Archive for March, 2011

Reconsidering Your Volunteer Screening Procedures? Think Again!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkA quick scan of today’s news reveals the following stories:

  • School volunteer charged with assaulting a child
  • Church volunteer charged with stealing $32,000
  • Braintree, MA volunteer charged with molesting kids
  • Scouts Canada volunteer facing sexual assault charges

These are headlines for just one afternoon on an average day in an average week. What do they reveal? Volunteers are still harming children and stealing funds–perhaps in larger numbers than ever. Non-profit organizations and volunteer coordinators that have cut back on or eliminated volunteer background checks to save money might want to reconsider that action.

Most schools require volunteers to be screened prior to contact with children, but far too often there are no follow-up criminal history checks. Does the volunteer you screened five years ago still have a clean record? Or is he on probation for resisting police officers and failing to comply with bail conditions, as is the case for the volunteer soccer coach from our first headline?

Churches don’t always screen their volunteers—but just because someone is a loyal member doesn’t mean they won’t steal from the coffers, as was the case in the second headline.

The person in Braintree, Mass who allegedly assaulted two young boys (he pleaded not guilty) works for the Boston Housing Authority, is a Cub Scout leader and religious education teacher at his Catholic church. Can this be the first time he’s fallen through the cracks?

And in our final example, the young man facing the sexual assault charges had undergone a police records check and other screening procedures. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the impact his actions will have on the lives of his alleged victims. Is more thorough screening called for when young men are placed in close proximity to young girls?

Remember that those who wish to harm children and other vulnerable people often place themselves in close proximity to them. If your volunteers have any contact with kids, the elderly, the disable or other vulnerable populations, perhaps it’s time to rethink your screening procedures to reduce the chance of harm as much as possible.

Employers: Set Up Your Own Volunteer Program

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkToday, employees are often looking for meaningful work. Younger people, especially, want to make a difference in their lives and are more likely to expect to find purpose in their employment.

In fact, a Wall Street Journal survey in 2006 reported that 70 percent of young people “want to work for a company that cares about how it affects or contributes to society.” Further, 64 percent responded, “their employer’s social and environmental activities inspire loyalty.”

So one can make the case that employees who volunteer are good for the community and for their company. Here are several ways to integrate public service into your company.

  • Pay employees to volunteer. It doesn’t have to be an every-week thing, but consider giving employees paid time to serve others in the community. A half day’s work at the food bank or VA hospital brings meaning and a sense of accomplishment to your employee, while doing a great deal of good for people who need help. Employees often return refreshed and inspired—ready to work hard and perhaps appreciate their jobs a little more!
  • If you can’t spare any employees during work hours, offer perks or financial rewards to those who volunteer on their own time. A $50 gift card to a local grocery store or restaurant, an offer to buy lunch for a week, or just letting volunteers leave a half-hour early for a week are inexpensive ways to reward community service.
  • If you can spare half your employees and run a skeleton crew once or twice a year, organize a half-staff work party. Contact an environmental group to see what outdoor projects a group of your size could help with. Or call the senior center to see if they need any painting or repair work done. Give them half your staff one day, and the other half the next. Consecutive days are not necessary, if that’s too disruptive. Do it on alternating Wednesdays—or whatever your least-busy day is.

Helping employees form stronger bonds with the community and with your company is one big advantage of implementing an employee volunteer program. Try it out and see if you don’t get more than you give!

3 Easy Tips for Recruiting Volunteers

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkAs the demand for nonprofit services skyrockets, the need for volunteers increases, too. Here are three easy ways to reach out to your community for more support and recruit quality volunteers.

