All posts by Lori Gotlieb Consulting

Are you supporting your Association Volunteers the right way

Let me pose three questions to you:

 

  1. Do you have issues getting your members to engage in volunteering with your association?
  2. Do you have a succession plan that looks at who your members are and what motivates them to volunteer for your association?
  3. Have you provided education and training, tools and resources on best practices in volunteer engagement in your association?
  4. Does your website reflect the opportunities and benefits of volunteering in your association?

 

Okay, that was four questions. If you answer no to any of these, then you need to ask yourself what can you do to make volunteerism attractive to your members and once you have them engaged, how do you support them through their tenure as a volunteer?

 

Supporting Your Volunteers

An association’s volunteer engagement strategies are key to ensuring that there is a solid foundation to support their volunteer efforts.

This solid foundation needs to include the following steps:

 

  • Clear role descriptions and committee terms of references that all volunteers receive when they begin their term
  • Specific policies and procedures related to volunteer engagement (beyond Association Charters)
  • Adopting the Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement, which is a best practice model of the standards of volunteer engagement
  • Screening and onboarding processes that are transparent including forms such as Code of Conduct, Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality
  • Volunteer Engagement data management tool
  • Training and education for volunteer engagement (communication skills, volunteer leadership skills, best practices for committees and boards to name a few)
  • Retention and succession planning on an annual basis
  • Volunteer feedback and evaluation protocol
  • Volunteer off boarding process and recognition that reflects their experiences and encourages the volunteer to continue to be an ambassador of the association

 

So, if you are not already stressed that you don’t have these in place, now you have to consider the diversity of your volunteer base.

Are you looking at diversifying your volunteer committees and roles and do they reflect the changing demographics?

Do you understand the differences between the generations and how they interact with each other?

The first step to bridging the intergenerational gaps is to understand each other and the different ways that they communicate and learn to blend the differences to ensure that you are responding to their needs.

For example, baby boomers are used to in person contact and yet the Generation X is highly tech savvy and prefers to multi-task. So, picture sitting in a committee meeting and your volunteers are looking at their phones all the time….is this going to sit well with everyone or is this becoming the norm? Are they using their phones to take notes? Is this OK or is this the just becoming the norm?

This is just an example of what the future will hold as the generations continue to blend.

Consider what your priorities are in the next 10 years, can your Association continue to engage volunteers is the same way that they had 10 years ago? If not, it is time to create a strategic plan that focuses on volunteer engagement.

Lori will be attending and presenting at National Conference in Newfoundland, so please join her session or reach out at anytime.

 


 

For more information or articles of volunteer engagement, go to lorigotliebconsulting.wordpress.com. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions to lorigotliebconsulting@gmail.com.

http://www.csae.com/Blog/ArticleID/256/are-you-supporting-your-association-volunteers-right-way

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The Hidden Value of a Volunteer Management Leader Driving the Volunteer Program

 

lorigotliebconsulting@gmail.com

I have been working in the field of volunteer management long enough to see the continuous cycle of the lack of understanding of the value of a professional volunteer program being lead by someone who can focus on best practices in volunteer management that ensures a strong foundation of a successful volunteer engagement strategy.

Many organizations do not seem to realize the value of someone who understands the multi-faceted approaches to volunteer engagement.

Firstly, the role of a leader of volunteers is to understand the needs of the organization both from a strategic and tactical position. Most non-profits and associations are dependant on volunteers to fulfill their mandates and goals and yet, they may not even understand how volunteers can add value to the organization in many ways.

Secondly, the role of the leader of volunteers is to understand who the volunteers of today are, and even who the volunteers of tomorrow will be and bridge the gaps between the needs of the volunteers and the needs of the organizations. This is not an easy task to do, the landscape is changing rapidly and technology alone is forcing organizations and associations to think differently and act responsibly. The blend of generations alone is enough to keep a volunteer program busy.

Next, there is a clear set of best practices that help to build a strong foundation of volunteer management. These best practices are necessary to ensure that organizations are practicing due diligence and mitigating risks that can escalate and into larger problems.

Best practices in volunteer management include the following:

  • Clearly defined role descriptions
  • Defined recruitment process that reflects the diversity of the community it serves
  • Standardized on-boarding and off-boarding processes
  • Up to date policies and procedures that are volunteer specific
  • Annual volunteer assessments, evaluations and performance discussions to ensure best practices in retention and succession planning
  • Recognition plans that include a diverse means of acknowledging volunteers and staff in both informal and formal ways and reflects the interests of the volunteer
  • These are just a few areas that a professional volunteer leader would be focussed on.

It is imperative that organizations understand who their volunteers are, where to reach out to them in a targeted way, how to screen appropriately and how to retain and support the volunteers that you have invested time into.

