Leaving my volunteer management job was like starting a journey towards an exciting new POV

Three Volunteer Management Discoveries - Twenty HatsWhat can happen in fifteen months – besides another birthday, more gray hairs, and 53 blog posts under your belt?

That was the question that I posed to myself this week, when I decided it was time to take stock of what was different since I left I left my volunteer management job in March 2015 and went full-time as a trainer and writer about volunteer engagement.

It took about half a second to land on the biggest shift – and that’s my point of view about what’s possible in this profession. I came to this work from a CASA program, where we specialized in one type of volunteer – and switched to supporting the work of colleagues in all kinds of organizations where volunteers hold every imaginable type of position.

What I’ve found is that my new POV has less to do with transitioning out of hands-on management and more to do with my relationship to my peers. As a trainer, it’s my job help my colleagues become as capable and professional…

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Guest blogger Laura Rundell shares her super-practical tips for conducting volunteer performance reviews that are worth the effort

Volunteer Performance Reviews - Twenty HatsThere has been lots of discussion as a profession about how managing volunteers differs from managing paid staff. That could really be a topic for another conversation entirely. In order to manage your corps of volunteers effectively, I would argue that, just as we do for paid staff, volunteers need some formal performance review or evaluation process.

You may be wondering, though:

Why should I add one more item to my already overflowing plate?

Most volunteer managers don’t have a lot of extra time on their hands to take on one more task. However, conducting a formal evaluation meeting with volunteers helps achieve the following goals:

•    It helps to ensure that the placement is a good fit for the staff and volunteer. There may be some volunteers who are reliable and consistent, but may benefit from a change in assignment. An annual review is a good time to assess their current placement.

•  It lets volunteers know that they are accountable for meeting the expectations of the program and the assignment.

•  It…

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Great things happen for our programs when our work aligns with what we love to do

Playing to Volunteer Management Strengths - Twenty HatsThe more I work with volunteer engagement pros, the more I come to believe that we grow as our programs grow.

Take my friend and colleague Nikki Clifford. Nikki had never thought of herself as a volunteer manager. For many years she worked as an administrative assistant and then as a meeting planner – as someone focused on the operational side of things, implementing the ideas of others more than getting her own projects off the ground.

Meanwhile, Nikki found herself drawn to volunteering. She became involved with Single Volunteers of DC, a group that brings singles together to volunteer for nonprofit events.  She loved the group so much that she volunteered to run the entire venture, managing dozens of events each month and coordinating hundreds of volunteers.  She even met her husband, John, on an SVDC event.

But Nikki still pursued meeting planner positions, thinking that her volunteer pursuits were something she enjoyed on the side, more like a hobby than a profession.

All that changed when she saw a notice for…

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If you are a volunteer manager and really enjoy what you do, but you’re considering a job change because of low pay or lack of buy-in for your program, I encourage you to do something.

Stick around for a while.

I say this after taking another look at an infographic that Liza Dyer, CVA had posted for a Volunteer Management Thoughtful Thursday blog back in December.

Followers were asked to post to a Wall of Words about what it means to be a leader of volunteers.  Liza is a Program Coordinator in Volunteer Services for the Multnomah County Library and a frequent Twenty Hats guest blogger.

Here’s what Liza posted.

Chosen profession

You probably get right away why Liza’s motto stands out. So many of us come to our positions in a roundabout way, approaching volunteer management because we’re good with people or want to do something purpose-driven – or because it’s a pleasant job to keep until we figure out what we really want to do with our lives.

And then sometimes, through what Liza calls “a series of yesses”,…

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When a video complements a live orientation, the results are powerful

Volunteer Video Training - Twenty HatsI had dinner with my friend Gena the other night.  What’s great about Gena is that she has managed volunteers – she knows all about the potential of volunteers to expand an organization’s mission and effect real change — and she does a lot of volunteering herself.  So when she praised her recent experience as part of a volunteer group with DC Central Kitchen, I listened.

One of the things that impressed Gena the most was the video that her group watched before they jumped into their kitchen duties. She thought the video did a great job of training them for their volunteer role in the kitchen while introducing them to all of the great programs that the Kitchen offers.

That got me curious. Video training is an idea that gets tossed around a lot. A well-produced video has the potential to save time for busy volunteer managers, especially those who run large or understaffed programs.

