On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Natasha Golinsky, founder of Next Level Nonprofits, joins us to discuss volunteer recruitment and management.
You can watch the full episode here:
Steven: All right, hello. Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of
Bloomerang TV, our awesome video podcast. Thanks for watching. Today I am
joined by my Twitter buddy Natasha Golinsky. She is the founder of Next
Level Nonprofits. Hey there Natasha. How is it going?
Natasha: Going great. How are you?
Steven: Good. Good to have you here. This is exciting.
Natasha: Thank you.
Steven: I’m glad to have you chatting with us. I know you’ve written
for our blog a little bit. You write on your own blog which is
Natasha: Thank you.
Steven: You’re a mentor. You’re a coach. You’re always helping out
nonprofit organizations. What do you do specifically at Next
Level Nonprofits? What are you up to these days?
Natasha: Well what I usually like to do is I really work with folks that
are working with startups. I found that myself having been self-
employed for 12 years and having run different startup projects
of my own and working with nonprofit leaders, I found that
really the part that I love about nonprofit management and
nonprofit leadership is getting to work with those really brand
new leaders; ones who don’t really have a board, don’t have a
volunteer department, don’t have a fund raising plan and really
helping them build that strong base that they can build a long
sustainable organization upon.
Because I just find from my own experience having again worked in
multiple businesses and you know it took me years in the
beginning to figure out okay I wasn’t really on the right track.
I personally had a coach come aboard with me, help me get all
straightened out. And so I just like to work with nonprofits and
say hey like let’s do it right, right from the beginning as much
as we can. And so I run a 12-step process of different areas to
kind of work through and coaching and training guides to really
help them build that base.
Steven: Awesome and so you work with you mentioned startup nonprofits
and all nonprofits need volunteers right?
Steven: But maybe startup nonprofits especially need volunteers because
they’re trying to get up and running. They don’t have a lot of
that support and infrastructure in place.
Steven: You write a lot about nonprofit management and things like
Steven: What are some ways in your mind that any nonprofit can recruit
new volunteers and really build that pipeline if they need some
new ones or if they don’t have any like a startup nonprofit?
Natasha: Right. Well that’s a great question because I do get asked
that a lot like when you don’t have a budget and you don’t have
any resources or grant money coming in like how do you build a
team, right? How do you staff your organization if you can’t
afford to pay anybody and I think just from my own experience,
I’m in the process personally of working and developing my own
nonprofit with one of my colleagues and so we’re in the exact
same boat right now. So like how do you build your team and how
do you get and executive leadership fund without any financial
And I think the main thing is like to realize there are people out
there who have the same passion as you for the same sorts of
causes. You just have to find them, you know. So there are
people out there who do care about the exact same cause that you
have it just might take a lot of networking for you to kind of
bring these people together. And I’m really a big fan of the
whole skills volunteer philosophy.
Its one thing to be running a 5K event and everyone who can help can
help and that’s great. But I think when you’re getting started
or you’re really looking to scale, you need a specific skill
set. You need people who come to the table with a very unique
set of talents that you can use in a strategic way to kind of
get the job done.
So I guess I was going to say like if you’re just a startup or if
you’re a nonprofit looking to kind of grow your programs into a
different area, really looking at, okay who do you have already?
Are they being used the best way they can be being used? Like
you know lot of times we have people that show up and want to
volunteer and we give them a job that needs to be done but not
one that’s necessarily in line with what their skills are; which
isn’t a bad thing because I know for me sometimes when I
volunteer, I don’t want to be working on management stuff. I
want to be making coffee, you know, like it’s kind of nice. But
sometimes if there are people in your organization already that
may have a skill that you need but you’re not using. So I think
the first thing is to kind of figure out a way or we can talk
about that a bit later to like uncover the talents in the people
that already are there.
I think a second one, I know that I use a lot and having been a
recruiter for ten years before the nonprofit world was
referrals. So if I’m looking for a very specific skill set,
let’s say I’m looking for someone who know a lot about email
marketing, I’m going to ask around. I’m going to like ask for a
referral before I kind of do a big pitch to my community. I’m
going to see who knows somebody, who’s talented, who do they
know who may have a few extra hours a week.
