Archive for the ‘General’ Category

$14 Million in Funds to Engage More Older Volunteers

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

background check, volunteer screeningThis summer, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) announced a competition that will provide nonprofit organizations the opportunity to bring on more volunteers who are age 55 and older. The deadline for letters of intent to reply (which can be a simple email) is August 9, and the deadline for applications is September 10.

The agency will award more than $14 million to local organizations that sponsor RSVP programs, and is expected to bring in more than 92,000 volunteers in six areas:

  • Disaster services
  • Economic opportunity
  • Education
  • Environmental stewardship
  • Health futures
  • Veterans and military families

RSVP was established in 1971. It is now one of the largest senior volunteer programs in the nation, offering a variety of activities that benefit both volunteers and the communities in which they live and work.

The competition will focus on measuring performance, and increasing and demonstrating the impact of national service in 270 specific communities, by funding grants that support volunteers 55 and older. The communities are in 45 states, and eligible organizations include public and nonprofit agencies, city and country governments, higher education institutions, Indian tribes and faith-based organizations. Learn more here.

According to the CEO of CNCS, Wendy Spencer, the focus on senior volunteers reflects the fact that “Baby boomers and other older adults are an excellent resource for local nonprofits, faith-based institutions, public agencies and others.”

Why not check to see if your community is on the list, and apply to participate in the competition? You might just increase your volunteer base, and your impact!

Let Volunteers Know You Care

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

volunteerscreeningblogMaking your valuable volunteers feel valued is important. But with so much on your to-do list, and no money in your budget, it’s far too easy to let it slide. Even the most appreciative managers forget to properly thank their volunteers.

Fortunately, letting volunteers know you care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Besides, you get so much bang for your buck! Volunteers who feel valued report a higher level of satisfaction with their volunteer duties. Happy volunteers mean less turnover.

Here are some low-cost ways to show your appreciation, and make volunteers happy:

  • Find out what their favorite candy or other treats are. A bar of dark chocolate or bag of peanuts might not cost much, but could mean a great deal to a volunteer.
  • Feature them in a newsletter. Shining a spotlight on a volunteer is a great way to build awareness (when they share with their friends), while making them feel great! Plus, volunteer stories help connect your readers to your organization. You’re always looking for newsletter material, right?
  • Send a thank-you note with a coffee card. A $5.00 gift card to a local coffee shop is a low-cost way to show appreciation, but a heartfelt expression will be remembered long after the latte is gone!
  • Bring in ice cream and toppings for a midday sundae break. Or invite everyone to have lunch together, which can be as simple as delivery pizza or homemade soup.
  • Create a “Wall of Fame,” listing volunteers’ names where everyone can see it.

Attract New Volunteers Through Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Friday, May 31st, 2013

screening, background check, volunteer, criminaldata.comSocial media can help you attract new interest in your non-profit organization, and greatly expand your audience. Through the power of social sharing, your mission can be delivered to people who haven’t heard of you before.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest are great ways to recruit new volunteers, too. If you haven’t signed up for each of these services yet, you’re way behind. But it shouldn’t take too long to catch up and start building your following.

One of the best—and most important—things about social media is its ability to make one-on-one connections. Having conversations is the best way to achieve this. When you start posting and following people on Twitter, you’ll see that there are a lot of conversations going on. Show you’re interested in what others have to say by re-tweeting interesting tweets. Thank people when they re-tweet yours. Ask questions of your followers.

On Facebook, provide interesting and usable content so your followers will feel compelled to share it. Ask questions so you can get to know people and spark conversations. Conduct a poll or ask them to promote your events. And when you need volunteers, you’ll have a ready-made audience that is interested in what you’re all about.

The same goes for Pinterest. Provide your followers with interesting content. That’s why they’re following you, after all. And share theirs. Social media is a two-way street.

Soon, you’ll feel comfortable asking for volunteers, as well as asking others to spread the word for you.

