Archive for May, 2010

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: Tom’s of Maine

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Volunteer Screening, Background ChecksTom’s of Maine is a natural care products company that was started back in 1970, by a couple who wanted to simplify their lives. Unable to find the unprocessed foods and pure personal care products they desired, the decided to make their own. Their simple philosophy was that their products would not harm the environment.

Now part of Colgate-Palmolive, Tom’s of Maine still practices the business acumen that made them successful—listening to customers’ needs and coming back with natural, sustainable solutions.

Tom’s of Maine also works with its customers to fund deserving nonprofit organizations (NPOs). This year, they are inviting NPOs to nominate their community programs for a chance to share in a $100,000 Community Action Fund award. To involve more of the community, nonprofits can rally their supporters to vote for them.

This year, Tom’s of Maine is taking the program a step further—and getting volunteers involved, too! Partnering with VolunteerMatch, the online volunteer recruiting and sign-up website, nonprofits can describe their volunteer needs when applying for the Community Action Fund awards.

Through July 2, any qualifying nonprofit with a budget under $2 million can apply online at Nonprofits are encouraged to explain how they will use volunteers to benefit their communities. The 50 States For Good program is designed to make it easier for people to find out what charity organizations in their communities need help. Connecting with others and spreading the word about the chance for funding and volunteers is also part of the fun.

Tom's logo on Volunteer Screening Blog40 finalist organizations (in honor of Tom’s of Maine’s 40th anniversary) will have their project and volunteer request showcased on the company’s website. Then in August and early September, voting begins. Five programs will each receive $20,000, to be announced in October.

Tom’s of Maine has always donated 10% of its profits to its community and offers employees paid time off to volunteer in their local communities—up to 12 days per year!

For more information, visit

Unemployed Workers Turning to Volunteering

Friday, May 21st, 2010

The unemployment rate is still around 10% in the U.S. As more people lose motivation to look for work, they are turning to volunteerism to keep busy, update skills, or find new interests.

In fact, the demand for volunteer opportunities has inspired the HandsOn Network, the largest nonprofit volunteer network in the country, to participate in large job fairs. The job fairs are a partnership with, the online job board.

As local job seekers tour the displays and learn about job openings, they are also introduced to non profit organizations that need volunteers. Job seekers can gain from volunteering in many ways, including:

  • Networking opportunities: meeting new people can lead to job opportunities
  • Showcasing their abilities: volunteer managers and nonprofit directors tend to notice the talent and skills of every volunteer—which is good thing, when you’re out of work
  • Keeping skills current: it’s important to keep your mind sharp, your computer skills current, and your communication skills intact—and that’s hard to do when you’re home watching daytime television
  • Learning new, marketable job skills: volunteering is a great way to try new tasks, software, or job skills—which can even lead to a job using them
  • Having the satisfaction of putting their skills to good use in their community—feeling useful again is priceless

Out-of-work individuals don’t usually remain so forever; when they do find work, they often maintain their volunteer duties, as well as spread the word to their new co-workers about their experience. This is a great thing for nonprofit organizations; the more skilled volunteers that know about your mission and needs, the better.

And out-of-work volunteers often have more time, passion, and desire to have a purpose than employed volunteers. A mix of all kinds of volunteers—employed, retired, unemployed—is a great thing for any non profit organization!

If you’re strapped for volunteers, let your network know that you are looking. Now is a great time to gain the skills of the highly-educated, skilled workforce that is now out of work—but they won’t be forever. Whether you need help with fund-raising, marketing, grant writing or strategic planning—there is a wealth of talent in your community that you can tap into.

When It’s Over: Firing Volunteers

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Nobody likes to hear “your services are no longer needed.” But when the recipient of that message is not being paid for her services, it can be even more devastating. And the reverse situation—being told your organization is not meeting a volunteer’s needs—can be just as troubling.

Still, letting volunteers go is part of the job of managing them. It’s not fun, but the opposite can be even worse. A non-performing or ineffective volunteer can be a drain on resources, paid staff, and fellow volunteers. Workplace morale is harmed when problems are not constructively managed. Besides, if a more-qualified volunteer is waiting in the wings, it only makes sense to replace the position.

