Episode #041: Volunteer Management Trends for 2023 – Our New Data with Jamie Gaylor, Part 2

Tobi: 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.   

And so today we thought we’d team up together and share with you all some of the top line sort of insights. This is, as I said to Jamie before we got started, this is a little bit of an hors d’oeuvre tray, a little taster of what’s to come in the full report.  

We are definitely not going through every data point in our report today, but some of the topline data that caught our eye, some themes that are running through this year’s report.  

Let’s kick it off with insight number one. So the key insights for volunteer management trends for 2023, insight number one was that volunteer recruitment continues to be a top challenge.  

We asked, what’s your top challenge? We also asked, what’s your number one goal for volunteer engagement in the next 12 months? 29% of our respondents said recruit new volunteers. 14% said boost volunteer participation.  

That was the third of the number one goal and people could only pick one goal from this list. Expanding volunteer roles at the organization was number four. 

The second one was interesting for me; it was put new or improved processes in place. So I think people have recognized not only do they not have enough volunteers, but maybe one of the reasons they don’t have enough volunteers is their processes aren’t matching what volunteers need or want. Not sure about that. 

And then retention was down at number five. So of the the top four, three were about either volunteer recruitment participation or expanding roles. So it’s clearly people are trying to build, rebuild their capacity.  

Tell me, around volunteer recruitment, what were some of the quotes and what were the themes that were coming from the open-ended questions side of the house, Jamie? 

Jamie: Yeah. Happy to share some of those with. I’m just gonna read them verbatim. I just copied some over to to share. Uh, and again, these are anonymous. So first quote, recruiting new volunteers. “What’s my number one challenge? Recruiting new volunteers! So many volunteers are limiting their scope of work to very specific activities or very specific available timeframes or types of people.” 

So, You know, just trying to find those people, trying to find them and find that magic algorithm to draw them to your place. Another respondent said, “Currently our biggest challenge is getting volunteers to participate and volunteer more. Pre-covid, we had so much volunteer support, we never had a problem with this.” 

Another respondent said, “Finding new volunteers and retaining current volunteers. Our methods of volunteer recruitment are not effective in the current volunteer market. We added half the volunteers this year over last year.” 

You know, back to full steam, so to speak. They added half the volunteers this year over last year. So recruitment I think is a big unknown for a lot of people because what they’ve always done isn’t drawing the people.  

So it’s not just recruitment in general. It’s really, Hey, what we used to work for us no longer does. And that might play into, you know, goal number two of putting new processes in place, or refining processes because they’re realizing qe were resting on our laurels with what worked. And now we really do have to invent something new.  

Tobi: Yeah. And you know, volunteer recruitment is marketing. When you boil it down to everything, it really is outreach and marketing. And I can just share from our own experience, and I’m sure Jamie can back this up, that marketing as a digital company has been much more challenging in the pandemic. 

But also I think for everybody because marketing, the speed of technology and the ways that people interact with marketing, messaging and channels, et cetera. Folks are getting more and more sophisticated in how they wanna be communicated with, whether or not they find something compelling. 

You know, I think it used to be, Hey, we just put up flyers at the grocery store and we went and tabled it, a couple of events, or we went to a school, and we had enough volunteers. Boom.  

I remember back in the day, volunteers would tell me – you know, this was back in the day, like 15 years ago – they would complain then that we were having a challenge recruiting, cuz they’d say, back in the day we had volunteers lined up out the door. I don’t know what happened.  

So I don’t think this is a brand new challenge, but I think it’s being accelerated by the changes in tech technology and increasing sophistication of the market. I don’t know. What do you think, Jamie?  

Jamie: I think, you know, reevaluating your whole life based on this global near-death experience that we’ve had. How do I wanna spend my valuable time, my precious time? Ahso, as you say, just increasing savvy to like sales pitches.  

And then also I think in a lot of ways, volunteer pitches have not kept up with that. And there’s a podcast episode that you did with Jennifer Bennett about appealing to online volunteers was brilliant because of course, Jennifer Bennett of VolunteerMatch has seen both the good and the bad of online volunteer recruitment messages.  

And I think, you know, putting out “Tuesday, 2:00 PM, 25 volunteers, we need you for two hours.” Why didn’t anybody show up? I can’t imagine why! Because you didn’t give them a reason to come unless they just had nothing to do at two o’clock that afternoon, and they just really wanted to do manual labor.  

So I think our messaging needs to get better, and that’s an easy fix. You don’t have to figure out the psychology of the people, you just have to improve your messaging.  

