In the opening morning of the Advanced Volunteer Management Institute (#AVMI) at the National Conference on Volunteer Service (#NCVS) there was a support circle session. In groups of four, one person got to bring up a challenge they are currently facing. The others then offer whatever insights they can that might of assistance. In subsequent sessions each of the others get their turn in seeking advice related to their own challenge.
In our first session the challenge revolved around a region’s need to cultivate the nonprofits ability to deal with volunteers who are interested in applying the professional or special skills. Their research showed that there is large pool of people that are not only ready, willing and able to volunteer, but also to take on roles of greater responsibility. Their research also showed that most organizations were only prepared to work with volunteers helping in roles of minimal responsibility.
Given that this a common challenge I’m offering a couple of the suggestions that surfaced from our support circle conversation.
- Seek out volunteers who have the skills required to act as one-on-one coaches with nonprofits interested in learning more about how this shift can help them achieve their goals and how to go about implementing it. Those volunteer with experience in organizational change, senior management or organizational structure etc. and a desire to volunteer in this professional capacity will have a very fulfilling volunteer experience and more organizations will be ready to take on more volunteers interested in taking on roles with a higher level of responsibility.
- Rather than the job of managing volunteers being given to the E.D., or some other non-volunteer management focused position in the very small nonprofits, subcontract out the volunteer management to a person who works with a few nonprofits and has considerable expertise in volunteer management. Deploying volunteers in roles that involve a higher level of responsibility requires a higher level of expertise in the volunteer manager.