Welcome to the September 2012 Newsletter! In this newsletter, the theme of volunteer retention is explored, with a special focus on investing in training as a tool for retention. Join us as we gather insights and advice from Endeavour Advisor and Ryerson Professor, Dr. Agnes Meinhard, and from Endeavour Co-Director of Training and Development, Leah Tussman. Here are just a few highlights:
Thanks for reading!
written by Banu Raghuraman
Top 7 Tips for Volunteer Retention’ by Professor Agnes Meinhard. Professor Meinhard sits on the Endeavour Advisory Committee and she is Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Theory in the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. Professor Meinhard is the Founding Director of the Centre for Voluntary Sector Studies at Ryerson.
Based on Professor Meinhard’s research in the volunteer sector, she states ‘volunteer retention is much harder than volunteer recruitment’. Read on to find out how to maximize retention!
Part of volunteer retention is how you recruit. Organizations are sometimes not very clear and forthcoming as to why they are recruiting the volunteer. The organization needs to be very honest so that the volunteer knows what is expected of him or her. For example, verbal assurances may be made during the volunteer interview regarding training, but it may turn out that it is never provided, or organizations underestimate the number of hours of voluntary commitment required. Even though the volunteer may agree during the interview, it will eventually dawn on him/her that their previous experience is not sufficient and training is not actually provided. This gap between the promise and actuality often leads to dissatisfaction. So, honesty upfront is very important.
2. Match the skills of the volunteer to the position
The nature of volunteerism has evolved in the past 20 years. Previously, volunteers were wedded to the cause for which they volunteered. For example, campaign volunteers were willing to do any task to support the candidate they supported. Generally, these volunteers are easy to satisfy and keep happy, as long as the organization’s cause aligns to theirs. The current trend requires other needs to be met. Research has shown that volunteers are much busier, have a different way of communicating and are mainly looking to share a specific skill with an organization. It is not cause-based volunteering; it is contributing the volunteer’s own skills. When that skill is not used, the volunteer will leave and join another organization. So the organization needs to recognize what type of volunteer they want, the type of skills required and whether it is long term or short term. With the recruitment, the organization still needs to follow some regular rules of engagement – being polite and acknowledging the volunteer is doing it out of the goodness of their heart, giving them a sense of responsibility, allowing them to develop their leadership skills and figure out things themselves, as long as it doesn’t harm the task, organization or the volunteer themselves.
If a volunteer is directly working with clients, it is important to train them well for all scenarios they may encounter when they volunteer. For example, when working with seniors or disabled people, volunteers may not be prepared to handle certain scenarios, depending on the extent of an individual’s illness or handicap. As part of my research with high school volunteering, we did a survey before and after the volunteer completed their tasks. About a third of the participants had a negative experience as they did not know how to handle the clients’ handicaps or elderly clients or some behaviour that they normally did not encounter. Therefore, preparing the volunteers for the tasks at hand provides them with better latitude for decision making within specific parameters.
4. Appreciation! Appreciation! Appreciation!
This point cannot be stressed enough. But I think generally almost all organizations understand this point. Throwing a party for volunteer appreciation, giving positive feedback, all lead to increasing the fun element in volunteering. Younger volunteers need to have fun. When they feel they aren’t getting rewards, they don’t feel satisfied. In the for-profit side of things, we go to work and are willing to put up with a lot of responsibilities. This is because we are provided with remuneration that satisfies our hedonistic needs. This is absent in volunteering and so fun becomes our fulfillment, after challenging volunteering!
5. Group dynamic management
Often overlooked, this is an important part of volunteer satisfaction. Volunteers work with other volunteers and so team spirit should be well managed. Some volunteers may become too controlling; some may have conflicts with others, etc. All these issues need to be looked out for and managed appropriately with protocols, which need to be communicated to the volunteers. Ideally, the organization will have a Volunteer Handbook so volunteers can familiarize themselves with the organization’s expectations. The protocols should assist the volunteers on how to deal with negative behaviours. Help channels should be accessible to eliminate the detrimental behaviours that will stop the growth of the volunteers and the organization itself. With ample social media channels available, negative experiences can quickly be communicated, so management of group dynamics and conflict resolution is a key component of volunteer retention.
6. Leadership development opportunities
Organizations that are committed to providing leadership opportunities to their volunteers tend to retain them longer. It provides an opportunity for the volunteers to express themselves, which ties into our second point about matching their skills with their job and letting them grow within it, with a sense of responsibility.
Although this aspect is most important for long term volunteers, this can also be useful for short term individuals. It is key to find out what inspires the volunteers to keep their association with the organization and continue volunteering. Also, what keeps them happy, as a happy volunteer will stay for a longer time. For example, Endeavour can train their team leaders to talk to the rest of the volunteers about what they are expect out of the experience.
Investing in Training for Volunteer Retention
written by Banu Raghuraman
As the current Co-Director of Training and Development, having worked with Endeavour twice as a consultant and with her background in adult teaching and training, Leah was the perfect candidate to address questions on the connection between training provided by Endeavour and volunteer retention.