Tobi: Yeah. Part of it is psychology, but there’s no “buy” button in the brain. We hope, we always hope as marketers that we can find that buy button, but it’s really about building a relationship.  

We will also link to that episode with Jennifer Bennett in the show notes as well. And if you don’t know where this podcast is, just go to tobijohnson.com and then just click on podcast at the top menu and you’ll find us there. 

So let’s go on insight number two: volunteer engagement is a challenge. This was what blew my mind. Despite low staff to volunteer ratios, this is what blew my mind. 

So folks are having a hard time keeping up with volunteers who are not coming into the office because they don’t have roles, or they’re still continuing restrictions, or they haven’t been able to build the open opportunities that they used to have in the past, and so they’ve got some people on hold. 

And they’re just not sure what to do with these folks. And you know, when I looked at, you know, this is one of those diagnostic moments where – you brought this up, Jamie as a common challenge and maybe share just a minute of what that challenge was that you were reading about and then I’m gonna talk about what might be the solution to that. 

It came up because it was a repeating theme, but phrased in different ways. And as I was coding it, I was kind of starting to realize what do they mean by “engagement?” Like, is it…it’s not recruitment. You have enough people, right. Is it you don’t have enough jobs? Is it you don’t have enough staff? Is it a communication issue?  

Because engagement, I think is kind of hard to pin down. But I think what they really meant was we have a pool of volunteers. We value them. We appreciate them. We want to put them to work. We don’t always have the ability to put them to work, but we want to keep them connected. 

We want to keep that community so that when we do have an opportunity, we don’t have to go and just cold recruit new people. They’re there for us. But also it’s just hard, multiple tasks and multiple hats. And so there was a lot. 

It kept causing me to question, what is the problem? Because I was trying to code it, right? And I thought “engagement” was such a broad problem that I mentally started drilling down to all the possible reasons why.  

Tobi: Right. And so, when I was looking at the quantitative data, we asked a question this year about volunteer-to-supervisor ratio. So how many volunteers does somebody at your organization, whether it’s the leader, volunteers, or another staffer or a volunteer leader…how many people do they directly supervise, you know, their direct reports. 

You know, I’ve asked this question before and I got some wildly crazy answers like 5,000. I’m like, well, it’s not physically possible for people to actually supervise 5,000 people directly. That’s just not how it rolls. 

This year, I refined the question a little bit. We had answered it, asked it for a while, and people asked this question all the time, and I never have an answer. So I said, you know what? 

This year we’re gonna try to refine this question and really get a better answer. And I believe this year, based on the answers we got, that it’s more realistic what our responses were.  

So interesting for. You know, what’s your volunteers to supervisor ratio is the question, how many volunteers does each leader paid or volunteer directly supervise or support? 

And then I said, skip this question if you’re not sure. Cause we didn’t want people guessing, right? So interestingly, over a third, 37.3%, supervise one to 10 volunteers. And 15% supervise 11 to 20. And when I think about communicating with a TE team of that size, I think, you know what, that’s completely doable. 

You know, it’s especially doable if you’re using Slack or some type of online channel, or you’re doing a group chat or using WhatsApp. You’re using a a tool, but even individual emails for that many people. Is not impossible. 10 people is not an impossible group to lead because they’re not coming in full-time. 

Right. So it made me think when we think about how to keep people engaged, you know, we’ve heard from some of our volunteer pro members about what they did with their volunteers during lockdown when they couldn’t have volunteers and they’d had all kinds of things they were doing. You know, they were doing things online, they were reaching out individually. 

And so I think the question, I think people get kind of wrapped around the axle on this question of how do I keep the engagement? Well, if you’re only maybe directly supervising or have on your team now, I’m assuming that these are probably the one to 10 or or 11 to 20 people are the active folks. So why not give each person just a few volunteers to just keep in touch with an individual email like, how’s it going? 

You know, in addition, getting people on your mailing list and for your newsletter or sending out, you know, an email to everybody that’s in the wait waiting group. I mean, of course we wanna work really hard to get people active again, because I think the longer you wait, you just can’t expect people who want to volunteer and contribute their time to sit around and wait when they could. 

Their valuable talent. And community capital could be being spent with another organization in another cause. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect or fair to expect people to just sit around and wait. Right. Yeah. I’m trying to recall. Forgive me, Toby, but you have released some data on this. The, the reasons, the motivations for volunteers. 

Mm-hmm. community. Help me. Yeah. I, I, I’m career. Career, yes. But the functional mo motivations of volunteers. Yes. We’ll put a link to this in, uh, in the show notes. So if you keep those, those motivations in mind. They’re not necessarily wanting to do the actual info desk tasks they want to serve because they believe in the mission. 

