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Putting the Power of ‘Value Added’ to Work for YOUR Volunteer Program

When media salesmen are trying to sell more air time to their clients using the concept of “added value,” they’re talking about extra benefits that will stretch their clients’ dollar.

Change the word order to “value added” and you create a term that defines the powerful benefit your volunteer program brings to your agency. It won’t cost your agency an extra penny but will stretch your agency’s ability to serve your clients and enhance your agency’s ability to connect to more members of the community.

As director of your agency’s volunteer program, do you have a clear understanding of what value your board assigns to the volunteer program you manage?

Why Am I Here?

Ask members of the board why your agency began a volunteer program and you’ll probably hear answers such as, “because we’re supposed to,” or “it looks good in the community” or “it saves money.”

If your board doesn’t see the many ways your volunteers bring “value added” to your agency’s ability to serve and grow, it’s your responsibility to educate them about the power of “value added.”

Teaching “Value Added”

What does your Board know about your volunteer program? If you haven’t been invited to a Board meeting this year, ask your Executive Director when, not if, you can attend one. Ask for 10 minutes to explain the goals of your volunteer program and present a profile of what volunteers do. Put the myth to rest that volunteers “save money.” Remind them that a fiscally responsible Board would not approve the expense of a weekly magic show or paid receptionist to cover the front desk at lunchtime. But volunteers bring the “value added” of these services and skills and many more to your clients and budget.

“Blow Your Own Horn”

Dazzle your Board with your statistics : number of volunteer hours contributed, number of activities facilitated or positions staffed by volunteers, and remember the statistic that always impresses: instances of service delivered. Bring copies of your most recent newsletter, your mission statement, your annual report. Put these materials in a brightly colored folder (experts say purple stimulates creative thought) with a catchy title on the front that will make them want to read more, such as “Volunteers Don’t Save Money!”

Now Get Their Attention by Talking About Making Money

After you’ve demonstrated the specific and numerous ways “value added” contributes to your agency, show your Board that “value added” is also a fund-raising tool. Volunteers help your agency raise money

1. Volunteers are a tangible sign of support from WITHIN the community demonstrated TO the community. Tell your Board what your Development Director already knows — many potential donors are now asking for documentation of volunteer support in terms of demographics and quantity of people involved.

2. Volunteers give money to your agency. They believe in you enough to give you their time and often make cash contributions, therefore adding to your agency’s donor base.

3. Friends and family often make donations in honor of volunteer’s special days.

4. Many employers offer matching grants when their employees contribute to non-profits, and some employers now make grants to non-profits when their employees volunteer at an agency.

Don’t Forget The Big Picture of Strategic Planning

Before talking with your Board, look at your agency’s strategic plan and see how your volunteer program correlates and supports their goals. Hopefully, you were included in the strategic planning process, although it doesn’t always happen this way. Show them the specific ways your program supports their action plans.

Finally, “Live To Promote, Promote to Live”

Now that you have demonstrated to your Board the power of “value added,” don’t drop the ball. Radio promotion genius Doug Harris is legendary for his philosophy of  “out think, don’t outspend.” You can follow his “promote to live” adage: create monthly reports that will document your volunteer program’s contribution to your agency; keep the statistics coming and perhaps include a brief human interest of profile of one of your volunteers or a particularly touching instance of service.


About the Contributor: Susan Moscareillo

Susan Moscareillo is Director of Volunteer Services and Community Relations for the Baltimore Ronald McDonald House. Prior to beginning her work at BRMH, she was Director of Volunteer Services for the Maryland Society for Sight and Director of Public Relations and Fund Raising for Camp Fire Girls Council of the Chesapeake. Since 2002, she has been a member of the Contributors Panel for Volunteer Management Review at the Charity Channel on-line.

Before entering the nonprofit world, her work experience included television creative services writing and newspaper feature writing.

Susan has a degree in Mass Communications from Towson University, and a Certificate in Volunteer Management from Washington State University and a Certificate of Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of Wisconsin.

Susan is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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