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Volunteers: Herding Cats into a Pack of Lions

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Volunteers: Herding Cats into a Pack of Lions

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Anyone who manages volunteers can identify with the analogy of herding cats. Volunteers want to be more engaged than ever, but often nonprofits fail to capitalize on their skills and passions. Organizations need actionable ways to change the way they engage with volunteers. Whether you’re developing interns, young professionals, or working with retirees, learn how to turn your herd of cats into a pack of lions!

Anyone who manages volunteers can identify with the analogy of herding cats. Volunteers want to be more engaged than ever, but often nonprofits fail to capitalize on their skills and passions. Organizations need actionable ways to change the way they engage with volunteers. Whether you’re developing interns, young professionals, or working with retirees, learn how to turn your herd of cats into a pack of lions!

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Volunteers: Herding Cats into a Pack of Lions

  1. 1. Volunteers: Herding Cats into a Pack of Lions Stacy Dyer @stacydyer
  2. 2. Your Partner in Dialogue Stacy Dyer Principal, Tomato’s Garden Consulting Speaker Programmer, 501 Tech Club Austin – local affinity group of NTEN 15+ years working for/with nonprofits Asolo Theatre of Florida, Zachary Scott Theater, Ballet Austin Superhero power: Gizmo Empath
  3. 3. Goals for today: Review potential of volunteers Understand why volunteer programs fail Take away actionable strategies to improve volunteer engagement
  4. 4. Do you feel like this? Cowboys herding cats
  5. 5. Volunteering in America 2009 Quick Stats 63.4 million volunteers, 1.6 million increase over 2008 Largest single year increase since 2003 Contributed +8.1 billion hrs, = ~$169 billion in services Volunteer rate up to 26.8% (26.4% in 2008) “To volunteer successfully there must be an infrastructure that can recruit, place, and manage prospective volunteers.” Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. Volunteering in America 2010: National, State, and City Information, Washington, DC. 2010, June.
  6. 6. Obama Administration and Nonprofit Pains $201 million to Corporation for National and Community Service; $5.7 billion bill to expand national service programs Adding 4 new national service corps programs; and triple current number of annual AmeriCorps volunteers by 2017 40% of charities have too few staff members; 34% rely on volunteers to fill gap1 34% of nonprofits say they do not have the infrastructure in place to deploy volunteers2; 57% do not have the infrastructure to deploy an influx of volunteers2 1 The Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project, Recession Pressures on Nonprofit Jobs, 2010 2 2009 Executive Summary: Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey, 2009
  7. 7. Volunteer Persona and Roles Who is volunteering? Retiring Boomers Recent rise in volunteer rates fueled by: Women, ages 45-54 Have children Employed full-time *Source: Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development. Volunteering in America 2010; National, State, and City Information, Washington, DC. 2010, June.
  8. 8. Diverse Ecosystem
  9. 9. Why volunteer programs fail Don’t understand the vital role they fill Under utilized – not engaged in meaningful way No path for sustainable growth Org treats all volunteers the same – ME ME ME ME
  10. 10. Get a Volunteer Coordinator Human Resources = potential organizational wealth (both money and skills!) Capacity to capitalize on volunteer resources Don't rely on existing staff who have other mission-critical duties Should be dedicated staff member Not just another volunteer Acts as liaison Must have perspective to balance needs
  11. 11. Coordinator as Tamer Identify gaps in staff Create sustainable volunteer program Capitalize on current resources Develop the next line coming up Foster long-term relationships Photo by: Andrew Kaufman
  12. 12. Volunteer Job Descriptions Create detailed volunteer job descriptions, including roles and responsibilities Set quantifiable goals volunteers can work towards Engage in a regular performance review feedback process Revise and update descriptions and goals as needed
  13. 13. Align Roles to Passions Don’t have expectations based on the volunteer’s external experience or skills Let them pursue their interests!
  14. 14. Rotate Roles Allow volunteers to try out various roles They may discover a passion they never knew they had! Reduce volunteer fatigue Encourage frequent volunteer feedback Be flexible and don’t force it
  15. 15. Provide Continuing Education Encourage growth and development As volunteers acquire new skills, not only will your organization benefit from their increased capacity, but the individual that feels engaged will be easier to retain. Yuri Kuklachev of Moscow Cat Theatre
  16. 16. Use Volunteer Mentors Create a system that gives volunteers the opportunity to lead other volunteers Share experience and knowledge Improve skill retention Rely less on paid staff to train new recruits Continue personal and professional development journey
  17. 17. Benefits of Investing in Volunteers Engage volunteers in a professional development system Skilled volunteer marketplace from which to draw resources Stakeholders for life with greater philanthropic potential
  18. 18. Time is More Valuable Than Money The #1 reason people don’t buy season tickets isn't their cost – it’s because they don't have time to attend^ Easier to just write a check and be done Volunteers invest their time – value it accordingly! ^ Source: Performing Arts Research Coalition, Performing Arts Research Coalition Sarasota Community Report, pg 47
  19. 19. Nurture Volunteers Your volunteers are your greatest investors Volunteers give you their TIME. It is, in many ways, more valuable than money. A volunteer who is deeply engaged is your most likely source of monetary investment.
  20. 20. Escalate Engagement Track directly in donor database, CRM or volunteer management system Set thresholds for escalation Sometimes all you have to do is ask! Use flags and reminders Publically track goal attainment as a motivational tool
  21. 21. Powerful Pack of Lions Hangzhou Sapphire Circus A successful volunteer engagement program means volunteers will be lining up to be a part of your organization!
  22. 22. Take-aways to remember: Have a Volunteer Coordinator Specific volunteer job descriptions Align roles to passions Rotate roles to reduce volunteer fatigue and maximize opportunistic exploration Allow for growth journey Respect their investment by investing in them Nurture relationships Be proactive - volunteers can become your greatest investors!
  23. 23. Thank You! Stacy Dyer Follow me on Twitter: @stacydyer

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