And then there are also people too that I know that we meet in our
lives but the timing isn’t right for them to work with us.
Maybe they have basically a lot of family commitments or a lot
of work commitments and they don’t have the time to come and
volunteer yet. But they did like us. They did like our cause
and so we can always go back to revisit those relationships and
see, maybe the timing is right now. Maybe there’s something
they could do from home.
And I think the thing too is like when you’re recruiting for
volunteers is really knowing what you want these people to do
and I know that sounds kind of funny. We all just think okay, a
warm body shows up let’s give them a job. That’s excellent.
But I think it helps a lot when you know… You have sort of
your org chart, like ball park, okay, I need…
let’s say you’re running committees. Okay, I need five people
over here or I need three people over here and this person would
have this and that skill set and then you’re a lot more focused
with your volunteer recruitment effort and it helps you work.
It’s so cliched but it definitely kind of helps you work smarter not
harder because you have the right skills and you’re not having
to train everyone all the time.
Steven: Yes. That makes sense. So it seems like nonprofits, they can
generate maybe a small pool of people who are really excited
about the organization.
Steven: And mission. Like you said, getting them to do the right things
and really using their spiritual gifts or whatever is hard. How
do you identify those skills and really put them in the right
place? Because it seems like if you get an enthusiastic person
and you bring them in and then you give them a task that is not
maybe exciting or really fits their skillsets. That
can be kind of a recipe for disaster, right? So how do you
identify those things?
Natasha: That’s a great question and I actually learned this from my
business coach who is actually one of the key volunteers at the
Saddleback Church in Orange County. And even if you’re not,
don’t know anything about churches, you’ve probably heard of
Rick Warren who’s the founder of Saddleback Church and hundreds
of other churches and they’ve written a program where they
really do the same approach.
They really work with skills-based volunteering where they have a
system where they look at, okay, what are you good at? How much
time do you have? And they have a thing, they have a workbook
actually where they, each person would go through and check off
the boxes, I’m good at this, I’m not good at this, I love this,
I don’t like this.
And so it’s very strategic and I think obviously he has a sample that
any organization can kind of make their own worksheet to be
like, if you know what you’re looking for, you know, kind of
what talents and skills that you need and then you can kind of
work back maybe even an application for them. Like, do you have
skills with, you know, web development, fund raising, budgeting,
accounting. Like you can kind of create an application for them
for your volunteers based on what you need so you can help
filter people out that much more quickly, right?
Steven: That makes a lot of sense. So you would do that second, right?
You would get a really passionate person, then identify the
skills rather than go out and find the skills, right?
Natasha: Yeah exactly. I would, you could kind of go either way actually
because you could do, okay, let’s say for example, you need
someone to chair your finance committee as an example and that
one seems like always people are always looking for that. So
you’re looking for a board treasurer lets say. Well, you could
go on LinkedIn and network with people in your community, maybe
someone who is an accountant and you can kind of reverse
engineer the recruitment of that volunteer and get to know that
person and see if they’d be interested or if he knows anyone.
Or, you have a volunteer who shows up and they’re excited and
while you’re interviewing them you see, oh my gosh, he’s run his
own accounting practice for 15 years. And so you can kind of do
it either way.
My main, I guess when I’m working with volunteers and again, from my
recruitment background, is you really want to just help people
find their own stride. So, if someone showed up to volunteer in
my organization and they really, really had a passion for
teaching workshops or let’s say for example, or whatever, or
they were a presenter or a speaker and that was kind of their
day job. They were a consultant. If they wanted to I would, like
Rick Warren says, he’s like, you don’t create the program until
you have someone to run it. Which I thought was interesting.
So it’s like if I have this person who’s a super workshop volunteer.
She’s excellent at that, I could then, that would help me shape
my program off of her, based on what talent I have to work with
too. Because I think a lot of non-profit leaders, and I brought
myself into this, we come up with these ideas for programs and
we have no support team to do it and so we end up trying to do
it all ourselves. Instead of, okay, let me do what I can manage
and then as I start meeting the right people and as people start
showing up to volunteer and the word starts getting out, then I
can kind of assess what I have to work with and then that will
help us shape the expansion of our program offer.
