Tag Archives: volunteers

Finding Volunteers

April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week. It’s the perfect time to recruit new volunteers to your organization.

Start by putting out a call for volunteers. If your organization wants help, you’re going to have to ask for it. Plan an open house for prospective volunteers and advertise it. Your website, blog, Facebook, and newsletter are the obvious places to start, but where else can you find volunteers in Charlottesville?

Online Listing Services

Submit a volunteer listing on the following websites: CNE, Idealist.org, and VolunteerMatch. You can also advertise for volunteers on Craigslist and CvilleCalendar, or take out a free ad at Cvillenews.com.

Local Media

Once you’re planned an open house or volunteer orientation, alert the media. Send out a press release. Suggest a feel good story about your organization. When a reporter calls, push your need for volunteers. NBC-29 and CBS-19 are really good about highlighting organizations’ need for volunteers.

Flyers

Need volunteers for your schoolyard garden? Tack up a flyer at Southern States or Snow’s. Looking for vegetarian volunteers? Post a flyer outside of Integral Yoga.  A few well-placed flyers around town can help you target the types of volunteers you’re looking for.

The Young and Young at Heart

Depending on your organization, there may be a place for children to volunteer. If so, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are often looking for ways to give back to their community.

Many high schools require student to complete a certain number of volunteer hours before graduation. Either as part of a club or as an individual, students are often seeking service opportunities. Contact the school’s guidance department.

Senior citizens have a lifetime of skills, knowledge, and experience that can benefit your organization. Both JABA and the Senior Center have active volunteer groups. Contact them and let them know that you’re seeking volunteers. Whether it’s a one time mailing or a weekly jig, they’re bound to have seniors who are interested.

Colleges

Charlottesville nonprofits are blessed to have Madison House as part of our community. Each week, more than 3,000 UVa students volunteer through this fellow nonprofit. If your organization hasn’t partnered with them, you’re missing out. UVa’s alumni are also active volunteers in our community. Check out Cavs Care or contact the UVa Club of Charlottesville to find out more.

PVCC offers service learning in many of its courses. Talk to a professor who’s coursework connects with your organization’s mission and they may offer their students credit in exchange for volunteer work.

Faith-Based Groups

If you or someone you know is active in a faith-based group, spread the word about your need for volunteers. Many faith-based organizations donate to nonprofit each month. If you’ve received such a donation, why not ask if you can thank them in person or go speak to their group? When you’re there make a pitch for volunteers.

Local Corporations

Many corporations encourage their employees to give back to the community by volunteering. Ask a friend who works at one of our major area employers to help you recruit volunteers, or contact their community relations manager. You can frame it as a team-building activity, and possibly get an in with their employee giving campaigns.

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Stepping on Toes

I spent this afternoon working with a local nonprofit to implement a form automation system. They have been laboriously filling out and processing about one hundred forms a week, all by hand. They knew that there was probably a more efficient way to do things, but nobody had the time to research, much less implement, a new method.

Right off, they admitted that they weren’t tech savvy. My initial thoughts of online file sharing and database solutions seemed intimidating. So, after talking with their head volunteer, I devised a spreadsheet to be mail merged into a form designed to their liking. They were thrilled. This was exactly what they needed—straightforward, not too fancy, but still professional and easy to use. There was only one problem: Sally.

Sally (not her real name) has been volunteering with this organization for years. She’s the one that gathers all of the information that populates the forms. Sally barely uses email. She may or may not be capable of using Word, and there’s no way that she’ll use Excel. And with that, two hours of relating the problem, working together to solve it, and implementing a solution went down the drain. Enthusiastic smiles faded into eye-rolling slumps. The meeting was over.

Like many nonprofits, this organization simply would not exist without its volunteers. However, Sally is now costing the organization several hours of valuable time each week. Where she had been helping, she’s now holding them back. Volunteers who work with her are frustrated (and finger-cramped). By not addressing the Sally situation, the organization is putting her feelings ahead of its own best interests.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with volunteers like Sally:

Reassess: Talk to the volunteer. They may be as unhappy in their current position as you are with their performance. Who knows, maybe Sally is overwhelmed and would be relieved to have someone else take over this task. Maybe she doesn’t realize how things could be improved, or how she could make others’ jobs easier.

Reallocate: Transfer the volunteer to another task. Make them feel even more needed and appreciated in a new position. Perhaps, they have additional skills that aren’t being utilized.

Retrain: If a volunteer has the time and the motivation then teach them the skills that you need them to use. While teaching Sally how to use Excel would be daunting, you could recommend that she take a class if she wants to continue in her current role.

Retire: If a volunteer can no longer do the work that needs to be done, you need to address the problem before it becomes damaging to the organization or demoralizing to your other volunteers. Celebrate their service and help them retire with respect.

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Overheard at Nonprofits: Volunteers

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. Across the country, Americans will answer Dr. King’s call to action: “What are you doing for others?” by joining in volunteer efforts to serve their neighbors and communities.

Thanks in part to President Obama’s national call to service volunteerism is surging. However, nonprofits that rely heavily on volunteers, often don’t utilize them to their fullest. In homage to “Overheard in New York,” here’s a few things I’ve overheard at area nonprofits that make me shudder. The solutions may seem obvious, but all too often nonprofits are guilty of flaws that lead to an unsatisfying volunteering experience.

Overheard: “Oh, she’s just my volunteer.”

Solution: Have a structure in place. People should be volunteering for the organization, not just for individual staff members. Do you have a volunteer policy? What about procedures for working with volunteers? A volunteer handbook? Most important, do you have someone to manage them? Volunteers need to know who they report to and how they fit into the organization’s structure.

Overheard: “Don’t you have anything for me to do?”

Solution: Be prepared before accepting volunteers. Schedule your volunteers, know when they’re coming, and have something ready for them to do for the entire time that they’re there. If you don’t have tasks ready, reschedule for another time. It’s better than having a volunteer show up only to feel like they’re not needed. Don’t waste their time or yours.

Overheard: “Sorry, I didn’t know you were a volunteer.”

Solution: Treat them like a new employee. Show them around the office. Take the time to explain how the organization operates, and how things get done. Make sure that they are comfortable and don’t leave them to do a task without checking in on them. Introduce them to other volunteers and staff. Schedule their time on a calendar that all staff can see, so that everyone knows when volunteers are in the office and who they are.

Overheard: “Well, I could have done that.”

Solution: Teach ‘em to fish. Volunteers are often more capable than we think. All too often organizations mitigate boring, administrative tasks to volunteers for fear that they might screw up more involved projects. If you have a competent volunteer, take the time to train them to do more advanced tasks. It will save you time in the long run.

Overheard: “I would love to have been there, if only I’d known.”

Solution: Keep them in the loop. Don’t just communicate with volunteers when you want something from them, and if you do want something from them, make sure to communicate it. Share success stories. Let them know what’s coming up on the calendar. Tell them what you’re working on. For a dedicated volunteer, your newsletter should recap what they already know, and not be full of surprises.

And of course… Always say thank you. I hate seeing volunteers walk out of an organization without anyone saying goodbye, or more important, “Thanks!” They’re probably not doing it for the recognition, but it never hurts to acknowledge them. Everyone likes to know they’re appreciated.

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