Posts Tagged ‘volunteer management’

CausePlanet’s Choice Awards–Our Top Nonprofit Books for 2015

This is my favorite time of year for many reasons. One of them is our chance to look back at a great year of book choices for our readers.

It’s also the hardest time of the year because we choose books that stand out among the rest. Now, this may seem like an easy task but it isn’t. Choosing from titles that are already among our favorites is like choosing a favorite child. Thankfully, the challenging task is tempered by the fact that we know you love these awards. Thank you for the wonderful feedback when we launched this designation last year.

All our Choice Award titles are chosen based on the following criteria: original insights, inspirational content, well-organized and easy-to-follow format, voice, applicability, and strong evidence of case stories and/or exhibits.

Our Choice Awards for 2015 go to the following authors:

The Sustainability Mindset by Steve Zimmerman and Jeanne Bell
This book not only effectively argues the importance of having financial and programming discussions within the same conversation, but the authors also provide a proven framework designed to guide the process toward sound decision-making. Thanks to matrix mapping, your leaders can leave the guesswork out of strategic planning.

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook by Jayne Cravens and Susan Ellis
Cravens and Ellis do a wonderful job of addressing how volunteering has changed so dramatically over the years that calling out the notion of virtual volunteering is no longer necessary because this form of giving has meshed with traditional volunteering. This thorough guidebook is the resource for anyone managing volunteers.

Global Fundraising: How the World Is Changing the Rules of Philanthropy edited by Penelope Cagney and Bernard Ross
Cagney and Ross create a rare and fascinating look at what types of fundraising are working all over the world. In a telescoping society that’s facilitated by technology, nonprofits’ reach is farther than ever before. This book helps you gather context for your fundraising efforts and consider what’s influencing your donors outside of traditional boundaries and borders.
On behalf of the CausePlanet team, we would like to thank these authors and the company of authors they share who’ve contributed so much to the sector in which we work. We hope our Page to Practice™ book summaries have inspired you to engage in deeper reading and make better book choices. Don’t forget—December is Read a New Book Month. Choose one of these titles or any of the great recommendations in our book summary library and work smarter in 2016.

See also:

The Sustainability Mindset: Using the Matrix Map to Make Strategic Decisions

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: Fully Integrating Online Service into Volunteer Involvement

Global Fundraising: How the World Is Changing the Rules of Philanthropy

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A “people lens” is your answer to budget relief

Volunteerism has returned to its former prominence in the nonprofit sector, except the dynamics have changed, according to the coauthors of The Abundant Not-for-Profit.

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty say our traditional assessment of volunteers’ capacity to add value no longer applies. They’ve coined the term “knowledge philanthropists” to define a new breed of volunteers. These are people who bring a vast set of skills and with those skills come higher expectations of the nonprofit.

What has also changed is the abundant nonprofit’s approach to talent management. If properly recruited, trained and managed under the abundance philosophy, skilled volunteers demonstrate an incredible return on investment. Nonprofits have much more to gain by looking at all positions within their operations as potential volunteer placements (what they call a “people lens”) versus always turning to budget machinations to fulfill the mission.

What does the abundant nonprofit approach look like? Abundant nonprofits:

dispel common myths about volunteers’ potential to contribute meaningfully.

begin with the CEO and board to embrace the abundance philosophy.

focus on human capital to deliver their missions.

transform the way they do business by applying a “people lens” to their leadership.

train salaried employees to lead and communicate with knowledge philanthropists in varying roles such as planners, advisors and facilitators.

enlist and support knowledge philanthropists with training, policies, expectations and key performance indicators.

lead salaried and volunteer talent alongside one another as one collective team.

Characteristics of leaders and organizations pursuing the abundance model

Organizations benefiting from this abundance leadership method are characterized by sound management practices, adaptive capacity and effective communications. Equally important, their leaders are confident people who exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and are good delegators. We asked the authors Kelly and Gerty to describe organizations that may be poised for adopting this approach:

CausePlanet: In addition to the characteristics of CEOs and board members described in the book, what traits do organizations that are ready to successfully embrace this model all share (e.g., level of maturity, financial stability, size, tradition of innovation)?

Kelly and Gerty: As you’ve stated, the characteristics of the CEO remain a critical element. Those characteristics significantly affect the vision and culture of the organization and largely determine whether or not transformation can happen. An orientation toward abundance, learning, excellence and innovation is tremendously important. Beyond that, there are very few hard and fast rules. We’ve sometimes seen executive transitions catalyze the adoption of this model, as new CEOs are often interested in new approaches and motivated to do things differently. In some ways, small organizations that are going through a growth phase have an advantage, as they are often nimble and able to make change happen relatively quickly. It also can be easier in organizations with a certain cachet, as many talented individuals want to be associated with those organizations. However, we’ve seen many exceptions to those trends and look forward to seeing abundant not-for-profits spring up in all sub-sectors, stages and sizes.