But there is a downside to shifting things to video that experienced volunteer engagement pros know all too well:  when…

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Conference season is beginning. Will you need to calculate some measures to attend?

Every now and then, I like to stop in and check out a roundtable that’s held by our cousins in the nonprofit world, the development folks.  More often than not, the discussion circles around a topic that applies just as much to volunteer engagement as it does to fundraising.

This topic certainly fit the bill.  We talked about conferences: which ones we go to, what we get out of them, and how do we demonstrate the value to our employers?

It was this last question that really caught my attention because it gets right to the heart of an even bigger question:

Who is responsible for professional development?  Us – or our employers?

I tend to see professional development as a personal investment.  Work has always been a path for my growth – not just in building the practical skills that I need for a particular position, but in showing me that I am capable of more than I ever imagined. And whenever I attend a conference of training, I re-align and get energized abut my greater purpose, to serve communities with the power of…

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Marketing isn’t rocket science if you know where to start

Its Not Rocket Science - Twenty HatsI used to have a boss with a favorite expression. She liked to say “It’s not rocket science,” meaning that any time her nonprofit job required some new skill or challenge, she knew she could pull it off. She knew she was smart, and she figured there was very little under the sun that a smart person could not master with practice and persistence.

My boss’s approach worked. She took on all sorts of projects with great success, just knowing that she had the chops to do it.

Marketing is like that. It’s not rocket science. It is masterable – and it’s often an essential part of our jobs.

Do you think of yourself as a marketer? If you are responsible for engaging volunteers in your program, you most certainly are.

I once wrote about how there is a volunteer out there for every position – IF we know how to find them. And the finding, of course, requires that we learn how to reach the volunteers who will thrive in our programs.

If you are wondering how…

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You’ll be high-fiving, too, if your program employs these five practices to build a culture of volunteer appreciation

Five Hacks - Twenty HatsIf you spend time getting to know your volunteer manager colleagues you will notice that there are two kinds of volunteer programs out there:

  • The ones that are staff-driven and use volunteers to complement or extend the reach of their programs.

In hindsight, I would say that working within the first category made my job much easier. The paid staff was focused entirely on supporting the volunteers so that they could realize the program’s mission. And because we interacted directly and frequently with the volunteers, it was not difficult to establish the kind of strong personal connection with volunteers that boosts retention.

Volunteer management becomes more challenging in a larger, staff-driven organization, when your job is to engage volunteers and then place them in the hands of others in remote locations. Then, the question becomes:

How do you maintain a heart-centered culture of appreciation…

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When a heart-centered approach becomes part of your program’s routine, your volunteers stick around

Heart-centered volunteer management - Twenty HatsDoes it surprise you that many − and perhaps most of the people who gravitate to volunteer engagement have studied things like psychology, sociology, or social work?

I know this because I once threw out a pop survey on my Facebook page asking what followers studied in college.

Just about everyone who responded majored in these people-oriented subjects, with a few nonprofit studies majors thrown in for good measure.

The results of my very non-scientific survey make sense, since volunteer engagement is such a people-oriented profession.

What we may not appreciate is that our gift for working with people is the very thing that help us create great outcomes in our programs.

I think of a program I talked with last summer when I was creating a webinar on volunteer retention for Girls on the Run (GOTR) International.

As part of my webinar prep I was asked to interview one particular program, the GOTR New Jersey North Council, because of their amazing outcomes − 80% of their coaches return from…

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How do you handle it when your workplace gets reactive?

Volunteer Managers - Reactivity - Twenty Hats

  • Ed’s boss gets back from a networking meeting and hears that three other agencies have started Pinterest boards for their volunteers. The boss wants to know why their program hasn’t got one. Ed decides he better put aside his plans and start one before the week is out – or maybe even begin today.
  • Marie drops into Nancy’s office upset because another co-worker ticked her off. Nancy stops working and spends half an hour trying to calm Marie.
  • The results from the Celia’s volunteer satisfaction survey included six suggested changes to volunteer training. The staff wants to incorporate them all before the next training – and that’s only four weeks away.

Reactivity. It’s so easy to get sucked into it, especially when everyone around you seems to operate the same way.

Plus, reactivity plays into our desire to align with others. It feels good to jump on the bandwagon, like we are being a good team player.

But here’s the challenge: addressing our work with a large dose of reactivity keeps us stuck in manager-mode, putting out fires…

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