Engaging volunteers effectively provides a real benefit to your organization. Jeff Jowdy recently joined us for a webinar in which he gave an overview of how to implement or improve an effective volunteer program.

In case you missed it you can watch the replay here:

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Jeff. I’ve got 1:00 on my watch. Okay if I kick us off officially?

Jeff: That would be perfect.

Steven: All right. Cool. Good afternoon everyone if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for joining us for today’s webinar, “The Art and Science of Volunteer Development.” My name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

Before we begin, I just want to go over a couple of housekeeping items. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon, just in case you didn’t already get the slides. So if you have to leave early or you want to watch the presentation again with a colleague or share it with someone, you will be able to do that. Have no fear. We’ll send out that recording later on today.

As you are listening today, please feel free to chat in any questions during the presentation. We’re going to save as much time as possible towards the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy about that at all. We’d love to hear your questions and comments and make it as interactive as we can towards the end.

You can follow along today via Twitter with #Bloomerang and our user name is @BloomerangTech. I’ll be keeping an eye on those tweets as well, so love to see you hanging out there as well. If you are listening today via your computer, just know that these webinars, the quality of them is usually as good as the speed of your internet connection.

So if you have any trouble, usually the audio quality is a little bit better by phone. So if you’re listening via your computer today and if you can dial in by phone and don’t mind doing that, it’s usually a little bit better. You’ll find a phone number in the email from ReadyTalk with all that information.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday, but in addition to that if you don’t know much about Bloomerang, we offer donor management software. If you are interested in that or want to learn more, just check out our website. You can look at our product. You can watch a short video demo, learn all about us and we’d love for you to check that out if you are interested.

But for now, I’m really excited to introduce today’s guests, one of my favorites. He’s joining us from Nashville. He’s a fine southern gentleman, Jeff Jowdy. How’s it going my friend?

Jeff: It is awesome. It’s good to be with you, Steven.

Steven: It’s good to have you. We tried this last June, but our technology failed and Jeff was good enough to give us another try. Thank you, Jeff, first of all, for doing that. We love having you. You’ve been a mainstay on our webinar series for years and years. If you are listening today and you were on that June webinar that crashed, I really appreciate you coming back as well. It’s definitely going to be worth the wait, great presentation in store for you.

If you guys don’t know Jeff, you’ve got to know him. I just want to brag about him for a minute before he takes over. Jeff is the founder over at Lighthouse Counsel, where he’s been helping nonprofits all the way back since 1999 at Lighthouse Counsel. He has worked in the nonprofit sector, basically every job that you can name, he’s had that title.

He was previously Senior Vice President of Development for the YMCA in Middle, Tennessee. He was a Senior Managing Director at Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, another really great agency. He was also the ED for the March of Dimes and he also served as an advancement director at an independent school as well.

He is super active in the sector. He is a past president of the Nashville chapter of AFP, where actually he was recognized as their fundraising professional of the year, no doubt in my mind that he was deserving of that. He’s currently a member of the Atlanta and Nashville AFP chapters, the Rotary Club of Nashville and the Sons of the American Revolution, Tennessee Cedars Club.

Jeff, I don’t know how you have time to do all this and do a webinar for us, but I’m glad you do. So I’m going to pipe down. I’m going to let you take over and tell us all about volunteer development. So take it away, my friend.

Jeff: Great. Thank you, Steven. Good afternoon, everybody. Really appreciate each of you for being here and sharing, in particular looking forward to your questions and dialogue.

A special thanks to Steven and the team at Bloomerang. I’ll give you the hearty endorsement. We have referred many, many clients to Bloomerang and they have all been thrilled, not only quality products, but in our eyes, even as important or important is the caliber of team, Steven and everyone at Bloomerang. So if you’re looking for software, there’s no finer place to look than Bloomerang.

Thank you for being here today and a topic that is exciting to me and that is the art and science of volunteer development. Volunteerism is very important to be personally because I had a great mother who was a role model her entire life up until her 90s in terms of volunteering and service to others. That is a huge factor in why today I’m privileged to partner with organizations like many of you represent and help you increase your effectiveness. So volunteerism is a very important topic to me and certainly one that’s important to our sector.