Right? So maybe keep them in, in, in the loop with the newsletter about how things are going. They want community. So maybe do like, as you said, that’s a brilliant suggestion. Have like the email chain. It doesn’t all, and the other thing too, God bless, volunteer. Managers who think they have to do it all themselves. 

Mm-hmm. , um, delegate those tasks to the volunteers who want to do something, you know, to the ones who have the skill in community or relationship building. Yeah. And keep, get, get, get those gears turning on that engine again, even if you have to coldstar it, because I think a lot of the engagement is, is meeting those core needs that drew them to your organization in the first place, and they don’t have to be onsite serving. 

To, to have some of those needs filled in a different way. It just takes some creativity. So hopefully your suggestions, Toby, will trigger the light bulb to think, I don’t have to wait to do this until they’re back on site. Yeah. Yeah. And even. Asking folks to just share your messages and like your social media and participate in fundraising campaigns or advocacy campaigns, you know, or just keeping people in the loop on what’s happening inside the organization as you move forward. 

I mean, your volunteers, if they volunteered for you for any length of time, they really know your organization better than most people on the outside. And so they want to know if they’re engaged. So I just found it interesting when I looked at the supervisory loads to say, now that question on supervisory ratio, it tells us what is, but it doesn’t tell us what could be. 

The question doesn’t pretend to figure out like, what’s the capacity? For an individual supervisor, and it always depends, right? If you’re an, if you’re an experienced supervisor, you can probably take on a larger number of direct reports. If your volunteers are, are very experienced, then they don’t need as much support. 

How many hours are they coming in every week or every month? What’s the type of work? I mean, there’s so many different things that go into that supervisory load, but we did wanna just give people some numbers, but. Given that I think people have some room to do, just, you know, some of it’s just gang reach out individually, you know, just reach out individually. 

We don’t have to create something super complicated here. Right. The power of the personal invitation. Yes. Or the power of the personal. Thank you. Yeah. Um, yeah, it doesn’t, you don’t have to pay money for that. I also think we need to really challenge ourselves when, you know, we think of our relationships with our volunteers and our supporters on only a transactional basis. 

Mm-hmm. , like only if they’re contributing time. Should we be having a relationship. Or do we need to have a relationship? It’s very transactional, but what we’re finding in the world and all the research I, I read, I was just re reading a research study this morning about association volunteers and people don’t volunteer association, professional association members do not volunteer or give because of the benefits they get from the associa. 

Volunteer and give, because they believe that the association supports their needs and has a relationship and cares about them. That’s why people volunteer. They have, it doesn’t matter, all the perks in the world from the asso, you know, the professional development, the networking, all the things you would expect a professional association to give you, doesn’t matter. 

It doesn’t. It helps with their feelings and attitude towards that association, which then, Ultimately may result in volunteering in donations, but it’s all about relationships. Yeah. So, you know, when we continue to try to think of this transactionally, I think it really shoots us in the foot in today’s world. 

So do you think they’re looking at engagement transactionally just out of necessity because they’re so busy, they’re wearing so many hats, they just don’t have the capacity to address it relationally or? I don’t know. We don’t know. I, I didn’t ask that question. We didn’t a But it’s something to, it’s something to ask yourself. 

You know, it’s something to ask yourself. All right. Ask yourself, is your vol on a, on a scale, on a, on a scale of like, on the left side of the scale is transactional, on the right side of the scale is relational and you know, where are you? Just locate yourself and try to move more towards the relational, because I really believe in this day and age, that may be why some people’s volunteer recruitment messaging isn’t working because it’s being tr treated as transactional gang. 

People don’t want to work for free. People aren’t volunteering because they wanna work for free. They volunteer because they want to change the world. I say this all the time in my training. So if you’re not reaching out in a way that feels, you know, if it’s just about, you know, Hey, come and fill these shifts for us, that’s working for free. 

That’s a communication around. But how about, hey, we wanna meet this mission, we wanna get to this goal, and we can only do it with you. Different. It’s it different. You know what I mean? Can you feel that different? Yeah. My heart feels different when you say that. Yes. Yes, yes. All right, well, let’s take a pause for a quick break for, from our breakdown of key volunteer management trends for 2023. 

We will be right back and we have four more to share, so don’t go anywhere. If you enjoyed this week’s episode of Volunteer Nation, we invite you to check out the Volunteer Pro Premium membership. This community is the most comprehensive resource for attracting, engaging, and supporting dedicated high impact volunteer talent for your good cause. 