Steven: Yeah, you can scale it. That makes a lot of sense.
Natasha: Yeah and it’s like until you have the talent there it’s just
not sustainable to try to do it all yourself, right? Because,
one thing I see a lot when I’m working with start-ups is a lot
of people, they really go, they want to go wide really fast. So
they want to work with like an animal shelter or something. A
lot of times they’ll have four or five programs they want to run
right from day one but they don’t have the manpower. So they end
up working so many hours and obviously then there’s no time for
marketing or planning and you really get trapped at this… and
I’ve done it myself.
But it’s like, okay, let’s, you kind of want to start, let’s pick one
program that one or two programs that I feasibly, me and my core
people could work on and then as we recruit more people who
bring to the table this specific skillset, okay, maybe they
could be a part of helping you develop the next wave of
Natasha: They’ll come and not one before the other.
Steven: That makes sense. That’s really good. So, the danger in this
whole thing is, you get a volunteer who maybe is not a good fit,
right? So it’s the wrong person or the wrong task. What kind of
damage can that do? If any damage, if that’s the right word.
Natasha: I think fit, and again, I know I’m totally biased being, coming
from a recruitment background, but I think fit is probably the
most critical thing. I know for example when my first project I
did when I was starting in the non-profit sector was a project I
was doing for a local community church and they had probably a
hundred volunteers showing up to help every week at every
service at church. And none of them had been assessed and
everyone was just kind of wherever. And if they needed someone
to hand something else, this person did it and then this person
made coffee. And it was kind of like, they would just shove
people into jobs and I don’t understand why they did it and
everyone was happy to contribute.
But as we started working through this process of assessing and
profiling and understanding who they had, that they had 30% of
their community was showing up every week to volunteer which is
huge. So we were like, okay, how can we tweak so that people are
feeling a lot more engaged. Because my feeling with non-profits
is, your best marketing is always going to be word of mouth
marketing. And your volunteers are the people who are like
inside your organization with you.
And they, I really believe volunteers, how we handle working with
volunteers will make or break our organization. They do the
branding for us. If they have a terrible experience working with
us, they’re going to spread the word. They have a great
experience, they’re going to spread the word. And your
volunteers are your unpaid marketing team.
So I really look at, okay, the best thing that we can do is to really
shape, develop a volunteer culture where people feel engaged
because, back to your question, where it’s like, if it is the
wrong fit, if you have someone who has an incredible, let’s use
the financial background, they have a financial background
again, but they’re outside cutting grass because they’re
They want to help, which is fine, and they have a heart to help, but
really if they’re in the wrong job, ultimately, and no one’s
paying attention, that’s the thing… if he’s in the job and he
knows in that job because that’s what needs to be done and they
know and they have an intention to use him
in a way that he wants to be used, that’s one thing. But if no
one ever asks and no one’s really showing that we’re paying
attention to who you are and what you have to bring to the
table, it can create a lot of resentment.
Where I know for me, I was recently doing, participating in a project
and they said, “Well what do you know how to do?” And I said,
“Well I love working with management and administration and
planning.” And they’re like, “Oh, well, we don’t really need
that. How about you work in the nursery?” I was like, “I’ve got
three kids at home. I don’t want to volunteer to work in the
nursery.” And it’s just like immediately, I’m like, I’m
disengaged because… But let’s say I was more accommodating
than I am and I was like, “Oh yeah, absolutely I’ll work in the
nursery.” Well that’s never going to work out well.
Ultimately in the next, as time goes on I’m going to be resentful.
I’m going to be bringing a little bit of attitude to the job.
