There’s nothing worse than a washed up, frazzled, or burnt out volunteer to drag down your organization’s energy. As a nonprofit, you likely need volunteers to keep you running effectively and economically. Volunteers have a variety of motivations for working with you: they could be giving back to an organization that has helped them or their family; they may feel a sense of duty, obligation, or purpose; or they may be using their work with you an opportunity to get experience or build skills in a new field.You want to make sure they enjoy the work, feel a sense of accomplishment, and feel acknowledged for their contributions. The guidelines below will help you succeed.
Share your vision
As a leader, it is your job to explain to the volunteers the overall vision and mission for your organization. Sharing your vision gives volunteers an appreciation of the larger goal. Volunteers also want to understand how the work they do contributes to that vision. The work can sometimes be grueling and thankless, but if there is a clear connection to the higher purpose, your volunteers will feel good about the work they do.
Your nonprofit should have a clear and organized set of policies and instructions, especially since you may have many part-time, temporary, and transient volunteer workers. Without clear instructions, people may waste time doing rogue work or rework, and no one likes to waste time. Setting measurable goals for volunteers helps them stay on task and feel a sense of accomplishment. Follow-ups from leadership are important guideposts to success. Make sure, however, that the work has some challenge built in and is not all drudgery. Be open to having volunteers carve out their own responsibilities or suggest ways you haven’t thought of to accomplish the work.
Match the Skills and Desires of the Volunteer to the Task
Ever have someone who hates to lead be put in a position of leadership? Or a math-o-phobe be chartered with balancing the books for a multi-million-dollar campaign? Disaster. Work with the volunteers to understand where they want to provide their service and how you can create a win-win match. Make sure there are a variety of roles for all types and skill levels of volunteers. Recognize too that some people are volunteering to get away from their day jobs, so don’t assume they want to pursue the same volunteer activity that they do at their 9-5 job.
One of the most important things you can do is acknowledge the contributions of your volunteers. Frequent “thank yous” are appreciated, of course. Even more important, most people love public recognition, such as awards ceremonies, parties, and dinners. Whenever possible, share kudos and news from outside. Offer letters of recommendation or other documentation for the volunteers’ current or future employers.
As important as it is to recruit volunteers, it is also important to know when to end the volunteer relationships. Especially with higher pressure leadership positions, have a defined end point and an exit strategy for your volunteers so that they do not burn out. Look for ways to “promote” junior people to assume roles with more responsibility, and build a pipeline of fresh talent.
Rollins wants you to have a happy, motivated, and efficient and effective volunteer community to help your non-profit organization succeed. The work you do is too important to expect anything less.
Photo Credit: Barack Obama Campaign via Photopin cc
As a nonprofit organization, you most likely depend upon volunteers to help you thrive, whether they are volunteering on an ongoing basis or pitching in for special events. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64.5 million people volunteered in the United States through or for an organization at least once between September 2011 and September 2012. Numbers of volunteers seem to be increasing slightly, possibly the result of the Volunteer Protection Act, which limits lawsuits for volunteers. While the increase in volunteers is great news for non-profits, volunteer participation is not without risk. You need to consider ways to protect your organization from exposure due to volunteer actions.
What is the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA)?
The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) was signed into law in 1997 to encourage people to participate in social service organizations on a voluntary basis. The VPA states that "No volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the volunteer acting on behalf of the organization or entity."
Under the VPA, volunteers are protected as long as they adhere to a set of conditions, such as the following:
· They have proper licenses or certificates for the job they are performing
· Any harm caused is not as a result of operating a motor vehicle
· Any harm caused is not “caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed.”
· Volunteer actions are not found to be crimes of violence, hate, sexual in nature; are not committed while under the influence of alcohol; or are not violations of civil rights, labor, or tax provisions.
States may impose additional conditions on volunteers under this Act.
What is missing from the Volunteer Protection Act?
The Volunteer Protection Act is a worthy piece of legislation. However, while the VPA protects volunteers against litigation arising from their social service, it does not protect the nonprofit organization itself from litigation. The organization may still be liable for the negligent actions of the volunteer. Furthermore, compensated individuals, including employees and any compensated officers, are not immune from litigation.
