Archive for the ‘Nonprofit Management’ Category

Recognize Gender Differences in How Volunteers Work

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

screening volunteers, volunteer background check

As much as we’d like to think there are no differences between the genders in the workplace—or in volunteer positions—the truth is that there are. Understanding the fundamental differences can help any organization run more smoothly, and with less tension and stress.

Some of the ways men and women view the workplace differently follow. Of course, these aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but general observations.

Men and women communicate differently: This will come as a surprise to practically no one. Men are more competitive and are more likely to interrupt one another. Women are more likely to weigh in after others have already expressed their opinions. Women also don’t raise their hands to speak as much, so they’ll often need to be asked their opinions. Both styles are valuable, with women viewing problems more broadly, and men being more narrow in their focus.

Women work more toward consensus: Women are more apt to exchange information, ask for consensus, and bounce ideas off of a larger group in order to create a broader agreement. Women prefer to gather feedback and are more likely to show concern that others are included in decision making. This interest in others can gain them more trust and create a more productive work environment. Men, on the other hand, want a quick decision, and more often come to them on their own.

Work-life balance: This is where misunderstanding can cause issues. Women are more accepting of the diverse needs of volunteers and workers, while men are more comfortable with doing things the way they’ve always been done. Traditional management styles and organizational cultures tend to favor the way men prefer to work. Women in positions of leadership are more likely to notice people’s needs.

It’s difficult for women and minorities to advance in places where an “old boys’ club” exists, but happily, that’s more the norm in corporate America than in non-profit America.

Performance Reviews for Volunteers and Employees

Friday, December 21st, 2012

screening volunteers, volunteer background checkAre performance reviews effective? Many non profits conduct them with staffers, but not volunteers. But most people can benefit from a periodic review of their work. Performance reviews can even inspire people to improve on the job.

But performance reviews can be tough, especially if a) your subject is not getting paid, but is volunteering their time; b) you’re supervising those who do menial tasks; or c) you have long-term employees who know their jobs and perform them satisfactorily.

Maybe it’s time for a new approach. Instead of supervisor/subordinate, look at collaborations, commitments and accountabilities. Try starting from the beginning. Gather all employees and volunteers together and have the leadership team take them through the organization’s mission, vision and goals. Tell stories of how the nonprofit changes lives, impacts the community and makes the world a better place. And let the team know what you need from them to achieve success.

  • Then let the team know how they are doing overall—not individually. Review the deliverables that must occur for the organization to thrive, from bringing in donations to providing quality services. Teach them how they can improve.
  • Set measurable goals together. Encourage feedback and team-led initiatives to establish steps to meet the goals. Support the teams with time to get together and hold meetings and brainstorming sessions.
  • Ask for commitment from all staffers and volunteers. Each person can make promises about what they will do to contribute. As a manager, your role is to follow up, offer encouragement, solve problems, and offer tools to help them achieve success.

Be Flexible with Staff and Volunteers

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer backgound checkInstituting a flexible work and volunteer policy can help you attract and retain top staff and volunteers. Shorter work weeks, flexible hours, job sharing and telecommuting are all appealing to both volunteers and employees.

In the new economy, employees expect to work using new technology, which allows for more at-home situations. 10-hour, 4-day weeks or 12-hour, 3-day weeks are becoming more common. And Gen Y workers prefer to integrate friends and family into their lives—including work, unlike their older counterparts who traditionally keep work and home life separate.

In fact, to attract Gen Y workers and volunteers, nonprofit executives should consider making flexibility a part of the organizational culture, because they expect it. Working remotely and at unusual hours is par for the course to this group.

Flexible workplaces see higher retention and lower turnover. Workers and volunteers who have more control over their work environment are more productive and happier, too. Those who work from home are more focused and dedicated to getting their work done.

For many of your employees and volunteers, this set up may be their only option, whether because of distance, child care duties, elder care duties or the need to care for loved ones with disabilities or illnesses.

Keep your employees’ and volunteers’ needs in mind when working up job descriptions and attendance policies. Ask what they need, and try to work with staff and volunteers to make new ideas succeed, and keep everyone productive and happy.

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.

Branding Sets Your Non-Profit Apart From the Crowd

Friday, July 27th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkTry to imagine McDonald’s without its gold arches, or Starbucks without its mermaid. They’re part of the experience customers have each time they interact with these companies—whether in person, through online, TV or print ads, or through social media platforms. Branding is important to these global companies, because it helps customers understand what the company is about, and reinforces that meaning at every opportunity.

A brand is how your audiences think of your organization, and the promise you offer. Branding can extend awareness, build trust and attract resources and partnerships for non-profit organizations. It can motivate donors, staff and volunteers, as well as beneficiaries.

