Posts Tagged ‘Volunteer Management’

Dos and Don’ts for Successful Volunteer Interviews

Friday, May 24th, 2013

volunteer screeningJust as in the for-profit world, the importance of interviewing cannot be overstated. Non-profit organizations are placed in a delicate position, because unlike employers, volunteers may feel insulted if put through their paces in the interviewing and screening process.

However, bringing in the right people is vital to the success of any organization. And successful volunteer recruiting requires successful interviewing. Here are some dos and don’ts that can make the interview process more effective:

  • Don’t be swayed by others: Often, volunteers recommend their friends and acquaintances. In fact, current volunteers are great recruiters for your organization. But when it comes to the interview process, focus on the applicant and the facts, not on what you’ve been told. Jane or Justin might not be the solution to all your problems, no matter what has been said.
  • Do pay attention to language: An interviewee who is unaware or uncaring about the language he or she uses with you is likely to continue in that realm around board members, clients and the public when representing your organization. People can be easily offended by vulgar, sexist or racist language, so if you hear any during the interview take it into consideration.
  • Don’t judge by appearance: We all tend to form impressions based on limited exposure to a person—it’s human nature. But the best-dressed and most clean-cut people can still be dangerous to vulnerable populations. Only a complete volunteer screening and background check will tell you whether a prospective volunteer is safe to serve your organization’s clients, drive its vehicles and handle its funds.
  • Do allow plenty of time: You may not have ample time in your day to interview potential volunteers, but this important task should not be shortchanged. Squeezing interviews between other meetings or being ill-prepared will likely result in a bad decision. You could either miss important red flags about a volunteer or overlook qualities and skills you need to accomplish your goals. Neither results in an effective volunteer workforce.

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.

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.

5 Ways to Earn the Respect of Your Volunteers

Friday, March 9th, 2012

volunteer screening, background check, volunteer credit checkWhether you’ve been in volunteer management for decades, or are starting a new position, you are always in the position of needing to earn the respect of your volunteers.

Here are five ways to do it, no matter what type of personalities you come up against:

  1. Present a professional appearance. Everyone judges a book by its cover—fair or not, it’s human nature. Put your best possible self forward by dressing well, having good manners and using appropriate language. If you need a refresher, take an etiquette course for business people.
  2. Embrace constructive criticism. Nobody likes to be criticized, but most of us have room for improvement. When a volunteer makes a suggestion or even criticizes your actions, take a moment before you react. Hear what they’re saying, and turn it into a positive action.
  3. Don’t be self-denigrating. Have some love and respect for yourself! Start by taking good care of your health. Get enough exercise and sleep. Avoid belittling comments about anyone, but especially yourself.
  4. Do your job well. When volunteers see you are competent, your respect level will zoom. No matter what age or how many years of experience you have, you can establish yourself as the best at what you do. It may not happen overnight, but doing a good job is always worthy of respect.
  5. Respect your volunteers. The old saying goes, “you get what you give.” And it’s true: if you don’t respect your volunteers, they will feel it, and will likely react in kind. It’s never too late to make a new effort, with every volunteer—new or old—even if your history with a particular person is less than pleasant.

Following these tips can help you establish yourself as a professional, competent and respectable volunteer leader. Your relationships, performance and effectiveness can be improved when you are well-respected by your volunteers.

Watch Out For Signs Of Volunteer Burnout

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

volunteer background checkIf you’re like most non profit organizations, you have all kinds of volunteers: enthusiastic and boisterous, or quietly committed. You have volunteers who are good at one thing and those who are good at many things. And you probably have some who don’t know their limits.

Before you lose valuable volunteers to burnout, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of volunteer burnout—and how to prevent it.

  1. Volunteers are not happy. Check in often to make sure your volunteers are still enjoying their work. Remember, they’re not getting paid, so satisfaction is important to keep volunteers engaged. If they’re not having fun, it may be time for a break.
  2. Your volunteers are worried about getting their work done or missing deadlines. Pressure is not good for anyone. If your volunteers are stressed out about their workload, you could lose them fast. Find ways to spread out the work.
  3. Your volunteers are irritable with fellow volunteers, or even worse—with clients. This is a sure sign of burnout, and it can have serious consequences. Any volunteer who is resentful of staff, clients and fellow volunteers to the point of becoming bad-tempered is in need of a talking to. Find out what’s bothering him or her, and offer a new position or leave of absence.
  4. The laughter and positive atmosphere has disappeared. Listen to your volunteers as they work and interact with each other. Do you hear laughter and light conversation? Or do you hear snapping, heavy sighs or nothing at all?

