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

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

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.

Corporate and Group Volunteering

To quote the newly deceased David Bowie, “We are Ch-ch-Changing”.

That seems to be the new mantra in the corporate volunteer world. In the new age of corporate social responsibility it’s a great idea to gather a force of volunteers to invest in projects that groups believe in passionately. The request is for dramatic one-time events that can be completed in just a few hours.

Here are some examples from The Volunteer Center with planning, coordinating, and supporting corporate volunteer requests.

Target Store Maintenance Staff- wanted to use their skills to assist low income children. We sent them to Early Childhood Alliance to inspect their furnace and air conditioning units. They also power-washed the building.

Excelis Corporation – requested projects that assisted with homeless Veterans. The employee team painted a number of rooms and installed new shelving systems at both Lugar Safe Haven and Liberty Landing sites.

Altria Corporation– requested a project to support low-income children. The Regional employee group purchased new warm winter coats for children in the community and worked a full five hours sorting mountains of donated coats for the “Coats for Kids” campaign.

Air Force Recruiting Office – requested outside volunteering events for new recruits. Eager young recruits worked together to rake McMillan Park and spread mulch over the vast playground area. The next morning the new recruits boarded a bus together to start their new military careers.

How can you be a part of the corporate volunteer world?

One thing you can do is contact Jean Joley, Executive Director of Volunteer Center for guidance.

Written by Jean Joley, Executive Director of Volunteer Center for PCNRC. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Volunteer Center or the PCNRC.

Volunteer Management Book Review

Volunteerism, a word we know well from the United We Serve campaign, working in the nonprofit sector, or hearing those that came before us encourage charity. People who give their time are crucial to organizations and yet not all of us have the tools or experience to manage volunteers.

Have no fear, a book is near! We have resources that could potentially help you. I recommend a specific circulating book – Nancy Sakaduski’s Managing Volunteers: How to Maximize Your Most Valuable Resource. The book begins with the 10 Commandments of Good Volunteer Management. My top favorite are (1) Do unto volunteers as you would have them do unto you, (2) Thou shalt not kill enthusiasm, and (3) Thou shalt not forget that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Sakaduski’s book is a comprehensive look at everything to do with volunteer management. The book is 198 pages and 40 some pages are website references, end notes, and an index. The author does well in addressing recruitment, selection, training, matching the volunteer to a task, retention, awarding, policies, and even a whole chapter on potential problems (The Over-Promiser or The Bulletproof type volunteers).

I do like Sakaduski’s use of quotes throughout the book such as:managing volunteers book

  • “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
  • “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

I ponder the significance of the quotes’ meaning and it gives me a sense of what direction the author will take in that particular section. Another thing that is well done in this book is the end of chapter – “Questions to Get You Started.”

What could you do to create a better sense of empowerment for the volunteers?

  • Are there ways you might create more challenging assignments for motivated volunteers?
  • Do you have policies in place to cover areas of risk and liability?

Sometimes we need a little prompt to get going, whether it’s our first time or needing a fresh outlook.  The questions might be helpful  to ask your Board of Directors or other staff members and begin a dialogue.

*This book is available for check out at the Allen County Public Library. It is shelved at the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center. Call number 302.14 D33M or click here to view the book record. 

Reminder: Connect to Potential Board Members – Invite Emerging Leaders to a Committee

Through our nationally recognized Get on Board programs, we’ve trained, connected and supported more than 160 emerging leaders who want to serve nonprofits!

Are you ready to connect them to your organization? Submit an upcoming committee opportunity no later than Friday, June 27th.

Instead of engaging directly in board service, we encourage you and your potential emerging leader board members both to get to know each other through committee work or task forces.

Get Connected Event

Do you have any current or upcoming committee opportunities? Share them with us by June 27th for the next issue of Stay Connected, our emerging leader newsletter.

Let us share these with our 160+ emerging leaders through our Stay Connected emails.

Details Continue reading

Connect to Potential Board Members – Invite Emerging Leaders to a Committee

Since November of 2011, we’ve partnered with YLNI to train, connect, and support emerging leaders who wish to serve nonprofits.

To date, we’ve served more than 160 emerging leaders!

Are you ready to connect them to your organization?


Instead of inviting them directly on to your board, we encourage you both to get to know each other through committee work.

Do you have any current or upcoming committee opportunities? Share them with us by June 27th for the next issue of Stay Connected, our emerging leader newsletter.

Let us share these with our 160+ emerging leaders through our Stay Connected emails.


Share either a detailed Blank Organization Information Board Profile form and/or a brief one or two lines about committee openings and we’ll spread the word. Submit to no later than June 27.

Already submitted an organization profile for a past Get Connected: Nonprofit Speed Dating event?

Profiles from 2013/14 events will be shared. Please let us know if you have updates to make.