 Volunteer pro. 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 alpro.net/join. Okay, we’re back with our rundown of top volunteer management trends for 2023. Let’s dive right in. Jamie, let’s talk about our volunteer management trends from our 2023 volunteer management progress report insight or trend number three. 

Active volunteer levels, good news for everybody are back to pre covid levels, but matching the needs of volunteers and orgs is still a challenge. So that is, we talked a little bit about that before the break. But, you know, talk about that a little bit more. What you were reading in your open-ended comments to that biggest challenge question, Jamie? 

Yeah, I was struck because, you know, Toby, as we were talking earlier, the, the benefit that we get is we see the whole picture, we see all the responses. Mm-hmm. , I saw all of the, we don’t have enough volunteers and the equal amounts of we have too many volunteers and not enough jobs. Yep. Teamed. I’m trying to get my staff to bring volunteers back into their departments again. 

Yep. So the volunteers are out there. They may just not be evenly distributed maybe, but, and I honestly, I had, you know, as I said, kind of jokingly, I wonder if some of these people are in the same town, , maybe they can collaborate. Right. But yeah, the matching the needs of the volunteers who want to serve with the needs of the organization. 

A specific amount of people. Some have too many, some have not enough so that that still felt a little bit uneven in terms of building back and back to business. Yeah. You had a quote here. One quote was not enough interest in volunteering anymore, and the other quote was, we have too many volunteers for how many we are able to host. 

We do not have a great alternative to turn them. So, yeah. Interesting. I did a, a volunteer, uh, nation episode on this episode three, moving from a scarcity mindset to abundance. I feel like this is that moment where we really need to recognize that actually there are plenty of volunteers out there. There are plenty of volunteers, plenty of people in the community who want to help nonprofits. 

However, you have not connected with them yet. Absolutely. And joking aside, you had also talked in your episode 38 New Year’s resolutions for nonprofits. Mm-hmm. about you had several suggested resolutions to maybe implement in into your 2023 strategy for volunteer engagement, and one of them was collaboration with. 

Other organizations? Um, you were talking specifically about sharing kind of ad budgets or, you know, getting the word out about volunteerism in general, kind of sharing that load, but also in terms of it’s not a, I’ve heard you say so many times, collaboration is the new competition. Like we are not in competition with each other. 

even though it feels like it, because we’re all in our bunkers, we’re all in our silos. There’s enough volunteers to go around and I don’t know any volunteers that only volunteer at one place. No. So it’s not like the organizations may feel like they are in competition, but the volunteers freely move back and forth between them. 

Yeah. Here in town we have an aquarium, we have a zoo. Volunteers volunteer at both, you know? Right. Aquarium on Tuesday, zoo on Thursday. It’s not, it’s not a conflict. Right. And so I feel. Building that again, about to relationship, building that relationship not only with volunteers but with other organizations who are, you know, working to improve your community. 

There’s no bad about that. And then also if, if you are struggling to have. Enough placements for your volunteers, and you’re desperate to keep them engaged because you value what they do. Maybe you can refer them to a partner organization or assist organization that may not have what you have, may not have the abundance of volunteers, and there’s this beauty of sharing freely. 

Is I think like the heart of volunteerism, like yeah, giving, giving with, with good intention, with no expectation of self-service, I think is, you know, maybe that’s part of the reset is to reset our mindsets back to abundance of like, there’s enough, I don’t have to scrimp and hold on, kind of hoard what I’ve got and try to keep all these volunteers who I really have no place for and struggle to keep them engaged when there are other places that I could, I could easily refer them to with, with confidence. 

If I. Afraid to do it. So, yeah. Yeah, yeah. I’d love to see that. I’d love to see more collaboration. Yeah. I mean, and then you’re in a trusting relationship and you’re starting to refer volunteers back and forth. You know? I absolutely, absolutely agree with that. Now why are Jeanie and I so confident that there are volunteers out there? 

Well, we actually have the data to back it up. So again, it’s scarcity versus abundance. I have had arguments to the, I’ve gone to the mat with people on this. People don’t wanna volunteer. No one is interested in volunteering anymore, and I just know that’s for a fact. Not true. I mean, even my, in my own volunteering, I’ve shared this a lot. 

I’m a master gardener. We have, we full book up our annual trainings every. I think we have 50 people signed up for next year. Every year we book up completely. We’re a growing organization. We have no problem attracting volunteers. You know, if your volunteer organization, if you are messaging correctly, if it’s fun, you have so much heavy duty word of mouth going on and such a high reputation. 

