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Volunteer Work Design

Seasonal Events and Holiday Volunteering

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali, Chanukah. Holidays and festivals like these can create even busier times for organisations that run fundraising drives or develop special projects tied to these events in an attempt to reach more of the communities they serve.

As evidenced during the most recent holiday season, some organisations depend on existing volunteers to put in extra shifts. Others view a special seasonal time of year as a great opportunity to recruit new volunteers to their causes; these volunteers may come to help out at a one-off event only, while others can likely be retained and end up making longer-term volunteer commitments. Still other organisations or projects exist and operate only n the run-up to and during the holiday period itself. Do they get the same volunteers to return year after year? And if so, how do they make that work?

In this Along the Web, Arnie Wickens presents websites of various organisations that have created a reputation or brand identity from identifying their work with holiday seasonal times, based on effectively recruiting volunteers to maintain the work they do. This article offers a wealth of tips that will prove invaluable when planning the next crunch of seasons and holiday volunteering.

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Does Household Internet Access Make a Difference in Inclusive Volunteer Recruitment?

With more and more volunteer recruitment done online, it is important to take a step back and look at who has or doesn’t have the opportunity to volunteer as a result of not having household Internet access. Has digital access changed the demographics of who is being asked to volunteer or to serve in leadership positions such as on a board? In this issue’s Research to Practice, Laurie Mook reviews a study on the influence of household Internet access on formal and informal volunteering. The results confirm that “volunteer recruitment may not always be an inclusive process” and that nonprofits have a role in bridging this digital divide.

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Tried and True Training Exercises: Helping Non-Volunteer Staff Work Well With Volunteers

A core goal of all leaders of volunteers is to ensure that volunteers have a great experience. If you are directly managing the volunteers yourself, that goal can be structured and achievable. But in larger organisations, where the responsibility for managing and supporting volunteers is delegated to specific departments, ensuring a consistent volunteer experience can be more difficult. One way to address this is to provide training to non-volunteer engagement colleagues who are supervising volunteers.  

This Training Designs provides practical training exercises to equip non-volunteer staff with the knowledge and skills needed to help create great volunteer experiences. Developed by the head of volunteering development at The Myton Hospices, Warwick, Warwickshire, these exercises have been used successfully to help staff gain a better understanding of volunteering, provide clarity around staff roles and responsibilities for supervising volunteers, and give ideas to manage volunteers well. The exercises are designed to be fun, generate discussion, share best practices, and be memorable. These exercises have worked for many leaders of volunteers - and they can work for you, too.

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Volunteer Management Software – A Beginner’s Guide

After more than 30 years of working directly in a variety of volunteer leadership roles, Andy Fryar now works with volunteer involving organisations to assist them in establishing cloud-based software solutions. Along the way, Fryar has come to recognise that many volunteer leaders can see the writing on the wall when it comes to moving away from their trusted excel spreadsheets, but they simply don’t know where to start!

In this e-Volunteerism feature, Fryar, who is also this journal’s manuscript developer,  provides a comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to help volunteer leaders understand, embrace, and use the new technology and volunteer management software that can benefit them and their programs. Writers Fryer, “It  seems that very few volunteer leaders know where to start to find an appropriate solution to meet their volunteer management needs! And so to this end, I thought it might be useful to put together some simple guidelines for those embarking on this journey.”

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Volunteers and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations is leading a worldwide effort to achieve clearly stated “Sustainable Development Goals.” Hundreds of organizations are selecting how they will contribute to the effort and, within that process, many are also determining where volunteers fit in. What are the essential elements of an environment that enables volunteerism? And what type of environment will ensure that volunteers make the greatest possible contribution to achieving sustainable development goals?

In this Voices, Bonnie Learmonth, James O'Brien, Shaleen Rakesh, and Goopy Parke Weaving identify and explore some of the environmental elements that contribute to the success of volunteers and the organisations that rely on volunteers to achieve their mission. These include contextual elements like how well people understand and recognise the impact of volunteerism; actor-based elements like the role of the state, civil society, and the private sector in enabling volunteering; relationships and power dynamics between actors; as well as system-wide factors like partnerships, technology, and funding.