Procedures are Important

The same guidelines that help employers transition employees out of a job apply to the volunteer relationship: it’s important that effective procedures are established and adhered to. Position descriptions should be supplied to each volunteer in the beginning, so they know exactly what their job entails and what is expected of them. And just as paid staff members receive performance reviews, volunteers should, too.

Basic workplace rules must be communicated to everyone—whether paid or volunteers. Drug and alcohol use, tardiness, absenteeism, physical or emotional abusive behavior are examples of zero-tolerance activities that would be grounds for dismissal.

Performance issues are different. If volunteers are given clear guidelines and communication is open, the volunteer manager should know what the volunteer feels they are succeeding and struggling with. Give the volunteer opportunities to improve, and let them know up front how the organization’s needs must dictate policies.

Ideas to Consider:

If you must let a well-meaning volunteer go, here are a few guidelines:
1. Do it when you are in control and calm. The heat of the moment (like right after she breaks the copier for the fourth time that week} is not a good time.
2. Do it when you can be supportive and caring. If you’re not having a particularly good day, wait for a better one—it’s not like you have anything to lose by waiting.
3. Don’t do it in front of anyone else—except a witness. Just as when employees are terminated, a private office setting with another staff member present will suffice. Don’t allow that person to interact with the volunteer, if you can avoid it.
4. Don’t over-explain. State the reasons for the decision and keep the focus on the volunteer’s performance, and the organization’s needs and goals.
5. Be kind. It’s okay to say nice things about the volunteer, and to thank them for their contributions. In fact, starting and ending with positive words are a great way to structure the conversation. Put the constructive criticism and feedback in between.
6. Don’t forget to collect any organizational property such as keys and name tags.
7. Do let others who work with the terminated volunteer know that she won’t be coming back. No explanation other than “she is moving on” is necessary.

Remember that the volunteer probably has a circle of friends in the community. You cannot ensure that anything said about her experience with your organization will be positive, but you can limit the damage by a professional, friendly, and appreciative send-off.

Finally, knowing your volunteers well can limit the number you have to let go. Volunteer screening is the best way to limit your non profit organization’s risk and protect your clients and staff.

What Motivates Volunteers?

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

People come to volunteering for nonprofit organizations (NPOs) for as many reasons as there are individual personalities. People can be giving, or needy; altruistic or self-centered. Some volunteers prefer to help guide the organization as a director, while others are more suited to answering phones and greeting visitors.

No matter what they do, all volunteers are motivated by something to serve. That something can be tangible, like adding their service to a resume; or it can be intangible, like feeling good about helping others.

Knowing what motivates volunteers can help you better meet their expectations, making their experience better—and their willingness to continue more likely.

Some volunteers seek a sense of community involvement. Newcomers to a city or town often want to meet people and make friends. A good way to do so is to volunteer in their new community. Those who live alone might need to dispel loneliness and have other humans to interact with—and volunteering is a good way to accomplish both goals.

Volunteer managers can help them achieve their objectives by introducing them to staff or fellow volunteers who are like-minded, and by making them feel welcome and valued. A volunteer looking for connection who is subsequently ignored and left alone will not stick around for long!

The folks looking for an entry on their resume might not be as self-serving as they seem. Sure, they will gain from their volunteer experience if it looks good to a hiring manager; but isn’t everyone looking for something from their volunteer work? The contributions made by people looking to expand their skills or try out a career are just as valuable as those made by people who need nothing but a way to fill the hours from 10:00 to 2:00.

Retired professionals and tradespeople often volunteer to pass their wealth of accumulated knowledge on to the next generation. Appreciating their expertise and finding ways to make use of it can make them feel valued and useful.

Networkers or between-job people might find volunteering a great way to connect with new business contacts. Managing their needs with the needs of your NPO can make for a win-win situation; while the person is unemployed, they’re more likely to keep volunteering for someone who is looking out for their best interests.

The reasons for volunteering might look selfish or self-serving at first glance. But it’s okay to provide feelings of accomplishment, pride, or inclusion to volunteers in lieu of a paycheck. It’s human nature to want to receive when you give! Discovering your volunteers’ motivations will help you know them better, manage them better, and get more out of them!

Knowing what motivates volunteers can help you better meet their expectations, making their experience better—and their willingness to continue more likely.

Count on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with background checks.