The abundance rationale

The authors emphasize that instead of nonprofits looking through a budgetary lens, which highlights the need to raise more money, they need to look through a people lens, which encourages them to evaluate their talent needs in order to complete their missions. After a history of professionalizing the nonprofit sector, in which paid employees performed strategic tasks and volunteers completed repetitive tasks with their hands, a new day is dawning. The altruistic volunteer, who gave without expecting any return, is waning. Volunteers now expect meaningful experiences that use their skills.

Nonprofits, succumbing to budgetary concerns, have traditionally hired fewer people or people who are less qualified without considering other options. Many salaried nonprofit employees are overworked and underpaid as a result. The authors encourage nonprofits to discard this paradigm and move toward a completely new culture, one that listens to what volunteers want and what organizations need and matches them for a win-win situation. The authors dub this new type of volunteer a knowledge philanthropist because s/he brings knowledge in addition to hands.

The people lens method

An organization with a people lens first tries to develop a strong, well-functioning organization to draw talent. In order to create this strength, an organization needs to begin with the why (vision and mission), move to the what (three to five goals) and then focus on the how (define the time and skills already given by salaried employees and the talents needed and integrate volunteers across all functions in an organizational chart). Subsequently, an abundant nonprofit can create a culture that equalizes salaried and volunteer employees, a plan that includes knowledge philanthropists, a governance model that sees talent as a strategic imperative, processes to hire and develop knowledge philanthropists who will work under salaried managers, and leadership that supports this system.

The authors define a people lens culture in the following manner:

In a people lens culture, it is difficult to discern who is paid with money and who is paid with meaning. This fully integrated talent team challenges the traditional notion that some roles are for salaried employees and other roles are for volunteers. In a people lens culture, salaried employees no longer determine which roles are ‘okay’ for volunteers. Volunteer roles are fully integrated into each level, function and activity of the organization.

Join us next week when we’ll talk about why this management approach is a win-win as well as introduce a case study that dramatically impacted a health services organization.

See also:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

The Six Secrets of Change

Image credits: dramafever.com, hwproductions.com, commons-wikimedia.org, philanthropy.com

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A volunteer movement that genuinely impacts the bottom line

Volunteerism has changed dramatically over the years and Colleen Kelly took notice. She observed a disconnect between organizations’ desires for volunteers and talented volunteers who wanted to give their time.

Volunteers are no longer satisfied with rote tasks such as stuffing envelopes. They are looking for meaningful experiences in exchange for their expertise. Equally important, organizations need smarter ways to meet their missions without always turning to the budget. Nonprofits have the potential to both match human resource needs with volunteer talent while efficiently serving their causes.

Stepping up in this way requires a philosophical and tactical commitment from the top down—it requires a movement. Coauthors Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty are talking about a major organizational change that involves bold creativity and visionary leadership in their new book The Abundant Not-For-Profit: How Talent (Not Money) Will Transform Your Organization.

Abundant nonprofits:

dispel common myths about volunteers’ potential to contribute meaningfully.

begin with the CEO and board to embrace the abundance philosophy.

focus on human capital to deliver their missions.

transform the way they do business by applying a “people lens” to their leadership.

train salaried employees to lead and communicate with knowledge philanthropists in varying roles such as planners, advisors and facilitators.

enlist and support knowledge philanthropists with training, policies, expectations and key performance indicators.

lead salaried and volunteer talent alongside one another as one collective team.

If you build it, we promise they will come

A tall order for organizational change calls for a big commitment. So the authors make a promise: “If you build it, the talented people will come. And when they do, they will bring incredible joy to your work. They will exponentially increase your organization’s resources. They will generate ideas and suggest approaches you’ve never considered. Your organization—and our sector—will be transformed.”

Walking the talk

The authors tested their own model. In 1999, Volunteer Vancouver employed 14 full-time employees and a handful of part-time facilitators on a stable budget of approximately $500,000. Its 50 volunteers were restricted to stuffing envelopes or interviewing potential volunteers. Twelve years later, after changing its name to Vantage Point, the organization runs 100 percent of its programs by involving a new kind of volunteer, “knowledge philanthropists,” who performs everywhere in the organization: in governance, management and operations. They are planners, advisors, managers and facilitators. Vantage Point now pays half the number of staff at a higher rate. In 2012, Vantage Point had eight employees and 201 knowledge philanthropists in 265 unique roles.

The Abundance Movement: An interview about roles, challenges and surprises

In our CausePlanet interview, we asked Kelly and Gerty about who knowledge philanthropists are, what challenges surfaced when transitioning to a state of abundance and what surprises they encountered when testing the abundance model.

