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“Mug them” the latest of 143 ways to say thank you to a volunteer…

30 Jul

How many ways can you/we say thank you to a volunteer? Please # and add to the list, thanks. LinkedIn Discussion in Volunteer Management Best Practices network

1. [Directly to the volunteer say] Thanks for volunteering today
2. Print a set of business cards for the volunteer
3. Greet them by name
4. Send out volunteer eCards…

Hmmm… So it is summer I wonder if there are any unique ways to recognize volunteers during the Summer?

Since Darlene gets credit for at least # 142 – great suggestions by the way…

Might I offer #143…

“Mug them” for years my father then later I received and proudly displayed our annual “Recognition Mug” for volunteering several days or a week at Boy Scout Summer Camp.  All in all a pretty good trade a week’s vacation and perhaps $100 or so to get to sleep in a tent, get plenty of exercise walking up and down hills through the woods, perhaps helping with a merit badge class, or helping younger boys learn Second and First Class skills, then of course someone has to help taste test the “Cobbler” and sit in on a Board of Review or 3 or 4 and attend a couple of Campfires, and did I mention drive a car full of boys about 350 miles each way – and yes I was very happy to walk down into the campfire circle each year and collect my mug and a round of applause from the Scouts.

What are a few other “seasonal” ways to recognize volunteers?

Note: my sincere thanks to colleagues who contributed the first 142 ways to say thank you to a volunteer. You all do amazing work and provide brilliant insights into year round volunteer recognition and retention.

Bruce Summers

Summers “Engagement” Consulting.


Employee Volunteer Programs a recent question posed on the LinkedIn Hand on Discussion Group…

10 Apr

Question posed

Is there a resource available that lists specific models being used by companies nationally for employee volunteer programs? I’m interested in learning about how different companies approach their employee volunteerism, and getting case studies of how employee volunteering helps a company’s bottom line would be especially helpful.

Bruce’s response

Hmmm… Employee Volunteer Programs Resources?

Great question @Nicolette Winner

Bruce Summers

Summers “Engagement” Consulting

Solving Volunteer Algorithms since 1981

Collaboration for Development

10 Apr

Working with about forty  World Bank Group Task Teams and departments to design and implement external social collaboration groups/communities to enhance knowledge discovery and knowledge exchange on a wide array of international develoment topics. Collaboration for Development (C4D) can be accessed by anyone, though most C4D Groups are for members only.  Typical members are colleagues from partner organizations, international development practitioners, researchers, government officials and students interested in discovering more about spefic topic areas or domains.

C4D Groups often connect unique groups of international development colleagues and specialists, example the Learning from Mega Disasters group shares known knowledge – Knowledge notes capturing lessons and expertise from the Great Japan Earthquake and Tsumami with disaster response practitioners around the world, who then interact, discus, share and develop new knowledge that can help colleagues world wide develop better disaster preparedness and response systems, practices and procedures.

Many of the C4D Groups utilize best practices gleaned from Community of Practice (CoP) research to design and develop their groups combined with good emerging practices in social collaboration.

A few good resources…

Nonprofit CEOs – Why Volunteer Engagement Matters?

14 Feb

• Serve on Boards, shape vision, cultivate resources, review, revise and approve budgets and serve as fiduciaries for the general public.
• Can do just about any function that employees can do with corresponding training, and often have a unique blend of experience and empathy that employees have not yet developed.
• Especially youth and young adults, Millennials… are the current energetic, idealistic action arms of many nonprofits, but more importantly will “vote” time, talent, treasure, will advocate for and build social capital for your nonprofit for years and years.

Research shows
• That youth who volunteer are more likely to volunteer later in life
• That people who volunteer are much more likely to make donations than people who do not regularly volunteer.
• That corporate employee volunteers not on provide valuable time, skills, and expertise, but their companies often are willing to match their time with corporate donations, example Dollars for Doers programs.
• Clients often make great volunteers, example disaster response clients often offer to help later in life with disaster response, some step forward immediately to help staff disaster shelters.
• Volunteers are often willing to take extensive training to qualify to do meaningful work even in a regulated environment.
• Volunteer programs may provide huge returns on investment, example one Red Cross Blood Region with a volunteer drivers program for transporting donated blood would have cost the Region over $1 million in equivalent salary and benefits to hire and train employees as drivers.

CEOs should consider
• Volunteer engagement as a first choice staffing solution
• How volunteer engagement is blending with fund raising, communications and marketing, advocacy and social media messaging?
• What are the critical tasks tied to business goals, does your organization have the right set of employees, consultants, temps and volunteers with the right knowledge and skills to surpass business goals?
• If not, then how volunteers can be mapped to potential staffing “gap areas” tied to your business plan?
• Which is more important $500,000 worth of volunteer expertise currently in place or $500,000 of financial prospects in the pipeline?
• Do I have dedicated staff resources – volunteer(s) and or employee(s) focused on targeted volunteer engagement mapping talent and people resources to business needs?
• You may not be able to pay salaries for Fortune 500 executive level talent, however they may be more than willing to work for your organization as a volunteer, just ask.

