Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer Best Practices’

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.

Smaller Volunteer Agencies May Be More Susceptible to Fraud

Friday, July 20th, 2012

volunteer screening, background checksIt seems that the news is peppered with stories about small, local charity agencies that are falling prey to fraud by trusted volunteers. Church groups, youth sports clubs, elderly service organizations—they can all be victims of crimes like theft, misappropriation of funds and money laundering. Whether the thief takes money, equipment or other needed goods, nonprofits are often ill-equipped to carry the loss and rebound. Many go under as a result of financial misconduct.

Back in the 1950s, a famous criminologist developed the “Fraud Triangle” theory. It outlines the three key elements at play when otherwise law-abiding volunteers succumb to temptation and engage in fraud: opportunity, motivation and rationalization. For some, the motivation is debt. For others, they rationalize that the organization doesn’t need the money, and a small amount won’t be missed. Still other volunteers may need money to pay for their own or a loved one’s drug problems.

Since it’s clear that even those in positions of great trust will turn to fraud, non profit organizations must take precautions to prevent volunteers from having the opportunity to do so.

Here are some tips to control opportunity:

  • Establish a system of control to deter and detect fraud. Never allow just one person access to checking accounts, books and financial records. Require double signatures on all checks over a given amount, and have the books audited by a professional on a regular basis. Don’t have the same people who collect money to also deposit it.
  • Promote openness. Thieves thrive in secret, closed-off, non-communicative environments. Promote open communication and encourage everyone to report any suspicious behavior. It’s not necessary to be paranoid, but it is best to be proactive to protect the goodwill of the organization, and to ensure its stability and ability to fulfill its mission.
  • Have a zero-tolerance policy. Let everyone know that any suspected fraud will be investigated, not swept under the rug.
And of course, conduct background checks on all volunteers. Rely on for your volunteer prescreening services. Protect your staff, clients, and your community with volunteer background checks.

How Nonprofits Can Leverage Business Partnerships

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer backgound checkBusiness relationships can make a big difference to a non-profit organization. Whether developing partnerships for financial support, human resource (volunteer) support or product donations, nonprofits should tap into the offerings of local, regional and national businesses aiming to increase their corporate social responsibility profile and do good things.

Reaching out to corporate partners can be uncomfortable at first, but if you have a good development director, it should be a part of his or her job duties. A natural first step might be contacting local businesses, entrepreneurs and community service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary International.

Finding avenues for business to help your nonprofit in a win-win situation is the key. While an event sponsorship might be a perfect fit for a financial institution, it might be too much for a construction company. You might ask for their help in other ways – like volunteering their employees to perform repairs on your building or to donate a crew for a day to fix up an elderly client’s home.

Another way for a business to become a valuable partner is through cause-related marketing. For example, a company donates a portion of every sale of a featured item, for a limited time, advertising their efforts and creating goodwill among the public.

Still additional avenues for businesses to get on board with a nonprofit are social enterprises and donating products or services. A social enterprise is a business venture that combines profit making with social advancement. An ice cream shop started expressly to donate all profits to a charity is one example. Another is a work training program that restores and sells used appliances, in order to fund its programs to train displaced workers in appliance repair.

For some companies, donating products or services is the easiest way to support charity work in their community. A web design firm may be able to provide your nonprofit with the new website you need—and they may do it for free or a reduced cost. Advertising, event banners, office supplies and food for events are additional ways your local business community may be willing to support your nonprofit.

Be sure to offer publicity in exchange for a business’s good deeds. Adding a logo to a banner, blasting positive posts on your e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter and mentioning your business partners in every interview and story about your nonprofit will demonstrate your appreciation and give the company an enhanced image, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes, all it takes is an ask to start forming valuable relationships with business partners that can really make a difference to your organization’s bottom line!

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

Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part II

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

As promised, we continue to offer some best practices tips for volunteer managers. Increase efficiency and stay organized with tips from both the for-profit business sector and other nonprofit organizations.

