Posts Tagged ‘Managing Volunteers’

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.

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.

The Reasons For Volunteering Are Changing

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

People used to volunteer out of a sense of moral obligation; however, that seems to have changed over the years. Some volunteers are repaying a kindness done to them or a family member; others remember a positive experience from childhood and strive to make that same difference to another child. Still others want to improve their professional skills, meet people or just fill their spare time.

And with time is so limited, these days, volunteers are looking for more meaning in their volunteer experience. People are more distant from each other; they connect in online social networks, but don’t always have trusted relationships or a sense of belonging to a community.

Volunteering is a way to form those real relationships. And volunteer managers need to recognize this new reality, promote their organization’s ability to bring people together and let volunteers shape their own experience that will work for them.

How to you draw in people who are looking for solid relationships? By establishing a little one-on-one time. Ask potential volunteers for a cup of coffee. Or ask small groups of two or three for their help in brainstorming ways for new volunteers to get involved with your organization.

Attract volunteers who want connection by providing it. Tap into the passions people have for a good cause. Share your mission and ask for their involvement.

Get Your Volunteer Files in Order

Friday, March 29th, 2013

volunteer screeningIt’s always a good idea to have your personnel files in good shape—and that includes volunteer personnel, as well. Some federal and state grants and other funding require employment documentation and reporting, while other funding sources may want to inspect your records. Besides, many state and federal laws require recordkeeping.

Here’s what every employee and volunteer file should contain:

  • Original employment or volunteer application.
  • Resume.
  • Original signed authorization for pre-employment background check or volunteer background screening.
  • Any written notices from the records check. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that the applicant be given copies of the notices.
  • Tax forms, such as the W-4 for withholding federal and social security taxes.
  • Any state-required tax forms.
  • Hiring documentation, such as signed offer letters.
  • Performance evaluations, change forms (for job titles, raises, job changes, benefits plans, etc.)
  • Direct deposit authorization.

Confidential paperwork, such as drug test results, background check results or medical information should be kept in a secure file.

Employment eligibility verification forms (Form I-9) for all employees should be kept together in a separate file.

Keep all personnel files in a locked cabinet and restrict access to two or three people; for example, the HR person, the volunteer manager and the executive director. Keep a log so when an employee’s file is reviewed it can be noted with the date, person who reviewed it, and reason.

Take care when destroying confidential records. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act of 2005 requires all employers to burn or shred all applicant, employee and volunteer personal information, such as Social Security numbers, addresses and telephone numbers, as well as any information reported to a consumer reporting agency for a background check.

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!

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.

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!

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.

Traits of Highly Effective Volunteer Managers

Friday, June 29th, 2012

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkEffective managers are often highly driven professionals. But to be successful at managing volunteers, they need additional qualities. Drive, plus great people skills, equals respect. And respected managers have happier volunteers who accomplish more.

When it comes to handling volunteers, there are several qualities that can help a manager excel. Some people have them, and some don’t. But that doesn’t mean that any professional who finds him or herself in the position of volunteer manager—or aspires to become one—can’t develop these traits as well.

  1. Confidence tempered with humility: Having confidence is great. Confident people are aware of their capabilities and seem to be able to do most anything. But an overdose of self-confidence can lead to arrogance, unless it’s tempered with some good old-fashioned humility. Remember, nobody’s perfect—not even the most confident manager.
  2. Owning mistakes: Taking responsibility should be learned at an early age, but not everyone gets it. People respect leaders who take responsibility for their own mistakes, as well as for the failures of the team.
  3. Passion, plus compassion: It’s wonderful to have passion for your work or your organization’s mission. But don’t forget to remember why you’re there. Demonstrating compassion for those you serve and those who stand beside you serving will lead people to follow you anywhere.
  4. Problem solving finesse: Great volunteer managers face problems, just like the rest of us. But rather than becoming negative, focusing on assigning blame or sticking their heads in the sand, they buck up and find resolutions. And the very best use their ability to think strategically to find long-lasting solutions, not just quick, temporary fixes.
  5. Unwavering integrity: Doing what you’ll say you’ll do is the hallmark of a great leader. There is no substitute for it. Failing to do so will lead to a loss of respect faster than just about anything.

No matter where you are in your career, you can work on leadership traits that can help you get where you want to go, and earn the respect of everyone you work with along the way.

Nonprofits Tapping Baby Boomers’ Talents

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

volunteerscreeningblogNonprofit organizations across the country are looking to a huge resource to fill their needs and better serve their communities: retiring baby boomers. Numbering around 77 million, the baby boomer generation is well educated and talented, and many are looking for ways to contribute their skills and experience to help local schools, service organizations and soup kitchens.

Baby boomers are in better shape than any previous generation of retirees, too. Tapping into this healthy resource of human capital could change the face of charities from coast to coast.

So what do volunteer managers need to do to attract the talents of baby boomers?

  • Offer flexibility, such as nontraditional hours or projects that can be done at home.
  • Offer a variety of opportunities that leverage the unique skills and talents of this age group. Rather than having a baby boomer volunteer sit at a reception desk, ask them to edit a newsletter or update the organization’s website.

What types of work do baby boomers typically volunteer for?

  • Helping at food banks: logistics, packing, serving, database management.
  • Helping low-income people and elderly prepare and file tax returns.
  • Coordinating services for veterans and their families.
  • Tutoring, teaching ESL classes and literacy work.

The percentage of baby boomers volunteering their time is declining slightly. While about 33.5% of this age group volunteered in 2003, only 28.8% did so in 2010. The decrease could be because boomers are getting older. Others are working longer, as a result of the economic downturn. Delaying retirement cuts into volunteer time.

Think about how your organization could benefit from a few good baby boomers—and start recruiting new volunteers!