Volunteer recognition by generation

Generational differences influence how people seek recognition.

When I was a child my mother volunteered at a local nursing home. She transported patients in wheel chairs and painted the ladies fingernails. Like many of her friends, she looked forward to the annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Ladies understood that this was a dress-up occasion and everyone wore a stunning hat and white gloves. She knew that she would be publicly thanked and receive a small token for her dedication and service. She might even be awarded another service pin announcing the number of hours that she had served.

My how things have changed! I, nor anyone of my friends, would welcome an event like that today!

Maybe it’s the times we live in or the way groups of generations are bottled together? But different age groups are motivated differently. Let’s look at the groups and what motivates them and how they want to be recognized:

The Silent Generation (1925-1945)-This was my mother’s group. These Volunteers who fall in the silent generation are motivated by public and formal recognition events. Honoring years of service, pins, certificates and useful items are ideas on how to recognize people who fall into this generation.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)-This is my generation. Don’t bother with meaningless trinkets. Baby boomers seek recognition that will recognize their leadership, expertise, hard work or commitment to a program. How about providing them with name tags? Maybe send them personal thank you notes that thank they for sharing their time and talent

Generation X (1965-1980)-This group are flattered by being recognized for their creativity and contributions. Avoid public recognition events. Find activities that include their family and children. Connect with them on a one-to-one bases. Email or social media works too.

Millennials (1981-present)-Millennials are collaborators. Avoid traditional recognition events. But reward them by asking for feedback, reference letters, and a verbal thank you. They may like movie passes or a gift card.

Not every volunteer will fall into one of the above categories. So maybe a varied approach to volunteer recognition might be best. As volunteer managers, we have to learn what type of recognition approach works best with each individual and take time to learn what type of recognition is the most meaningful to them. Sometimes it takes a year full of thought and planning. It does not all have to happen during Volunteer Week!


*Post written by Jean Joley, Executive Director at Volunteer Center RSVP

Purposeful Volunteering – Engaging College Students

“Purpose” is key to engaging students in volunteering and many are eager to donate their biggest asset- TIME. Research from May 3, 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that “77% of college students said they’re more likely to volunteer when they can use their specific skills or expertise to benefit a cause.” Purpose is empowering. Just as students are seeking to find purpose in their education and career-choice, they look to find purpose in their volunteering activities. We need to remember that college students are “people.” Individually, each is looking to belong to a social network, feel loved, and know that they are making an impact. Helping them find ways to do so is connecting them to realize the purpose of their giving and volunteering actions. As a Volunteer Manager you’ll have to do your homework.

volunteerSelling your project to College Administration and Faculty: Local colleges and universities may have a Volunteer Program already in place and you can contact the staff. If not, contacting the Career Placement Center and Student Center are great places to start. Or, you may have to contact Academic Division Heads to discuss the prospects. Our agency has had great results when we contact the Business, Finance and, Accounting Divisions for recruiting VITA Tax Volunteers. Nursing and PA students provided needed support in health related events such as a Military Standdown for Homeless Veterans. Volunteers from Technical Colleges provide needed skill-based service for repair and construction projects. A number of Instructors and Administrators often offer extra credit for volunteer service and encourage students to serve. You’ll be helping academia provide students with real-life experience and broaden their practice and proficiency in the field they are working to master.

Designing your project: A project for busy college students will have to be crafted to meet their tight schedule.

  • It should be at a convenient time and a location.
  • It should enable them to serve with their peers. Create a group-like experience.
  • A drop-in volunteer opportunity creates spontaneous volunteers.
  • Design transformational experiences that highlight how the work makes a real impact.

Marketing the event:

  • Start and end with Social Media: Twitter, Google+, Vimeo, Digg, Flickr, Pinterest, and don’t forget Facebook.
  • College Fairs with “old fashioned” printed fliers.
  • Participate as a work location in a university’s Day of Service event such as IPFW’s The Big Event.
  • Look for pre-formed groups such as athletic teams, student government, and clubs.
  • Make sure you demonstrate the need that this completed project will fulfill.

Selling your project to the students: Give them reasons to volunteer.

  • Tell your story and sell your cause as a “stress-reliever”. College is stressful. But if students volunteer for an organization that serves the less fortunate, they get a chance to see how others live compared to their own life. Nothing relieves stress better than gaining some perspective on how the world really works. Gratitude is an excellent study tool.
  • Be as flexible and transparent as possible.
  • Offer projects that can be done online.
  • Many students express frustration with long, inefficient and unnecessary training and orientation. Even better: put them online.
  • Let them know how volunteering is really worth their time during college years.

