First of all, what is your chapter about? Often, we look at engaging volunteers and cultivating donors as different work. However, these objectives actually employ the same relationship building skills. Allowing individuals to self-select how they connect to your organization allows them to bring all their resources to your organization.
Why is this topic important? Organizations can overlook the additional resources those already involved with their organization can offer. With the best of intentions, we sometimes make assumptions about what someone is able to do, or how they would like to contribute.
By expanding the conversation, people will engage in the ways that are most meaningful to them, which creates a stronger connection to your organization. Cultivating donors is typically a key objective for many organizations, while volunteer engagement struggles to be recognized as key work worthy of an investment in staff resources. I believe this article shows they are equally important!
Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”) I’ve worked for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for more than 10 years. Previous to that, I volunteered for them.
In my work, I’ve challenged staff to build their personal capacity through volunteer engagement, while creating meaningful opportunities for volunteers to have tangible impact. I’m fortunate to work for an organization where volunteers are key leaders and partner with staff to achieve the important work outlined in our strategic plan.
Initially, I began in volunteer engagement by recruiting volunteers for events. From there I was able to use my skills to help the organization grow, and I haven’t looked back!
What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter? Honestly, this is the first time I’ve written anything for publication, and it was intimidating! I recruited my colleague Taylor Mallia, who focuses on donor cultivation, to collaborate with me. Together, we were able to discuss our work connecting people to the organization through volunteer engagement and gift cultivation.
My style tends to be a bit on the informal side, and I greatly value the exchange that happens during a discussion. Therefore, this challenged me to formally support my ideas in writing, rather than strictly through dialogue.
What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future? Be confident in how much ability your work has to impact the success of your organization. Volunteer engagement isn’t something separate to do, it’s how effective organizations work.
Tess loves her role as VolunteerMatch's Senior Marketing Manager because she gets to put words to work for social good! When not reading and writing, Tess spends her time obsessing over her cat and getting excited about food. She holds a Master’s of Nonprofit Leadership and a B.A. in Public Relations.