March 31st, 2015
When the Boston Globe headline read “Volunteers unwanted” above the fold on the front page on Wednesday 3/25/15, I had to respond in case people got the wrong impression, since volunteers are very much needed in the nonprofit sector, and this is the premise of PMD’s business model.
Yet the subhead “Nonprofits often fear what corporations want to give” had some truth to it.
So I wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published today*, adjacent to a nice letter by Community Servings’ CEO David Waters, who reminds us that contributed services are a valuable resource that can greatly expand charity impact when done right.
Another critical part of PMD’s business model is that we rigorously plan and prepare for PMD service projects, making site visits, mobilizing expertise, and buying, transporting, preparing materials, and setting up the tools and materials so that volunteers can become productive quickly AND learn about the context of their contributions. It can sometimes take 40 manhours of preparation in order for 50 volunteers to help out together for one hour; luckily when we repeat service projects like assembling Lego science kits, we can reuse the training slides we’ve carefully developed and refined over the years.
One last plug about PMD corporate partnership projects: our partners (Novartis, EMC, VMware, etc.) donate to PMD to ensure that everything is ready to go for their private groups, “much the way some organizations have an event planner orchestrate their holiday party.” PMD is currently planning summer and autumn service projects, so call me to learn about options for your business.
*Due to space limitations the only thing that was left out of my letter was my specific example, so I’ll share that part:
Now planning its fifth year, exemplary Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) makes $5,000 grants to its 40+, vetted charity partners to pay for materials and staffing, fosters communication/clear mutual expectations during a four-month planning period, as well as assigns its own staff to make site visits in advance and help lead 3,000+ employee volunteers participate in its annual, company-wide Service Day: One Community. One Blue.
Note: PMD was a BCBSMA charity partner with the MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences, assembling protein science kits in September, and we have applied to expand this project in 2015.)
October 3rd, 2012
In anticipation of my workshop at VolunteerMaine’s annual, statewide Blaine House Conference on Service and Volunteerism in Orono next week, I’m guest blogging about how to prepare for and start partnerships that support volunteer programs.
October 3rd, 2012
Robbie Samuels has posted my guest blog Making the Most of Volunteers, which has links on ways of thinking about motivation and for podcasts on the “hiring” process .
October 25th, 2011
Last week, I heard on the “news” that celebrity Lindsay Lohan showed up 40 minutes late for her required training for her court-mandated community service, so was sent home (before she was later incarcerated for violating the terms of her parole). Kudos to the charity which enforced its standards rather than accept any effort as better than no effort.
While I’m certainly not Lindsay Lohan, as I attempt to do more, I increasingly run late despite my best attempts to allocate enough time, and it seems that this is not uncommon for others. So when I personally volunteer, I must make a huge effort to overcome my tendency to run late, so that I don’t cause more harm than good, such as delaying meals for many diabetics who must medicate and eat on-time.
As volunteers increasingly take responsibility for critical tasks for nonprofits, nonprofits need to set and enforce appropriate boundaries that reinforce the high standards of their charitable missions. While incarcerating any PMD volunteers who arrive late (or unprepared) is not an option, this year I’ve begun enforcing our basic requirement to call in absences by the day before, by revoking volunteer privileges, so we don’t compromise our services. When volunteers arrive so late that we’ve already scaled back expectations for the group (thereby doing more harm than the good we originally planned), we send latecomers home. And when volunteers arrive unprepared, such as being improperly/unsafely dressed, we also send them home.
This may seem like overkill to some, but we’ve already drawn reasonable, publicly-revealed “lines,” and now we’re actually enforcing them because they are significant to the good we strive to accomplish.
November 18th, 2010
Simply said, because I’m waiting for all the details needed for a successful volunteer experience, whether it’s signing up to volunteer and the project itself matching expectations/pr or the details being complete and correct. Since PMD partners with many charities, most of which don’t have staff dedicated to running an ongoing volunteer program, it takes time for us to work out these details together, sometimes longer than expected.
My related TSNE article on nonprofits must prepare to recruit volunteers has gone live today. It’s relevant whether a charity needs a volunteer to help for only two hours one time or needs many volunteers to help for several hours a week.
October 4th, 2010
Check out my guest blog today on VolunteerMaine!
I’ll be presenting a workshop all about episodic volunteering at their annual conference next week.
March 18th, 2010
Although People Making a Difference (PMD) is often thought of as being the group for individuals and businesses to go to for fun, well-organized, hands-on volunteer opportunities helping community-based charities and their clients in need, PMD also provides needed training and pro bono consulting services (and serves as the fiscal sponsor and leads the Directors of Volunteer Administration (DOVA) ) so that more charities can engage more volunteers effectively.
I’ve been a regular presenter at the annual conferences of VolunteerMaine and the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, plus the Technical Development Corporation (TDC) and the Nonprofit Net (where they recorded my 90+minute seminar) in Greater Boston. (Since the United Way abandoned volunteer management training when it reorganized two executive directors ago, PMD has been trying to fill the void.)
Earlier this month, I offered data, insights, and advice on enabling volunteers to make a difference to a packed workshop organized by Jackie Cefola and her team at Third Sector New England, as part of its free, Bottom Line training series. Originally planned for just 35 participants, it filled beyond capacity within two days of being advertised, and 50+ people actually participated. I suspect that there is such a huge interest in volunteers since donations of time and treasure distinguish the nonprofit sector, everyone is trying to do more with less during the recession, and a typical American’s volunteer involvement has become just 1-2 times a year. Fyi: I began with trends in volunteer (mis)management and had participants base their thinking on key volunteer motivators balanced with their charities’ prioritized needs, followed by targeted marketing approaches/tools. (Email me if you’d like a copy of the handouts.)
Attendee feedback from this workshop was quite positive, and I was delighted to learn that many people appreciated my humorous approach. While I don’t typically think of myself as a funny person, I guess I do use humor when sharing stories of nonprofits and volunteers, particularly cautionary tales, beginning with my own story as a 10-year-old, novice violinist “serenading” captive/immobile residents at my great grandmother’s convalescent hospital.
In my subsequent high school years as Key Club Governor and Lt. Governor of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District, I mostly shared lists of facts and dry logic during trainings and presentations I gave, so I’m glad that my presentation style has evolved to integrate relevant storytelling and humor. People really do remember stories, not isolated information, and humor helps us deal with difficult subjects.
September 11th, 2009
PMD volunteers gathered for the scheduled service project the evening of 9/11/01, and while we were not as productive as usual, we worked together for the common good. In the weeks and months that followed, PMD volunteers continued to work together despite area threats and alerts.
“We must continue to allow-and encourage- the diversity, culture and commerce of the United States to thrive in healthy, livable cities, markets, parks and neighborhoods. At this critical time, when so many are scorched by tragedy and fighting fear, we cannot afford to react by building higher fences. Instead we must come together on common ground to re-establish our communities as the foundations of a civilized, compassionate society.”
–The Staff of the Project for Public Spaces, New York City, 9/14/01
September 10th, 2009
I’m a guest blogger again for VolunteerMaine, leading up to their annual conference where I will present next month, building on last year’s workshop on building community partnerships.
July 13th, 2009
I’ve provided some Expert Advice for Massnonprofit.org at http://www.massnonprofit.org/expert.php?artid=1571&catid=64
Disclaimer: This is general advice. Results will vary for specific programs and people. For assistance with your volunteer program and its particular challenges, please contact me directly for consultations.