Monday, June 16, 2014

May Flowers: Volunteers Are the Treasures of NonProfits

NonProfit Roundtable Blog
May 20, 2014
By Jerry Metzker, Nonprofit Roundtable Co-Chair and Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners

For community benefits organizations and agencies, public projects, and community action initiatives, individuals who freely devote themselves, their skills and their time can be the life’s blood of an activity, and sometimes the organizations themselves. At its May meeting, the Chamber’s NonProfit Roundtable addressed the many aspects of volunteers and volunteering for the community. These included how to look for volunteers, engage them, train them, support them and thank them.

Volunteers are individuals who undertake tasks for an organization but are not paid, including such persons as board and committee members, pro bono consultants, people who are assigned community service, unpaid interns and students volunteering for class credit. In 2012, 26% of Americans volunteered, more women than men, and mostly in the 35-44 year-old range with 33% of all volunteers in youth services.

The meeting featured Jayne Cravens of Coyote Communications (, an internationally-recognized consultant, researcher and trainer. Her work focuses on communications, volunteer involvement, community engagement, and management for nonprofits, NGOs and government initiatives. She has a decade of international experience, and extensive experience regarding community and institutional development. Cravens is a pioneer regarding the research, promotion and practice of virtual volunteering, including virtual team work, online mentoring, microvolunteering and crowdsourcing. She has worked extensively with multicultural audiences, corporate audiences, United Nations agencies, national and international agencies, international aid workers, low-income communities, and those who are traditionally socially-excluded. She is also co-author of the book, The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

During her presentation, Cravens covered many aspects of volunteering. Her suggestions include: 1) organizations should use their own strengths, mission and stories as recruitment tools; 2) think about why people want to volunteer, nothing that many people respond because they are angry about something and want to do something productive to address or fix the situation; 3) different people have different reasons for volunteering, and many of them go after what they are passionate about; 4) look for ideas from other organizations and volunteer services and try them; 5) beware of anti-volunteer positions, such as those held by individuals displaced after disaster or internships.

She also noted how important it is to value volunteers as individuals who are engaging with you in your mission or activity. They are not helpers because the organization cannot afford to pay workers. In fact, Cravens strongly recommends avoiding talking about monetary considerations at all. She also encouraged organizations and agencies that use volunteers to create a mission statement for volunteers.

In addition, developing a range of volunteer engagement and opportunities under the mission is crucial. These may include volunteer roles (such as board and committee members that have very specific requirements), length of time necessary (for example, a youth mentor is expected to dedicate her/himself to the youth for a minimum of nine consecutive months), location of activities (onsite, online) and skills needed. As many people like to work from home, do you have opportunities that satisfy this interest?

She concluded with the reminder that volunteering is a way to engage people in your mission and activity; the best way to satisfy them and utilize their potential is to help them enjoy it.

John Alyosa of CASA – Court Appointed Special Advocates ( – shared his experiences as a volunteer coordinator for that agency on how to maximize volunteer time. The best practices he shared include establishing goals, recruitment protocols, screening processes, training, supervision guidelines and ongoing engagement. He also shared ways to identify volunteers, such as having an inquiry process via an app or website, being listed in search engines (such as Volunteer Match), referrals and, crucially, word-of-mouth.

For any organization, determining how volunteers fit requires some thought and strategy. Alyosa recommends establishing requirements/guidelines, noting if the position is independent or supervised (and how much supervised) and creating an application process. For anyone working with youth, fingerprinting, TB testing and background checks are essential (and in many cases, required by law).

Working with volunteers follows many of the same protocols as those applied to paid employees, such as orientation, training and support; welcoming them warmly; identifying their immediate supervisor; establishing a reporting structure; and giving constructive and corrective feedback. Whether they have good or bad experiences, during and after, volunteers are spokespersons for the organization. It behooves the organization to be respectful and honorable in all of its dealings with them.

The meeting also featured an exercise on acknowledgment led by NonProfit Roundtable co-chair Âna-Marie Jones of CARD ( In this exercise, each participant wrote one or two different things that s/he had accomplished and was proud of. Then Jones divided the attendees into pairs of two, in which the partners swapped their cards. The recipient read the card, turned it over and wrote on the other side why s/he was pleased by the accomplishment or how important that contribution is. Then the partners shared aloud with each other both the contribution and the appreciation.

To learn more about volunteering and volunteer appreciation, check out,, and

Thank you, also, to Iryna Oreshkova of Iryna Accountancy ( for bringing the treats.



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Events are critical to the success of nonprofits. Whether it's a classic fundraiser, an open house, a training or workshop, or simply sponsoring a happy hour to have your friends and supporters get together, these events allow people to experience us and embrace our work. Come join us at the Nonprofit Roundtable on Tuesday, June 17th, 2:30pm - 4:30pm, to go deep into making events work for our agencies. Presenters include Kathryn Weber, Corporate Partnership and Events Manager of Alameda County Community Food Bank, Maren Amdal, CAE, Executive Director of CFA Society and Roundtable Co-chair Jerry Metzker, Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners. If you have an upcoming event, please come prepared to share about it! Also, we gratefully welcome door prizes and snacks.


Co-Chair Âna-Marie Jones, Executive Director of CARD (AMJ
Co-Chair Jerry Metzker, Development & Marketing Manager of Biotech Partners (

Chamber Liaison Nikki Mendez, Membership Director (




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