Recommended Reading

From the Top Down
By Susan Ellis
Outlines the key executive decisions necessary to lay the foundation for effective volunteer involvement: policies, budgeting, staffing, employee-volunteer relationships, legal issues, cost and value of volunteers, and more. Revised in 2010!

Leading the Way to Successful Volunteer Involvement: Practical Tools for Busy Executives
By Betty B. Stallings with Susan J. Ellis
A set of checklists, worksheets, idea stimulators, and other practical guides for senior-level leaders to incorporate volunteer involvement as a key ingredient in the overall strategy of an organization.

Corporate Social Responsibility – How to select a nonprofit partner?

10 Feb

CSR – how do companies make informed decisions on NGOs? Bruce’s response to Suzy Goodwin’s Discussion on Corporate Social Responsibility Group on Linked In.
A few thoughts…
1) Alignment and fit – example Corporation (Corps.) and Nonprofit (NPOs) are both in the Disaster Space
2) Knowledge and Trust built over time – example the Connect America Program hosted by the Points of Light Foundation – brought together Corps., NPOs, and Government representatives regularly several times a year, overtime we built trust relationships and learned more about what each organization brought to the table, thought about small and large ways to work together… Roll forward 2 – 3 years later, Hurricane Katrina disaster response and recovery efforts brought together about 70% of these Connect America Partners working in mutually beneficial partnerships. Roll forward 2 more years these partnerships and personal relationships continued to mature, grow and expand.
3) Challenge 1 – finding neutral “conveners” to bring together Corps., NPO, and Govt. sector reps.
4) Challenge 2 – finding individuals who can “translate” between Corps., NPOs and Govt. entities and package win-win partnerships
5) Opportunity – mutually beneficial national demonstration projects to test new capacity building programs – example the Ready When the Time Comes – corporate volunteer engagement/partnership project matching the American Red Cross with W.W.Grainger, Inc.
For more information on Corporate Social Responsibility

Volunteer Risk Management – Is it on the Radar

9 Feb

What is your biggest challenge with regards to risk management? Lori Gotlieb – Volunteer Management Best Practices network – Bruce Summers’ response

Sometimes just getting Volunteer Risk Management or Risk Management on the Radar Screen. Lots of Directors and Chairs of Volunteers think about the “R’s”


I always added the other two “R’s”
-Risk Management and
-Relationship Building

Executive Directors and Volunteer Engagement Directors need focus on identifying and mitigating risk factors early on, then review and update relevant policies and procedures regularly.

Classic example: at the American Red Cross many 9/11 disaster responders were very proud that Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene relatively rapidly, on the other hand as the building collapsed (and I think destroyed one Red Cross emergency response vehicle), senior disaster leadership reinforced that the Red Cross protocols were to wait to be called in by the first responders – Police and Firefighters, since the Red Cross in principal does not want to put its volunteers or employees serving as disaster responders in harm’s way. The organization constantly reviews lessons learned from disaster and works towards remedying and mitigating risk.

Recommend Reading/Viewing:
No Surprises Volunteer Risk Management Tutorial – by Nonprofit Risk Management Center

Volunteer Engagement Best Practices – Do unions like volunteers and volunteering?

7 Feb

Volunteer Engagement Best Practices – Do unions like volunteers and volunteering?

Yes, unions and union members are often great supporters of nonprofits and proactive volunteers. The gray area seems to be when it comes to collective bargaining agreements and whether unions or union workers are concerned that volunteer involvement will impact their job security. Worst case: the organization lays off 3/4 of its employees and tries to replace them with volunteers vs. Best case in which volunteer opportunities are created to enhance overall reach and revenue working in partnership with union and non-union employees and management.

This question was generated in response to my LinkedIn discussion thread – What’s new and next for Volunteer Engagement in 2012? Last year it was micro-volunteering and the emergence of…, what new for you? in the Volunteer Management Best Practices network Group.

Among the questions raised – are there successful volunteer engagement in unionized environments.

My three examples:
• A number of the American Red Cross Blood Service Regions had unions with employees working on the technical parts of blood collections. This union members worked in collaboration with hundreds of volunteers who helped to staff the blood drives or served as drivers transporting blood to and from blood drives or from the Red Cross facilities to customers such as hospitals.
• All nonprofits have volunteer boards of directors who work with executive leadership to review, negotiation and approve union contracts.
• Many union members have been very active as American Red Cross disaster response volunteers for both local and national disasters.

Volunteer Engagement is a proven, viable staffing option for most nonprofits providing complementary staffing solutions to full time employees, part time employees and temporary contractors. Most nonprofits start out with totally volunteer staff, gradually over time nonprofits are able to add part time then full time employees to cover functions that are hard to staff with volunteers alone.

A good example is a Fire Department, in a suburban area this may include a blend of volunteers and employees with equivalent training with the employees hired to cover busy times of the day when many volunteer firemen and women are committed to other full time jobs. Overtime collective bargaining agreements may be negotiated to ensure both coverage and security for unionized fire fighters; however in many companies volunteers still play key complementary and leadership roles.

See also Susan Ellis’ Hot Topic from 1997 in Energize, Inc. – Why is it Labor Unions vs. Volunteers?

I welcome other thoughts and comments.

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