How can you protect your nonprofit from liability?
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance protects your organization from lawsuits involving bodily injury and property damage. The policy automatically covers the "business" named on the policy as well as employees. You should consider adding volunteers as insured.
Directors and Officers (D&O) Liability Insurance
D&O Liability Insurance serves to protect an individual and entity against significant exposures which may not be covered under volunteer protection laws. Until a court determines whether the volunteer protection law applies to a volunteer, D&O insurance can serve to indemnify the association and volunteer against legal defense costs.
Volunteer Accident Insurance
Volunteer accident policies provide a certain limit of coverage, usually for medical expenses. They respond when a volunteer is injured in an accident while engaged in activities for the benefit of the organization.
Rollins wants your organization, and your valued volunteers, to be protected as you perform your important services to your community. Contact your Rollins representative for more information on how we can help you.
Photo Credit: Dave Bezaire and Susi Havens-Bezaire via Photopin cc
I recently moderated a panel in front of nearly 100 nonprofit and business leaders. Our goal was to encourage skills based volunteerism by serving as a board member of a nonprofit organization.
We told them:
- Why they should do it
- How to start the process
- The impact they will have on the organization and community at large
- And what they will get out of it.
With me on the panel were 4 fabulous business and nonprofit leaders. Together we gave our perspectives on board service.
Alisa Kesten, Executive Director of The Volunteer Center
Deborah Bagatta-Bowles, CEO of YWCA of Central & Northern Westchester
Rick Rakow, Board Chair of The Food bank of Westchester
Timothy Donohue, Board Chair of Westchester Coalition of the Hungry and Homeless
In the end, more than 20 people expressed interest in serving on a board. It is now the job the The Volunteer Center to find nonprofit organizations for these dedicated skills based volunteers.
We took away the following:
- Board service is a win-win for both you and the organization
- This is one of the best ways to grow professionally
- You circle of influence will grow dramatically. And you will make lifelong friends.
- Board members often start as front line volunteers
- The more you give of yourself, the more you get back
- Getting young people on a board is another way to plug them into the community and potentially keep them here longer.
- New York State ranks dead last in the USA in terms of adults who say they have volunteered in any capacity during the past year.
- Board members should make a financial give/get pledge. Even if only $100.
- Prepare a personal resume when looking for a board seat that highlights your skills.
- Request a clear understanding from the organization of their expectations.
Skills based volunteering is so critical to nonprofits. The fact that New York State is dead last out of the USA shows we have a lot of work to do here in our community.
I would love some feedback, please take a minute to post a comment or email me with any thoughts or suggestions for future blog posts
This month I am pleased to provide an interview with Alisa who has been the Executive Director of The Volunteer Center for two years after serving on the board for 5 years. I have been a board member for two years and look forward to my continued work with Alisa. As you will see below the goal of The Volunteer Center is to promote volunteerism. This is such a critical component to so many nonprofits.
Last year Volunteer Center inspired more than 18,000 people to give back to nonprofits. Over 246,000 volunteer service hours were devoted to 500 nonprofits volunteer power which translated into economic value of $7.5 million.
Alisa H. Kesten
Tell me a little bit about The Volunteer Center?
The Volunteer Center is a one-stop resource for all things volunteer. For over 60 years, we have encouraged adults to serve, youth to build character, families to bond, young professionals to excel as leaders, mature adults to stay engaged and businesses to address community needs. Through our online database at www.volunteer-center.org we match volunteers to meaningful opportunities every day. At this moment we have 631 active volunteers in the database – something to suit anyone’s interest and availability. That same database, HandsOn Connect, also serve as tool for volunteer management for nonprofit organizations.
What specific support do you offer nonprofits in regards to Volunteers?
We currently work with more than 500 local nonprofit organizations. They range in size from those that have no paid staff at all to some with hundreds of employees, including a full time Volunteer Coordinator. So our range of support varies from finding a few volunteers for a one day project, to fulfilling an ongoing skills-based role, to helping arrange for a full day of service with 100+ volunteers, and everything in between. We help nonprofits determine where and how they can use volunteers. Then we drive volunteers to these organizations through social media, community-wide days of service, outreach activities in the community, one-on-one, managed corporate days of service, etc.