That you are attracting like a magnet, you know? Now again, how do we know this, aside from anecdotal experience? Well, one thing is good news for everybody. This is one of those trends I’ve been tracking the number of active volunteers in the volunteer management progress report every year since pre C O V I D. 

And I can tell you that the numbers for this report. Are actually the mean or the, the average of what people were choosing on. Um, these were, you know, did, did people have zero to 10 volunteers? Did they have. 26 to 50, 51 to a hundred, 101 to two 50 and so on. So we ask people to pick a bar, you know, a band. 

And we are, the mean is up to fives and five is 101 to 250 volunteers. So we are back to 101 to 250 volunteers, which was the average. Before Covid and during Covid, it went down to 51 to a hundred volunteers, both in the fall of 2020 and the fall of 2021. So in the fall of 2022 that the data for this year’s report, we are back up to a hundred, one to 250 and the mean before covid was 4.8. 

And you know, if you’re not a math person, don’t worry about this. But it’s the different levels of numbers that people could pick was the mean for that. In the last fall, for this year’s report was five. and before Covid it was 4.8. So it’s higher. It’s higher than prior to Covid. So that’s the number that, okay, hang on. 

Okay. Because we’ve been talking about challenges, let’s take a moment and celebrate that win because that’s our culture. That’s a huge win. That’s a huge win. And we’re it up? So the back to business theme is perfect for this. Mm-hmm. , just so you all know, active volunteers has improved. I also want to take a look at another piece of evidence from our survey, and that is we asked, how would you rate your current volunteer capacity? 

To what extent are needed roles filled? So we, we know, you know, how many volunteers you have, but are you reaching capacity? The majority of people said moderate. So the choices were none limited, moderate, full, not. And 61% said moderate. So their current volunteer capacity is moderate. Now full is only 10%, but moderate isn’t bad. 

Limited was only 25%. So we are definitely trending towards the positive on capacity of volunteers and the number of roles. So again, if you’re struggling, it’s not because people aren’t out there, it’s probably because your recruitment isn’t working for you, right? So, all right, let’s look at insight number four, which is, while organizations track the volunteer experience, many do so intermittently making it difficult to advocate for new policies and change. 

So tell me how this played out in the open-ended comments to that biggest challenge Question, Jamie. What were the challenges around policies and p. That they didn’t exist. Mm-hmm. , or that people weren’t following them. Mm-hmm. or that, that they just, they weren’t refined. They weren’t, they were kind of old, outdated policies that weren’t just hel being utilized anymore. 

Mm-hmm. . So then, then you bring in, you know, change management, overcoming objections to change. There’s a whole subcategory of things that come with, um, policies and procedures. Yep. Once you start adding. Yeah. Past volunteers. Your, your veteran volunteers are like, Hey, wait a minute. What’s, what’s this? I don’t get this. 

We didn’t, do, we always do it this way, not that way. Right, and, and specifically to covid in any healthcare organization at all, their protocols exponentially increased. Yeah. While like here locally, we are not under a mask mandate. You know, we are free to come and go. As, you know, citizens, but you go into a hospital and they’re, it’s still like covid is in full bloom because for them, you know, they’re serving vulnerable populations and they’re protecting those patients. 

I mean, I understand why, but trying to convince volunteers or, or to have them go through extra steps or additional steps or extra procedures, cautions, it’s sometimes it’s a hard sell and I, yeah, respect that. So keeping all that. And also, I’ll say this as a, as a volunteer, a lot of the frustration was with the policies and procedures, but they are what they are. 

Some of them come from the cdc, some of ’em come from the Department of Health. Some of them come from the executive level that, you know, you can’t do anything about. So the question becomes, if you can’t change the policy, how do you express it? In an, in an encouraging and positive way, how do you lead your volunteers through it successfully to the, to the finish line of actually serving in a volunteer capacity? 

And so there was a, there’s just, there was a lot of frustration about policies and procedures, specifically post covid that I just, I felt in my soul. Yeah, because I know I, especially in those healthcare environments, they’re, you know, a lot of hospice volunteers and just they’re already doing a hard job. 

And to ask them to, to yeah, to do those extra steps was a challenge. Yeah. Yeah. So a tool, this is one of those diagnostic moments where the quantitative data, the, the numbers data really backed up. Sort of solutions for this. Right now in the Volunteer Pro community, we talk a lot about change management. 

We help people build leadership skills, communication skills, change management is a big topic. However, there’s something small you can do just to make sure you’re on the right track, and that’s surveying your volunteers, understanding their perceptions. number one, do they understand the policy? Number two are, are people following it? 