So today we’re going to be talking about what is the role of volunteers today. Many nonprofits are focusing more and more on staff. There’s a wave now that we see that many are realizing that we focus on staff and we haven’t paid enough attention to the volunteer resources. Managing volunteers can be more of a challenge than managing staff. If this is a video conference and I can see some of your faces, there would probably be some funny expression when you thought about some of your great volunteer experiences but also some of the challenges with volunteers.

So why bother? Why would you put the efforts into a volunteer program? A strong partnership between staff and volunteers creates synergy and energy that’s undeniable. It enriches the organization, it enriches the staff because we are better as staff leaders working with volunteers who inspire us and yes, sometimes challenge us. It certainly enriches the life of the volunteer, as we’ll talk about in a minute.

It provides leverage. There’s a great leadership principle called leveraging. When we work alone, we can only do the work of one person. When we leverage other staff or in this case volunteers, it’s going to save staff money. It’s going to increase the connections for our nonprofits and it should improve efficiency.

Another point is that volunteers and their roles will evolve as an organization grows and evolves. If you’re a grassroots organization, if you’re the founder at an organization or nonprofit that’s a couple of years old, your highest level of volunteers, your board members may be all your volunteers and their major duty beyond a board meeting might be stuffing envelopes or putting up chairs for an event.

Then as your organization matures, the roles of the volunteers and the board become different and more complex and really there’s an important part that we’d encourage you overall and before we delve into the topic in particular when you think of a volunteer. This is much like the real estate terminology that a piece of property is valued at its highest and best use. We want to value a volunteer at his or her highest and best use. That is what is it they can do most effectively for your organization and what is it they enjoy most? So I’d encourage you to always think about those two principles.

And then one of the benefits, love this quote, “Build your reputation by helping others build theirs.” Now, this reflection, this halo effect, if you would, cast both ways, that if you’re a volunteer with an incredible organization, then that affiliation reflects positively on you. Likewise, if you’re an organization and have incredible volunteers working with you, that will cast a very positive light on the organization.

That can be really important and strategic for an organization that is looking for early wins, that may not be as established or as well known. And if you can get some volunteers who are more highly visible and connected in the community and not even those board members, but in any capacity, that would begin to enrich your reputation and your ability to connect with other volunteers.

One of the great sayings that I love are that people are people. Art and science of volunteerism is an important balance. It’s an art because it’s rooted in relationships, founded in friendships, there’s no cookie cutter approaches and again, people are people. I laugh and say that sometimes, we can all relate to this. People are different hour by hour, day by day. I know none of you have encountered someone where you think, “Who was that I just spoke with? I want my colleague or my spouse that I was talking to yesterday.” So people are people.”

It’s a science in that there are established systems for success, that we know that to be most successful, you need to know the interests, abilities, motivations of volunteers and that the culture and capacity of an organization is very important. So the culture speaks to what volunteer roles you have and are they appropriate for who you are and very important is capacity.

If you embark on a volunteer program, much like a donor relationship, I would encourage you to think of this as a trust and you’re offering a relationship and exchange with an individual, so each brings a commitment to the table. While volunteers may not always fulfill their commitment, we as nonprofit leaders have an obligation to always fulfill our commitment to volunteers.

Yes, we may fall short from time to time, but be careful when we say capacity of an organization, that if you’re going to embark, you’re going to enrich, you’re going to grow a volunteer program, that you have what it takes to be successful. I apologize. I’m battling bronchitis. So if I cough a few times, please forgive me.

So what does it take to succeed in a volunteer program? What are the benefits of volunteering for your organization? Think about that. What are the advantages? A volunteer, much like a donor have the opportunity to provide services at a multitude of organizations. So what is it about your organization that will compel and encourage and motivate a volunteer and how does your nonprofit benefit from the volunteer program?

Again, you’re going to make a commitment of resources. So there needs to be, for the fulfillment of your mission and the people you’re serving with your worthy mission, there needs to be a clear and defined benefit to the organization. And then three, what does it make for a positive volunteer experience. So be sure that you can identify all these things and we’ll be discussing them in more detail in a few minutes.

So let’s look at volunteerism in America. One of the great things is that overall, America has one of the highest, not the highest, but one of the highest rates of volunteering in the world. And on average you can see there that nearly half of adults over 21 formally volunteer. Almost two-thirds volunteer on a monthly basis. They gave an incredible value in hours and in time to the nonprofit sector.

