Innovation and Sustainable Volunteering [Part 2]

Guest post by Meridian Swift

This post originally appeared on Volunteer Plain Talk

Read part one.

Sustainability and Volunteerism

What would sustainable volunteering look like? Besides many of the innovations already being implemented, what would nurturing a volunteer garden shared within our communities involve? Is this a 180 degree leap or is it more of a naturally occurring shift that we have been moving towards all along? Are we, volunteer managers coming together in an organic movement to help one another and therefore all volunteers and all good work?

What can we try? Will this take extra work, headache, and heartache to achieve? Just as in gardening, there are necessary steps to achieve a bountiful crop.

I’m going to list some ideas in a season of planting using the gardening metaphor.

TILLING THE SOIL (preparing to garden):

  • Tilling the SoilMake a list of agencies and organizations in your area that engage volunteers and reach out to introduce yourself to each leader of volunteers
  • Join any clearinghouse agencies such as VolunteerMatch, United Way, and Volunteer Centres in your area
  • Join a DOVIA (Directors Of Volunteers In Agencies) or a similar group in your area or if none exists, reach out to another volunteer manager and start a peer group
  • Create a list serve or simple newsletter to share with your fellow volunteer managers in your locale

PLANTING (seeding the way):

  • PlantingShare your volunteer opportunities with other volunteer managers (at your peer group and by listserv) and ask for theirs. Regularly check in to gauge the fluidity of roles, etc.
  • Discuss volunteers’ skills and interests at peer group meetings. Offer other volunteer managers the opportunity to contact one of your volunteers if their mission or opportunity more closely aligns with your volunteer’s passion
  • Share background checks if you are able in order to cut costs
  • Pair up with other organizations to conduct a visible volunteer project and involve local media to cover the event
  • Create volunteer educational conferences with other volunteer managers to benefit all volunteers in area-share space, costs of snacks or printed materials creating more bang for the buck
  • Share cost of a national speaker with other volunteer programs and invite all volunteers in your area. Have plenty of information on volunteering opportunities available

FEEDING (nurturing the collective):

  • FeedingBring your volunteers to another organization on Make a Difference Day or another day of service and help that organization. Build that camaraderie, and use positive press to show cooperation:  Days of service include:
  • Create a summer circle of volunteering for out-of-school students so they can sample the various opportunities in your area and participate in a well-rounded service learning experience
  • Conduct partner training sessions with other organizations
  • Partner with another organization to create a group of volunteers to cross-volunteer (For example, library volunteers + homeless shelter volunteers = a reading program for school aged children in the shelter. Library volunteers finding appropriate books, shelter volunteers utilizing them and perhaps some library volunteers venturing out to read to the children while shelter volunteers conduct a fundraiser for the library. And no, this isn’t simple or easy, but it can be a start)
  • Mentor new volunteer coordinators in your area
  • Offer your highly seasoned and trained volunteers to train/mentor volunteers at another organization
  • Partner with other volunteer managers to create a presentation that educates organizational staff on the nuances of volunteer engagement-allow all volunteer managers in your area to utilize
  • Create partnership recruitment efforts by sharing speaking engagements

Future Bounty (what might come of this?)

  • Future BountyIncreased satisfaction and sustainability of volunteers
  • More flexible options for prospective volunteers
  • Sharing of best practices between leaders of volunteers
  • The showcasing of cooperation between non-profit agencies
  • Increased volunteer involvement in organizational planning and innovations
  • More good work accomplished within communities
  • Cooperative think tanks springing up
  • Less stress on volunteer managers

We, volunteer managers are unique, innovative and forward thinking. Why wouldn’t we bond with one another and forge a new, cooperative garden in order to create sustainable volunteerism?

Besides, we are generous and big picture oriented by nature. Let’s co-op.