CausePlanet: Thank you for introducing the abundance movement. Can you describe the knowledge philanthropist? What is the profile? Retired, actively employed, between work or all of the above?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: All of the above! The term knowledge philanthropist includes people with diverse backgrounds, life experiences and motivations. Some are retired, or approaching retirement, and motivated to stay engaged and share the knowledge they’ve gained over a lifetime of work. Others have recently moved to the area and want to put down roots and make connections. Some are incredibly busy–at the height of their careers and raising small children–and are seeking time-limited, high-impact opportunities to make a difference. Still others are exploring a career transition and looking to flex new skills, learn and develop their portfolio of work. What all these people have in common is a desire to make a meaningful difference by contributing what they know.

CausePlanet: What challenges do most organizations encounter when setting a course to become an abundant nonprofit and how do they overcome them?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: Great question! The biggest challenge in our experience is organizations putting themselves in a starvation cycle by not investing the most they can into volunteers because they believe they don’t perform at a high level, are not accountable, and have a high likelihood of leaving. In fact, it is our low investment and limited belief in volunteers that makes all of this become a reality.

What we have learned is that the more we invest in volunteers, the higher they perform; the less likely they are to leave; and the more worthwhile it is to spend time recruiting, supporting and developing them. Investing means creating a robust recruitment process to ensure the right skills and cultural fit (and saying “no” when the fit isn’t there), providing sufficient orientation and knowledge transfer for volunteers to perform their role effectively, delegating clearly and providing ongoing feedback so volunteers know they are on the right track, and seeking opportunities to develop star performers so they can take on more significant roles.

The reality is that people will contribute to our organizations in equal measure to what we contribute to them. When organizations understand that, they begin to consider their volunteer practices to be as important as their salaried employee practices and reap great benefits as a result.

CausePlanet: When you first tested the abundance model in-house, what were some of the surprises you encountered when managing salaried and volunteer staff side by side?

Colleen Kelly and Lynda Gerty: The biggest surprise was how difficult it was for salaried employees to comprehend volunteers could play a different role than the roles they had always expected traditional volunteers would play. At Vantage Point, it took five or six years of effort before there were salaried employees in our organization who actually could “chunk up” their own job descriptions and begin to engage incredibly talented people to take some of those “chunks” and run with them.

When we investigated to understand what made the first salaried employee actually internalize this idea and implement it, her answer was, “You told me that was the way I was to do my job, and I did it. I love to work this way!” Others learned from her and eventually it became the norm. That process took us almost a decade. We hope The Abundant Not-for-Profit can save other organizations time and allow them to adopt this model much more quickly.

Good to Great author Jim Collins says, “The right people can often attract money, but money by itself can never attract the right people. Money is a commodity; talent is not. Time and talent can often compensate for lack of money, but money cannot ever compensate for lack of the right people.” This quotation is a fitting depiction of Vantage Point’s path to abundance.

The Abundant Not-For-Profit contains a thorough examination of the philosophy necessary to begin the transformation toward abundance and the process involved in getting there. If you lead an organization that is looking for new alternatives to meet your mission without increasing the bottom line, consider taking a closer look at the abundance movement.

See also:

Community: The Structure of Belonging

Wisdom of Crowds

Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message

Image credits: dealer-community.com, solelydevoted.net, bejamindefoor.com, troychurch.com

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Love your volunteers

Something Michael Fullan said in his latest book, The Six Secrets of Change (our Page to Practice™ for the month of September), has stayed with me long after I finished reading it: “One of the best ways you love your employees is by creating the conditions for them to succeed.” Anyone who has felt frustrated or unhappy at their job because they didn’t know what was expected of them, or didn’t have the necessary resources to accomplish what is expected of them, can relate to this quote. More often than not, whether I’m volunteering for the PTA at my kids’ school or for the Obama campaign, I have felt underutilized – and, as a result, underappreciated. When people commit to volunteering their time, they want to feel needed. And one of the best ways I know to help people feel needed is to let them know that their contribution is making a difference – to the organization and to the greater purpose it serves.

When you give people the tools they need to succeed, they are happier and more productive.

So, it’s no surprise that Love Your Employees is the first of Fullan’s six “secrets” to helping your organization survive and thrive in today’s challenging environment. According to Fullan, companies that do not understand Secret One do not prosper as much as those that do. And the companies he cites as examples are prospering, despite the tough economy: Costco, IKEA, Southwest, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods, just to name a few. What struck me most about this list is that these are also the companies where I like to shop. It’s a pleasure to give your business to a company that treats its customers as if they matter. When employers Love Their Employees, they create a culture where everyone in the company is involved in meaningful pursuits that transcend the bottom line. For nonprofits and other organizations that rely on volunteers, that message seems even more critical.

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