You know, number three, what’s their satisfaction level? Sometimes a new policy will boost satisfaction levels if you aren’t sort of pulse. You know, we did a training. I remember way back when we, I did a training that’s still in the community on how to do. Types of surveys and, you know, polls, surveys, all kinds of different ways to get feedback from volunteers as well as, you know, focus groups. 

All that k kind of good stuff. We, we talk about that in the community and you know, just the ba we ask in this year’s survey we asked, do you survey volunteers to gather feedback on their experience? Now we use the term survey. Survey can be used for all kinds of things. It can be used for. Focus groups are gonna be used for interviews. 

It’s just a general term for research, but in our case, in our regular parlance within the volunteer management field, people understand that and equate that with a questionnaire. So, you know, we had 71, about 71% of respondents say, yeah, we survey our volunteers. So we also wanted to know, how often do you survey your volunteers, because we really wanted to know, you know, is. 

A regular way that you are figuring out and tracking on the volunteer’s, experience, satisfaction, perceptions, all the things that you need to know and not guess about. You know, one grumpy volunteer can come up to you and not like a new policy, and your mind will conflate that with every everybody on your volunteer team, and you’ll think like, everybody hates this policy when really it’s only one or two squeaky wheels. 

We have that tendency as humans to have that kind of bias, so we have to check it with real data. . And so we asked how often do you regularly survey volunteers? 45% said once a year. And we A, allow people to choose as many as possible, you know, as many as applied. So the majority, not even majority, not even, well, almost half, 45% surveyed once a year. 

40% surveyed intermittently with no regular schedule. And so what that tells me is they don’t have an ongoing plan or strategy to gather volunteer feedback. And so when change is happening, you really can’t see the big picture of what people’s perceptions are about that change. All you can. All you’re hearing is people you’re coming into contact with, or maybe a grumpy email from time to time, or you’re hearing some gossip down in the hallway or in the coffee room or whatever, only 14. 

Survey volunteers 30 days from placement and only 9% every six months. And then, and then it goes on from there. So what that tells me is part of the way when we are creating and developing new policies is to understand, number one, how, how might that policy impact volunteers? What is the real problem here that we’re trying to solve? 

And once we have a policy in place, has it solved that problem? And I like to think of my policies as pro volunteer, you know, funny play on words, volunteer pro, pro, volunteer. Yeah. But really, you know, are we making the, are our policies making things better for our volunteers? Is it making volunteering easier? 

Not hard. Right. And yes, of course our policies need to support our organization’s goals, but if they are not vastly improving the volunteer experience, if it’s not a win-win for volunteers and you, then you gotta really take a look at the policy and figure out how it can be a win for volunteers. You know? 

And sometimes that’s really explaining to volunteers how it better serves the mission and protects the population you’re trying to serve. People can get behind. But you know, that was a diagnostic for me when I was going through this to say like, well, I can see why people are having trouble because they don’t understand what’s happening on the volunteer side. 

And I think a solid volunteer serving strategy or volunteer feedback strategy, I should say. It doesn’t have to be a survey questionnaire per se. Uh, lots of ways to get feedback. Again, we do a lot of training on that in volunteer. But how are we getting that feedback? And I, I think if we’re flying blind, it’s really hard to do change management. 

Well, I don’t know. What do you think, Jamie? Oh, I think that’s profound. I wouldn’t have thought about, it’s such a simple way because as you say, 1, 2, 2 grumpy people come in your office back to back, and you assume the whole volunteer core. Mm. Is like feeling this way that, you know, that’s not accurate. And I think just a, a survey is just a brilliant way to get real data. 

Again, data is yeah, your tools and your weapons for advocating for your program, for, for your volunteers. And also in reverse knowing how to communicate things in a way that, you know, affect change positively. If this is what they’re expressing to you, then now you know how to address it. Yeah. And if you’ve made a policy change, and satisfaction levels go up, then you might say, Hmm, there might be a correlation here. 

Data also asks more questions, brings more questions, and smarter questions, more informed questions. So I think it’s good stuff. Yeah. Um, and I think if you’re gonna do change, you’ve gotta do some pulse testing. And what I mean by pulse testing is you’re asking some of the similar questions. At regular intervals to track on the mood, so to speak, of your volunteers. 

Yeah. Yeah. All right. Let’s do the, our, we’ve got two more to talk about and we’re . We’re way over time. You guys. This is a monster. Huge. Episode. So, uh, anyway, but, well, and Toby, they don’t know. They don’t know me, so they don’t know how quiet I’m actually being. . So, okay, so insight number five, limited impact metrics are being tracked. 