It’s going to be affecting the people around me. That’s
obviously going to create a bad dynamic. And again, its one
thing if I admitted, okay, yes, by day, I work in management and
by afternoon I love to work with kids and volunteer in the
nursery. That’s one thing. If no one asks and no one’s paying
attention to me and I hate the job, that’s going to create a lot
Steven: So let’s say that resentment kind of takes hold and you can’t
reassign them. Have you ever had to fire a volunteer? How do you
Natasha: Yes I do. I think you should fire volunteers. I think, I really
believe that again, if you don’t have the right fit for someone,
I know I’m doing a lot of stories here, but I had someone
actually email a week ago and ask for my quote on that exact
same subject. What do you do if you have the wrong person
for a volunteer?
I said on the front end it comes down to the organization, like,
writing really specific job descriptions. And so it’s like how
you can prevent bad fit, is you can, let’s just say you, again
you had a committee you wanted to put together. You really
specifically outline what does that job involve and then you
strategically recruit to those positions. And then you develop
an orientation package where they would totally understand what
was expected and you have a meeting and then… if after all
these different steps and then you kind of buddy up and you
match them with a partner, and this is again, things that you
can even do right from the start, putting this infrastructure
If even after that, step three, step four, it’s still the bad fit,
you kind of sit down and you just say, hey you know, I really,
really appreciate your interest in our organization. I don’t
feel that what you’re looking for and what we’re looking for is
really a fit right now. Can I make a recommendation for you to
check out this different organization? I know they need someone.
It’s like it’s not personal it’s just, like a volunteer shows up,
thinking what’s in it for me. If you can’t give them what they
want, it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to help them find
the right fit. I remember this contract I was doing with the
church with these hundred volunteers was that, they were, I
said, “Well, why is so and so here, what are they looking to get
out of it?” And they’re like, “Well they’re just showing up
because they want to help and no one has really any agenda.” I
said, “Well that’s true but that’s not really human nature.”
Human nature is, okay, what’s in it for me? Am I going to get some
experience for my resume? Am I getting community service hours?
Am I getting job skills? Am I networking? Everyone has an
agenda. It’s not bad but if you don’t know what it is you kind
of can’t help them get theirs.
And so I really find that really powerful volunteer relationships
work when you both know what you want out of the relationship
and then you can work on it together. It’s not like a one-sided
dependent, I’m not dependent, I’m not waiting for my volunteer
to show up and waiting for them. They’re not looking to me to be
the perfect… So you kind of create this co-laboring kind of
partnership and you both know who you are, what you want, and
checking in, doing a review, sending them a
But that was the incredibly long way to answer, yes, I would fire a
volunteer. So I don’t think the word firing is the right word.
Steven: Yeah, it’s not.
Natasha: I use that word too. But it’s like fit. It’s like, hey if I
can’t offer you the right fit, then I don’t want to waste your
time. Obviously it takes a little practice to have that
conversation but, definitely, if they’re not getting anything
and we’re not getting anything and its tense, like, let them go.
Steven: Well follow Natasha’s advice and you will never have to be in
the situation, if you do everything she just said.
Natasha: I wish. I wish.
Steven: This is great. This is awesome advice on volunteering,
volunteer administration, recruiting, all that good stuff. We’re
about out of time but I want to give you the last word to tell
folks where they can learn more about you, where they can check
you out online, read more of your awesome blogs.
Natasha: Sure. Thanks, well, if you head over to
nextlevelnonprofits.com, if you are a start-up I have a, on the
top right corner, you’ll see there’s a free checklist. It’s an
11-point checklist to make sure that you’ve kind of your big
pieces of your non-profit foundation put together.
And then after that I have a five piece strategic planning course
that I run over ten days. So every couple days you’re going to
get a piece of, a little tip, a video about how to build a
strategic plan for your organization and then I’ve got a weekly
newsletter that runs after that. If anyone is kind of
getting started and want to kind of find out the big pieces of
putting a plan together that’s what I would recommend.
Steven: Definitely check that out. Natasha’s awesome. We’ll link to all
that stuff here in the blog posts with the video. This is great.
Thanks for hanging out with us.
Natasha: Hey, my pleasure. Anytime.
Steven: We will post the video. Check out Natasha online. Thanks to
everyone who’s watching. We will catch you on next week’s
episode. So talk to you then.