The article draws on a discussion paper prepared by AVI (Australian Volunteers for International Development), VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), and the Volunteer Groups Alliance for this year’s IVCO (International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations) conference. Between them, VSO and AVI have over 100 years of experience in sending international volunteers. The paper includes case studies of volunteering in an emerging democracy, Myanmar, and of private sector partnership in India.

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The Potential of Remote and Virtual Volunteers in a Changing Nonprofit Landscape

Virtual and remote activities are becoming more prevalent in the landscape of volunteer opportunities. However, most of the information or resources for volunteer managers continue to focus mainly on volunteering done on-site, alongside paid staff.  

In this feature article, author Michele Wiesner describes the highly successful volunteer program at Hire Heroes USA, where 85% of volunteer hours are dedicated to remote opportunities. As volunteer program director of Hire Heroes USA, Wiesner is an authority in how to engage with volunteers who never come into face-to-face contact with staff. Here, she shares lessons learned in working with remote and virtual volunteers, describes the relationship between the two, and explains how volunteer managers can think about engaging volunteers in new ways. The potential of remote and virtual volunteers, Wiesner notes, “is limitless.” 

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Discovering How Informal and Micro-volunteering Can Attract Wider Community Engagement

Lutheran Community Care SA/NT (LCC) is an Australian community services organization that utilizes a formal model of volunteering. In response to changing trends in volunteering and the desire of new volunteers for more flexibility, the organization has experimented successfully with more informal types of volunteering. In this feature article for e-Volunteerism, Rachel Friebel, the Volunteer Administrator at LCC, explores the model of “micro-volunteering” – related to but different from other informal volunteering – and the potential it offers organizations, the volunteering sector, and the community at large. Friebel explains why micro-volunteering can attract wider community engagement. 

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Making Stronger Connections: Training Central Park Zoo Docents to Understand and Value Inquiry-based Interpretation

Inquiry-based interpretation is a growing educational trend in zoos across the country.  But training zoo docents to become familiar and comfortable with this practice can prove challenging. It is critical to use existing research to develop an inquiry-focused training module that is fun, educational, and easily understood by the trainee.   

In this e-Volunteerism feature, Amy Yambor, the Coordinator of Volunteers at New York City’s famed Central Park Zoo, describes a new training module that focuses on inquiry-based interpretation. Introduced to Central Park Zoo volunteer trainees and active docents, the concept places them out in the zoo, participating specifically in group inquiry projects. Yambor explains that by having trainees participate in their own inquiry-based activities throughout their training, the volunteers begin to understand the value of this communication style. As volunteer management professionals, Yambor argues that the field must make every effort to be more effective when it comes to teaching inquiry as a communication tool.

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Standing Up for the Potential of Others

Volunteers are the backbone of our communities, a fact that we all appreciate every day on the job while coordinating and managing volunteer programs. This article is about one volunteer manager’s successful experience helping a valued community member with special needs connect with a volunteer role that would suit her. Author Kayla Young explains that she decided to share her experience to provide encouragement to all leaders of volunteers who work with people who may need a bit of extra initial training and support. “With our busy schedules, a common reaction to special needs may be, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t have time for that,’” writes Young. “But as you’ll see from this story, a tiny investment in standing up for the potential of others can often yield big results for your organization.”

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Revisiting the Imperial War Museum North: Still Engaged in Innovative Programmes for Nontraditional Volunteers

When it opened in July 2002, the Imperial War Museum North (IWM North) in Manchester, England, unveiled an ambitious community volunteering project: the museum had recruited over 100 local residents, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, to work towards vocational qualifications in the museum prior to its opening, building confidence, gaining experience, and increasing employability. This ‘Shape Your Future’ Programme, first described by Lynn Blackadder in an October 2002 feature article for e-Volunteerism, was considered groundbreaking for the museum, while empowering and even life-changing for many volunteers.

Fourteen years later, e-Volunteerism revisits IWM North and brings readers up to date on the museum's many positive and innovative approaches to volunteer involvement since the original project began. Author Danielle Garcia reveals that IWM North continues to build a reputation as a major cultural institution, a community collaborator, and a leader in engaging what many would consider ‘nontraditional’ volunteers in service that blends self-help with accomplishing important work.

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