You’re going to leave an impression in someone’s mind, anyway, so why not make sure you’re controlling it through effective branding? Start with the very essence of your organization; your mission statement is a great place to begin. Then distill it down until it differentiates your organization from every other one out there. Finally, use it consistently in every form of communication.

Differentiating your agency from others through branding starts with having a name that works, and extends to every other aspect of operations: from the look, tone, voice and the way you deliver your services. Your organization’s name, logo and tagline can come together in a package that quickly and effectively communicates what you’re about to the internal and external audiences: from the board of directors to the general public.

Your name and tagline should say what you do and whom you serve as simply as possible. For example, if your organization helps find housing for Boston-area homeless families with children, you might be called “Under One Roof,” with a tagline, “Keeping Boston families together in safe, affordable housing.” A simple logo can graphically depict the name and tagline, and help to reinforce the mission at a glance.

Keeping logo colors consistent is vital to strong branding. If your logo colors are deep purple and white, never use pastel lavender and yellow. Every time your logo is seen, it should look consistent. The same goes for typefaces used for your name and tagline.

Branding might not seem like it applies to non-profit organizations, but in a crowded and competitive field, an attractive, consistent brand that communicates what your agency is about can help you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Increasing Donations by Increasing Attention

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Nonprofits have had a rough few years, as most of their donors have struggled in the down economy. Volunteer managers and fundraisers have been beating the bushes for help and money, and may feel at the end of their respective ropes. But there are always new methods of attracting attention to your cause, which can help improve funding and the flow of volunteers, as well.

If you’re ready for some fresh tips on how to stay in front of your local and regional media, read on.

Sponsor a contest: Drum up support by holding a fun contest. The prizes can be donated by local businesses, or you could offer a scholarship to a graduating high school senior.

Honor someone: Recognize a community leader, a member of your board of directors, a longtime volunteer or local philanthropist. Schedule a ceremony, luncheon or banquet. You’ll not only garner a lot of press, but you’ll also have an opportunity to ask for donations.

Piggyback on supporters’ efforts: Make a deal with businesses that support your efforts, no matter how large or small. List their logos in your marketing efforts, mention them on Facebook and Twitter postings, and promote them whenever you can—and then ask them to do the same. It’s a win-win.

Work with a like-minded charity: Pairing up with another nonprofit on a project or event makes it bigger in the eyes of the press. Not only will the event draw attention, but the collaboration will, too. You’ll have the advantage of a larger pool of potential donors, and the opportunity to educate a new audience on your mission.

These ideas may not be revolutionary, but when added to your daily efforts of promoting your cause by building community, they may be just what your organization has needed.

Remember how important it is for you to remain in charge. If one volunteer starts undermining your authority or treating others unfairly,  or you could see a decline in morale and increased turnover.

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

How to Find Out if Your Non Profit Supporters Are Satisfied

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

How do you know if your donors and supporters are getting what they need from their relationship with your organization? After all, you are competing for their support with every other organization in your community—and many around the world, as well.

Once you lose a supporter, you may never get them back. So it’s vitally important for non-profits to stay close with their supporters, ask their opinions, their advice, their preferences and more.

Determining if people are happy with the services you provide, your organization’s mission, and the value they feel they are receiving for their investment (donation) doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re keeping good databases, you have several ways to reach each of your supporters.

Some people prefer face-to-face interactions. For these folks, an invitation to an open house would be a good way to get started. Once they’re in the door, ask them to fill out a short survey. Some supporters need a more personal approach, such as a one-on-one coffee or lunch. Your invitation could clearly state the reason for the meeting: “We need your feedback. Would you be willing to share your opinions about how we’re doing?”

Other supporters have no time for parties or lunches. Send an email. Still others want to do all of their interactions through social media sites, like Facebook. You could also lure these folks to your website by engaging them through Twitter. Once you have their attention, give them a short survey to fill out.

You can leave it to just a few questions:
1. Would you recommend that your friends donate to our organization?
2. Why or why not?
3. What suggestions for improvement can you offer?

That’s it. Ask your supporters if they’re happy, and they will most likely tell you!

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.

Good Thing You’re Insured!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblogAs a follow-up on last week’s post—and in case you haven’t yet contacted your insurance provider to review your coverage—we offer the following scenarios. Just a reminder that non-profit organizations really do need proper insurance coverage for your volunteers!

What’s the worst that could happen?