But statistics also show that a growing number of individuals and I think for our own personal experiences and for the challenges you might have encountered for your own organizations, surveys show that volunteering is not as prevalent as it was in past generations, that volunteers, some people feel on that first slide where we talked about the halo effect, that some volunteers are motivated by self-benefit than what they can do with others, but really importantly, two-thirds feel that true philanthropy includes giving time and money, so, time and money.

So there are really great benefits to volunteering. One of them you can see here, the people who volunteer have the highest self-esteem, psychological wellbeing and happiness. I understand that when people have different issues in their life, often times counselors and psychologists encourage them to get beyond themselves and help others and when helping others, it helps them forget about their own challenges. There are definite physiological, emotional, proven scientific benefits to doing good and to volunteerism.

So why volunteer? It’s to support causes you care about. It’s the right thing to do in our culture in America. We talked about that one of the highest in the country in volunteerism, it fills a great need in the community. You set an example. I mentioned my mother and the lasting impact that she had on my volunteering in my career and you all have people in your own lives that have been those examples and why you’re involved in nonprofit sectors, why you volunteer.

Volunteering helps people stay active. So depending on what stage of life you’re in, it can be a huge, again, benefit. People want to feel useful and needed. And volunteering can help with networking professionally, one of the greatest things. We’ve got several friends in the search world and when people might be between jobs, most of them, their first advice is to go volunteer somewhere and to have an affiliation with an organization.

So there are great reasons and benefits to volunteering. Some more include it expands your horizons. You will learn new skills. You meet new people. If there are students involved, again, statistics show that volunteering in high school and in college improve academic success. We mentioned the career opportunities. So either by that halo effect of you’re doing good in a good organization or learning new skills, it advances career opportunities. It builds a sense of community in your community.

One of the incredible things is, again, this is based on research, volunteering and giving time makes you feel like you have more time. We mentioned before about the physiological effects. It leads to better health, promotes personal growth and self-esteem, keeps you busy and then just the values, the humanitarian and possibly religious values that people believe in helping and serving others.

So with all those benefits of why volunteering, if there was a pill of you could go to the doctor and say, “Give me the pill, I want these benefits,” then volunteering certainly is a great medicine for the nonprofits, those you serve, your community and the volunteers themselves.

So what factors when you’re in a mode of recruiting volunteers, we all know it’s a competitive arena, what factors do volunteers consider when they look at serving a worthy organization? First, the mission and work of the organization. So we all know that every mission, every program is not going to resonate with everyone. But your opportunity is to find volunteers to get excited about your mission and the work that you do.

Next is the reputation of the organization. People want to be a worthwhile member of a worthwhile cause. So most volunteers are going to be looking for an organization with a stellar reputation. Volunteers want to, in most cases, be able to use skillsets they have. We talked about sometimes they want to learn new skills, but in many cases, they’re going to bring to the table certain talents and experiences and they want to be able to use those.

Another big factor in the earlier slide, you saw the average number of hours that volunteers put in. We know about averages, so there are many that are far above and there are many that are far below, but they want to find a match that the type of volunteer work and the hours required. So do you have a volunteer opportunity that’s an hour or two a month at their leisure, at their time or do you have a regimented schedule where they need to be somewhere every day, every other day or what is it. Different opportunities are going to motivate different people.

We put convenient location. Now, on today’s technology and depending on the skillset, you may have volunteers that are on a committee or a task force that never have to come in for a meeting and maybe do a conference call or they do research or who knows what. But for most volunteers, they may be on the site in your program areas, at your school, at your hospital and at your clinic. So they want a convenient location.

And then also back to the halo effect, if they have friends and family and coworkers who say, “You really should volunteer at the clinic. I volunteer at the clinic and I have incredible experience,” that certainly is going to mean a lot to potential volunteers to attract them to your organization.

How about the benefits to the nonprofit? Again, I encourage you that if you’re going to have a volunteer program, that it takes a formal commitment that you want to identify these tangible benefits. So what are the specific benefits and how are you going to measure the advantages of having volunteers.

So first, a volunteer, we’ve talked about the billions of dollars and volunteer hours that were given. So it should save resources. It might save you from additional part or full-time people. It might save you if you have an accountant or attorney providing volunteer service. It might save you if you have a painter providing volunteer service, but it should save your nonprofit resource.

