Archive for April, 2009

Volunteer Interview Tips for Nonprofit Managers

Friday, April 24th, 2009


Keep It Professional

Keep It Professional

Potential volunteers may be knocking on your door in larger numbers than you expect. Volunteerism is on the rise, not only because the spirit of giving back in the US is strong, but because the economy is weak. Whether they want give back to their community or remove gaps in their resume, how do you handle an increase in volunteers?

If you’re in the position where you have more potential volunteers than you have work for, then you’ll need to screen prospective volunteers carefully to ensure you make a good match. Here are a few tips when considering volunteer candidates.

Treat the Process Like a Job Interview
Because it is! Your organization has work to do; whether it is handled by paid or volunteer workers, it must be done properly and efficiently. So review the prospective volunteer’s credentials and experience. Ask the tough questions, like:

What is your interest in our organization?
What do you hope to accomplish here?
What do you hope to get out of the experience?

Fit the Volunteer With the Right Position
Here’s where the process differs from a job interview. Your volunteers don’t always apply for a specific position—many will offer to do whatever needs to be done.  Don’t take the easy route and have Mary, a laid-off computer programmer, start revamping the donor database. And Jason, the college student, might not be the best choice for repainting the restrooms.  Drill down a bit to find out not only what they would be good at, but what they want to do. Perhaps Mary needs a break, and would much rather drive elderly clients to the Senior Center. Jason might rather be outside cutting grass and edging sidewalks than inside with a paintbrush. Try these questions:

What gives you the greatest satisfaction at work?
What would you like to do here?
What would you like to avoid? 
What do you do for fun?

What NOT to Say
Now we go back to treating it like a job interview! Protect yourself and your organization by complying with employment laws. Avoid being too personal. You may have a genuine rapport with your potential volunteer, but until they have been properly screened, you need to keep it professional. Remember to steer clear of illegal questions, such as race, national origin, sexual identity, age, and marital status. Religious and family questions are also inappropriate. If or where someone goes to church, and how many children they have, can come up in friendly conversation if they initiate it later, but not during the interview.

Volunteer Screening
Failing to properly screen potential volunteers could have negative consequences for your NPO and the population it serves, from damaging the organization’s reputation to legal or criminal issues. Background screening is the best way to ensure you are introducing qualified individuals to your organization, its employees and those you serve.

Creative Ways for Nonprofits to Survive the Recession

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Wall Street
Economy Puts Nonprofits in the Red
A survey of 986
nonprofits by Nonprofit Finance Fund reveals that only 16 percent expect to cover their operating expenses this year. And 52 percent say the recession will have a long-term negative effect on their organizations, while nearly all—93 percent—expect an increase in demand for their services.

It is not an easy time to run a nonprofit organization (NPO). Increasingly, charities are cutting paid staff, reducing out-of-pocket expenses, and delaying or eliminating services. Often, these cuts directly and negatively affect served populations.

The Nonprofit Finance Fund, which provides loans and access to grants to NPOs, encourages charities to be innovative in their thinking when facing these challenges and to partner with donors in order to continue serving the needy.

Ask For Help
Ask your vendor/partners for help in spreading the word about your organization. If your insurance or real estate agent publishes a print or e-newsletter, ask for some room. They would probably be happy to donate space for an article about your cause. Speaking of space, check out the schedule for trade shows or home shows in your area. Perhaps a construction company, appliance store, or other local business will share some booth space with you. These donations help the giving companies, too—they get the goodwill that supporting charitable organizations brings.

Stay in Touch with Donors and Volunteers
People who are passionate about a cause will continue to give if they can; their donations may be less than usual, but it’s vital to stay connected so they have an ample opportunities to give.  Show appreciation to your donors and volunteers. Invite them to events, and ask if they are interested in doing any new or additional hands-on volunteer work.  Keep everyone informed with detailed reports on where their donations go.

Build that Buzz
Continue free marketing efforts, like social media outlets (Facebook, twitter, local community websites), e-newsletters, and email updates.  Build awareness anywhere you can: show up at community events, walk in the 4th of July parade, or staff a booth at a church bazaar; putting a face to your organization’s name makes a big difference. Learn all you can about online donations, like on Amazon and Google Checkout. Lots of small donations from lots of people equals more awareness and more money at a time your organization probably needs it most.

Remember that thorough volunteer background screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

Are Your Volunteers Insured?

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

traffic-accidentYour Non-profit organization (NPO) is likely covered by liability and property insurance. But what about your volunteers? They could harm or injure themselves or others while operating on the behalf of your organization, so your NPO might need additional coverage. How do you decide? 

Investing in additional insurance coverage depends on the types of services your organization provides, as well as the degree of risk involved. In today’s litigious society, there are higher rates of lawsuits across industry lines, including against not-for-profit organizations. Evaluate the risks and decide if the cost of insurance is worth the investment.

Laws differ on whether volunteers are liable for their actions when perform within the scope of the activity they have been assigned.  This means that an injured party could sue the NPO and the individual volunteer. The volunteer’s homeowner’s or automobile policies might be sufficient to cover them, or a blanket endorsement on the organization’s policy could name volunteers as “additional insureds.” 

If a volunteer is injured while working on behalf of your non profit, worker’s compensation coverage would provide relief in many—but not all—areas. Check your state’s laws to determine whether or not worker’s comp covers your volunteers. 

A dialogue with your insurance provider will shed light on any holes in your coverage. Be ready to describe your volunteers’ duties, whether or not they drive their own or the organization’s vehicles, their ages, and the number of hours they volunteer.

How can you really know the people who want to be your volunteers? Take control with volunteer screening and help keep your organization and clients safe.

Effective Emailing for NonProfits

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

email-icon on Volunteer Screening BlogIn our last post, we suggested polling your volunteers to find out how they want you to communicate with them.  For many non profits, email is the best ways to communicate with both volunteers and donors. Here are some marketing tips for more effective email communication:

Reverse the order of your usual email writing process. Hit “attach” first instead of last, and you’ll avoid sending out emails without the intended attachments.

Ask for action. There is a school of thought that says no email should be sent without a request for action. Keep this in mind as you begin to compose your email: if you’re not asking for a review of a document or to confirm a meeting, or to pass on an important piece of information, is the email really necessary? And remember: ask, don’t tell. Don’t tell people what to do; ask them for their help.

Turn the “Subject” into keywords. For clarity and time savings, let your recipients know exactly what the email is about by choosing 3-5 key words for the subject line. 

How much email is too much? Amnesty International used to send 19 – 25 messages per month to their email list. That’s too many for any nonprofit email strategy, even if your supporters love and support your cause. Research from M+R Strategic Services shows that reduced email volume actually improves response rates.  Focus your email strategy on a regular schedule for fundraising, event invites, and general awareness campaigns.

Effective email communication can be reduced to three topics: a crisis, an opportunity, and how taking action will resolve the crisis. People want to know what they can do to help.

Keep it short. No matter what you have to say, say it briefly or your recipients will not bother to read your email. Respect your recipients’ time and they will be more responsive.

Remember that thorough volunteer background screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.