So talk about a little bit more about the respect or lack thereof that volunteer managers were expressing in the open-ended comments. Yeah. Well, I’ll say straight up front staff burnout was, It. It didn’t rise to the top three, but it was definitely in there. So combining staff burnout with, you know, they haven’t had volunteers on-premises perhaps for the last two years. 

They’ve been doing it without volunteers so far. Teamed with staff turnover or staff cutbacks, so some staff haven’t. Even worked with volunteers, they don’t know their organization with volunteers on site, executive leadership turnover, and new leadership. In that way, there was a lot playing into a lack of respect, a lack of knowing what volunteers bring to the table because they haven’t experienced it or they just don’t have the bandwidth to, to take it on. 

They, they don’t have the perceived bandwidth to to, to take it on. And so it comes to the volunteer. Department leaders to go and have those conversations and, you know, build those relationships and start having coffee and what are your needs and what can we, how can we serve you with no hard sell? And kind of start to do that. 

But then they also have multiple hats they’re wearing. And competing priorities. So it’s a whole big interlocked ball of issues that comes out at the end. We just don’t get the respect we deserve, or our volunteers. We, we don’t have buy-in from staff. And I can see, because I see all the different nuances of answers, kind of all the different angles that it’s coming from, but that’s the overarching. 

Is lack of respect. And this was another one where I saw a diagnostic or a solution in the quantitative data. So we asked, one of our questions was, how do you currently track and report volunteer impact? Choose as many as a apply. We found the top two. Well helpful. Don’t really speak to impact. They’re more, they’re more outputs versus impact. 

So number of people reached or served by volunteers, 46.9% will track that average dollar value of total volunteer hours. So that independent sector number of the average dollar value of volunteer hour multiplied by the number of volunteer hours, 43.4%. and then 38% are tracking outcome metrics specific to the programs where volunteers serve. 

So that is actually more of an impact metric than just volunteer capacity metrics, you know? Yeah. It’s great to know how many volunteers you have. I think a more interesting metric rather than, you know, total number of hours. Is, you know, what are, what’s the total number of available positions? What’s the capacity at your organization for volunteer involvement? 

In real terms. And what percentage to goal are you? I think that’s a much more interesting metric. If you wanna talk about volunteer involvement. Sati 24% or 25% satisfaction ratings of people served by volunteers. That’s an interesting metric. Wage replacement equivalence for each volunteer role. So that’s sort of a subset of that average dollar volunteer dollar, uh, average. 

Value per volunteer hour dollar value of volunteer financial contributions, 15.5%. . So you know, only 9.5% do a return on investment calculation, which we train inside our volunteer pro community how to do that. And we have a calculator that can do that for you, A spreadsheet. But I gotta say that, you know, we’ve got to get better at communicating and tracking impact if we want buy-in from fellow staff and leadership. 

If we can show ROI for volunteers, return on investment for volunteers to leadership, that they are going to set the stage for the expected staff behaviors regarding the support and involvement of volunteers. You know, it’s not. As a leader of volunteers, you can only set the stage so much. If the executive at your organization doesn’t care about volunteers, it’s going to be a very hard robe. 

I’ve been in those organizations, I have left those organizations. So, you know, you need your leadership first and foremost to understand, and the language of leadership is numbers. It’s impact. That’s what the, the, your executive level folks, that’s what they do on a daily basis. They’re communicating with funders, they’re communicating with donors, they’re communicating with other investors about your organization’s impact. 

And if you can’t speak directly to how volunteers contribute to that agency bottom. , then it’s gonna be really hard. So I feel like this is an area for growth for our field. You know, we talk a lot about, uh, key performance metrics. You talked Jamie earlier about that episode. We’ll link to that in the chat. 

Episode 36. Yeah. In the show notes. But, you know, we’ve got to get better at this. It’s, it’s hard to. Quote, unquote respect. And I always ask people, well, what the heck does that mean? You need to be more specific. But it’s hard to get that attention and influence that you’re looking for if you don’t have, you know, numbers and data and stories, stories of change, success stories to back it up. 

It doesn’t always have to be numbered data. It can be storytelling as well, but if you don’t have that, it’s very hard to build any. Support at all, I think. Yeah. And I, I’d like to underline something you said, because I think it’s so impactful in thinking about your executive leadership, speak to them in the business language that they are speaking with all their other departments. 

[00:43:40] Mm-hmm. and go in armed with professional data. To get the respect that you’re asking for. I think that’s just a profound paradigm shift for a lot of volunteer departments, and I’m guilty of it. I know that I was doing the independent sector algorithm, you know, this many hours, times this dollar amount and boom, my, my weekly report is done. 