It adds expertise that your nonprofit may not currently have. That can be in many, many areas. Volunteers can bring a great excitement to your organization. Volunteers of all ages. Volunteers might be high school, college students. They might be senior citizens. They might be even citizens with some disabilities that they’re able to serve your organization. It builds community and creates some more excitement when you get volunteers involved in meaningful projects.

An important piece of volunteer benefits and when you look at an organization that might be larger or smaller, but you’re looking at future board members, you can identify, groom and test future leaders. So often times, the future board members of an organization start as volunteers at different levels and they rise to the top, so to speak.

One of the great things too about volunteers in fundraising campaigns is if someone does really well on a campaign steering committee and they’re effective and collegial and they know how to work together, then you know they’d be great board members.

If you add how many ever it is, but you want all of your SaaS out in the community being ambassadors, but if you have scores or hundreds or thousands of volunteers in the community, in the region, across the nation, across the world, then it’s going to strengthen the awareness of your organization and then back again to that early halo slide that’s going to enhance your image. So there are certainly many, many benefits to the volunteer and to the nonprofit.

So now let’s talk about the types of volunteers that your organization may have. You can have a one-time volunteer opportunity. You may be working on a building addition and you might have people in the service trade come in for one day, one week, one weekend and help build that out. You might have an accounting issue where you secure the volunteer service of an accountant to help guide you through that. You might need fundraising help and get the volunteer service of an experienced fundraising professional. So it can be one time or ongoing.

A lot of times, the ongoing would include projects, serving on committees, serving on affiliate groups like auxiliary groups and parent groups, serving on advisory boards and boards. So again, be thinking when you’re developing, refining, and growing your volunteer program, what are one-time opportunities and what are ongoing opportunities.

As you imagine often times it is the one time opportunity to get someone in and hooked and, “Susan, I need your help. We’ve got an accounting issue. Could you spend two hours and review these and give us your advice?” “Sure. I can spend two hours.” Then successful experience in that grows and builds. So a one-time opportunity or ongoing opportunities through advisory groups, boards, affiliate groups, auxiliaries.

And then when you’re providing the experience for a volunteer program in today’s world, for a number of reasons, you’re going to want to do some screening. You’re going to want to do background screening. For many organizations, if you’re dealing with youth or children or seniors or patients, there are different volunteer opportunities where you’re going to have to do some criminal and other background screenings.

You want to do some screening to match the skills to the opportunity. I have . . . Steven is too aware of this, I didn’t cause the crash of our last webinar. I’d like to think it was the incredible, wonderful participants and how many there were, but I would not be a good volunteer for anything that including technology. That’s not my aptitude. I would fail. I would be miserable. So you want to match the skills.

And then very importantly too is personality. You want to know, does that person work well with others, are they liked, would they be better off working on their own versus with a team. That’s very important, that whole screening process for your volunteers.

Then to provide an orientation program for the volunteers about your organization, the mission. They are part of the family now, so orient them much like you would a new employee. And the education. That’s ongoing but that’s about the role they will be provided or providing, rather, and giving them ongoing feedback.

So when you think about providing the volunteer experience, some of the things you’ll want to do again, as we talked about, assessing and prioritizing your needs, articulating what the benefits are to the volunteers you’re going to recruit to a profile of the volunteer skills and proficiencies needed.

We’re huge fans of job descriptions. Even if it’s a simple volunteer task, people want to know, “What is it I’m going to do and what’s expected?” Put it in writing. If it’s three lines, put it in writing, review it with a volunteer as a part of that orientation and/or education. Ask them, review that regularly and give them the opportunity to change that and grow.

Develop plans to maximizing your volunteer efforts and how you’re leveraging the volunteers and really engage your whole organization because your organization needs to be aware everyone will be a part of providing an incredible volunteer experience.

So you want to be sure also that you have the support that you need, that you have a plan to recruit the volunteers. We mentioned earlier the volunteer benefits. What is it they’re going to receive? It could be just that good feeling or it could be tangible benefits, that they get a parking place, discount on food, discount on shows.

And then get feedback on an ongoing basis from your volunteers. How’s it going, how are we doing and how can we do better? So acquire feedback and consider conducting focus groups, interviews and surveys. And then we all know from being in the nonprofit arena that we’ve got to be recognizing and thanking our volunteers.

