Episode #054: National Volunteer Week 2023 – A Year to Be Grateful

National Volunteer Week 2023 – A Year to Be Grateful – Edited

Hey, welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and big ideas on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity, cause membership or movement, I made this podcast just for you. Greetings, listeners of the Volunteer Nation Podcast.

I’m Tobi Johnson. I’m your host and I am very excited to announce something that some of you have been waiting for a while. I’m happy to announce that for the first time ever, our volunteer Management Fundamental Certificate course is now offered in self-paced module. This course is now open to everybody.

You don’t have to wait for us to open the doors. It is now open. It will include a place for you to ask questions and get answers from me directly. And when you’re completed, it will send you a completion certificate. And if you’re tracking your CVA PDUs, you get 10 CVA PDUs, which is pretty awesome, and you get lifetime access to the course when you enroll.

So if you have been waiting for the course to open again, we are here and ready for you. So it’s time to stop guessing and start planning. It’s time to reverse the tide of volunteer attrition and get ready to crush your nonprofit’s most ambitious goals with a solid plan for engaging, committed volunteer talent.

I know it can be frustrating worrying, and there can be a lot of guesswork in volunteer engagement, but we take that all out of the picture. We give you a framework that helps you start to take action and get traction right away. And our course is, if you don’t know about it, it’s 5 focused modules with handouts, templates, tools, and video training by me.

And we take you all the way through the volunteer life cycle, and I focus on the things that I think are the most important because I know you don’t have a lot of time on your hands that you’re trying to implement and move. You’re trying to build that plane and fly it at the same time. And so here’s a few things that when you take the course, you will be able to get done.

One is create a commitment to community statement, and this helps you create a compelling case for volunteer engagement that not only you can share within your organization, but also with the community at large. We want to make sure that you’re able to strategically align your volunteer opportunities with your organization’s most pressing goals.

So we give you a framework for how to do that, want to make sure that volunteerism is being the best it can be and terms of your organization’s strategic plan. And so we want to make sure that all of those roles are aligned. We’re going to help you develop a volunteer risk management plan because we want to make sure that there’s no harm done to anyone as we get into volunteering, and we do more, not less.

Another thing we’re going to help you do is build a set of key outcomes metrics. I know people are always wondering how are they going to communicate volunteer impact in the work of volunteers, and we’ve got a framework for that. We’re also going to help you set a doable recruitment plan to reach your ideal volunteer.

And I have a specific step-by-step framework that I teach you how to use to start getting out there and really optimizing your volunteer recruitment instead of just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. That’s not how the best recruitment works. So we’re going to teach you how to do that.

We’re also going to teach you how to design an integrated volunteer recognition and retention strategy where everybody can get involved with keeping your volunteers coming back. And then finally, I’m going to help you learn the secrets to leading high functioning volunteer teams without all that drama, and much, much more.

There’s so much more in this course, but those are a few things. A few key things that I know people are trying to tackle. The biggest are of course, volunteer recruitment and retention, and we help you by developing systems and frameworks that are repeatable, proven, and can help you get that job done.

One other thing, we’re also offering with the Volunteer Management Fundamental Certificate course, we’re offering a bonus. And that bonus is another mini course that is called Balancing Episodic and Long-Term Volunteers, develop flexible roles that meet both volunteer and agency’s needs. It’s a spotlight course and it has fantastic handout.

You can also get CVA PDUs, 1.5 CVA PDUs, and in six on-demand lessons of about 88 minutes, you will begin to learn how to make longer term assignments more appealing, how to make short-term engagements more productive, and how to keep those short-term volunteers coming back and transitioning into longer term assignments.

I know this is a big challenge for a lot of you, and so this course lays it out for you. So if you join now, if you go to volpro.net/begin, you can get the Volunteer Management Fundamental Certificate Course. And you can get our bonus, Balancing Episodic and Long-term Volunteers. So I hope you join us.

I’d love to converse with you. So when you join, say hi to me in the comments. All of the comments in the course come directly to my email and I answer them those questions within one business day. Even though it’s an online course, I keep in touch with our students and I want to find out what you’re doing and what your questions are and how the courses is helping you move ahead.

So just wanted to let everybody know that course is now available. Just go to volpro.net/begin. All right, so in today’s episode, we’re going to talk about National Volunteer Week 2023. My theme is a year to be grateful. A year to be grateful, and I just want to share some of the things I’m grateful for.

Gratitude is a mindful practice, a practice of mindfulness that helps us see the world in an abundant way. It is very easy in the nonprofit sector to have a scarcity mindset, to feel like there’s not enough to go around. But actually when I started really thinking about it, there’s plenty to go around.

