National Volunteer Week – April 23-29, 2017

That week always seems to creep up on me and I need to make plans for the celebration and come up with brilliant and “low-cost or cost-free” ways to honor volunteers. Also, it needs to be NOT a “labor intensive” promotion.

National Volunteer Week was established in 1974 under President Richard Nixon. In subsequent years it has grown substantially under the leadership of the Points of Light. It is seen as an opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers who lend their time, talent, voice and support to causes they care about in their community. In the United States “Service Unites” is celebrated April 23rd -29th. But celebrations are world-wide:

• Volunteer Australia “Give Happy – Live Happy” May 14-18th.
• Volunteering Canada “Volunteering, Eh?” April 23 -29th
• United Kingdom Volunteering “You make the difference” June 1-7”
• Volunteer Ireland “I-VOL” May 16-22
• Wales Council for Voluntary Action “Recognize, reward and recruit volunteers” June 1-7

So, for Volunteer Managers it has become a “must-do” celebration. No budget-no worry! Here are some strategic ways to honor your volunteers in a non-traditional manner from VolunteerMatch:

  • Give them a Bigger Picture
  • Let your volunteers know the outcomes of their labors. Their role may be small mundane tasks but it’s an important part of the big picture.
  • Provide Food – A cookie tray goes a long way! For our agency we’ve had a tradition of giving brightly wrapped “Pay Day” candy bars. We also give them the accomplishments of our agency and thank them for being part of the change in their community.
  • Check-in with your Volunteers
  • Knowing their name and a handshake is very important to people who care enough to give back to their community.
  • Feature Volunteer Stories on your blog or website. We use quotes from volunteers to highlight the importance of volunteers and make them part of the team.
  • Give Your Volunteers Awards – Are there any volunteers who have gone above-and-beyond? Nominate them for the Indiana SERVE Awards or other award programs.
  • Give small tokens of gratitude – Pictures are great ways to thank Volunteers. You can post their pictures around the agency and put them on social media. Make sure that they have a copy of the picture to show their family and friends.
  • Handwritten Thank You Cards
    Sometimes the best way to show your appreciation is the old fashioned way- sending them a thank you card. In the age of email and social media, the handwritten letter is a novelty. You’ll get bonus points for personalizing the message, such as thanking them for a specific task they did during their time of volunteering.

So you still have time to put together a simple plan or a grand event. Volunteers just need to know that they are appreciated.


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

Volunteer Management Training – September 13th and 27th, 2016

You’re invited to the Fundamentals of Volunteer Management Workshop as hosted by the Volunteer Center.

When: September 13th and 27th, 2016 from 9 am to 2 pm

Where: Allen County Public Library, Main (900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne) – Meeting Room A

What: Get the tools to go boldly where no one has gone before…volunteer

  • organizational readiness and risk management
  • program development
  • finding, screening, selecting and matching volunteers
  • training, supporting, and supervising volunteers
  • motivating, retaining, and recognizing volunteers
  • round table discussions facilitated by experienced Volunteer Managers

Cost: $25 for both days (includes lunch, Certificate of Completion, and a Toolkit)

An RSVP is required. Sign up here.

For more information contact Loaine Hagerty at or call 260-424-3505

Training The New Breed of Skill Based Volunteers

Training The New Breed of Skill Based Volunteers … who perhaps think that you can’t teach them anything!

Thomas W. McKee has tackled this problem with a great book, The New Breed: Understanding and Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer (Group Publishing). The New Breed details the new cultural shift in volunteer management and also includes valuable, applicable resources for leaders.

A new volunteer is like a new employee and training is vital. A number of retired baby-boomers come to us from professions such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, or professors. And another hot prospective volunteer today is the young, single professional, right out of college, who is eager to help us. You get the picture. But then we ask this professional to attend the agency orientation and training program. This requires a trainer who may find his audience “less than enthusiastic” about this required training.

In this day and age we find that the motivation for learning has a short window. People learn what they want to learn. If learning is forced on us, even if we master it temporarily (for example, by cramming for a driver’s test), it is soon forgotten. One study found that the half-life of knowledge learned in an MBA course was about six weeks. Many folks attend classes merely to earn an accreditation or fulfill a requirement. That is an advantage that we have as volunteer managers. Volunteers are volunteering because they have a passion about a mission to change their world and for the most part are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen-including training. Continue reading

Volunteer 2016 Award for Excellence

SERVE Indiana is seeking nominations for outstanding people, groups, and initiatives who make great contributions to their local communities and the state through service and volunteerism.  volunteer center

  • Exemplary Volunteer Program
    • Corporate Service
    • Youth Volunteerserve indiana
    • National Service
    • Exemplary Service-Learning
    • Faith-based Volunteer
    • Volunteerism
    • Lifetime Achievement

Award honorees are recognized for outstanding volunteer contributions to causes that include health care, neighborhood revitalization, youth and senior activities, the arts, education, justice, housing, nutrition and social services.

At the annual awards reception, each honoree receives a beautiful customized award, presented by members of the Serve Indiana Commission.

Deadline for nominations is July 18, 2016.