We want to build relationships with volunteers to give them a good experience. This means an information exchange. How do they learn about other volunteers? How is it that you introduce people when they’re working together on a project? How do you communicate with the volunteers through newsletters and other pieces?

The interaction, we mentioned the whole organization is involved, but they’re spending time together and with leaders in your organization. And then giving, of course, is the volunteers are giving of themselves and we need to be grateful recipients of their volunteer service. Part of that being grateful recipients is showing appreciation.

So what are some of the things that we can do to show appreciation to volunteers? One of the things we’d encourage you is to have a volunteer profile and to know when their birthday or anniversary or other special times. So send a birthday card that’s appropriate for your organization, send holiday cards, National Volunteer Week is every spring. Make a big deal about National Volunteer Week. Connect with your volunteers through notes and calls that say thank you. Recognize and thank them. Again, we mentioned offering benefits, the regular communication.

They’re a part of your team now. So share appropriate insider information. If you’re going to make a major announcement, much like you would with donors, then share it with volunteers before it hits the media. They feel special. Very importantly, they’re giving up their time, but also give them the opportunity and the honor of investing financially. Invite them to make a gift to your organization.

So really, it’s a win-win for the volunteer and the organization. It’s a great opportunity for getting gifts, frankly, saying involvement breeds investment if you think statistics show that where people are investing their time, they’re likely to give more. And then know the art and the science, balancing these wonderful people you have serving your organization with the process and know when to focus more on one area or another.

So we’ll have a great time and a few minutes, a dialogue to answer your questions. Thank you so much for being here today. I would love for you to connect with me on LighthouseCounsel.com for our blogs and podcast. I would encourage you to look at Nonprofit Pro, where I have the honor of every Wednesday writing the Bedrocks and Beacons blog. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I would love to connect with you there. So thanks to each of you for being with us today and look forward, Steven to the questions.

Steven: Yeah. We’ve got some good ones already. Thanks, Jeff. That’s awesome information. I really love your tidbit about letting volunteers know earlier than the public about things, kind of treating them like VIPs. That’s a really good idea. I may put that into practice myself, actually. We do have some questions. We’ve got, I’d say 20 minutes for questions. So we can make this super-interactive. We’ve got a lot here. I’ll just kind of roll through them.

Jeff, there’s a question here from Lou. Lou is wondering what strategies are effective with volunteers and board members who they eagerly promise to do things but they don’t actually follow through? How can you get that follow through to happen from those people? Any advice there?

Jeff: Absolutely. Good question. Excuse me. Both are very similar. We talked about some of those things. If people aren’t doing their job, we want to first look at ourselves, frankly, and are we creating the right expectations? Do they know what’s expected? I’ll never forget when I was in college, I was asked by . . . I had no idea it would be a fundraiser, but I was asked as a college student to be the fundraising chair for the American Heart Association in that community. They gave me no guidance. They said, “You’re going to do this and go to it.” I thought, “What?”

So you’ve got to be careful that these roles and all these things and the outcomes put everything in writing, everything we’ve discussed today and if you have additional questions, by the way, feel free to email me, but put all those things in writing. So you start with did we make expectations clear? Have we recruited the right person for the volunteer board role? Are the expectations clear? Are we providing ongoing communication and feedback and are we having conversations along the way.

So it would be like how you might deal with your children or even an employee, one of the worst things I hate is when you have an annual evaluation, you’re waiting all year to know how you did. So what you want to do is build in regular feedback so even a volunteer hears regularly.

So if there are problems, I’d encourage you . . . it’s tough sometimes, like dealing with employees. If you’ve got an issue, some of us prefer to avoid it. But if you can be real specific and not personal and know how to approach someone about an issue in a non-threatening way just to educate and coach him or her and then at some point, if it’s a volunteer or board member and they’re very different experiences, you’re going to have to have a conversation, what is it that we can do to help me be more effective, right?

So trying to get that information and then at some point, again, you’ve got to decide not being effective and it’s more of a drain on the organization and benefits and being good stewards, we’ve got to make a change. So then we have, how do you do that? You can do that in several ways. One, you can let things fade away and roll off. That’s never ideal, but sometimes that might be the best option.

