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The Volunteer Impact Program (VIP): An Innovative Approach to Strengthen Volunteer Engagement Capacity

The Volunteer Impact Program (VIP): An Innovative Approach to Strengthen Volunteer Engagement Capacity

In February 2010, United Way of King County in Seattle, Washington, launched an intensive volunteer management capacity-building model in partnership with Executive Service Corps of Washington. Called the Volunteer Impact Program (VIP), it was designed to help food banks and meals programs more effectively recruit, involve and retain high-value volunteers. During this nine-month program, key staff benefited from cohort-based training and peer learning, and worked with volunteer consultant teams to assess volunteer management capacity and develop action plans. They also received small grants to implement key elements of their action plans.  

This e-Volunteerism feature article offers a summary of the VIP experience. It shares the preliminary results for VIP participants, and identifies lessons learned in delivering an intensive volunteer management capacity-building program to local nonprofits

To read the full article

Mon, 03/21/2011
The landscape you describe is a similar one in Canada. Our not-for-profit sector also struggles with the challenge of engaging the skills and talents of volunteers. I work for an organization that is a fellow student of the not-for-profit sector. At Vantage Point we have been focused for many years on delivering training, but have recently learned, like you, engaging the WHOLE organization is the key to changing the way we work with people. I think your approach is bang on! What has also become clear to us is that to engage people in strategic ways a new model is required. Simply trying to improve current practices does not work. We must build a whole new structure, not just renovate the one we have. And the building of this new structure must be lead by the Executive – not just endorsed or supported, but DRIVEN by the person in this position. The first step in your study was the assessment phase of current volunteer practices. I wonder if this assessment included a look at the current people practices - including the skills of staff and their ability to plan projects, delegate, and engage highly skilled individuals – all elements that are essential. Often we go straight to a place of improving organizational processes related to volunteers instead of focusing first on the people. Do paid employees have the skills and ability to work with people in a different way? If the paid staff are all “doers” instead of “leaders of people" then engaging external talent will be challenging. We’ve also learned over years of study that along with having the right people in the paid staff positions, an organization must have sound governance and management processes – not just for volunteers, but overall. Before we invite external talent to work with us, it’s so important to have a strong, sound organizational structure in place. That way everyone’s role is clearly linked to the success of the organization and ALL the people are able to contribute to the delivery of the mission in a meaningful way. I look forward to hearing what’s next for VIP!

Fri, 04/15/2011
One important development we forgot to mention in the article is the corporate support we've received for our second VIP program. In addition to United Way of King County's cash investment of $50,000, The Boeing Company has provided an additional $50,000 to support VIP. Their support enables us to continue the implementation grant phase of the program which is critical to its success. Our appreciation to our friends at Boeing for being on the cutting edge by supporting volunteer management!