  • A van accident. Here’s the scenario: one of your most loyal, long-term volunteers is driving clients to the zoo in her mini van. She is a careful, accident-free driver. Still, she is hit from behind at a stop light by an under-insured driver. Two clients and the volunteer suffer injuries. After checking on the status of everyone in the van, your first thought is, “Will the NPO be sued?” Of course you’re concerned about litigation. That’s why you have insurance coverage for all volunteers, volunteer property, liability and un- or under-insured drivers. You also encourage volunteers to check with their insurance companies about additional coverage on their auto policies—for extra protection. And this one did. You’ll sleep tonight, knowing that insurance will cover everything.
  • Charges of sexual misconduct against a volunteer. This is one of the most frightening scenarios a volunteer manager can face. That’s why two types of prevention are important to protect your NPO against it. First, proper volunteer screening is absolutely necessary. When you conduct reasonable background checks on all volunteers, the NPO and its board are less likely to be found liable for damages due to a volunteer’s misconduct. Second, liability coverage is required to cover instances that cannot be predicted. Whether or not the volunteer is guilty of a crime, putting your NPO at risk of financial loss is unacceptable. But be careful—be sure that your liability coverage does not exclude this type of behavior. You don’t want your organization and its directors to be personally liable for negligence!

Insurance regulations vary by state. Check with your insurance provider about whether or not your organization needs any additional coverage. You’ll be glad you’re insured when and if you ever need to be!

Insurance Coverage for Non-Profits

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

volunteer screenigRisk management is an important responsibility of non-profit organization (NPO) directors. It can range from avoiding financial risk through proper planning and investing, screening potential volunteers to keep staff and served clientele safe, and holding sufficient insurance coverage.

While most NPO executives will consult their professional insurance provider for details on their particular needs, here we offer some general information on what to consider to be safe—and smart—about insurance coverage.

Insurance is not perfect and won’t cover every situation a charitable organization is likely to run into. It can also be expensive—especially when an overzealous salesperson recommends coverage you either don’t need or don’t want. But insurance is useful and in most cases, necessary to protect an organization from financial risk.

General Liability Insurance: This usually covers a long list of claims that could be filed against an NPO. Check for lists of exclusions and if necessary, purchase separate riders or endorsements that will cover items your organization’s activities warrant.

Auto Liability Insurance: If your NPO’s volunteers drive on behalf of the organization in either their own or company-owned vehicles, you’ll need insurance to cover them. Generally, auto accidents are not covered by a general liability policy, which offers coverage for the driver, property damage, the vehicle and injuries to others, as well as the possibility that the other motorist involved in the incident is uninsured.

Casualty Insurance: In generally, casualty insurance covers damage done by third parties, vandals, floods, fires,earthquakes and building failures. Consider whether volunteers use their own property, such as laptops and tools, in the course of their work for your organization.

Professional Liability Insurance: This coverage could be needed in cases of claims made by clients against professional or licensed services.

Director’s and Officer’s Insurance: In cases where a volunteer director’s or officer’s actions cause a claim to be filed against the organization, this coverage would be very valuable. It can also help attract board members, since they’ll have the peace of mind of knowing theiy won’t be personally responsible.

Again, insurance regulations vary by state. Checking with your insurance provider about whether or not your organization needs the above coverages is something you should consider doing sooner, rather than later—to reduce the risk of loss to your non-profit organization.

Build Relationships for Successful Fundraising

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

volunteerscreeningblog.comMost salespeople know that it’s easier to sell more to an existing customer than to get a new customer. The same goes with fundraising for nonprofits. It’s easier to ask established supporters to give more than to sell a completely new individual on your organization—and get them to give.

Establishing long-term relationships with donors and supporters is one of the keys to successful fundraising. And like anything worth keeping, they take time to build. Each interaction with a potential donor is a chance to grow that relationship.

Potential Donors

  • Event attendees
  • Volunteers
  • Friends of volunteers
  • Community members
  • Co-workers
  • Board member friends and families

How to Grow the Relationship:
Ask questions. Ask volunteers why they’re there; what drew them to the organization. At events, ask attendees why it was important to them. You may hear that the cause wasn’t important, but they were there for the silent auction; or the food; or because they were coerced. Whatever the reason, you can build upon it. The idea is to get to know your donor base better—what they like; what’s important to them. And asking questions makes people feel valued, too.

Tell your story. At every opportunity, repeat the story of your organization, its mission and its accomplishments. And find new ways to do it. Keep the story short, and make sure it is meaningful. Give examples of real people that have been helped by your organization.

Make the ask—it’s as simple as that. If you don’t ask for donations, it’s not likely that donors will just send you money—but they will respond if they believe in the cause and know that you need support. And make it easy for donors to give. Include self-addressed envelopes with fundraising letters. Add a “donate now” widget to your website or blog.

Building real relationships with donors isn’t difficult—it takes time, but it’s vitally important to your fundraising efforts. And, it can be one investment of your time that really pays off!

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