The mantra is that a few hours volunteering could change their life and help their future career

-learn to work as part of a team

-learn how to be a leader

-build their resume as they explore careers

-confirm their career choice

-expands their networking connections

-increase chance of scholarships and getting into grad school

We’ve found that a large number of Millennial, Generation X, Generation Y, and Baby Boomer volunteers started their service in college and it became a lifetime commitment. And remember the old adage, “People volunteer because they were asked.” You don’t want them to miss the opportunity to serve.



*Post written by Jean Joley, Executive Director at Volunteer Center RSVP

Are You Ready for One-Day Group Volunteer Projects?

Our agency continues to receive requests for group volunteer projects. They can be youth groups, school groups, church groups, corporate groups, and all assortment of combinations in-between.

Here is what the volunteers want from their volunteer project:

  • They want their group volunteering activity to take from 2 to 4 hours.
  • They want to be all together as much as possible, to socialize throughout the experience – they don’t want to be isolated from each other individually.
  • They usually don’t want to have any obligation beyond that one-time volunteering experience.
  • They want the experience to feel like they have fun, they make a difference, and then they leave.

Group size: The larger the group – the harder it is to find opportunities. Unfortunately, volunteering opportunities for large groups are very hard to find. Finding a group volunteering opportunity for 6 people is much easier than finding a one-day opportunity for 150 people. And, it’s okay to say NO if the needs of the group does not match your agency, the time-line is too short, the liability is too great, or you do not have enough staff to support the project.


Here are some suggestions for working with a group:

  • Designate a group leader
  • Walk through the project with the group leader at least a month to 2 weeks prior
  • Make a list of supplies needed for project (rakes, shovels, gloves, paint, aprons, etc.)
  • Agree (in writing) who will pay for any needed supply items
  • Have all volunteers pre-register (it’s OK to not accept walk-in’s). Consider creating a free online volunteer registration form in a site like Sign-Up Genius.
  • On the day of event have all volunteers sign a liability waiver
  • Give written job descriptions for each assignment
  • Have a short group presentation to explain what they are doing and the difference it will make
  • Have refreshment (even if it’s bottled water)
  • At the end of the project, include a short time for reflection with the group and talk about their volunteer experience
  • Have a short post-event meeting with the group leader
  • Thank everyone as they leave
  • Send a thank-you note to each volunteer and tell them what a difference that their service has made to your agency.

Think ahead: Your agency may have a number of un-met needs that would be perfect for a group:

  • Set up tables and chairs for an event
  • Clean up after an event
  • Cleaning the landscape in spring and fall
  • Sorting boxes of records and items in your storage area

Here are some classic group activity stories from our agency:

  • Last year we had a corporate group that requested a project for 70 people. The time line was 1 – 4 PM on Saturday, October 7th. (With two weeks’ notice) Outcome: we found 3 parks that needed clean up.
  • Another group was doing a Youth Church Conference and they wanted a 2 hour project for 300 youth ages 14-16. The time line was a Sunday from 1-3 PM. Outcome: We declined.
  • A group of (well-meaning) ladies wanted to rock new-born babies in a hospital nursery for two hours one Thursday a month. Outcome: Would not consider even asking a hospital!
  • One dear lady and her friends wanted to bake birthday cakes, and deliver them, to children of prisoners housed in the local jail. Outcome: The jail Chaplains nixed the project.
  • One talented gentleman wanted to build small houses (like on the TV shows) for homeless individuals. He wanted us to set up the classes and he would teach the volunteers. Outcome: We declined.
  • A group of Air Force recruits wanted a 3 hour project that would require strength and hard work. They had just enlisted and thought that this would be something that they could do for the community before starting their service the next morning. Outcome: They lifted heavy tree branches and spread playground mulch at a city park.

My guess is that you have some great stories to tell too! Volunteer groups can be a blessing but they require patience and planning.


jeanWritten by Jean Joley,
Executive Director of Volunteer Center
for PCNRC.

