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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What happens when an experienced volunteer engagement pro combines her commitment to her organization with creative problem solving?  She builds an innovative program that benefits her clients and the larger community.

Lynne A PostLynne Allebach, CVA is the Volunteer Coordinator for Living Branches, a retirement living community in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  She is celebrating her 15th year with the organization, which she found after looking for a place to volunteer with her daughter.  Volunteering led to a staff positon, which eventually led to heading up the volunteer program. “I fell in love with the people and the facilities. It was too hard to leave.”

The Idea

In 2014, Lynne was contacted by the coordinator of a vocational training program for special needs students at the local high school. The vocational coordinator wanted to start a job training program for her students and was looking for a nearby location ─ Living Branches is located just five minutes away. The students would volunteer their time throughout the community in exchange for job training.

The timing of the proposal couldn’t have been better. Lynne had been looking for a way to tap into a…

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How do you manage volunteers who have dropped off the radar screen? TH turns to a pro for the answers.

Volunteer Supervision - Twenty HatsWhat do you do when a volunteer drops the ball – either fails to fulfill their responsibilities or just plain falls off the radar?

It’s a scenario that causes plenty of heartburn for supervisors who are then placed in the uncomfortable position of holding a difficult conversation. And for some volunteer supervisors, the dread around addressing this unfortunate issue makes it hard to even begin a potentially difficult conversation.

It IS possible to frame those conversations in a way that keeps your volunteers engaged. Just ask MaryAnn Wohlford.

Meet a Supervision Pro

MaryAnn is a supervisor at my former workplace, Fairfax CASA. Hands down, she is the most experienced volunteer supervisor I have ever known. That’s partly because MaryAnn worked in human resources for 20 years and child advocate programs volunteers for another 13 – and partly because she has an intuitive sense of what works to bring the best out of people.

MaryAnn’s volunteers rarely if ever fall off the radar screen. Instead, they fulfill their extensive commitment to…

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VolunteerMatch’s Tess Srebro observes what’s top of mind for us

Serving Volunteer Managers - Twenty HatsSometimes, the best way to gain perspective on our work is to speak with someone NEAR the field rather than IN the field.

Tess Srebro counts as one of those nearby people. She is the Marketing Manager at VolunteerMatch. Tess represents the public voice of the organization in some important ways: editing not one but two blogs, managing the organization’s content calendar, social media, email campaigns, and probably a bunch of other responsibilities that did not make it to this list.

I got curious about Tess’s perspective on volunteer management through her role as editor of the Engaging Volunteers blog, which features content relevant to just about every volunteer engagement pro out there.  And as the promoter of content, she sees of what’s top of mind for most of us right now.

So what’s the number one most clicked-on, shared, and commented-on type of blog post?  Here are three possibilities:

  1. Retention
  2. Recognition
  3. Recruitment

If you picked b, you are right on the money.  According to Tess, any post about volunteer appreciation receives the most activity.  As the people-centered heart…

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