Archive for January, 2011

When Volunteers Come Knocking on Your Door

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkThe U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its “Volunteering in America” report this week, which revealed that overall volunteerism declined in 2010 by .5 percent.

But in some regions, the economic climate has fostered a booming number of volunteers for charitable organizations. The BLS report indicates that about 13 million of the 62.8 million adults who donated time to organizations from September 2009 to September 2010 were unemployed or working part time.

It makes sense that unemployed people and part-time workers would be more inclined to volunteer because they have more time. The spike has been beneficial to many organizations. In Kansas City, the Humane Society has seen a big increased in volunteers who came knocking on the door. They didn’t have to recruit any of this new group, because they are all unemployed and looking for productive ways to fill their time.

Former workaholics who can’t sit home being unemployed are turning to charities as an outlet for their energy. Others are reaching out to nonprofits to increase their networking opportunities, update their skills and find job leads. One nonprofit executive director said there is only one problem with volunteers who find jobs through their volunteer activities—they tend to go away.

In the meantime, nonprofits are receiving hundreds of hours of valuable time, along with outreach and marketing advice, financial planning, foreign language interpretation services and a host of professional services they could not otherwise afford.

It’s a win-win for the volunteers, as well. When they do line up a job interview, they might find employers are often impressed to see the gaps in their resumes filled with volunteer activities.

So if you have an influx of unemployed folks wanting to volunteer with your organization, consider it a stroke of luck that may or may not last, depending on the economy. Proper orientation, training, evaluations and engagement will go a long way to ensuring your new volunteers stick around—even if they do find a job!

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: The Walt Disney Company

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Disney means fun, laughter and childhood memories for millions of people around the world. Did you know it also means 1 million pledges by kids to take care of the planet? And an extra 3 million trees being planted in Brazil’s rainforest?

Walt Disney himself frequently visited children in hospitals and funneled resources to organizations that help children in need. Since then, the company has had a tradition of supporting the arts, as well, including developing artists, and encouraging the arts among youth and communities.

A truly global presence, the Disney company has employees in 42 countries and resorts on three continents. Employees are encouraged to volunteer through Disney’s VoluntEARS program.

In 2008, Disney employees raised funds and headed up projects around the world. In North America alone., there were over 1,900 projects, totaling over 440,000 volunteer hours given. In addition, employees raised $1.5 million. Worldwide, nearly 500,000 volunteer hours and $1.7 million were raised.

To help employees become vital VoluntEARS, Disney supports efforts with a paid staff that organizes and manages volunteer projects. Since the inception of the VoluntEARS program 26 years ago, more than 5 million hours of service have been donated.

Other ways Disney supports staff volunteer efforts is by providing financial support for charities where employees give their time. In addition, volunteer events are used as team-building exercises and they have an annual awards program that recognizes outstanding employee volunteer service.

To celebrate the VoluntEARS program’s 25th anniversary, the entire company came together to demonstrate the power of volunteerism. In one month alone, more than 25,000 volunteers participated in 650 projects in 37 countries. Now that’s, a big impact for a better world through volunteerism!

Here are a few ways Disney employees have made the world better:

  1. In 2008, the Disney Tri-Team, a triathlon team, raised $240,000 for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Since its inception seven year ago, the team has raised more than $1 million for various charities.
  2. The Disney VoluntEARS Community Fund raises money for local charities through employee donations. Disney covers the administrative costs so 100% of donations are invested in the community.
  3. In 2008, the VoluntEARS program received an Excellence in Workplace Volunteer Program award from the Points of Light/Hands On Network.
  4. Disney also received a Visionary Partner Award for work in renovating elementary school libraries and encouraging family reading from The Wonder of Reading.

It looks like Walt’s desire to provide meaningful service to communities worldwide is alive and well today through the Walt Disney Company’s corporate volunteer program !

Volunteer Screening is Often Mandated

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkNonprofit organizations don’t have it easy these days. From cuts in state funding to lower donations from supporters, many charitable organizations must battle every day just to keep the doors open. And not all have succeeded. With all the difficulties facing NPO directors, they have their hands full. Added regulations and time-intensive requirements can seem unnecessary.

But there is one that is not: conducting background checks on volunteers. “Why should we be required to run background checks?” said one NPO director. “I don’t have the time or budget, and all of our volunteers are model citizens.”

This must be one lucky NPO manager! Others have not been so lucky. Volunteers come from all backgrounds, and just like the general public, there are a certain percentage of honest volunteers, dishonest volunteers, and volunteers with criminal histories—or worse, sex offender status.

Despite a lack of time or budget, nonprofit organizations depending on federal and state funding to serve their clients could be mandated by state and federal governments to conduct background screening. Specifically, those providing day care or child care services, or that bring employees or volunteers into contact with minors or vulnerable adults, are typically required to perform background checks on all employees and volunteers.

In addition, federal programs or those with federal contracts are required to conduct criminal background checks on both employees and volunteers. The same is often true in some states, if any state funds are used by the organization.

Any NPO that plans to conduct background checks must notify the potential volunteer and obtain written consent by way of a signature on a notification page. It’s easy enough to add this document to a volunteer application.

Whether it’s mandated or not, it’s just good practice to conduct background checks on potential volunteers. Why not take this easy step to protect your staff, clients and other volunteers from potential danger of an unknown volunteer’s unknown problems?

Training Your New Volunteers

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

volunteerscreeningblogIf folks start making good on their New Years’ resolutions, your phone could start ringing with new volunteers looking for opportunities to help your nonprofit in 2011.

Volunteer managers know that, it’s most important to interview prospective volunteers, and then run background checks to ensure you don’t bring anyone with a criminal past into contact with employees, clients or other volunteers.

What’s next? Training.
Proper training can make the difference between volunteers who enjoy their service and stick around and those who stop showing up after a couple of days.

When conducting volunteer training, remember to start with the paperwork—yours! You’ll need to plan before implementing any type of training program, so take out your laptop, notepad, or tablet computer and develop a plan using these tips:

  1. Develop goals or expectations for each volunteer role. This will help you fit the right person with the right job.
  2. Find out what your volunteers need from you. Listen carefully and incorporate their wishes into their role. Also, ask your volunteers about their motivations. Some may just want to keep busy, while others feel a desire to give back to others. Still others might want the interaction of seeing and talking with people during the day. If a volunteer just wants to help and stay behind the scenes, you’ll want to find tasks that accomplish that goal. For an extrovert who loves interacting with people, try to avoid assigning tasks like filing or mopping floors.
  3. Be sure to incorporate information about your nonprofit organization into your training plan. Don’t assume the volunteers know the mission, purpose and funding source of the organization. Share with them as much information as you can, so they can spread the word about the good your NPO does in the community.
  4. Use the buddy system to teach new volunteers exactly how they should do their jobs. Pair them with a staff member or current volunteer, but don’t let them start their new job until you’ve supervised and approved them to begin. Remember, some volunteers will need more training than others.