Volunteer Motivations and Expectations – The Interview

Staff who manage volunteers often suffer from “terminal niceness”. We find it very difficult to say “no”. But sometimes it necessary for the good of your agency and the volunteers themselves. People mean well. They come into volunteering with great enthusiasm and diverse expectations. Some are a great fit and some just don’t quite seem to match the needs of the agency. You’ll only learn their motivations, expectations and talents with an interview. A formal interview shows that your organizations takes the volunteer’s involvement seriously. That’s extremely important when it comes to recruiting and retaining quality volunteers.

Interviewing is a learned skill and it takes time and finesse to draw out the information that you will need for a proper volunteer placement. But on top of getting information, you’ll want to give the volunteer sufficient information to make a decision about volunteering for the organization. The decision to volunteer should be a 2-way street. After this exchange of information, both you and the volunteer will have a better idea of whether there is a match between what is needed/offered by the organization and the volunteer.

By the end of the Interview you should know if you want to engage the volunteer or not. From the volunteer you will learn what he/she expects from working with your organization, and why they want to get involved.

We interview volunteers for a number of reasons. We want to make sure the volunteer is going to be a good fit with the organization so, we use the interview as a way to gather information. But on top of getting information, we want to give the volunteer sufficient information to make a decision about volunteering for the organization – the decision to volunteer should be a 2-way street. After this exchange of information, we’ll have a better idea of whether there is a match between what is needed/offered by the organization/volunteer.

You should also ask the right questions to learn if the tasks are appropriate and the best match for the volunteer. An interview should reveal the volunteer’s interests, skills, knowledge and experience. Are there are any limitations that might influence what tasks? Is the volunteer available?

What open-ended questions might you ask during the interview? Here are some examples.

  1. Why are you interested in volunteering with our agency?
  2. Tell me the story of how your chose your education program OR career path OR life work?
  3. What did you enjoy most about your experiences?
  4. What interested you about this volunteer position?
  5. Have you volunteered in the past and what was the most enjoyable?
  6. Are you involved in other organized activities or groups?
  7. What special skills would you like to utilize as a volunteer?
  8. Are there tasks that you do not want or do want to do as a volunteer?
  9. What would you say are three of your strengths?
  10. Do you prefer working independently or with a group?
  11. What would be the ideal volunteer job for you – and why?
  12. What are your expectations of our organization?
  13. What are your personal goals for this experience?
  14. Do you have any concerns about what we expect of you?
  15. Are you interested in some training pertinent to this position?
  16. Are you willing to provide training in your area of expertise to other volunteers or staff members?
  17. Do you have any questions that you would like to ask us?

Screening volunteers for emotional intelligence (ability to perceive, reason with, understand and manage emotions) is often thought of as a key indicator of success in a job or volunteer position. So it’s key to ask questions to help measure emotional intelligence during the volunteer interview and “read between the lines”. Questions might include:

  1. How will this role help you to achieve your goals?
  2. What makes you laugh?
  3. What activities energize and excite you?
  4. How good are you at accepting help from others?
  5. How good are you at asking for help?
  6. What aspect of your work are you passionate about?

It’s important to know that asking just standard yes/no questions will not get the results that you want. Leave some room for the prospective volunteer to speak freely and let them guide the conversation. Listen closely to follow up with enough questions for you to make an educated decision. It’s not just what they say, but how they say it- and what they don’t say too.

On top of your interview you might consider doing personal reference checks. Talking to individuals that know the candidate on a more intimate level can go a long way towards helping you understand whether a potential volunteer would mesh with your organization.

You might also suggest that this prospective volunteer join in one-day projects. You and the volunteer will then both have an opportunity to see if this is a good “fit”. The goal is to build a volunteer base that stays with your organization and builds capacity. But the interview is vital and well-worth the time.


jeanWritten by Jean Joley,
Executive Director of Volunteer Center
for PCNRC.

Volunteer Management Training Opportunity September 2016

In 2004 the Urban Institute conducted the first national study of Volunteer Management Capacity that was funded by the UPS Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the USA Freedom Corps. It showed a number of interesting facts about the use of volunteers. But it also showed the untapped potential of volunteers to build the capacity of nonprofit and civic organizations. The study highlights the potential of expanding agency capacity with the investment in volunteer management.

The report states that four-in-five charities use volunteers and a large majority of charities report their volunteers are beneficial to their operations. But are they getting the most out of their volunteer program? Volunteers can boost the quality of services in charities and congregations while reducing costs. However, these organizations are not always fully equipped to make the most of their volunteer’s talents and skills.