What I would prefer, we would prefer would be, for example, if a board member is not fulfilling his or her responsibility and even if they have a three-year term and you’re into year one and they’re not doing their job and you’ve given them regular feedback and they’re not hitting attendance requirements or giving requirements or whatever it might be. And you’ve communicated with them along the way where they’re not going to be threatened, we find that most people, if they’re approached and say that “Maybe this is too much of a commitment right now. Would you want to consider rolling off or another volunteer opportunity and let someone else that might have more time and people?” Nine out of ten times respond well to that.

A lot of times, they know they’re not doing well. People usually know how they’re doing and the opportunity to not have that commitment anymore and not have any of their anxiety and their stress, people really respect that and are grateful for that. I’ve seen that happen in organizations and that volunteer come back in two or three or four years, either in a volunteer role or a board role, they’re stellar.

But we all know we mean well. No one makes a commitment meaning not to complete it, but work comes first, life happens, health happens, finances happen, family issues happen and that can change the initial desired intent. So again, if you stay in touch, communicate, get feedback, educate, do all those things, then the opportunity to readjust involvement really can be a pretty easy conversation.

Steven: Yeah. So Jeff, we’ve had a couple of people ask variations of the same question, so I’m just going to sum it up. You’ve worked with tons of organizations, obviously. When do you recommend that someone hire a dedicated volunteer person? Is there a size of org that you think is appropriate? Lots of people are asking, when should we have that full-time person or that dedicated person, as dedicated as you can in a nonprofit? What do you think about that?

Jeff: Again, it depends back to who you are and what is the role of the volunteers. So for example healthcare. I can’t imagine . . . and we’ve worked with hospitals, medical centers and clinics. I don’t think we’ve ever had a client that didn’t have a volunteer coordinator because they are very heavy on volunteers still.

So really it’s the culture of your organization. The way I would put it, fundraising volunteers, for example, are staffed and managed through the development office, right? So all those hopefully legions you have are taken care of through your development offices or alumni office. Typically you have, if you’re a higher ed or higher privileged school or community college, you might have an alumni board that might be staffed by an alumni staff, an alumni director where much of their roles, frankly, are supporting volunteers, right?

Overall, I wouldn’t say a number. What I would say is at what point do we risk not giving a good volunteer experience? If we’re in jeopardy, then it’s time to look at hiring somebody.

Steven: I love it. I love that answer. Here’s an interesting one from Talia. Talia is wondering if you are new to an organization as that volunteer person, volunteer coordinator, volunteer manager, whatever it is, what’s a good way to get better acquainted with the existing volunteers who are already part of the team or part of the process? Any advice for Talia there, new to the organization, wants to get acquainted with them?

Jeff: Yeah. What a great opportunity for Talia. Whenever you’re new, you’ve got an excuse to reach out to people. It’s that honeymoon. It’s the new CEO. There are a lot of ways. Talia, you might message how many volunteers you’re talking about, but some of the ways I would suggest, we all know that the number one best feedback is one on one, a conversation.

So I would think that not knowing details, but I would think who are those that I can reach out to with a phone call or take to breakfast or have a handful of people do a little focus group? What ways can I just say, “I’m new. I want to thank you for your volunteering. I want to get to know you.” I want to know how we can make this a better experience for you. And then back to that feedback loop, you need to be every year doing that on an annual basis.

So if you had a real volunteer program, you need to be serving the volunteers every year and saying, “How are we doing?” I would supplement that with focus groups. We’ve got conversation. And if you can afford the time, especially if you’ve got a structure, then I would reach out, as long as you have a volunteer committee leadership group, I would be meeting with them one on one. But the great thing is, depending on the communications and what’s been done, Talia, a letter to all the volunteers saying, “I’m new. I appreciate you. I might be reaching out,” and then there’s a series of feedback opportunities.

Steven: Love it. Very good. Well, I love everyone sending in questions. Keep them coming. We’re going to try to get through as many as we can. Here’s one from Erica. “Do you have any advice for engaging one-time or first-time volunteers, maybe like a seasonal group or maybe a for-profit corporate volunteer group? How do we engage them in a more long-term position? So I guess retaining, to use one of Bloomerang’s favorite words, that first-time volunteer and keep them on there.

Jeff: Really, again, there are a lot of similarities between volunteers and donors. If it’s $5 or $1 million, we want our volunteers to be giving as well. I would think about it the same way. The best, and this is something Steven and Adrian and Tom and company and Jay are experts, great giving experience leads to retention, right?