Once you’re up and running fast on social media, use it to your advantage. You can create a Google+ group for your volunteers, so you can communicate directly with them. Use Facebook for making announcements and creating interest in your events. Encourage people to share your information—and be sure to thank them when they do!

When you’re building an audience of social media followers, you’re also building a supply of potential volunteers. Use social media to make recruiting volunteers easier!

Can you trust every person who volunteers for your agency? Conduct background checks on all volunteers. Rely on for your volunteer screening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with volunteer background checks.

Be an Extraordinary Volunteer Manager

Friday, March 15th, 2013

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkIf you’ve ever worked under a great leader, you can probably think of traits that made him or her seem completely unique. Realistically, great leaders often share a few common traits. And these traits are often simply good habits they’ve developed over the years.

With effort, any good leader can become extraordinary. Whether you’re managing paid employees or volunteers, the following traits of great leaders are worth emulating.

  • Community: Great leaders want everyone to be included. They focus on the needs of the whole, rather than the few—and certainly not their own needs. When your volunteers feel more included, they want to help more.
  • Coaching: Extraordinary leaders are great coaches. They naturally mentor those under them, are great listeners and offer sound advice. They don’t micromanage, however—they know it’s important to allow employees to make decisions and mistakes, and learn from them.
  • Openness: Great leaders are open to new ideas. They love finding new ways to tackle old problems, have open-door policies and enjoy hearing what everyone has to say.
  • Humility: Great leaders often have great senses of humor, and can laugh at themselves. Volunteers, who are working for free, appreciated such humility. A light-hearted atmosphere builds camaraderie and makes people more willing to work hard.
  • Vision: Extraordinary managers have the ability to help others visualize the future—and follow them to it. In addition, they create a shared vision for everyone, not just themselves.
  • Trust: The best managers instill trust in those they lead. What’s more, they inspire others to be trustworthy. In a nonprofit organization, trust is essential to avoiding politics, games and other productivity-killing silliness.
  • Truth: Even when the truth is unpleasant, great leaders tell it anyway. They know that avoiding or hiding the truth does nothing to avert a bad situation. Treating volunteers like adults who can handle the truth will instill loyalty—and may result in some creative solutions to the problem.

When extraordinary leaders are present, volunteers are typically happier and more productive. They are inspired to work with the group toward common goals, and are more likely to stick around longer, too. Try working on these traits, or habits, and become an extraordinary volunteer leader!

Mandated Volunteer Pre-Screening

Friday, March 1st, 2013

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkAll volunteers should be screened before they begin work with your organization. While most people who sign up to be volunteers are trustworthy, it only takes one bad apple to change the course of your organization. If you unknowingly have a convicted felon, embezzler, child or elder abuser, or drunk driver among your volunteers, he or she could cause a lot of damage that might never be reversed.

It’s always better to know whom you’re working with before something bad happens in the office or with a client. Volunteer screening can keep you from bringing in drug felons, child abusers and sex offenders.

Volunteer screening may also be mandated. For example:

  • For many organizations, volunteer screening is required by the federal government, as a condition of receiving funds.
  • A look at state laws reveals the Minnesota, Florida, Oregon and others have enacted legislation making background checks mandatory for volunteers who work with kids, the elderly, the disabled or other vulnerable populations.

Sports leagues are increasingly requiring adults who volunteer as coaches, assistants, umpires and referees to undergo background checks before they are allowed to work with kids:

  • As of January 1, the American Legion has started requiring background checks for coaches, managers and volunteer staff of their junior and senior American Legion Baseball teams.
  • Coral Springs, Florida has also implemented a mandatory volunteer background check policy for adult volunteers in city sports leagues.
  • The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has also implemented mandatory background screening for all staff, coaches and volunteers, in an effort to “foster a culture of safety.” In addition, every person involved in AAU programs will be required to report any known or suspected child abuse to law enforcement.