  1. Hire a volunteer coordinator if your organization hasn’t already. When quality volunteers are needed, a volunteer coordinator is one of the most valuable positions in a nonprofit organization. It’s a full-time job, involving everything from setting goals, making plans, and defining roles, to recruiting, screening volunteer applicants, and placing them in the right position.
  2. Start asking for help. Over the last couple of years, the economy spurred many unemployed folks to spend their time volunteering, so recruiting might not have been part of your daily job duties. After all, volunteers were knocking on nonprofits’ doors, anxious to help. But as the economy improves and more people land jobs, they may have to give up their volunteer duties. It might be time to start asking for help. When communicating with supporters, let them know you need more volunteers. And it’s okay to say that giving time is an excellent substitute for giving money.
  3. Hold a volunteer recruitment event for interested supporters to learn more about your organization and how they can get involved. You might want to have two events: one during the day for retired folks and others who want daytime opportunities, and one in the evening for people who work during the day. Ask your current volunteers to help you organize it, and to be on hand to answer questions and share their experiences. And of course, ask them to bring their friends.

Keeping a steady supply of volunteers is vital for every nonprofit to serve clients in their time of need. As demand for services grows, do you have enough volunteers ready to help? If not, follow these tips to add some new volunteers to replace those who are moving on.

How Nonprofits Are Coping With Increasing Demands For Services

Friday, March 11th, 2011

volunteer screeningA study we wrote about a couple of weeks back indicated that nonprofit revenues were up in 2010. It’s no surprise that demand for services is on the increase, as well.

Bridgespan Group conducted a survey of nonprofit leaders and found that a whopping 84 percent of respondents say they are experiencing increased demand for their services. The 2009 survey indicated 58 percent increase and 2008 reported a seemingly-small 30 percent figure.

The percentage of nonprofits reporting increase demand for services in 2010:

  • Health Services 100%
  • Multi-Service Providers 95%
  • Education and Youth Services 88%
  • Other 81%
  • Housing and Elderly Services 80%
  • Job Training 80%
  • Arts and Culture 25%

It makes sense that economic hardship would force formerly financially-stable individuals and families to seek help. As state budgets are slashed, services for the poor and struggling are closing down across the nation, often leading assistance-seekers to private, nonprofit service providers. Family service organizations see many more families struggling to survive. Job training programs are at or over capacity due to unrelenting unemployment and food pantries are seeing longer lines than ever.

How are nonprofits taking care of their clientele with fewer resources? The survey and follow-up interviews reveal some interesting insights:

  • Collaborating with other organizations 61%
  • Created a communications plan 36%
  • Enacted a contingency plan 23%

Nonprofits must continue to be diligent in watching economic forecasts, communicating with supporters and creating new management strategies as demands for their services will continue to increase.

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: Microsoft

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

volunteer screeningMicrosoft is a big, global enterprise with tens of thousands of employees. The company encourages them to develop their passion and creativity through volunteer efforts, and has several programs in place to support these efforts.

  1. Microsoft matches employees’ donations dollar for dollar when they give to charity. But they take it a step further: they also match volunteer time, and value it at $17 per hour. Through the Volunteer Time Matching program, for every hour an employee gives, Microsoft gives the organization $17, up to $12,000 per employee per year.
  2. Time-matching programs encourage employees to volunteer for causes they support—whether it’s an environmental initiative, civic improvement or health and human services organization.
  3. Microsoft focuses on its community partners, including United Way, HandsOn Network and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, mobilizing employees to support these organizations though the Microsoft Unlimited Potential program.
  4. Employees are also encouraged to step up to leadership roles by volunteering to serve on nonprofit boards and to provide business and tehnology consulting at no cost to organizations that help their communities.
  5. Disaster relief is another Microsoft focus, and during times of crisis, employees give both their expertise and their financial resources.

The results:

  • In 2010, 35,000 Microsoft employees made charitable contributions
  • 4,000 employees volunteered 350,000 hours
  • Microsoft employees, through contributing money and volunteering their time, gave a total of $96 million to 16,000 nonprofits in 2010
  • The top three recipients were the United Way of King County, WA, World Vision International and the Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation
  • Microsoft employees are the largest group of donors for Children’s Hospital
  • The company organized hundreds of fundraisers, including a 5K run that raised $130,000, a national poker tournament that raised $260,000 and an online auction that brought in $500,000.

As long as Microsoft continues to be profitable, charities in Washington State and around the world will continue to benefit from the company’s generosity and that of its employees.