Steven: Yeah.

Jeff: So same thing with volunteering. How do you make it a great experience, a wow experience? If it’s a one-time, then again, back to if you’re the CEO or advancement or whatever your role is or you reach out to someone for strategic advice or ask them for some help, then you not only get their advice, but you close the loop. You let them know the end result, right? And you begin to stay in touch. It’s not just a one-off. It’s a relationship. So we want to keep the relationship going.

The same thing . . . I love corporate programs for a number of reasons. So if you have a corporate program, back to defining how you do it, then do it better than anybody. Make the best experience that company, that corporation can have to bond their employees, to give all those benefits we talked about earlier of volunteering to their employees, that magic pill of volunteerism and let them want to come back.

Again, it’s just like donor retention. Don’t have the event and not talk to them for a year. It’s the follow up. It’s the pictures for the event. It’s the thank you. It’s getting them on your newsletter. It’s three months later asking, “Would you consider doing this again?” It’s making a great experience, ongoing communication, doing the feedback, making sure you show thanks and the benefit and then stay in touch. Don’t wait a year. They help with the Oktoberfest, the next September you’re back in front of them.

Steven: Yeah. Well, I’m going to combine a couple other questions, Jeff, similar questions here. I hope you don’t mind. A lot of people are asking about millennials, younger volunteers. As the token millennial, I’ll let you answer. How do you think you should engage my age group?

Jeff: Well, you may have to answer this for me, if you look at the statistics on giving that a lot of millennials want to have more of a say and be self-directive. Is that true?

Steven: I think so. I would agree with that statement.

Jeff: So then some of them want to be more independent. They’re certainly very tech-savvy. I would consider all those factors. We also find that like everybody, they like to be social, right? They like to be with like people.

Steven: Yeah.

Jeff: So when I was, you’ll laugh, but when I was in college, I volunteered at an organization, a senior center. I used to always love older people. I moved to another community and I went to the senior organization and said I want to volunteer as a then millennial. They thought I was crazy. They didn’t have young people coming to ask to volunteer with old people. They were thinking, “What does this guy want?”

But the reality is that most people would rather be with people their own age, by in large, for different activities, right? I would definitely have activities geared to them, both with interest and skills they bring and they have a committee to help define some things in terms of what they do or don’t do, what you offer and they definitely we find that millennial donors and especially high net worth, they want to be pretty directive sometimes with their giving, same thing with volunteerism. Give them a chance to create the experience.

What’s your answer, Steven? You’ve got to help me here.

Steven: I would agree with all that. I don’t really think that I want something different than maybe a 55-year old potential volunteer would want, necessarily. I think that if you make the experience engaging and worthwhile and fun, that’s going to be attractive to every age group. But certainly reaching the different age groups there, there are going to be some differences there, the communication channels that reach me at 32 may not be what reaches my dad at 62. So I think it’s more that communication channel and format rather than the content or the angle of the messaging, if that makes sense.

We tag-teamed that one. That was fun, Jeff.

Jeff: I like it.

Steven: We’ve got a couple other ones here. Here’s one from Amanda. We’ll probably have room for maybe two or three more questions. So if you were sitting on your hands, now is the time. I got one from Amanda, then Carl. I’m going to answer your question because I really like it. But Amanda is asking, “If you were starting your advisory committee or your board that’s going to handle the volunteer stuff, how often should that maybe volunteer committee meet? What are some tips for getting that committee off the ground?” Any advice for Amanda there, Jeff?

Jeff: First, I would be sure you need it. I mentioned that sometimes you don’t need a group. So don’t create something you can’t sustain and it’s not needed. But if you have a large volunteer program, if you’ve got I think Talia said 50 and that’s getting large, but if you’ve got a hospital, I would have a volunteer counsel to give advice because it gives leadership and it gives back to the question of how do you get rid of a bad volunteer? Well, it’s easier to have a volunteer dealing with that than a staff person, right?

So if you’re getting a large 50-100, several hundred volunteers, then you might want to think about having some sort of volunteer counsel. That’s when I would look at that opportunity.

