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Volunteer Power News - Number 94
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter

2011 Advantage Point Systems Publishing

A warm welcome to all volunteer managers-those of you who recruit, motivate and mobilize volunteer workers.

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In This Issue
  1. Featured Article: Using 21st Century Coaching Methods to Lead Your Volunteers
  2. News You Can Use: The Status of Volunteer Programs in a Shifting Environment-from the Minnesota Association for volunteer Administration 2011 survey report
Featured Article: Using 21st Century Coaching Methods to Lead Your Volunteers
I just read the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) follow-up study to their 2009 report on the status of volunteerism and volunteer programs during challenging economic times. (See article below - News You Can Use for a summary of the report).

What struck me as I read the strategies that MAVA is suggesting for hard economic times is that the coaching methods are not just for an economic down turn. They are the leadership essentials that are vital if we are going to mobilize the collective power of a whole New Breed of volunteers. As you read this list, check a yes or no by each one and use it as an evaluation of your volunteer strategies.

MAVA Strategies during Challenging Economic Times

Faced with fiscal stress and rapid changes in volunteer availability and organizational needs for vol-unteer services, many volunteer managers developed creative strategies to respond to the shifting environment. MAVA lists the following strategies:

Yes No  
______Offer more short-term, weekend and evening volunteer opportunities.
______Offer expanded roles for volunteers in the organization.
______Customize involvement to fit the volunteer's interests, talents and availability.
______Offer volunteers opportunities to lead projects.
______Provide volunteer opportunities that use professional skills and have higher levels of responsibility.
______Involve volunteers in recruiting other volunteers.
______Increase involvement of student volunteers and interns.
______Increase use of technology in recruiting and communicating with volunteers.
______Form partnerships with schools and other organizations to recruit volunteers and to work on projects of joint interest.
______Market volunteer positions to job seekers and support them to get the most out of the experience.
______Streamline and standardize practices for intake of volunteers and running the volunteer program.
______Increase communication with volunteers about the needs of the organization and its clients.
______Involve staff throughout the organization in working with volunteers.
______Advocate for and position the volunteer program effectively.

Let's evaluate the first two strategies and see how to make them work.
  • Offer more short-term, weekend and evening volunteer opportunities.
  • Offer expanded roles for volunteers in the organization.
How do you transition the short-term, weekend and evening volunteer into a volunteer with an expanded role in your organization? That is a very important aspect of leading the 21st century volunteer. In the article, "From short-term helper to active volunteer", I suggest three metaphors that help me to understand the process of making this transition:

  • The puppy dog
  • The third place
  • Good vibrations
Each metaphor symbolizes a coaching technique for the director of volunteers. When volunteer leaders know how to maximize these three techniques, they are in a much better position to increase the life-cycle of their volunteers. To see how these techniques work, see the linked article. Please feel free to copy this article and hand it out to your staff for a discussion on how to use these strategies in your organization.

One of the topics we cover in our training sessions is how to transition the short-term "first date" project-driven volunteers into exciting regular, long-term volunteers. We you would like to help you make this happen with a volunteer power workshop for your organization. Or, if you have not picked up a copy of The New Breed, which explains how to these 21st century leadership principles, order yours today and receive free shipping. You can purchase one copy for $14.44, or buy six copies for your staff to read and discuss for $76.46 (all shipping is free and you save $10). This can be a great resource to bring your staff up to date on recruiting and leading the 21st century volunteer.


News You Can Use: The Status of Volunteer Programs in a Shifting Environment-from the Minnesota Association for volunteer Administration 2011 survey report
The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA), "The Status of Minnesota's Volunteer Programs in a Shifting Environment" is just out. I think that we can learn lot from this study about the impact of volunteerism during these past few years and what we can do in the future. I have copied a section from the Executive summary below. The Full Report, and the original 2009 Survey are available at www.MAVANetwork.org/ShiftingEnv.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Minnesota, like the rest of the country, is beginning to come out of the recession. MAVA conducted a survey on the status of volunteerism and volunteer programs during tough economic times. In late 2010, 350 leaders of volunteers and nonprofit managers across the state responded to a survey. Six themes emerged

Volunteers have a real impact in tough times
  • 30% reported volunteers helped preserve organizational services.
  • 54% reported increased reliance on volunteers compared to two years ago.
  • Of the 15% who experienced a decrease in inquiries from new volunteers:
    • 26% have cut back on services or programs that volunteers helped make possible;
    • 49% reported paid staff have to do work that volunteers used to do.
Volunteering plays an important role for the unemployed
  • 66% of those organizations experiencing increased inquires about volunteering indicated the increase was primarily driven by unemployed people.
  • Job seekers are reportedly gaining references, skills, contacts and other benefits through volunteering.
Volunteer interest is still high
  • 50% reported that volunteer hours have increased compared to a year ago.
  • 33% experienced increased numbers of inquires from potential new volunteers.
Few experienced benefits from the start of the economic recovery
  • 86% had not seen changes in their volunteer program from the apparent start of the economic recovery.
  • 74% percent reported organizational fiscal stress continues.
  • 81% reported the economic downturn has affected the volunteer program in one or more ways.
Less concern over volunteers replacing staff than expected
  • Only 6% reported that program staff indicated they perceive volunteers as a threat to their jobs.
Volunteerism practices are being updated
  • 58% involved volunteers in new roles and positions in the organization.
  • 48% increased flexibility of when volunteers can volunteer.
  • 42% asked volunteers to use their professional or workplace skills.
  • 35% involved volunteers in leadership positions or managing projects.
Conclusions

Organizations are updating their practices to engage volunteers; a higher level of volunteer involvement is part of how many organizations will emerge from the recession. There is increased reliance on volunteers and dramatic shifts in how organizations involve volunteers. Volunteers are having a real impact on organizations during tough economic times and are part of how organizations are transforming to succeed in a changed economic landscape.

Be ready for further changes in who is volunteering. Analysis of comments found 11 changing trends in who is volunteering. It is likely that volunteers' expectations will continue to change and organizations will benefit by being alert to the changes and ready to adapt to them.

It is unrealistic to increase reliance on volunteers without investing more resources. Throughout the report there was documentation that cutting staff for volunteer programs resulted in fewer volunteers and less service. Only 7% of respondents saw an increase in their volunteer program budget in 2010, however, 55% are projecting greater reliance on volunteers in the coming year. It is unrealistic to expect continued growth through volunteers without increased investment in resources.

Volunteer managers should be recognized for the new and more complex role they play. Survey results showed how today's volunteer managers need the skills to market, delegate, inspire and sustain the organization's mission. The expectations on these professionals are greater than ever before. They need support and recognition from their agencies that reflects their increased level of responsibility.

Volunteers have a deep impact in Minnesota communities and have promising potential to further address key problems in the state. The demographic data of survey respondents highlights how widespread volunteerism is in Minnesota. Given the trend this study found in growth of reliance on volunteers, citizen volunteers provide promising potential to address key problems in Minnesota, if we invest to move volunteerism forward.



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