But yeah, to, to get the respect that we deserve, we’re gonna have to earn it. Yeah. And we earn it by coming. armed with professional data that they’re, that they’re gonna be expecting to see. Yeah. And that tells the story. Yeah. One, one other good news I wanted to share along this in terms of hours, since we’re talking about volunteer hours in our report, we found that volunteer hours have increased. 

So prior to Covid it was. Yeah, average was 30 hours and we asked people to give us an exact number, but after that, from 20 20, 20 21 and 2022, which 2022 is the data for this year’s report, the bands we had were zero to 10 hours, 10 to 20 hours, 20 to 30 hours, and so on. And the average, the mean this year was 2.7, but the mean, the year before was 2.2, and the mean year before that was 1.9. 

So in addition to the total number of active volunteers, we’re seeing a statistically significant increase in, in average monthly volunteer hours. So that’s other good news. If you’re, if you’re only, if, if right now all you can do is track those volunteer hours, keep doing it. We’re not saying don’t do it, but I’m saying yes and yes. 

And you need more data to share about impact, the actual impact of volunteer work. Yeah. As it relates to buy end and respect. Yes, yes, yes. Tracking the hours, I don’t mean. You mean that at all? Because volunteer managers have a lot on their plate. Sure, sure. Yeah. But we’re challenging everybody here. Okay. 

One last insight, the six insight for our volunteer management trends for 2023 is we’ve shared a little bit of good news. But it’s not all bad news and some people are doing quite well right now. I don’t know. Jamie, you have a quote from somebody who completed the survey? Yeah, I would. You share? That’d be happy to. 

So the, for this participant. Said this. Honestly, I do not have a big challenge at this time. Our program is well staffed with volunteers, and I’ve been able to expand the program with thank you notes to each new volunteer birthday and Christmas cards. Thank you to each volunteer in January indicating the number of hours they volunteered, and a thank you and suggestion boxes throughout the warehouse. 

More costly ways to think a volunteer, like a dinner or service pin aren’t financially possible at this time. Person wasn’t sharing that as a problem. Just, you know, honestly have goosebumps reading that. It makes me, just my heart B, glad to know that, that this person is out there and I wanna just thank them if they’re listening for just absolutely making my day. 

But yeah, there’s a lot of good out there. As we said at the top, we asked for people to share their biggest challenge, like we asked for the bad news because that’s part of it. But there’s a whole beautiful. You know, volunteer program outside of these challenges where these people are working and these volunteers are serving and they’re collaborating with their staff and their, their community partners. 

And so I just thought that was an important one to highlight because you don’t want it to all be, as you say, Debbie Downer information. There’s a lot of good. Yeah. Yeah. So I think we’re gonna end on that note, because that’s just so positive and really upbeat and abundant mindset. I’ve gotta say, you know, maybe part of the reason they don’t have a big challenge this time is because of their mindset, right? 

Because they, they are, are finding the good. On a daily basis, and they’re reaching out, you know, thank you cards, Christmas cards, birthday cards. That’s not transactional, that’s relational. And I’ve seen this time and time again, the folks who invest time in that end up reaping the rewards. Plus they have a, you know, great time with their volunteers. 

So gang, that’s what we’ve got today. That’s our show for this week. I hope that this has helped you get fresh insights on volunteer management trends for 2023 and how you might apply them to your work, maybe even challenged you in a few areas. That’s okay. We like to do that. You know, we wanna challenge the field as a whole to grow. 

That’s part of the reason why we do this. I really wanna thank you for joining us for this episode of Volunteer Nation. It has been such an honor and a ple privilege so far. I think this is episode 40, so we have published 40 episodes. That’s a big milestone. I think for us that is a big milestone and we’re creeping in on. 

A big milestone in downloads. Yeah, I kind of watched that tick up too, so we’ll announce that when we hit it. But yeah, so if you like this episode and wanna share it with others, please do share it with a friend or colleague who might need a little x. Extra inspiration and remember that you can grab your copy of the 2023 Volunteer Management Progress report at vpro.net/volunteer-management-progress-report, or just go to vPro vo l p r o.net. 

And at the top of the page, just click on research and you will find that page. If the report is not live yet, there is a pre-order form there. Just fill it out and we will send it to you when it is hot off the presses. Okay? So I hope this has been helpful to everybody. Thank you, Jamie. So much for joining me today. 

It’s been a pleasure to have some fun talking on our, a lot of fun. Thank you for having me on here. Yeah, for sure. And I hope to see everybody on another episode of The Volunteer Nation.  

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.  

For 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.