To nominate a volunteer, click here.

Volunteering Breakfast – June 27, 2016

Volunteer Center presents the Community Leaders Breakfast

volunteering the next generation

When: June 27, 2016 from 8:00 am to 9:15 am

Where: Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne (555 E. Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802)

Why: Go boldly where no one has gone before…..

  • Expand your talent pool
  • Utilize skills-based and technical volunteers
  • Identify large scale projects
  • Access listing of and connect with corporate volunteer groups
  • Improve your community relations
  • Increase your financial resources

How: RSVP by June 23rd here.

For more information contact Loaine Hagerty at (260)424-3505 or  


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.

Retention – Keeping Valuable Volunteers

A great volunteer is an asset to an agency. The National Points of Light Foundation reports that approximately 6 million volunteers are active in American nonprofit organizations, yearly contributing a total of more than 15 billion volunteer hours. They are the dependable rock-solid force that we want to keep in our agency. Retaining those volunteers is an art form. But exactly what does it take to keep volunteers? Let’s look at some factors that will reduce turnover.

The Interview –Searching for expertise

It is crucial to gather information from a newly recruited volunteer. Find out not only his/her current skills and past experiences, but also what skills they wish to develop through volunteer activities. This is a valuable means of evaluating the tasks that should be assigned to maximize retention. A number of years ago a new volunteer noted on his application that he had skills in “data processing”. During the interview it was revealed that he knew a lot more than data processing! He had recently retired as head of technology at a major Indiana manufacturer and understood online data systems, web site interface, purchasing, and much more. His skills might never have been utilized if we had not asked the right questions. Since then we’ve given him more challenging tasks. He loves that he is utilizing his skills in a meaningful way. Not only has he assisted our agency, but he’s been a great resource to a number of other nonprofit agencies on software and hardware consulting. He has even done the installations and trained the staff. What a gift!

Orientation- Investing in the volunteervolunteer retention

What is your orientation process for volunteers?  If you have one for new agency employees- modify it for new volunteers. Might the prospect have the opportunity to shadow another volunteer prior to beginning their service? Who will walk the volunteer through the offices and introduce him/her to staff members? Will there be training on the phone system, and the printer? Don’t forget the break room and let them know where the coffee pot is located! Make them feel welcome!

Skill Development – Volunteer Training

Some volunteers want to bring their expertise to your group, whether it is their marketing background, computer experience, or people skills. Others may volunteer to enhance certain skills or maintain ones they already possess. Still others come with the desire to learn something new. Offering opportunities to learn new skills is an important factor for service.  Volunteer jobs can be designed in hierarchical levels, allowing a volunteer to advance over time and acquire a higher “status.” With each level, an organization can allow for increases in self-direction and decision making. Not only will the added responsibilities make the volunteer feel “promoted” but he or she will also feel more engaged. Volunteer coordinators may also want to reward well-proven volunteers by allowing them to serve as a trainer or mentor to new recruits.

Personal Growth

Many volunteers come to an organization hoping to expand their horizons. A number of volunteers will use their experience acquired by volunteering like a sort of internship in hopes to securing a new job or to help them advance in their careers. Others will use their volunteering to aid them in making career or educational choices.

Another group may simply want to use their volunteer service as a way to cultivate new interests. Volunteers enjoy challenging tasks and look for opportunities to step up to the next level. If this sense of challenge is lacking, volunteers will not generally continue service with an organization. Make sure to give your volunteers a mix of interesting, more challenging activities along with more “routine” assignments.

Contact with Clients- Face-to- face with those we help

A number of volunteers want to work directly with clients. It can be rewarding to see the face of those who they serve, and a simple “thank you” from a client can be the motivation to continue their service. Make sure that you volunteer knows the mission of your agency, the importance of confidentiality and how their service makes a difference.

Recognition of Service- Letting them know the they have made a difference

Volunteers need to be recognized for their service. An important part of volunteer retention is recognizing and appreciating the time and effort volunteers bring to your organization. Recognition can be a big morale booster. Volunteers who stay are ones who feel they are making a significant impact. DON’T wait for a formal occasion to say “thank you. You’re doing a great job!” DO remember their birthdays and don’t forget National Volunteer Week (April 10-16, 2016).  Sometimes the smallest of recognition means the most. Our volunteer tax preparers look forward to a gift bag with “Payday Candy Bars” that we distribute during mid-March. It’s an inexpensive and fun way to thank them for their service and give them an update on the progress of the tax program in mid-season. Other agencies like a more formal once-a-year volunteer appreciation night to award certificates, etc.


Even though volunteers are not compensated monetarily, your organization should definitely consider rewarding them in other ways. Make sure that they have all the tools to get their job done and consider giving them their own desks or workspaces.


Remember that it’s not what volunteers can do for you that keeps them coming back, it’s what you can do for them. Many volunteer retention factors are under the direct control of the organization and a small investment is worth the effort to keep a volunteer. Remember, word of mouth travels fast. A volunteer who has a great volunteer experience will tell their friends about how the organization is great. With a minimal effort an agency will see an increase in volunteer involvement and retention and continue building a great volunteer team.

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