When you work for a nonprofit, how do you decide to spend money on yourself?

Are you settling for less - Twenty HatsI was in charge of staff development at my last nonprofit job. That meant organizing in-services and other trainings intended to help our supervisors work as effectively as possible with our volunteers.

One year, I was especially proud that the program hired a management consultant to meet with the supervisors quarterly to talk about the art of supervising volunteers. To my mind – and to my Executive Director’s mind, there was nothing more essential than making sure our supervisors were well schooled in supervision practices.

I was so excited to offer this service to the supervisors – and surprised at the push-back I received from a couple of co-workers.

It wasn’t about the coaching. My co-workers knew this coach and liked him: it was because we were paying this coach to teach supervision.

“We’re a nonprofit,” said one co-worker. “People should be donating their services to us.”

Supervising volunteers was the most important thing our program did. It made sense to hire a qualified person to coach our staff around this essential skill….

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google-76522_1280“I absolutely hate volunteering at your organization’s name.”

Has one of your volunteers ever said this about your nonprofit online? If you haven’t done an online search to find out in a while – or ever – it’s time!

There are a lot of suggestions out there on how organizations should be talking about themselves online, including using social media. But, just like an in-person conversation, it’s important to listen online as much as you talk – if not more. Understanding what volunteers are saying about their experiences – positive or negative – can help you create a stronger volunteer program.

One of my favorite ways to listen to what volunteers are saying online is to set up a Google Alert. I’ve had Google Alerts set up for my own name for over ten years, so it was a no-brainer when I got into volunteer management that I would set it up for my organization as well.

Want to know what volunteers are saying about your nonprofit online? Set up a Google Alert in three easy steps:

  1. Go Google Alerts
  2. Type in your search terms
  3. Click “Create Alert”

Tips for Google Alerts

Three volunteer engagement pros weigh in on behavior-based interviewing

Still on the fence - Twenty HatsReaders of my blog know that I am a big fan of behavior-based interviewing — and that’s because it works. Using this particular model means you engage volunteers who are a good fit from the get go, making supervision easier and increasing your odds for retention.

But don’t take my word for it. This week, I interviewed three volunteer engagement professionals who all use behavior-based interviewing and experience their own positive results. Here are their perspectives:

Keeping things objective

Priscilla Jahanian, a supervisor at Fairfax CASA, likes the behavior-based approach because it is competency-based and not subjective. “It takes the burden off of me making a decision based on my personal feelings about an individual. It gives me confidence because I know when to zero in for clarification.” Priscilla finds the method especially helpful for pinpointing interpersonal skills.

Great for skills-based volunteers

Working at the national level of the American Red Cross, Volunteer Relationships Manager Kim Gube sees behavior-based interviewing as a useful tool to use when screening for board or committee members. The national office…

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Trudy - Twenty HatsThat’s Trudy, on the left. She is 51 years old, lives in Fairfax VA with her software exec husband, Lance, and her youngest daughter, Angie.

Angie is headed off to college in the fall and Trudy is trying to figure out what to do when she becomes an empty nester. She used to be a school teacher before raising her daughter – she loves children – but she has not worked in many years. She is wondering if there is a way she can volunteer that involves children and will challenge her – she wants to do more than read to children or tutor them.

Why am I telling you about Trudy? Because she’s not real.

Trudy is a persona that I created while at Fairfax CASA to represent my ideal volunteer. For years, she gave me guidance on how to craft my messaging and direct my marketing. It’s Trudy who kept me focused on inspiring prospective volunteers who were a lot like her.

Old practice, new application

Creating personas is nothing new. Like so many of my favorite practices, the idea comes from the advertising world,…

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