The importance of a professional paid administrator of volunteer is imperative to the success of the volunteer program. They are the bridge between the community and the organization, with one focus…. the success of volunteerism in the organization and the growth of the volunteer engagement strategy.

Though there are costs involved in this strategy the cost to not having a strong, structured volunteer program could out weight the cost of having someone in the drivers seat focused on driving the program towards success.

For more information or to book a workshop on volunteer engagement and various other topics related to best practices in volunteerism go to lorigotliebconsulting.wordpress.com.

Or if you just want to ask questions, feel free to reach out.

 

 

Reduce Risk to Your Association with the 10 Steps of Volunteer Screening

Is a volunteer screening process necessary for everyone?

Are all volunteer roles considered equal?

How do you ask volunteers to go through a screening process if they are volunteering their time?

How do we say no?

How much time do you spend dealing with the interpersonal issues amongst volunteers?

Do any of these questions keep you up at night?

Screening volunteers is a key step all associations should consider implementing for their members. Doing so can ensure your organization has the right people in the right role. Volunteer screening also means you have done your due diligence in protecting your association’s reputation and assets, minimizing liability.

10 Steps to Volunteer Screening

The following reviews the 10 Steps of Volunteer Screening. The steps help provide clear guidelines for developing volunteer screening polices and best practices to ensure the commitment and safety of all volunteers matches your organization’s needs and values.

  1. Assessment: Identify and assess the risks presented by each volunteer position by rating the risk as high, medium or low.
  2. Position Descriptions: Ensure all volunteer positions have clear descriptions of responsibility, scope and accountability, and that volunteers review and agree to the role.
  3. Recruitment: Use a consistent and transparent means of recruiting volunteers, including key information to make informed decisions.
  4. Application Forms: All volunteers are required to complete application forms with standardized information to ensure you have the required content to support the volunteer and protect the association / organization.
  5. Interview: All volunteers should go through a transparent and consistent interview process, asking the appropriate questions to ascertain the volunteer’s abilities to fulfil the role.
  6. Reference Checks: Check references in accordance to the pre-determined skills required for the role.
  7. Criminal Reference Checks: Based on the risks of the role, a criminal reference check may be required.
  8. Orientation and Training: It is important that all volunteers receive clear information on the mission, vision, policies and procedures related to their tasks and the position’s scope.
  9. Support: Ensure there is a support mechanism in place so the volunteer knows who they need to reach out to. There must also be an ongoing process for performance feedback so volunteers have an opportunity to regularly provide feedback on their role.
  10. Evaluation: Ongoing review of the volunteer role, expectations and outcomes are key to understanding what is working and what requires further review to minimize risks. Ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to provide feedback.

 

These 10 steps of volunteer screening are a starting point for ensuring you have a solid risk management process in place. The steps also ensure you have the right people in place to regularly monitor volunteer activities, building support tools and resources, and providing education and support to all the stakeholders.

You will no longer be kept up at night, fingers crossed, if you follow these 10 steps and undertake a proper volunteer screening process.

 


Is your volunteer program becoming an antique?

The following article, published in Charityvillage  January 2017,gives some insight into how to bring your volunteer program to the forefront and focuses on tips to advocate for yourself, make your program current and be creative:

Volunteer programs need to adapt to changing trends and environments – or else be prepared to struggle with the recruitment and retention of volunteers. Volunteer programs should be dynamic and not static; they should focus on both the needs of the organization and the community at large.

Article:

As a leader of a volunteer program, it is your role to develop strategies for your volunteer program to address current trends and not be an aging antique in the new digital world.

These strategies should embrace:

  • Better access to resources through technology
  • A committed and highly skilled volunteer force that want some control of their experiences
  • Diversity of skills and knowledge through the many different generations of volunteers
  • Social awareness of the value of volunteerism and engaging in your community

Approach your work with creativity

Ask yourself the following:

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where are your opportunities and threats?

Creativity is key to answering these questions, which, in turn, will help you to develop volunteer engagement strategies that are exciting to your existing and potential volunteers.

Volunteer programs need to stretch the imagination in order to engage with their:

  • Staff, including senior leadership
  • Board and committee members
  • Leadership volunteers
  • Influencers in your organization and community

Creativity is also vital in sharing your stories about volunteer engagement with these important decision makers, and only by getting the word out about your program’s impact and return on investment will you be able to impress upon them the value that your program brings.

Become your own advocate

Do you have an elevator speech to start that conversation with those stakeholders listed above? If you had 60 seconds in the elevator or lunchroom with your CEO or ED, what would you talk about?

