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.

Thinking…Bigger about Skilled Volunteering for Nonprofits

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.

Thinking bigger about skilled volunteering, now with LinkedIn and VolunteerMatch.

When I first got wind late in 2013 that LinkedIn was launching a Volunteer Marketplace in the New Year, I sighed. Out loud. VolunteerMatch is a volunteer marketplace.

We’ve seen this before. In fact, there are new websites, apps, services, etc. popping up all the time. Some are awesome. Some are not.

And despite my audible sighs, I actually love hearing about them all. It pushes us to think differently and to challenge our own assumptions about the VolunteerMatch approach.

There’s more to it, though: a big part of our future takes place outside the walls of VolunteerMatch, and our ability to work with other systems will continue to be very important to our growth. Read more about the past and future development of VolunteerMatch here.

And LinkedIn is big. 300+million-members-big.

So, I paid close attention to the reasons LinkedIn was creating this marketplace. I listened as they shared their partnership plan – and how they were looking to partners to help them build out their vision of connecting their members to skilled opportunities in communities around the country (to start).

This is big for VolunteerMatch. Big because it showcases how amazing our nonprofits are. Big because it illustrates how the right partnerships can create a new game.

So, we got to work.

People haven’t traditionally thought of VolunteerMatch as a place where skilled volunteering is taking place. And now they do. The reality is that, every day, people are finding projects that tap their skills and nonprofits are learning how to think creatively about their volunteers.

Today we have over 6,000 skilled listings and an array of resources that has helped to continually grow that number.

We are the most powerful volunteer engagement network on the Web and are only getting stronger. Tactically, we’ve got the most skilled listings, sure. But strategically, we can shape the future of skilled volunteering together with partners like LinkedIn. And that’s a big idea.

Already we’re seeing increases in the connections because of this partnership—VolunteerMatch lisings shared on LinkedIn are likely to see 2-3x the sign-ups as those not shared. And with the announcement of our partnership, we expect the number of skilled listings to continue to grow.

We’re also ramping up our trainings for nonprofits to make sure they have the resources to easily take advantage of this opportunity. And our corporate partners are thrilled to have even more skilled opportunities to share with their employees.

So thanks, LinkedIn. Personally, for helping me think…even bigger. And also for being our partner in building an amazing future for skilled volunteering and the causes that benefit from it.

Read more about how engaging skilled volunteers can help your nonprofit organization – and how to do it successfully.

Post on VolunteerMatch.org right now to engage skilled volunteers for your organization!

VolunteerMatch Now Connects Nonprofits Directly to 300 Million Skilled Volunteers

As of this week, every skilled volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.org gets automatically posted to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace.
VolunteerMatch and LinkedIn have partnered to build a technology bridge to the future of skilled volunteering.

Here’s some big news for your nonprofit: VolunteerMatch has created a game-changing partnership with LinkedIn to help you recruit the right skilled volunteers. Together, we’re changing the way people connect with your organization to volunteer their time and expertise.

A joint team of product managers and engineers worked together to build a “technology bridge,” so that all skilled volunteer opportunities posted to VolunteerMatch.org will now automatically be posted to LinkedIn, as well. And now it will be dramatically easier for your organization to successfully recruit skilled volunteers and board members.

So far, skilled opportunities also posted to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace have seen 2-3 times as many sign-ups from interested volunteers – and we expect this trend to continue growing!

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • When you create a listing in VolunteerMatch and specify a skill, we will “auto-magically” share it on your Company page on LinkedIn. Simply enter your LinkedIn Company URL after you’ve posted your listing. (Don’t worry, if we don’t know your Company page or you don’t have one, your listing will display as part of VolunteerMatch on LinkedIn.)
  • Volunteers will still sign up for your listing on VolunteerMatch, so you’ll still find out about interested volunteers the same way you always have.

Want to learn more about engaging skilled volunteers? Join us for a free webinar about how best to integrate skilled volunteers into your existing program!

As always, please share your thoughts about how this opportunity can be helpful to you by emailing support@volunteermatch.org.

And now, head to VolunteerMatch.org, post your skilled volunteer opportunities, and get ready for some great skilled volunteers!