1. Develop a Volunteer Acquisition Plan: Plans help you keep on goal; your volunteer recruitment efforts will be much more effective if you plan carefully. First, determine how many volunteers you need for each project, ongoing tasks, and events you have in a typical period—one month, six months, one year. Then decide the level of experience you need from your volunteers. Do you need special training, like food service, catering, accounting, truck driving, or traffic control? Or is the project something that is suitable for a family with small children?

Next, make a list of former volunteers, current supporters, and even your friends and business contacts who possess the desired training or expertise. Contact them and ask for their help. Be sure to clearly define your needs, expectations, and their time commitment.

2. Protect your Organization from Legal Harm: As a volunteer manager, you must be as aware of employment laws as any human resource manager. If you lack training in this area, research training opportunities or enlist the help of an HR Law professional for guidance. Some of the applicable federal land state laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (which covers volunteer background screening and credit checks), and anti-discrimination legislation like Equal Employment Opportunity.

Keep staff, served populations and other volunteers safe and your organization out of legal trouble by carefully screening all volunteers. Review insurance policies annually to be sure volunteers are covered when working for your organization. Don’t wait until after a volunteer suffers an injury to find out you are under-insured.

3. Keep Excellent Records: Many organizations are required to track volunteer time. If you are not required, it is still a good idea to do so. Whether you obtain specialized computer software to help, or use simple spreadsheets, it’s vital to keep track of volunteer contact information, interests and abilities, projects assigned and completed, and notes regarding successes and challenges. These notes  will come in handy when conducting evaluations or when your organization is required to report to state or federal officials. If you are challenged for time to track volunteer activity, assign the task to a volunteer.

4. Be Flexible: The ability to switch hats, courses of action, and gears is a valuable one for volunteer managers. If a volunteer is having trouble with a project, losing interest in the organization, or not working out as well as you’d hoped, be ready to communicate, evaluate, and act accordingly. If your volunteer recruitment plan isn’t working as well as you need it to, double your efforts, ask a mentor for help, or simply change your approach. Try spreading the word with social media or free online ads like Craigslist.

Borrowing good management practices from others is an easy way to implement procedures that really work—and can save you valuable time!

Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part I

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Sometimes it’s easier to follow established procedures, rather than starting your own. This is especially true if you’re a newer nonprofit volunteer manager. If you’ve inherited your role, or if the volunteer manager job begins with you, increase efficiency and stay organized by adopting procedures that are already proven effective.

Some of these tips come from the for-profit business sector, while others are unique to nonprofit organizations. Gather them into your own handbook and your organization will be better for it.

1. Establish Clear Communication with your Volunteers: Good communication begins the day your volunteers inquire about offering their services. Know whether or not you are currently accepting volunteer applicants. If so, let people know exactly what positions you have open, whether they are short- or long-term, and how many hours per week they require. Ask your volunteer applicant appropriate questions to guage both their areas of interest and their skill sets.

Make sure your applications are clearly written, detailing what is expected of all volunteers, as well as how the volunteer’s personal information will be used. If your charity requires volunteers to undergo background screening, state it on your application; you’ll need the person’s permission to start the process.

2. Provide proper training, if required. In a perfect volunteer situation, the skills you need are perfectly suited to a particular voluntneer, who jumps in with both feet. In the real world, you’ll at least need to orient each volunteer to your organization’s way of operating, your mission and goals, and the details of their position. Proper training will lead to a much more successful relationship with your volunteers. They’ll be happier, and more enthusiastic to return to help you again.

3. Feedback and Evaluations: Whether a new or long-serving volunteer, take a cue from employers and provide regular, formal feedback. Semi-annual or annual evaluations can be a great way to set aside time for one-on-one discussions. Since it’s a volunteer position, you as manager might provide feedback more like a coach, rather than an employer. Ask your volunteers to evaluate the organization—and you.

4. Manage Projects According to Volunteer Abilities: It only makes sense to avoid placing new volunteers in leadership positions—at least until you’ve been able to observe them performing assigned tasks. If you have a natural leader or experienced business owner or manager among your new volunteer recruits, they may be more ready to assume responsibility. Ask your longer-term volunteers if they’re ready to take on a leadership role in training or leading other groups of volunteers. They could make your job much easier!

Look for Volunteer Management Best Practices: Part II right here next week.

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