Consider the following as you create your speech:

  • What highlights are you most proud of for your volunteer program in the past 6 months?
  • What stories have you heard from your volunteers, clients and staff?
  • What numbers have you increased over the year?
  • What “new” kinds of volunteers have joined the organization that are different from the year before?
  • Have you created any volunteer partnerships that your leadership may not be aware of?
  • Did you implement a new process or activity that your CEO may not be aware of (e.g. new recognition activity)?

Also, think about what accomplishments you would like your leadership to know about. You could also consider something you’ve been dreaming of implementing.

For example, your elevator speech might discuss how your numbers of youth volunteers have grown in the past year and that you are thinking of developing a youth-centred recognition program where they hear from the leaders in your organization with advice about their career path.

If you don’t know have a plan, now is time to create one. This is a key door opener to larger conversations.

Keep your program current

So, how do you prevent becoming an antique in your own organizations? Here are some quick tips:

  • Develop that elevator speech with highlights.
  • Start to evaluate your volunteer program for both quantitative and qualitative stories.
  • Conduct a SWOT and PEST analysis of your program.
  • Create an annual work plan that focuses on one area of the volunteer management cycle that you have put on the back burner.
  • Go to workshops and take some courses to re-energize yourself and learn new skills.
  • Take the time to read the newspaper and stay up on current affairs because you never know where you’ll find that next great idea or inspiration.

Finally, ensure that you are building a volunteer program that is interesting to your volunteers and that provides opportunities for volunteer growth and succession planning.

Volunteer Programs Need On-Going Engagement to Thrive

When examining your volunteer programs, what does your best practice model of volunteer engagement look like? Do you think your program is reflecting the best practice standards in Canada?

Volunteer engagement is a cyclical relationship that starts with your members’ interest in further engagement and never really ends. Thriving volunteer engagement programs within associations are built on solid foundations and guiding principles and standards of practices. Some of these standards for volunteer programs are outlined in The Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement.

 

Engagement Standards for Engagement in Volunteer Programs

The following 14 standards are related to best practices in volunteer engagement through:

  1. Mission-Based Approach: Board of Directors and senior staff support the roles of volunteers in achieving the mission and that volunteer roles are linked to the mission.
  2. Human Resources: Volunteers are valued and appropriate resources are in place to support their involvement.
  3. Policies and Procedures: A policy framework clearly supports volunteer involvement and defines expectations and boundaries of all parties.
  4. Volunteer Administration: That there is a key person designated to support volunteer involvement.
  5. Risk Management and Quality Assurance: Risk processes are in place to assess, manage and mitigate potential risks to volunteers and members.
  6. Volunteer Roles: Clear and concise role descriptions are developed and communicated to all participants in volunteer programs.
  7. Recruitment: Strategies are built to attract a diverse audience to your volunteer programs from your membership and abroad.
  8. Screening: A transparent and clearly communicated screening process is in place that is aligned with your risk management approach.
  9. Orientation and Training: Comprehensive orientation and training is provided to minimize risks within your volunteer programs.
  10. Support and Supervision: Levels of support reflect the roles and a performance feedback mechanism is in place to give and receive feedback regularly.
  11. Records Management: Current legislative requirements and forms are documented and stored in a confidential way.
  12. Technology: Using technology to support and engage volunteers in meaningful ways.
  13. Recognition: Volunteer contributions are acknowledged through formal and informal methods.
  14. Evaluation: An evaluation framework is in place to assess both the volunteers’ activities, as well as the effectiveness of the volunteer engagement strategy

 

The Risks of Volunteer Engagement

What can be at risk here, and where are your red flags? Here are a few to think about:

  • Risk to reputation
  • Ethical and moral risks
  • Inappropriate screening methods or inconsistent screening
  • Improper use of equipment and branding material
  • Unclear policies and procedures that are not clearly communicated
  • Incomplete application process and forms not complete
  • Risk analysis of roles not reviewed
  • Poor succession planning
  • Insufficient role descriptions and/or terms of reference
  • No mechanism for feedback

Is this overwhelming or are you confident that you have it all in place?

I get asked all the time, what makes a strong volunteer program and my response is always the same. Ensure that you have a strong foundation and process in place to minimize risk. Find the right person for the right role. Support your volunteers in a meaningful way and evaluate annually where your strengths and weaknesses are.

And keep moving the ship forward inch by inch.

 

Does your Association have a solid volunteer risk management plan

Have you considered what is at risk to your association and your volunteers ?
Do you provide a comprehensive onboarding and screening process?
Do you have terms of references and role descriptions for your volunteer roles?
Do you have policies and procedures for your volunteers to follow?
If you answer “No” to any of these, this workshop is for you.
This is just the tip of the iceberg…we will look at have to minimize risk to your association and your volunteers and look at your Association gaps and share from each others successes and lessons learned.