There are plenty of people out there who want to help your mission thrive. You just have to get connected with them. And so today, I just wanted to go over some of the reasons I’m grateful. National Volunteer Week 2023 let’s just kick it off. Reason to be grateful, number one. As you’re celebrating National Volunteer Week 2023, one of the best reasons is that volunteers are everywhere.

Volunteers are hiding in plain sight no matter where you are. You can spot them in hospitals, airports, libraries, sporting courts and fields, community gardens, national and state parks, hospices, assisted living facilities, youth centers, music festival, crisis help lines, fire departments, museums, zoos, aquariums, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Volunteers are everywhere. Many direct services provided by nonprofits are supported or led by volunteers. Nonprofit organizations themselves are governed by boards of directors who are unpaid volunteers. Students are volunteering to fulfill service-learning requirements and gaining resume building experience.

Parents are volunteering to help sports leagues and field teams to give their kids a place to play. Retirees are volunteering as a second career. That’s way less stressful than the decades of work they put in at the office, and it feels so much better. Employee teams are volunteering. They’re out in communities for days of service making an infused impact in their days.

So volunteers are everywhere. All you have to do is look closely to find them, and so that’s something to be really grateful for. I think in our day-to-day work, we sometimes forget that there is this limitless font of people who are willing to help us. That is an abundant mindset, limitless font of people and they’re everywhere.

I remember I was flying somewhere to do a public speaking engagement and I was walking through an airport and I saw somebody at an info desk and they came over and said hi. As I was walking by, they greeted me and I turned and I said, are you a volunteer?

And they said, yes, I am. I said, really? How long have you been volunteering here? So we started chatting and I’m like, there you go, another volunteer. Another time my husband and I were at a state park and it was a state park we didn’t know about before and we were visiting for the first time.

So we walked in and we checked in at the info desk and there was a guy that greeted us and I looked at him and I said, are you a volunteer? And he said, yes, I am. So he started talking about his experience being a volunteer. If you look, volunteers are hiding in plain sight everywhere in our communities, and we should be so grateful to all of the people that step up, that sacrifice time out of their busy schedules to help our organizations and our communities thrive.

And so that’s the number one reason. Of course, during National Volunteer Week 2023, that’s the number one reason. This is a year to be grateful. National Volunteer Week 2023, reason to be grateful number two. Our genetic makeup. We as human beings, homo sapiens, we are hardwired to help people. This is a given, you all.

This is a given. We are hardwired. There is a compassion gene. If you’ve ever heard Dr. Keltner’s TED Talk back in 2010, I think he did this TED Talk. It’s fantastic. I’ll link to it in the show notes. The story of our species is a story of compassion. He said in that talk quoting Charles Darwin, we know that we are hardwired to give to one another.

If you need an example or proof of this informal volunteering rates were retained at the same level or increased in some countries during the pandemic. When formal volunteering rates went down, informal volunteering rates either remained the same or went up depending on what part of the world you lived in. And so we know that there is an indomitable spirit of giving in human beings, neighbors helping neighbors, community, helping community.

This is part of who we are, and it’s easy to forget that when we’re looking at the news and we’re looking at what’s happening in our political climate. But just remember those are the few, there are so many others that are willing to work through differences that are willing to work side by side with people they may not agree with.

There’s all of this. This is the norm. It is the norm to collaborate like this. It’s not the exception. And so that’s another reason to be grateful in National Volunteer Week 2023. We are celebrating. I’m on a positivity bent. I hope this is making your day, as you either commute to work, go on your power walk or listening in your office wherever you are.

By the way, I’m grateful for you as listeners. Thank you so much for supporting this podcast. I really appreciate you. All right, let’s get on to National Volunteer Week 2023, reason to be grateful number three. Volunteering is a way of life for many. So I talked a little bit about it. It’s in our DNA, right?

But it’s also a way of life. Volunteers are kindred spirits. When you meet another volunteer, you understand one another. It doesn’t matter what kind of volunteering you’re doing, when you’re volunteering, how you’re volunteering, who you’re volunteering with, doesn’t matter. There are kindred spirits. We understand that it is a way of life for us.

Those of us who volunteer on a regular basis, that isn’t going to go away anytime soon, that way of life. Some of our ways of life come from our families and our communities of faith, and the people we hang out with. These are deeply ingrained values that we are living out when we’re involved in philanthropy as a volunteer.