Charities report that these volunteers are important to their operations, and that volunteers do a good job in providing services. At least six-in-ten charities indicate that their volunteers provide substantial cost savings and greatly increase the quality of services provided.

Volunteers are a valuable financial resource. A volunteer’s time is an important resource for many charities and congregations, especially those that do not have the money to hire labor to carry out certain tasks. Volunteer time is comparable to a monetary donation. Independent Sector, a national advocate for the nonprofit sector, computes annually an equivalent average hourly wage for a volunteer’s time. The calculation is derived from the average hourly wage of non-agricultural workers plus 12 percent for fringe benefits. By this calculation, the typical 2015 volunteer value was $23.56 per hour.

The devotion of staff time to Volunteer Management is noted as the most notable “best practice.” The best prepared and most effective volunteer programs are those with paid staff members who dedicate a substantial portion of their time to management of volunteers. But full-time Volunteer Managers are rare. A key finding was that most charities and congregations are unable to invest substantial staff resources in Volunteer Management.

The study also indicated that the presence of a paid staff coordinator does not mean the staffer spends much time on volunteer administration, or that he or she is trained in the field. The study found that most paid staff volunteer coordinators spend about 30% of their work time devoted to volunteer management. They had multiple other work related responsibilities.

Sixty-six percent of charities that have a paid staff members dedicating time to managing volunteers report that the staff has had some type of formal training in volunteer administration, such as coursework, workshops, or attendance at conferences that focus on Volunteer Management. The fact that many coordinators are getting some training suggests that many are interested in learning about how to manage volunteers. However, the small amount of time spent on volunteer administration suggests that charities and congregations do not have the resources to allocate to volunteer management or that they devote their organizational resources primarily to other efforts.

We now have a new local resource for Volunteer Managers training for both new and experienced agency staff. Thanks to a Capacity Building Grant from SERVE Indiana, a low-cost Volunteer Managers training program will be offered in September, 2016. The Volunteer Center will partner with the Paul Clark Non Profit Resource Center to offer this two-part professional training program. Topics will include Recruiting, Organizational Readiness and Risk Management; Developing Your Volunteer Program and Finding Volunteers; Screening, Selecting, and Matching Volunteers; Training, Support, Supervision, and Retention of Volunteers; and Motivation and Recognition of Volunteers. More information to come!


jeanWritten by Jean Joley,
Executive Director of Volunteer Center
for PCNRC.

Volunteer Engagement

Many thanks to our guests and guests presenters for yesterday’s Volunteer Engagement program!

If you were not able to attend, please contact the Center or our presenters, Jean Joley of Volunteer Center or Sandy Screeton of the Allen County Public Library for more information.


Building a Winning Volunteer Program

In addition to discussing the services of the Volunteer Center, our speaker’s highlight our regional professional association for volunteer managers, NIAVA – Northeast Indiana Association of Volunteer Administrators.

The NIAVA Mission:

NIAVA seeks to promote professionalism in the field of volunteer administration and to provide those who manage volunteers with a forum for the exchange of ideas, the tools with which to upgrade skills, and a framework for developing and maintaining high standards of professional competency.

Why join NIAVA?

  • Membership fee is only $30 per year and brings you the following benefits:
  • Bi-monthly meetings featuring informative and highly qualified speakers
  • Annual Full Day Professional Development Seminar/Retreat
  • The opportunity to promote agency events the NIAVA Newsletter
  • The opportunity to be mentor by an experienced volunteer manager
  • Networking and sharing problems and solutions with others who work in the
  • challenging field of volunteers.

NIAVA resources



Reminder: April 23@4 program on Volunteer Engagement

Don’t forget to register for our April 23@4 program on Volunteer Engagement, led by Ani Etter of Fort Wayne’s own Volunteer Center and Sandy Screeton, Volunteer Manager for the Allen County Public Library.

April 23rd at 4:00
Allen County Public Library, Main Library

Is your organization thinking of starting a volunteer program or revamping an existing one?

Sandy and Ani will discuss the essential fundamentals of a successful volunteer program and how to get started.

Information about mentoring opportunities with the Northeast Indiana Association of Volunteer Administrators (NIAVA) and local resources through the Volunteer Center will be presented.

Register at this link to our registration calendar.

Our regular 23@4 Program series covers a variety of topics on running effective nonprofits. When the 23rd of the month falls on a weekday, at 4:00 we’re programming for nonprofits.