The article below has some important things to think about…..sign up for the workshop and learn from your colleagues.

http://www.csae.com/Blog/ArticleID/83/does-your-association-have-volunteer-risk-management-plan

Getting the best from your volunteers through the SAVE approach

Getting the best from your volunteers through the SAVE approach

Managing a volunteer program can be a very rewarding and exciting role. We are matchmakers, facilitators, social workers, marketers, sales people and sometimes disciplinarians. This last role is usually the least comfortable for us – and the one that many of us try to avoid. But the fact remains, it is also part of the job.

The ‘new’ volunteer is looking for ways to engage your organization that fit into their own busy schedules and they are looking for guidance and support more than supervision and recognition.

Creating a solid volunteer management system that is well communicated and reinforced will go a long way towards minimizing the need for disciplinary actions – including the need to fire a volunteer. However, should you find yourself in this position, having a structured volunteer management system will ensure that you will have put the appropriate measures in place.

How the SAVE Approach can help

By using the SAVE Approach, you can proactively ensure that best practices are in place for onboarding new volunteers, providing guidance to existing volunteers and, when necessary, end the volunteer relationship.

The SAVE Approach is:

S (Screening, Structure, Support and Supervision)
A (Attainable, Attention)
V (Validate, Value)
E (Evaluate, Encourage, End)

Screening volunteers by collecting and evaluating information about potential volunteers will help you to determine the right fit for each volunteer and will identify any red flags that might prevent the volunteer from being the best choice for the role. By not screening volunteers, you are immediately putting your volunteer program at risk of having to remove a volunteer. The purpose of screening is to protect both the volunteer and the organization (and the organization’s clients) and prevent inappropriate placements. Remember that screening begins at your first encounter with the potential volunteer.

Structure helps you to set goals for the volunteer that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART). By building the infrastructure of the volunteer program to include performance management, proper documentation, training of both staff and volunteers, and linking the performance to recognition, leadership roles and evaluation, you will minimize risks.

Supporting volunteers requires flexibility. Also, it is not just your role to support the volunteer but also the staff and senior leadership of the organization. They too will need to learn to provide support and encouragement to volunteers. Some strategies for support could include shadowing and mentorship, training and de-briefing sessions. Developing a system to support your volunteers will allow you to guide your volunteer’s relationship in a positive and meaningful way.

Supervision requires open communication between all parties. It is key that there is an ongoing feedback and evaluation process that includes all supervising staff as well as input from clients.

Attention and Attainable requires you to get to know your volunteers and revise roles to ensure that they are SMART. Providing new opportunities for keeping volunteers involved and motivated ensures that volunteers are getting the ongoing support and education that they require.

Value refers to the way that we can connect the volunteer’s role to the organization’s mission and vision by setting clear expectations through policies, procedures and best practices and communicating this to the volunteers. All volunteers need to be treated with respect and should know how they fit into the big picture.

Validating the volunteer experience occurs through feedback, 360-degree performance management systems, and open dialogue. It is also important to provide motivation to stretch beyond their comfort zone and be a positive role model for other volunteers.

Encouragement focuses on the ability to keep volunteers motivated and engaged in their work. By matching volunteers with their interests and skills you can encourage high-level performance outcomes.

Ensuring that the volunteers are regularly supported, educated and thanked is going to build on their comfort level and keep the lines of communication open. It is also important to identify training needs, celebrate successes and publicise the contributions of the volunteers to your stakeholders as well as creating a volunteer-friendly atmosphere within your organization.

Evaluation is a necessary component of the volunteer management cycle that will reinforce the structure that you have built.

The key components include knowing the benefits of effective performance management and ensuring that a process exists. It is important to set goals with the volunteer and follow through on them so that you can move volunteers towards success.

Ending a volunteer relationship

Finally, if you do need to END a volunteer relationship, it is important to do so in a respectful and structured way.

Dealing with a difficult volunteer requires an objective and timely process that relies on the volunteer position description for framing the conversation and identifying the expected behaviour of the volunteer. Indicating a shared commitment to finding a solution will help to create the parameters to address and ultimately solve the issues that are concerning.

If you must remove the volunteer from their position, the first step is to ensure that you document everything. Keeping thorough records is a best practice that should be adopted for all of your volunteer transactions, not just when disciplinary action is being considered.

You should create a progressive dismissal process that is well documented in your volunteer manual and communicated to your volunteers and staff.

It is very hard to predict how the volunteer will respond to the end of their relationship with the organization. Where possible, we want to encourage volunteers to continue to be philanthropic and engaged in community support.

Volunteering is a very personal choice and we are an important conductor on the volunteer’s journey. Taking the time to develop screening and support tools and communicating these both internally and externally, with volunteers and staff, we can feel confident that we can SAVE the difficult conversation for another time.