value of volunteers

June 9, 2022

Episode #009: Helping Nonprofit Employees See the Value of Volunteers

Do your coworkers understand and celebrate the value of volunteers within your organization? If the recurring questions we receive here at VolunteerPro are any indication, the answer may be “not yet.” 

The Value of Volunteers 

We often see comments in the Volunteer Insiders (our free Facebook group) and in our VolunteerPro Premium Membership community that are tinged with a little bit of frustration.  Leaders of volunteers want to know how they can bring their co-workers along, the ones who don’t understand the value of volunteers, treat them as second-tier help, or are downright resistant to having them in their departments.  

Lack of support and buy-in from paid staff is actually one of the top five challenges cited by leaders of volunteers each year in our Volunteer Management Progress Report. It is a pervasive concern for many, and it’s not something we can wave a magic wand at and solve overnight.   

Build Your Workplace Influence 

Changing the viewpoint of your coworkers and executive leadership to help them see the value of volunteers definitely won’t happen overnight, but it CAN happen with intentional relationship building and influence.   

In this episode, Tobi shares five steps for building that relational influence so that, as a leader of volunteers, you can effectively advocate for your team, collaborate to place volunteer talent within your organization, and get the respect and support your volunteers deserve.    

Five Steps to Help Employees See the Value of Volunteers

Tobi does a deep dive into the following five ways to build influence and help your co-workers see the value of volunteers:  

  1. Clarify Your Goals 
  2. Get Leadership on Board 
  3. Build Trust & Buy-In Through Active Listening  
  4. Champion Those Who are Getting Traction through Volunteer Involvement 
  5. Know Your Numbers

Along the way, Tobi shares creative ideas on how to start those tough conversations with sample questions, how to successfully approach executive meetings, ways to partner with HR in training paid staff to work with volunteers, how to celebrate your volunteer/staff partnerships, and how to build your reputation as the go-to expert on volunteerism.     

Don’t Give Up 

When thinking about your own organization, you may be tempted to settle for the status quo, sweep issues under the rug, and give up on creating the positive changes your volunteer team needs. But remember that there ARE many organizations in which paid staff understand the value of volunteers and support them enthusiastically.  With intentional action steps to build your workplace influence, you can get there, too.   

Highlights from this Episode 

00:01:24 Tobi shares statistics from this year’s Volunteer Management Progress Report, and shares some of the top challenges shared by most leaders of volunteers across the globe.  

00:02:29 Tobi talks about building influence in the workplace and its importance in motivating people to change and growth.   

0:03:19 Tobi starts with Step 1:  clarifying your goals. You need to be able to define what successful buy-in and respect look like for your organization before you can effectively communicate and advocate for it.   

00:04:37 Tobi continues Step 2: get leadership on board. The person directly responsible for the culture of an organization is your chief executive, and that person has the power to set (or change) the organization’s orientation towards volunteers.  

00:09:09 Tobi shares Step 3: building trust and buy-in through active listening. It really is all about relationship, and you need to truly listen to what your co-workers are expressing in order to better fit volunteers to those needs and address any underlying concerns.   

00:11:50 Tobi encourages you with Step 4: championing those who are getting traction through volunteer involvement in your organization. This is the fun part! You get to publicly celebrate when staff and volunteers are working well together and take every opportunity to highlight successful volunteer/employee teams.  

00:12:47 Tobi closes with Step 5: know your numbers. In order to effectively communicate the value of volunteers, it is imperative to know the key performance indicators and how staff involvement potentially affects those metrics.    

Key Quotes on the Value of Volunteers 

So, what’s the key challenge? What do all these challenges have in common? The biggest thing I see is the issue of influence, the ability to influence people and thus outcomes.”  

Make sure for your situation, you pinpoint what “buy-in” actually looks like. So you can make specific asks, AND you know when you get there.” 

“When you’re a volunteer-driven organization, it is everyone’s responsibility to support and champion volunteer engagement in some way. Whether it’s the reception desk, whether it’s a supervisor of volunteers or the executive director, everyone has a role to play in terms of engaging your community.”  

“Offer to train staff on supervision and support of volunteers…how to supervise volunteers, how to lead volunteers, how to inspire volunteers, how to appreciate volunteers. We may assume that everybody knows how to do this, but they don’t necessarily. They may not have been trained. And so, be the person who can help in doing that.”  

“You can boost the awareness and promise of volunteerism simply by building better relationships with your coworkers.”  

Your time in meetings is an investment. It is an investment, and it isn’t time wasted when you’re sitting down with folks and talking about the promise of volunteers, how volunteers might help their department, and what you’d like them to do to help you.” 

“You’re championing volunteering by helping people design relational experiences, because volunteering is really about people. Yes, there is a paperwork side of it, but the people part of it comes first.” 

“If you’re able to knowledgeably speak to your volunteer metrics, you are building influence and authority within your organization, and you can also speak to what might improve some of those metrics.” 

“There are many organizations where the team of paid staff understand their roles and support volunteers in a very robust way. If it’s not happening in yours, it doesn’t mean that it’s a foregone conclusion that it won’t change. It can change, but you need to step up and have a brave conversation about what’s not working.” 

Want More? Check out Our Time + Talent Podcast!

Whether you’re looking for solutions, inspiration, or just want to hear what others are doing to successfully engage volunteers, Time + Talent is the podcast for leaders of volunteers.

Co-hosts Tobi Johnson, MA, CVA and Jennifer Bennett, CVA bring you uplifting and insightful conversations with thought leaders and volunteer management practitioners who are redefining their roles, and the roles of volunteers.


About the Show

Nonprofit leadership author, trainer, consultant, and volunteer management expert Tobi Johnson shares weekly tips to help charities build, grow, and scale exceptional volunteer teams. Discover how your nonprofit can effectively coordinate volunteers who are reliable, equipped, and ready to help you bring about BIG change for the better.

If you’re ready to ditch the stress and harness the power of people to fuel your good work, you’re in exactly the right place!

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