution of skills and expertise you otherwise may not be able to afford- you can ill afford to not prepare for this potential infusion of talent.
  2. Define what you need - Most of today’s volunteers want to know what impact they will have. Ask yourself “what will happen as a result of this project?” to get at the expected outcomes and deliverables, and then describe the resources and support you will make available to your volunteer to get the job done.
  3. Tailor opportunities to fit your volunteers - While many of us have used volunteers in the same roles for years, today’s volunteers (from Millennials to Boomers) want to use their skills to make a difference. Be prepared to customize short-term, high-yield engagements that may result in “repeat business” from volunteers who discover that your organization knows how to involve them best.
  4. Engage volunteers’ “eyes and ears” to determine new ways they can contribute - Be a progressive talent manager and engage volunteers in identifying organizational issues, challenges, and solutions they see. Collaborate on project plans, assess the strengths and interests of your volunteers, and support volunteers in the customizing of positions that meet your most pressing organizational gaps.
  5. Lead, follow, AND get out of the way - The best leaders and managers know how and when to do all of these: know how to provide direction, enable leadership and initiative, and clear the way for those with the talent and drive to get things done right the first time. Understand the capabilities and experience of your human resources, including volunteers, and allocate your time and supervision accordingly.

“Best work” organizations, nonprofit and for-profit, are those with human resources that champion innovation and learning, are accountable for outcomes, and are able to work in a coordinated team environment.

How are you maximizing opportunities for your nonprofit to achieve this “best work” standard? Let us know.

Stephen Ristau has been a nonprofit executive and social entrepreneur.  An innovator in the national encore movement, he has led Transforming Life After 50 and the SVP Portland Encore Fellows program.Contact Stephen at stephenristau@gmail.com and www.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-ristau/4/75/b28.

Why It’s Still Hard to Volunteer (and How Nonprofits Can Help)

This post was originally published on the New York Cares blog.

Guest post by Gary Bagley, New York Cares

New York Cares Volunteer Impact ProgramSince the report in February that volunteering numbers are down in the U.S., I have spent much of my time telling well-meaning people poised to make a call to service to please put down the bullhorn. A call to service is important, but a greater problem needs to be addressed first – improving the ability of nonprofits, schools, and community groups to engage volunteers strategically to drive impact.

At New York Cares, we think of volunteers as employees who get ‘paid’ with something other than money. That ‘something else’ may be different for each of us. Regardless, the same tenets that make for top-notch HR practices hold true for volunteer management. If a business mismanages its employees, it will lose them. New York Cares was founded in 1987, expressly because so many schools and nonprofits lack staff, money and know-how to involve volunteers effectively, if at all.

Our strategies are twofold:

  • We provide free volunteer management to our Community Partners, allowing them to outsource their volunteer needs to us, at no cost to them or their clients.We have fulltime staff who manage every program detail. They diagnose community partner needs, develop programs, create curricula, buy supplies, and recruit and train volunteers and volunteer leaders.
  • We also train Community Partners to grow programs by leveraging volunteers. In 2012, we launched our Volunteer Impact Program (VIP) to go beyond our outsourcing model. During the three-year pilot phase, we developed multi-year volunteer management plans with 15 Community Partners and provided ongoing training and staff support for achieving the goals. The results were dramatic. Our VIP participants from Year One had a 138% increase in the number of volunteer projects, compared to a 29% increase in non-participating Community Partners. We are committed to scaling up our VIP work by expanding to more nonprofits through a combination of training and consulting services with New York Cares. These VIP results reaffirm our belief that the question is not whether volunteers are willing and available, but rather, how to better prepare organizations to engage volunteers well.

By the way, the numbers may be down nationally, but this is not the case at New York Cares. We orient approximately 18,000 new volunteers annually, and this number is holding strong.

Thank you to all of New York Cares’ volunteers, current and future, who are committed to making NYC a better place to live for all New Yorkers.

Gary Bagley is Executive Director of New York Cares. He is responsible for more than tripling annual volunteer service delivery, filling more than 150,000 volunteer positions on 18,000 projects and serving over 1,300 nonprofit organizations and schools last year. If you would like to read more of his musings, go here or follow him on Twitter at @GBagley_NYCares.