Volunteer Management in the Online Age
In a recent conversation on volunteer management with colleagues, I was surprised to discover that a few of them had been experiencing some negative support from their management teams regarding their activities online. “Activities online?” I wondered aloud. What kind of activities are you naughty volunteer managers getting up to?
All joking aside, it is often difficult for a volunteer manager to gain support from his/her manager if that manager truly does not understand the job function or role the volunteer manager plays on their team. Something as simple as conducting online research can be determined as a waste of time, inappropriately using company resources, or something even more sinister.
I remember when I first joined my current organization as a volunteer coordinator for our local office. I had never worked in hospice before, so I was completely out of my element as to regulations, rules, volunteer recruitment, etc. I had more than 20 years of volunteer management experience, which was certainly helpful, but nothing that would enable me to get to work building a strong, viable hospice volunteer team.
My first step? Get online! I spent hours and hours researching hospice, the industry, competitors, what was working out there and what was not. I learned about perceptions, and processes. I also made connections, lots of connections. These were invaluable in assisting me in growing my program, which I must say grew quite rapidly. I was able to more than double my volunteer team in less than six months because I used the Internet’s vast resources to find information, get tools, get great ideas, and to share thoughts. What a great resource!!
There are many ways in which the Internet can be used strategically.
- Statistical Data
- User Groups
Each of these can help you enhance your program by opening your eyes to opportunities, to making connections and to getting data that will allow you to build your program or support your need for resources (i.e, hiring an assistant, funding, attending conferences, etc.).
A few tips I have learned along the way:
- When conducting research online, don’t get side tracked. Google is a wonderful tool, but I do not recommend reading all 1,782,698 pages that come up as hits. It is so easy to start reading all of the information that you can lose sight of what you were researching in the first place. I generally click through a few of the links, see what pertains to my needs, and will even print the pages for future reference.
- Print the pages for future reference. I know, I know we’re suppose to be in the digital age, and at my organization, theoretically paperless, but I’m old school and I like to make notes and I haven’t figured out a way to make notes and have them with me in bed at two in the morning, when I want to do some work. Yeah, I’m a night owl, but that’s a different story all together.
- Ask the experts. There are great resources online. Many of the articles you will find online are written by experts in the field. Contact them. If they are consultants, they will probably help you with general questions, but anything too in depth, they will want to negotiate a rate. This is fair and should be expected. After all, it’s how they earn their living and that expertise is worth the money.
- Join listserves. There are listserves for nearly every group one can imagine.
- User groups are also a fantastic way to get your volunteers involved. Create a user group through a resource such as Yahoo! You will be the moderator, and you can set it up to allow only those people you invite into the group, those people who are exclusive to your volunteer team. This is a great way to encourage your volunteers to interact and share ideas. I do caution that anything online may be subject to the evildoers of the Internet world, (a.k.a hackers) so I STRONGLY encourage your volunteer team NOT to disclose any confidential information about themselves or items related to their volunteer experience
- My final tidbit…NETWORK!
Get out there and get your name out there! Ask questions, answer questions, the more you help, the more you learn. It’s an amazing give-and-take world in the volunteer community. Sharing is caring as my daughter always says. Be willing to share some of your great ideas, and to learn some great ideas from others.
I currently spend the bulk of my day online. This means I’m emailing my volunteers and colleagues. I’m researching information for articles such as this. Or, I’m learning new strategies to enhance my program and asking questions from colleagues thousands of miles away. I’ve even been published in an online book from Australia. That was achieved only because I belonged to an online listserve for volunteer managers.
The next time you get that quizzical look from your manager about how much time you’re spending online invite him or her to sit down with you and go to Google. Type in “volunteer management resources” and see what pops up. Take him/her on a ride down the superhighway and share the experience! Just wear a seatbelt!
Recruitment Strategies & Resources
- Volunteer Match - www.volunteermatch.org - Volunteer opportunities search engine. List your volunteer opportunities online and receive emails referring volunteers to you.
- Energize - http://www.energizeinc.com/recruit.html - Recruitment ideas posted from other volunteer coordinators.
- Points of Light Foundation – Find a Volunteer Center - http://www.pointsoflight.org/centers/find_center.cfm - Find volunteer centers in your area and coordinate with them to list volunteer opportunities.
- State Offices of Volunteerism - http://www.energizeinc.com/prof/stateoffices.html - Sometimes you can get resources for recruitment that you don’t know about.
Recognition of Volunteers/Retention
- Energize - http://www.energizeinc.com/ideas.html - Recognition ideas posted from a variety of volunteer coordinators.
- Community Futures Volunteer Recognition Ideas - http://www.communityfutures.ca/volunteer/#1 - This website helps you get a quick idea of what works and what doesn’t work.
- Blue Mountain Cards - http://bluemountain.com - free & not free e-cards you can send to your volunteers. These are great for a birthday, get well, thank you or special occasion. They also have a volunteer appreciation week e-card.
- Points of Light – Recognition Ideas - http://www.pointsoflight.org/programs/seasons/nvw/ideas.cfm - principles of recognition, local and national rewards programs/events, ways to thank your volunteers
- Recognition Items for Volunteers
Resources for Volunteer Coordination
- Google - http://www.google.com - My favorite search engine for anything I need to know.
- Mapquest - http://www.mapquest.com - Use the driving directions to estimate distances between volunteers and prospective assignments
- NSRC - http://www.nationalserviceresources.org - This site has a broad amount of information regarding community service and volunteering. If you want to do an in-depth look at volunteer management, recruitment and retention this is the site that will give you small ideas and links to other information. Not hospice specific.
- The Hospice Home Page - http://www.scu.edu/Hospice/10volunt.html - looking for some great ideas to improve your volunteer program? This site is the best. Very creative ideas to enhance your volunteers’ experiences with hospice as well as improve your personal program.
- Service Leader - http://www.serviceleader.org/new/managers/index.php - This site gives helps for volunteer managers in recognition, supervision etc.
- Energize - http://www.energizeinc.com - Great site for practically anything regarding volunteer management. I recommend the library and the “hot topics” articles.
- Merrill Associaties - http://www.merrillassociates.net/topic - Wonderful resource of articles related to volunteer management. Also a great list of website resources.
- Volunteer Today - http://www.volunteertoday.com - Another resource site for volunteer management.
- Independent Sector - http://www.independentsector.org/programs/research/volunteer_time.html - You should keep a copy of this website for your records to prove where you get your “value of a volunteer” figure.
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