Appreciating Volunteers the VMI Way

Appreciating Volunteers the VMI Way

In September, Nonprofit Connect hosted Volunteer Management Institute, a three-day volunteer management intensive featuring volunteers management experts from local organizations like KC Pet Project and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Amy Gaier, Program Director at the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City attended and shares what she learned from VMI.

 Guest Post by Amy Gaier, Program Director at Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City

Thanks to the commitment of our organization and its executive leadership, I was able to participate in the recent Volunteer Management Institute. At VMI, I gained tools and knowledge that will help me now and in the future in enhancing our volunteer program. And thanks to the design of the program and the skill of Nonprofit Connect faculty, I also built camaraderie with a network of new professional colleagues.

The most meaningful sessions for me had to do with the joy (and work!) of having volunteers. I’ve been in the nonprofit world my whole career and have met many volunteers. I have learned that, like snowflakes, no two volunteers are the same. They come with:

  • Personal experience and attributes
  • Vocational and professional training, and
  • Previous, or an anticipated, volunteer experience.

What does this mean for volunteer screening, recruitment and selection? Do we need all types of volunteers in our organization? Or, like snowflakes, are there types of volunteers who will do best with certain types of tasks and roles? And better yet, are there those that will help our organization fulfill our mission?

VMI reinforced for me that the best place to find answers is to start with questions.

  1. What does our organization need in order to fulfill its mission? So then,
  2. Which type of volunteers need apply? What will they do? When? How long? How frequently? With what tools or benefits? In what kind of environment?
  3. What physical and other attributes will volunteers need to feel good and to do well at the work? Are the volunteers able to stand, lift, sit, read, type, or sort? Are they able to work well with others as well as alone?
  4. What needs do the volunteers have? Do they need client contact? Can we as an organization provide it? Do they need arts and culture? Can we as an organization provide it? Do our volunteers need exposure to influential people? Can we provide it?

So, along with all the other homework that comes from attending VMI, I’ll be spending time:

  • thinking about and sharing these essential questions with my co-workers,
  • building processes that systematically integrate volunteers into our everyday work,
  • exploring our current pool of volunteers to assess their needs, and how those needs match up with what we are asking them to do,
  • and finding new ways to make our volunteer experience more meaningful. This includes finding new and different opportunities to fulfill their passion and our mission, and articulating the connection their work has to our mission.
  • I'll be reaching out to my new professional colleagues,
  • and hopefully attending additional Nonprofit Connect programs!

Finally, for those wondering if Volunteer Management Institute is worth the investment, my belief is that staff development is a great and cost effective way for organizations to keep good staff while improving the organization’s overall bottom line. Nonprofit Connect is a great staff development partner to work with!

Look for Volunteer Management Institute in 2015!

Interested in attending or presenting? Contact Noreen Bridgham, Director of Programs nbridgham@npconnect.org