Archive for the 'DOVA' Category

Forward-Thinking Charity Partners Wanted

Tuesday, 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.)

Humor and stories help people understand/retain key points on engaging volunteers.

Thursday, 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.

Thoughts on Volunteering as a Commonwealth Corps Reviewer

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Earlier this month, I figured that I had a civic responsibility to do more than just criticize the governor’s new Commonwealth Corps (CC), so I volunteered as one of nearly 100 citizen grant reviewers, to make sure that our tax dollars are spent as effectively as possible.

Our task was to read (in 4.5-6 hours) eight proposals, then come to consensus in one of ~20 small groups about their relative ranking. Actual funding decisions will be made by the commission.
What made this RFP unique were parts about what corps members would specifically do to generate more volunteers for the recipient charities, beyond direct service to people in need, which is presumably addressed by their existing volunteer pools.
Sadly, of the eight nonprofits whose proposals I read, only a couple indicated any existing infrastructure to recruit, screen, manage, and expand volunteer roles, and I heard similar observations from two other volunteer grant reviewers. While I don’t doubt that some corps members may have human resources/recruiting talents, none of the proposals I read targeted these professionals, and I am doubtful that a 9-12 month stint by 3+ corps members will change this capacity of these nonprofits for the long term.

As I wrote in December, I believe that what is really needed are resources made directly to nonprofits to develop their capacity to work with potential and actual volunteers effectively (like developing a strategic volunteer plan) and the staff (or part-time equivalents) to carry out the plan would make a more lasting difference.

Since there were many more applicants than funding, my fellow small group readers and I wondered whether the CC Commission will offer training and resources to the many nonprofits that will not receive funding but still need more volunteers to service their needy populations throughout the state. Commissioner David Roach indicated some interest to me after he noted that the commission does not have any hands-on volunteer managers serving on it yet, but the commission’s first, big milestone is to award its first round of grants. I think that someone with direct volunteer recruiting, screening, and management experience should join to commission, to help the commission identify barriers to volunteer participation that can be addressed through the CC and/or other programs.
Here’s hoping that the CC or some funder will recognize the huge need for deliberate, resourced volunteer recruitment and management in the nonprofit sector and address it directly.

While PMD can continue to service a handful of Boston-area nonprofits with episodic needs who lack the resources to maintain ongoing volunteer programs and to serve as the fiscal sponsor of the Directors of Volunteer Administration (DOVA), there are still many more nonprofits that have ongoing volunteer needs and insufficient staffing and expertise to begin or to sustain volunteer programs that are integrated into their organizations.

Directors of Volunteer Administration (DOVA)

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

This year (2006-7), I am president of the local Directors of Volunteer Administration (DOVA), a local professional organization for people and nonprofit agencies involved in volunteerism and volunteer administration in Greater Boston. I have been a DOVA member and sometime officer for more than a decade, and have found the networking and learning opportunities helpful at all stages of my career.

This Thursday, 9/28, 9:30-11:30 AM, at the Emmanuel Gospel Center there will be a great program about “Successful Recruitment Strategies for Specific Communities” with panelists Penn Loh, Executive Director, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), and Tracy Stanley, Manager of External Relations, Big Brothers of Massachusetts Bay. If recruiting more diverse participants is a goal, don’t miss this program. R.s.v.p. to Debbie Barr, DOVA Program Vice President,

On Tuesday October 17, join us at 3:30 PM at Grendel’s Den for a Happy Hour/Late Lunch networking and discussion about “Screening Volunteer Applicants, from CORI to References.” Grendel’s is extending their special $3.95 express lunches for DOVA attendees. This is a “pay for yourself” gathering. R.s.v.p. to me by 10/13.

Everyone can join DOVA for $35 per individual per year, and enjoy six professional development and networking programs; job opportunity postings; and membership directory. Non-member can attend meetings for $10 per person.

For membership information, contact Michele Mitsumori, DOVA Membership Vice President,

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