How to Engage Job-Seekers as Volunteers

How to Engage Job-Seekers as VolunteersIn today’s economy, one might expect volunteering rates to shoot up as employment rates remain shaky.

While this isn’t the case, there’s still a lot of opportunity for nonprofit organizations like yours to engage people currently searching for jobs.

Why Engage Job-Seekers?

Excellent question. Folks looking for employment are going to be driven. They are focused on their goal, which means if they choose to spend time with you, they really care about you and your cause. They often have valuable skills to bring to the table, and even though their commitment might dwindle after they find a job, you can keep them connected via newsletter, one-day events and donation opportunities until they find more time to give again. Bottom line: You want to build a long-term relationship with these people, so you’d better start now.

Focus on Skills

Target people with specific skills who might want to polish them while they job search, or who might be looking to build new skills to make themselves more marketable. For ideas, check out the skills taxonomy in our Listing Wizard.

Be Clear About Expectations and Commitment

Looking for a job can often be as time-consuming as a full-time job itself. So make sure to lay out time commitment expectations, as well as the exact work to be done, from the very beginning. That way you only involve people who know the score from the beginning, and you can both feel good about the connection. This is important content to put in the position description on VolunteerMatch.

Provide Recommendations and Networking

There’s no rule that says volunteering can’t benefit the volunteer. In fact, it should help volunteers, beyond making them feel good about their impact. Acting as a referral for your excellent volunteers, and introducing them to people who might be beneficial in their job searches, are great ways to show your appreciation and ensure they stay engaged long after they land their dream jobs.

Offer Leadership Opportunities

Finally, even if you can’t actually hire your favorite volunteers, design ways for them to take on larger roles within the organization as they become qualified. This looks great on their resumes, and makes your volunteer program that much more dynamic. Not sure what sorts of leadership roles your volunteers would want? Ask them!

Head to VolunteerMatch now to post volunteer opportunities that will attract passionate job seekers to your organization!

Top 3 Things I Learned About Pro Bono from the First Twitter Talk Tuesday

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Tweet, Twitter, Bird, Blue, Twig, Branch, Green, HillsOn Tuesday, November 19, my team and I rounded up with coffee in our hands and entered the Twittersphere to begin our first Twitter Talk Tuesday. As an intern at VolunteerMatch I was able to be an integral part of the project. Our first topic was pro bono and skilled volunteering.

To be honest, I am not an expert in this field and I was a little intimidated to be a participating member of Twitter Talk Tuesday. Here are some of the things I learned throughout the hour-long chat:

Setting the foundation of a pro bono project

We started the chat off talking about how the initial conversation between a nonprofit and a company can be complicated concerning pro bono projects. Many of the responses we received said that both parties need to be clear on what the goal is, how to efficiently reach that goal and provide guidelines for how they will work together. Some even provided links with resources to additional help.

Mutually beneficial pro bono relationships

Later in the Twitter chat we discussed who benefits from a pro bono project more: a nonprofit, volunteers, or the corporation. When I was first thinking about this subject I had immediately come to the conclusion that it was a win-win-win situation. However, some of our participants shed light on a few problems involved. I learned that yes, ideally pro bono projects should benefit all parties, but sometimes the needs of the company can overpower the needs of the organization.

On the other hand, those that successfully create a pro bono project allow for nonprofits to get what they need without having to pay for it, employees get to utilize and even sharpen their skills, and corporations increase their impact for good.

Planning a pro bono project

We also discussed how organizations can plan for pro bono projects. An important realization is that there isn’t one right process; each project is unique to the particular needs of the nonprofit and company involved. The planning team must be flexible and be willing to put in the hard work that goes into pro bono projects. In addition to this, it is equally important to know what kind of skills the community and the corporate employees have to offer.

There are a lot of different aspects that go into these projects, but the outcome is definitely worth it. A running theme throughout our Twitter chat was that these projects are unique and must be treated as such. There must be plenty of flexibility, research, communication and cooperation in order to have a successful outcome.

Overall, the first Twitter Talk Tuesday was incredibly helpful and gave me some insight as to how nonprofits and corporations come together for a pro bono project to help out those in need.

Be on the look out for our next Twitter Talk Tuesday! Keep the conversation going about pro bono volunteering using the hashtag #vmtalk. Tweet you soon!