Steven: Great. Along the same lines, Carl is wondering, “How do you navigate or manage the interdepartmental relationships?” So you’ve got your volunteer person and maybe you have a fundraising staff or services staff who also engages with the volunteers. How do you navigate those waters when different departments are touching those volunteers?

Jeff: Sure. Well, traditionally with advancement or development especially, those volunteers are late to the development staff because that’s very specific. They would have their own committees and events and it’s all scheduled. Then the volunteer in a medical center, so if I’m a volunteer at a gala for the development office, I may get the volunteer newsletter, but I liaison with that department first.

So it would be then what other departments might need volunteers. So again, at a major medical center, a lot of those volunteer functions are really through the volunteer department and kind of ancillary to others. But I would identify back to the comment when we talked about it’s a cultural thing. And throughout your organization you have to embrace volunteerism because the worst thing you can do is have an incredible volunteer program and have a full-time staff member and they send you to department H and department H is the grumpy department that would rather not deal with the volunteer. It doesn’t work.

It’s defining those roles, making sure that the people are needed and that the department is receptive and then having that ongoing communication evaluation.

Steven: Makes sense.

Jeff: Part of that you could uncover through a survey, if you did a survey and saw where the satisfaction of volunteers who were relating to a particular department or particular person were not as high, then you know you’ve got a problem.

Steven: Yeah. Here’s one from Scott. I really like this question. I think the question itself will be valuable to people. How do you promote intergenerational volunteer opportunities? So like engaging parents and children to volunteer together, which first of all, I think is a great idea and I think that idea in itself is worth hearing about for the attendees, but if you agree that’s a good idea, any advice on making that happen, Jeff?

Jeff: I think again it goes back to what is it they’re doing? Is it meaningful experience? Is it something that’s appropriate for those generations? Do they have a good experience? So if you’re intergenerational and a lot of folks or programs I’ve seen have seniors and younger elementary school or nursery school kids. So what is it that is the attraction for each group and is it age appropriate for that group?

Steven: Right.

Jeff: And then how you promote it, but it’s got to be something that the parent and the child at whatever age is going to embrace and enjoy it?

Steven: Yeah. Well, Jeff, this is great. We’re about out of time. I want to give you time to once again talk about yourself, maybe let people know how they can get in touch with you. I know we didn’t get to all the questions here before the end, but fair to say you’d be willing to take additional questions by email and Twitter?

Jeff: Absolutely. Feel free to email me. Thank you, everyone for being here live or for listening to the recording. I would love to connect with you on social media and hope that you’ll check out our website for our blogs and podcasts. We’ve got some great guests including Steven Shattuck on our podcast and also every Wednesday I would be honored if you check out my blog, Bedrocks and Beacons at NonprofitPro.com.

Steven: Yeah, definitely check out that stuff. Jeff’s column in Nonprofit Pro, their website is really good. You write about monthly on there?

Jeff: Every week.

Steven: Golly, those are great articles. Definitely check those out.

Jeff: Every Wednesday.

Steven: Oh, you’re Wednesday, I’ll have to remember that. Do email Jeff. I know we didn’t get to all the questions and I apologize for that. I didn’t want to keep people too long past the 2:00 hour, especially if you haven’t had lunch.

We also have some great resources on the Bloomerang website. We have our daily blog post, our weekly webinars, which you already know about because you’re on one. Lots of good stuff, our podcast, our Nonprofit Wrap-Up, which is our newsletter, which just went out today. You’ll see that on our blog, some great stuff there.

We are going to be back one week from today to talk about integrated planning. We’ve got Sam Frank as our guest one week from today. Sam’s a great guy. You may recognize his name. He runs the For Good webinars, which is another really great excellent webinar series, but he’s going to take a break from administering webinars and he’s going to be our guest to talk about integrated planning.

So check that out. It’s going to be a good one. We’ve got some great webinars scheduled all through the month of September and even beyond. So check out our webinar page. You may find some other topics there that interest you. We would love to see you again on another webinar.

So thanks for joining us. Thanks for taking an hour out of your day. A special thanks for those of you who came back after our technical snafu in June. And Jeff, of course, thanks again to you for hanging out with us. We love having you on here.

Jeff: Thank you, Steve. Thank you everybody. It’s been fun.

Steven: Look for an email from me. I’ll be sending out the recording very shortly. You’ll get the slides as well and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So have a great rest of your day. Have a great holiday weekend and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.