Usually, the best volunteers, whose dedication and work ethic leads them to overdo it, are more susceptible to burnout. Keep the lines of communication open and check in often with all of your volunteers. Insist on a break for those who have been working too much or are starting to show signs of wear. And remember to show your appreciation often. Sometimes, a “thank you” is all a volunteer needs to hear to replenishment their motivation.

Empower Volunteers for More Productivity

Friday, July 29th, 2011

volunteer screening volunteer credit checkMost volunteer coordinators say that volunteers are their most valuable assets. Nurturing and looking after assets is important to keep them from slipping away. So how do you take care of volunteers? Are they slipping away, despite your best efforts?

Taking care of your volunteers can pay off in higher rates of productivity and retention. One trick is to channeling their creativity, talent and experience—and that takes real leadership. So does realizing that your volunteers might be smarter than you. Most non-profit organizations have volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds, like retired business executives, teachers, accountants, lawyers—people with top-level talent and plenty of brainpower.

  1. When you see real talent and valuable experience in your volunteers, give them the freedom to do what they do best, and don’t micromanage. Get out of their way and you might be amazed at the ideas they come up with.
  2. If the organization is facing a problem, ask for help or advice from your experienced volunteers. There is no rule saying that you must follow it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Whether or not a volunteer’s advice meet your needs, giving people the freedom to contribute to the organization does wonders for their self-worth, gives them a reason to keep volunteering and can result in solid new ideas for problem-solving.
  3. Consider asking for ideas from a number of volunteers, or putting together a brainstorming session to address a problem. You may soon have a number of “what if” scenarios around the table. One of them could be the solution you decide to go for. Collective problem solving can be a great way to harness and leverage the talent of your volunteers, while making them feel valued and productive.

Leadership means educating volunteers about why their roles are important. But it also means matching them with jobs that matter to them personally. Taking care of volunteers by involving them in tasks that use their talents, creativity and intelligence is a great way to keep them engaged and make your organization more successful.

3 Causes of Unhappy Volunteers

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkYou have a great group of volunteers whom you depend on to help you efficiently run your non profit organization. They’re productive and happy, and all seems to be going well with all of your volunteers—right?

Maybe not. Volunteer dissatisfaction is not uncommon. But it can be a temporary condition and it is definitely a fixable one. The trouble is, before you have a chance to fix it, the affected person or persons have often moved on to better opportunities.

Here are three causes of volunteer dissatisfaction that can be easily remedied, with a little effort.

Problem 1:
Feeling anonymous:
Everyone wants to feel valued, whether they are paid employees, volunteers, friends or partners. New relationships tend to be bright, shiny and happy—until the shine wears off and they become routine. When volunteers start to feel anonymous or you show little interest in them as people, they begin to feel dissatisfied.

With long-term volunteers, showing interest in them, asking about their families and careers, their hobbies and goals, should continue long after they join you. Get in the habit of asking a personal (but not too personal!) question of one volunteer each day.

Problem 2:
Feeling useless:
Volunteers don’t have to show up for work. When they do, they need to feel useful. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re making a difference—and that’s why most people volunteer. When volunteers feel their efforts are wasted, or that they’re having no impact at all, dissatisfaction sets in.

Solution: Find ways to illustrate to volunteers how they are making a difference. This could include sharing data and statistics, or simply telling success stories of how their efforts are helping others in the community.

Problem 3:
Feeling confused:
Volunteers need feedback, just as paid employees do. They don’t always know for sure if they are contributing or performing their duties successfully.

That’s why volunteer evaluations are just as important as employee evaluations. And should be performed regularly.

Keeping your eyes and ears open to volunteer dissatisfaction can prevent unhappy volunteers and help you retain them longer!

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

Tips for Leading Volunteer Teams

Friday, February 11th, 2011

screening volunteers, volunteer background checkWhy does one volunteer coordinator excel at leading teams while others struggle with it? While some people come by their leadership abilities naturally, it is a skill that can be learned; however, just like learning the piano, it takes regular practice.