It makes sense that nonprofit organizations working with at-risk kids or adults would want to know that every volunteer has a clean record. But it’s also a good idea for nonprofits who want to ensure that their funds, vehicles, staff and volunteers are protected.

Tracking Volunteer Time

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

volunteer screening, background checkWhy should nonprofit organizations track volunteer hours? The reasons to do so are varied:

  • The number of hours volunteers give to an organization can made a big difference in how prospective supporters, from individuals to large foundations, perceive it. If the community supports your mission, they’re more inclined to do so.
  • Government agencies require volunteer hours reporting from organizations they provide funding to.
  • Some grant money is tied to a certain matching dollar amount, which can often be demonstrated in terms of volunteer hours.
  • Supporters want to be sure that the organization has people in place to get the job done.
  • In many cases, organizations are required to report the value of volunteer labor and services in their financial statements. Tracking hours facilitates good reporting.

Even if you’re not required to track and report volunteer hours, it’s still a good idea to do so. Volunteers want to know they’re part of something bigger, and when those hours add up at the end of the year, it can really boost the pride your volunteers feel.

How to track Volunteer Hours

You can use a simple form to gather volunteer information by the day or week. Just be sure to capture the information as soon as possible so nothing gets overlooked. This system would require entering the daily or weekly data into a spreadsheet or similar tracking system, which could be tedious.

Volunteer management software tools are great for scheduling, recruiting and tracking volunteer hours. There are quite a few on the market, and many offer a free trial so you can try several and determine which one best meets your needs.

Non Profits Welcome Microvolunteers

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

volunteer screeningBusy workers seem to have less time than ever. Between work, family obligations, second jobs or part-time school, more people are seeing their free time swallowed up. When people have fewer free hours, they contribute fewer of them to volunteering.

Traditional volunteer duties can take hours that many just don’t have. But some companies are jumping on the “microvolunteering” bandwagon, and making it more convenient for their employees give back to their communities.

Microvolunteering was inspired by the thought of the number of hours employees spend on social media each day—and turning that time into volunteer time. Now, employers like Kraft Foods Group, Inc. are allowing employees to volunteer from their desks, in short bursts.

Employees might write a newsletter, translate documents, participate in online brainstorming sessions or update a nonprofit’s social media pages. There is no need for workers to leave the office and drive to another location, spending a day or half day onsite. Volunteers can help out at any time—not just specific hours or events. Plus, they don’t have to give up precious family and friend time on weekends or evenings.

Tapping into volunteers’ at-work free time, such as breaks or lunch hours, is a great way to recruit new volunteers, or re-engage volunteers who have fallen by the wayside. Using their writing, graphic design, data analysis or language skills makes it easy to put them right to work.

Employers who really want to help out their communities don’t limit employees to using only their free time for microvolunteering. Some allow a certain number of hours per month to be spent giving back. The companies also gain from the relationship, since employees are building skills, creating connections between the corporation and community, and learning more about professional development.

If you’re looking to corporate partners to provide some volunteers for your organization, pitch the microvolunteering idea. It’s a great way to turn a few minutes of time into a lasting gift to your non profit organization!

Handling Difficult Volunteers

Friday, November 9th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkNot all volunteers are easy to work with and manage. Some require more time, more attention or training. Others have negative attitudes or just seem disgruntled for some reason.

The problem with difficult volunteers? You can’t fire them. And, you may feel guilty about reprimanding them, especially when they give significantly to your organization. But they could be doing more harm than good. When the result is providing bad service to clients or contributing to a negative or stressful working environment, difficult volunteers should not be allowed to continue on the same path.