What do you think is the relationship between training and development and volunteer retention? Has training made an impact on the level of volunteer retention at Endeavour?
I can answer this question from two perspectives. Having been a consultant myself, training did make a difference in helping me make a decision regarding staying or leaving and even returning. And as the person working to set up training opportunities, I feel good training will lead to better retention. Ideally, training should equip the consultant to work on their respective projects. It should be relevant and valuable to them and allow them to make a positive contribution. We have to ensure that the volunteers have the tools to do the work and that we are not throwing them into a difficult situation and asking them to find the resources themselves. Every time we set up a session, we have some kind of interaction, so that volunteers can discuss various attributes in their projects. This gives them an opportunity to exchange thoughts and ideas to challenges.
Training also contributes to the value of the volunteer’s experience. Although it is not tangible to measure, it is a service, where they are able to touch base with the industry experts and have access to professionals, which enhances their experience at Endeavour.
Since training is key to adequately preparing volunteers and linked to volunteer retention, how do you design the Endeavour training sessions?
- Volunteer feedback:
Our main source of information is from our volunteers – their feedback! We solicit feedback from volunteers at various stages, such as midterm and end of the round. Based on the feedback we receive from the previous rounds, we attempt to incorporate improvements into the training for our next rounds.
We want to continually improve the Endeavour experience – this includes training to volunteers as well as the social aspect of the experience. We want to figure out what people want and are expecting.
- Engagement Manager (EM) training:
EMs are usually the first ones trained. During their training, we leverage their expertise to facilitate the feedback channelled back to us on volunteer training. We encourage them to ask questions on what the volunteers on their team would like to see improved and so on.
- Project profile:
We also look into the kinds of projects we receive for that round. For example, in the last round, all the projects dealt with strategic planning. We picked specific themes, outcomes, and priorities related to aspects of strategic planning. Our training for that round focused on that particular theme. We also focused on the difference between strategic planning and operational planning.
- Mode of training:
The overall experience is also altered by the mode or format of training. Some volunteers liked the lecture style presentations from our advisors but some preferred group discussions and a more hands-on approach. By using both formats, we leveraged the knowledge from our advisors while still encouraging interaction within the group.
The group interaction is an example where people learn from one another. This is informal training, whereby volunteers learn from the diverse background of other volunteers and leverage each other’s skills.
New Board Chair, Steven Ayer
Welcome Aboard to our New Board Chair, Steven Ayer who will serve from August 2012- August 2015.
Read Steven’s biography here
Endeavour, on the big screen! Check out Endeavour’s first four videos, highlighting our work with client TechSoup, hearing from our client, advisor and volunteer consultants. A great look into how Endeavour operates!
Read More >
Round 11- Selected!
Round 11 Consultants have been selected. Thanks for your interest and great luck to this talented round of volunteers! In recognition of our diversity, this round our volunteer demographics come from the following sectors
Round 11 Clients
Endeavour is pleased to be working with the following organizations over the next six months to help them achieve their strategic goals. For more information, please visit their websites. Looking forward to making an impact!
- PREVNet Inc – PREVNet’s (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence) mission is to stop bullying in Canada. Their mission is to promote safe and healthy relationships for all Canadian children and youth by creating, facilitating, evaluating and mobilizing science-based knowledge, tools and research on building and sustaining healthy relationships.
- John Howard Society of Ontario – JHSO serves men, women, youth and families who are at risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. This includes those who are already involved in the criminal justice system or who are rejoining the community from custody. They also serve community members who have never been involved, but need assistance with skill development, employment or housing.
- Epilepsy Ontario – Epilepsy Ontario is a non-profit health organization dedicated to promoting independence and optimal quality of life for those living with seizure disorders. Their programs include promoting information, awareness, support services, advocacy, education and research.
- Contact Contemporary Music – Contact Contemporary Music is a contemporary music ensemble and concert producing organization that highlights collaborations with other media and emerging composers. They also promote performances in alternative spaces and support outreach to underserved communities that stress diversity, collaboration and accessibility. Contact Contemporary Music serves youth, music students, music and art patrons, general public.
Project Impact Analyst
We are looking for a Project Impact Analyst that will be responsible for evaluating the impact of our consulting projects. Visit Executives and Committee Opportunities for more details
Community and Client News
Board of Directors Opportunities
Act To End Violence Against Women is seeking to expand its Board of Directors. Act To End Violence Against Women is committed to education, action and advocacy to end violence against women. Our core work is in the Jewish community. We are seeking women who have a passion/knowledge of the issue and who may also have fundraising/development experience. Send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Executive Director Penny Krowitz at 905-695-55372 for more information. Please pass this on to your networks.
We are happy to provide ongoing announcements for our community and client partners. Please refer to our social media sites for regular listings. If you are a client and would like to submit a success story, job announcements, fundraising events or recommend non-profit resources, please email email@example.com.
This newsletter features the following resources on the topic of volunteer retention and training. We would love to hear your favourite resources on the topic!
From the Canadian Journal of Volunteer Management.
From the Canadian Center of Philanthropy.
From Volunteer Canada, Volunteer Management Resources.