Leadership Tips for Volunteer Managers

  1. Get people excited about your mission: If you’re not enthusiastic about what your organization is doing, how can you expect your volunteers to be? The moment your drive lags a bit, someone will be affected by it—so do what you have to do to stay motivated.
  2. Tap into volunteers’ needs: Find out why each person is there. For one volunteer, it might be to find a community. Others are fulfilling a spiritual mandate to give back. Still others are motivated by being needed. When you get to know your volunteers and their reasons for doing it, you’ll be better able to meet their needs.
  3. Show you care: This is related to number two. While every volunteer might have a different reason for doing it, they all have one common need: to feel like someone cares. Showing an interest in your volunteers’ family and personal lives—without prying or becoming too familiar—is important. Remember that each individual will have a different comfort level regarding sharing personal information, so proceed carefully.
  4. Show appreciation: Another common need among volunteers: to feel appreciated. When volunteers start feeling that the only thing you care about is that they show up to work, trouble can begin. If you start seeing negativity or bad attitudes in your formerly happy volunteers, ask yourself how long it has been since you’ve shown appreciation for their service.
  5. Don’t waste their time: Find specific tasks or jobs that fit each volunteer’s interests and talents. This can be difficult, but it’s important to keep them productive and feeling that their time served was not wasted.

Keeping volunteers engaged is an importnat aspect of managing them—and it takes leadership skills to do it successfully. If you’re struggling with leading volunteers, these tips are easy to implement. Try all five and see how quickly your relationship with your organization’s volunteers improve.

Volunteer Screening is Often Mandated

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkNonprofit organizations don’t have it easy these days. From cuts in state funding to lower donations from supporters, many charitable organizations must battle every day just to keep the doors open. And not all have succeeded. With all the difficulties facing NPO directors, they have their hands full. Added regulations and time-intensive requirements can seem unnecessary.

But there is one that is not: conducting background checks on volunteers. “Why should we be required to run background checks?” said one NPO director. “I don’t have the time or budget, and all of our volunteers are model citizens.”

This must be one lucky NPO manager! Others have not been so lucky. Volunteers come from all backgrounds, and just like the general public, there are a certain percentage of honest volunteers, dishonest volunteers, and volunteers with criminal histories—or worse, sex offender status.

Despite a lack of time or budget, nonprofit organizations depending on federal and state funding to serve their clients could be mandated by state and federal governments to conduct background screening. Specifically, those providing day care or child care services, or that bring employees or volunteers into contact with minors or vulnerable adults, are typically required to perform background checks on all employees and volunteers.

In addition, federal programs or those with federal contracts are required to conduct criminal background checks on both employees and volunteers. The same is often true in some states, if any state funds are used by the organization.

Any NPO that plans to conduct background checks must notify the potential volunteer and obtain written consent by way of a signature on a notification page. It’s easy enough to add this document to a volunteer application.

Whether it’s mandated or not, it’s just good practice to conduct background checks on potential volunteers. Why not take this easy step to protect your staff, clients and other volunteers from potential danger of an unknown volunteer’s unknown problems?

10 Benefits of Corporate Volunteer Programs

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

volunteer screening, volunteer background checkAccording to recent studies, customers really respond when companies are involved in helping their communities, with a direct result to revenues. In this economy, with social funding being cut out of state and federal budgets, volunteers are more vital than ever to thousands of non-profit organizations nationwide.

Here are 10 benefits of implementing a corporate volunteer program:

  1. Employee volunteer programs allow corporations to develop more personal relationships in their communities, by sharing their human resources with non-profit organizations in need.
  2. According to a 2003 study called Good Companies, Better Employees, employees that participate in company-sponsored volunteer programs think more highly of their employers, with 63% calling it a great place to work compared to other companies.
  3. The same study reveals that 67% of employees who participate in volunteer programs are fairly or very satisfied with their jobs.
  4. These employee/volunteers also speak more highly of their employers to others, with 54% saying nice things vs. 49% of non-volunteers.
  5. Volunteer activities strengthen work teams, build employee skills and contribute to professional development.
  6. Employers see higher retention rates for employees who participate in volunteer activities. In addition, they are more likely to pursue promotion and development opportunities after volunteering.
  7. Employers can enjoy a higher level of workforce skills when employees volunteer. A 1998 study showed competency improved 14 to 17 percent as a direct result of volunteering.
  8. 51% of employees surveyed in 2007 said they believe an employee volunteer program is the greatest contribution a company can make to a non-profit organization. In contrast, only 37% named financial donations and 8% mentioned product donations as the greatest contribution.
  9. Corporate-sponsored volunteer events raise visibility in the community. Businesses benefit from positive perceptions and free publicity. Good-news stories about employee volunteers often generate greater media coverage, too.
  10. Employee volunteer programs help attract new employees. 62% of 18- to 26-year olds said in the 2007 study that they prefer to work for companies that provide opportunities for them to apply their skills to a non-profit organization’s benefit.