Fortunately, there are effective methods for managing disgruntled volunteers. If you’re dealing with this situation, here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Take away their power. By allowing negative behavior, you are giving those volunteers power over you—and everyone else. It’s not fair to anyone. Address the problem head on, and keep everyone else on task, so the person in question will realize that their negativity is ineffective.
  • Document your efforts. Keep track of incidents or situations that needed addressing, and how you handled it. You never know when you’ll need to refer to your notes.
  • Criticize kindly. If you do need to confront a volunteer, do so with kindness and in private. Public confrontations have a way of getting out of control; plus, they make everyone feel uncomfortable.
  • Keep things professional. Remember that your relationship with volunteer s is a professional one. Even if they are big donors of time or money, if you’re a volunteer manager, you’re in charge. Avoid losing your composure and your temper. Don’t stoop to the negative person’s level, even if he or she becomes defensive or starts yelling.
  • Nip it in the bud. When it comes to managing difficult volunteers, the sooner you deal with it, the better! Your entire organization will be better for your efforts.
Can you trust every person who volunteers for your agency? Conduct background checks on all volunteers. Rely on for your volunteer screening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with volunteer background checks.

Make Volunteering a Family & Halloween Tradition

Friday, October 19th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkSince Halloween is just around the corner, why not use the holiday as a way of introducing kids to volunteering?

Involve families with kids by creating a weekend family volunteer activity. When the place, time and task list are set and ready, it’s easier for parents to just show up and get their kids involved. And when parents are supervising their kids, it’s much easier on volunteer managers.

Halloween Volunteer Activities For Kids

  • How about cleaning up the neighborhood after trick-or-treating? It’s unfortunate that some Halloween traditions include smashing pumpkins, dropping candy wrappers on the ground or even acts of vandalism. Cleaning up the neighborhood can teach kids that we’re all responsible for a healthy, clean community. It’s also a big help for elderly folks who can’t pick up around their own properties. Equip kids with thick gloves and garbage bags. Emphasize safety and keep them out of the street.
  • Host a Halloween party for disadvantaged kids. This is a great way to involve young people in setting up, decorating, gathering goody bags and developing activities. And what better way to teach children to understand the difficulties that other people face? They’ll feel great about helping, and have fun, too.
  • Visit senior centers. Organize a trip for costumed kids to bring some cheer to elder care facilities. Of course, the rules have to be strict, and anyone with the sniffles shouldn’t be around the elderly. But there is nothing like a bunch of trick-or-treaters to brighten the faces of senior citizens.

When you combine families with kids, holidays and volunteering, the ideas just keep coming. Jot them down and you’ll soon have plenty of ideas to make recruiting volunteers—old and young alike—easier and more successful.

Easy Ways to Keep Your Volunteers

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

volunteer, screening, background checkOnce you recruit and screen volunteers for your organization, it’s important to hold on to them. A steady volunteer staff helps the organization run more smoothly, saves time and resources, and helps promote your cause in the community.

Here are five ways to keep good volunteers:

  1. Put out the welcome mat. Welcome your volunteers and demonstrate that you’re glad they’re there, whether it’s their first day or their 101st day. Taking volunteers for granted is too easy to do. Trouble is, it’s no secret. They can feel it—and it’s a sure way to demoralize them.
  2. Include volunteers in the mission. Help them feel like they are part of the greater good. Explain their role and how it helps to serve your clients or cause.
  3. Show appreciation. Say “thank you” at every opportunity. And do a little more when possible. Throw a party, bring in cupcakes or send notes and cards. Everyone wants to be appreciated—especially when they’re giving of themselves and their time.
  4. Speaking of time, respect it. Volunteers often worry that the spare hour of time they can give is not enough. Or, that if they offer an hour, you’ll take two. Find ways to make things work for time-strapped volunteers. Do you have tasks that can be completed in one-, two- or three-hour segments? Let people know, and then don’t let them exceed the given time. Send them home with a smile.
  5. Be open to suggestions. You don’t have to let a volunteer tell you how to run your organization. However, many have rich work experience that could improve your processes and procedures. At least give volunteers the respect of listening to their suggestions.

It’s not easy to see a good volunteer leave, but don’t encourage it by failing to do the simple things that can really work to keep them happy!