Volunteer Program Champions – CEOs Who Lead the Way
Monday, 24th September 2007 at 4:21 pm
Is your organisation’s Executive Director or CEO a volunteer program champion?
According to research in the US, the CEO and the staff member designated to manage the volunteer program are the key people in a Not for Profit organisation who must provide leadership and support to allow the program to thrive.
But according to researcher Betty Stallings in the real world, overworked and overwhelmed CEOs are frequently delighted to delegate not only the daily tasks of coordinating volunteers but also all planning and decision-making completely to the Volunteer Program Manager.
Stallings says that nothing can be more lethal to a volunteer program.
She says the Volunteer Program Manager can inspire and empower both employees and volunteers to partner effectively to impact the organization’s mission. But this staff member cannot accomplish this alone. It requires significant management team support to integrate volunteer engagement with financial development, public relations, program development and all other key aspects of the organisation, all requiring coordination at the highest levels.
She says It is also vital that top leadership express their vision of the potential power of volunteerism, and then take action to assure that the vision can be realized.
Stallings says that for years, the profession of volunteer management has focused total attention primarily on the volunteer program manager, thinking, incorrectly, that a corps of well-trained managers is the key to promoting effective volunteer
She says this has proven short-sighted. To be successful, volunteer programs must also have the commitment and competency of all paid staff who partner with volunteers daily. And such commitment and competency starts at the executive levels of the organisation.
In Stallings research she developed 12 key actions that are common among all volunteer program champions.
Here are some of those findings:
Regardless of the size or nature of the organization (from highly bureaucratic
to small grassroots) the positive beliefs about the power of volunteerism by
CEOs in the study were nearly identical. With no exceptions, all CEOs who were Volunteer Program Champions had extensive backgrounds in volunteering themselves.
A key role of executives is to design the position of manager of volunteer programs as the person who empowers the organisation to have a successful volunteer program. If staff believe it is essentially the volunteer program manager’s role to carry out the program, there will be little buy-in or commitment from staff to do their part. In the survey, essentially all CEO Champions carefully considered the skills and experience needed to direct the volunteer program and gave a great deal of credit for the program’s success to having hired the right person.
The volunteer program must be integrated with significant areas of the organisation such as development, public relations, personnel, programs, etc. Placing the manager of volunteer programs on the Management Team is the way to demonstrate organizational support and allows the manager to interact on an equal footing with the other key leaders in the organization.
If volunteer programs have no budget or are not integrated into the organisation’s budget, the program leader will be in the position to "beg" for support and the program will always be vulnerable and tenuous. Too often there is a perception
that the volunteer program is/should be free.
The following 10 challenges in supporting a volunteer program were listed repeatedly by CEOs participating in the Volunteer Program Champion study:
1. Finding funding for volunteer programs.
2. Expanding ways to utilize today’s volunteers.
3. Training staff to partner effectively with volunteers.
4. Doing a volunteer program impact analysis: "What Is the Return on Our Investment?"
5. Getting the organisation to work as a TEAM and get out of the silo mentality.
6. Engaging the Board of Directors in relevant issues related to volunteer engagement.
7. Receiving more support/training from their national organizations.
8. Developing written philosophy/value statements that guide their organisation on volunteer involvement.
9. Knowing how to hire the right manager of volunteers.
10. Locating Internet and other resources especially helpful for the CEO’s role
in supporting volunteer programs.
Betty Stallings is an international trainer, keynote speaker, consultant and author of numerous books and resources on volunteer management, fundraising, and board development. She founded and was the 14-year Executive Director of a Volunteer
Centre and for 15+ years has been President of Building Better Skills.
For more information go to www.bettystallings.com