We also provide professional development for nonprofit staff whose job it is to manage and recruit volunteers. We are currently providing training on how to utilize HandsOn Connect. We also manage The Westchester Association for Volunteer Administration (WAVA), the local professional association for mentoring and sharing best practices and solving problems together.
Tell me a little about how you work with for-profits to encourage their employees to volunteer?
For-profit businesses are great partners in our efforts to focus volunteers to address community needs. There are many ways in which we can work with companies of all sizes to support their interests. Here are just a few examples:
- Manage Customized Corporate Days of Service where employees can volunteer all together as a team.
- Engage companies in our two community-wide days of action on MLK Day and 9/11.
- Provide on-site “lunch and learn” sessions where our staff presents an overview of our services that are available to employees and their families.
- Build leadership through Leadership Westchester, a cutting-edge eight month learning program that prepares passionate, knowledgeable and highly-skilled individuals to assume positions of influence and impact, particularly as Board Members at nonprofits.
Why are volunteers so important to nonprofits, and what value do they bring?
As we all know, nonprofits are asked to do more and more with fewer dollars. It is just not possible to fulfill important missions without both skills-based and front-line volunteers. But the secret that is shared by all volunteers is that you get back more than you give. It’s an incredible win-win situation.
How does The Volunteer Center help to develop board members for nonprofits and what value does that bring?
One of our signature programs is Leadership Westchester as described above. I’m quite passionate about it because this was my personal pathway to The Volunteer Center. Graduates spend time honing skills, focusing on areas of deep interest, and learning the basics on what it means to serve on a nonprofit board. Nonprofits should definitely consider Leadership Westchester as a pipeline for qualified candidates to consider for board membership.
Check out our previous post “Managing Volunteers In Your Organization”
I would love some feedback, please take a minute to post a comment or email me with any thoughts or suggestions for future blog posts
Like most nonprofit organization, the majority of your workforce consists of both short term and long term volunteers. These volunteers are devoting their time and energy whether it be for a short time or on a regular basis, they are helping the community through your organization. Although these people are offering their services and help without receiving or expecting reimbursement, they still require management to assure that their jobs are done correctly. Furthermore, it is necessary that your institute manages its volunteers to reduce the risk of harm to the community members you are attempting to serve as well as the volunteers themselves.
Here are three types of liabilities that may affect your organization:
- Direct Liability: The organization or volunteer is liable for an action or failing to act, such as not properly screening volunteers who will work with children or providing volunteers with unsafe tools such as a ladder while doing repair work.
- Indirect Liability: The nonprofit is liable for the actions of a volunteer on the organization’s behalf. For example if volunteers damage city property while working for an organization in a park or medical bills accumulate by a community member after an injury while supervised by a volunteer at an organization-sponsored event.
- Strict Liability: The need to decide carelessness is not necessary because accountability for inflicting harm is automatic.
Similar to for profits, nonprofit must develop a training program for its volunteers. The program should depend specifically on the position the volunteer holds, the knowledge and understanding he/she brings to the role, the needs of the community members he/she is serving, and the policies in place by your organization.
While in the training program, volunteers should be given a safety handbook outlining your organization’s policies and should sign a waiver.
After volunteers complete the training program, your staff members should continue to supervise and manage them. Assure that your staff members feel contented delegating responsibilities to the volunteers and correcting them if they make mistakes. Most importantly if a volunteer is acting inappropriately, advise the staff members to dismiss the volunteer before he/she inflicts harm onto another person or him/herself.
On another note, provide motivation to your volunteers to work hard for the community. Encourage them and praise them for giving it their all. In addition, provide them with a t-shirt, hat or poster as gratitude for their hard work.
I would love some feedback, please take a minute to post a comment or email me with any thoughts or suggestions for future blog posts.
Last year more than 60 million Americans volunteered for not for profits. This is one of the largest exposures for not for profits. Attached is a document that may help you manage this process.