So it’s a way of life and it’s going nowhere fast. So it’s going to stay here. It’s been handed down from generation to generation. I have two matriarchal families that I was brought up in two very strong women grandmothers that ran the both sides of the families that I grew up in, and they were both, one was a nurse and one was a very limited means.

And both of them, into long into their old age, were giving and volunteering on a regular basis. And so that’s where I learned this all from, was from the women in my family. And so volunteering is a way of life and we should be grateful for that way of life that continues to thrive generation after generation. So let’s pause for a quick break from my National Volunteer Week 2023 list of gratitude.

And right after the break, I’m going to share some more and particularly some resources you might tap. It is National Volunteer Week and we do want to celebrate. There may be some last minute planning that you need to do this week, and I’ve got some resources for you. So don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.

If you enjoyed this week’s episode of Volunteer Nation, we invite you to check out the VolunteerPro Premium Membership. This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting, engaging, and supporting dedicated high impact volunteer talent for your good cause.

VolunteerPro Premium Membership helps you build or renovate an effective what’s working now volunteer program with less stress and more joy so that you can ditch the overwhelm and confidently carry your vision forward. It is the only implementation of its kind that helps your organization build maturity across five phases of our proprietary system, the Volunteer Strategy Success Path. If you’re interested in learning more, visit volpro.net/join.

Okay, we’re back with my list of National Volunteer Week 2023 reasons to be grateful. So we got to reason number three. Let’s talk about reason number four. Volunteerism is showing signs of recovery. Isn’t that great? Our volunteer management progress report shows that hours and numbers of active volunteers are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

They’re not quite there yet, but they’re very close. Now, this may not be for all organizations. Some organizations are struggling more than others, but those organizations that maintained close ties with their volunteers over the pandemic did not have a hard time bringing them back. And so that’s a lesson to all of us.

There were lessons in this pandemic when it comes to volunteerism. The other thing is that volunteers are okay volunteering remotely. And in fact, more people now are willing to volunteer remotely or online than they were in the past. So that’s another silver lining. So it’s showing signs of recovery and resilience, I would say.

Volunteers are still also interested in longer term assignments. There’s a recent Volunteer Match study that we talked about in our interview with Darcy Hughes and Jennifer Bennett at Volunteer Match where they talk about that most of the volunteers in their study were mostly interested in long-term regular occurring assignments.

And some of the things, when we think about lack and scarcity, the data just isn’t showing that. Now, of course we all have our individual struggles at our organizations, but as a whole, we are starting to show signs of resilience. And that’s not surprising, is it? Because volunteering is a way of life, right?

All right. National Volunteer Week 2023 reason to be grateful number five. This is a really important one. People like you. I’m grateful for people like you. The helpers that help the helpers. You are fantastic people. You are an incredible group of professionals around the world that make volunteerism possible.

Volunteerism, informal neighbor, helping neighbor, certainly that can happen without you. But most of the formal volunteering, the team-based volunteering, the big events, the deep, consistent work helping people in your community. That doesn’t happen without leaders of volunteers like you, and most of you are leaders of volunteers, or if you’re an executive director listening, thank you as well for making volunteerism possible, for creating a place for the community to be involved in your mission.

That is such a gift. I am grateful for people like you because you care about equity and inclusion. I know this because I have ongoing conversations with our students and people in our membership, so I know it’s a thing of concern and people want to do better. People are always striving to do better in our field.

You and many others like you are often working and striving to do more with less because that’s the way we do in the nonprofit world. After working nearly 30 years before I started my consulting practice, I know what it’s all about. To do more with less to be is as efficient as possible to be the best steward of the community resources and funder resources that we’re given.

And so when we get those resources, we multiply them through volunteerism. We make sure there is ROI, return on investment for every dollar that is given to our organizations to convert into results. We know volunteers make that possible and enhance all of those donations. So it’s fantastic. People like you are the catalysts, you are the people that are making this happen.

And the other thing I’m really appreciative about people like you, our leaders of volunteers, our executive, our nonprofit staff who are championing volunteerism around the world is that no matter how hard it gets, you keep going anyway. And I think that’s fantastic because it’s not an easy job.

I tell people volunteer engagement is rocket science. You try to get people to come on their day-off and spend all day working with you for no pay. No, it’s not an easy thing to do. It takes a tremendous amount of skill and leadership to pull off and there’s so many different hats you wear as leaders of volunteers and as nonprofit staffers.

It is very incredible. It takes a tremendous amount of talent and grit and resilience and smarts and savvy. So be proud of yourself. So that is a big reason to be grateful this National Volunteer Week 2023. I am so grateful for people like you. And then the final, final reason to be grateful. There are resources at your fingertips right now to help you appreciate your volunteers and keep volunteerism alive with style.

Let’s keep it alive with style. I’m not talking about keeping it on life support people. I’m talking about keeping volunteerism alive with style. Why not? So we have some resources if you are in the midst of National Volunteer Week or if you are celebrating Global Volunteer Month and you need some resources.

Let me break down a few that we’ve created recently that can be super helpful to you. Number one, Volunteer Nation Episode 51, 10 Reasons Why Volunteerism is Important Beyond the Fluff. There’s a lot of talking points in that podcast episode. You may have heard it all, listened to it already, heard it already, maybe not

And if you want, you can download the transcript or look at our show notes page for this, and I’ll put a link in the show notes. You can click over there and cut and paste some of these talking points and use them in speeches. What about that? I’m giving you a little bit of permission to steal a little bit there.

I would say not steal, but convert, repurpose into something that makes sense for your speech. Another resource that’s super helpful for National Volunteer Week, the VolunteerPro blog, a Pro Roundup. Every month we do a Pro Roundup where we assemble a bunch of resources. We did one recently fresh Volunteer Appreciation Week ideas with new takes on old classics, where Jamie Gaylor, our marketing and community manager, kind of did a really creative thing of thinking through the same old, same old, and then giving each same old, same old approach for on volunteer appreciation.

Just take a fresh take on. It’s really good. So check that out. We’ll link to it in the show notes. And then there was a blog that Jamie wrote last month, Volunteer Appreciation Week 2023, Easy, Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Your Team. And in that post, she created, she’s so creative. She created and suggested different themes.

And then we link to different items you can purchase on Amazon and you can order them. So she did all your research for you. So check that out. And then final resource at your fingertips is Volunteer Nation episode six. This is way back the second month I was recording Volunteer Nation.

I recorded an episode on the 4-Part Power Thank You Letter for Volunteers. If you’re writing thank you letters this month, this will help you do so with ease because I give you a very simple framework. So you don’t have to sit there and think about what am I going to write? And you don’t have to feel bored by writing the same thing over and over again.

It gives you a framework to think about unique ways with the framework to call out each individual volunteer and their talents. So that’s it. Those are my reasons to be grateful. I’ll wrap them up again for you. Reason to be grateful, number one was volunteers are everywhere. Reason to be grateful number two is our genetic makeup. People are hardwired to help people.

Reason to be grateful number three, volunteering is a way of life for many people And then volunteer reason to be grateful number four. Volunteerism is showing signs of recovery. Reason to be grateful number five, people like you again, you are so valued. You probably don’t even recognize how valued you are, how important you are.

You are linchpins. Volunteerism does not happen without you. I know most of you listening. If you’re a volunteer listening, let me also say thank you for your service. Thank you so much for helping out the causes in your community. You are stepping up and making it happen, and we appreciate you. I’m assuming that your organization has already thanked you, but I’m going to double up on that.

And then reason to be grateful number six, there are resources at your fingertips. We will link to them in the show notes, and I just want to wish everybody the best this National Volunteer Week or Global Volunteer Month, so we can all celebrate together around the world about the power and potential of volunteerism.

Gang, this is a very unique thing that we’re all involved in. It’s very unique. It doesn’t happen anywhere else. It’s almost one of the last things that’s not monetized in any way. So it’s very special and it’s something that makes human beings very unique as well. And so thank you all for being part of this type of endeavor in the world.

It’s really incredible that when you really think about it, it is pretty incredible that people get together and make change happen. It happens all the time. It’s happening day in and day out in your community. Don’t ever forget, don’t let anybody ever tell you different. People are inherently good and we are hardwired to help.

So thank you so much for joining me for this episode of The Volunteer Nation. I hope you’ll share it with a friend who could use a little pick me up today. And if you would, go ahead and subscribe like us and drop us a line. Send us a comment. If you post a comment in Apple Podcast, I would love to hear what you’d like us to cover in the Volunteer Nation Podcast.

What are your wonders? What are you interested in us talking about? We’ve got a huge lineup of very awesome guests coming up to talk about all kinds of aspects of giving. I’m really excited about it, but I also want to hear what’s important to you as our listeners. So let us know. Post a comment in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and we will see you same time, same place next week on the Volunteer Nation. Take care everybody.

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Volunteer Nation Podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe, rate, and review so we can reach people like you who want to improve the impact of their good cause. Bring more tips and notes from the show.

Check us out at Tobijohnson.com. We’ll see you next week for another installment of Volunteer Nation.