Volunteer Commons Posts

A colleague recently reached out with a question about volunteer demographics. His team wanted to collect them more consistently and thoughtfully. They wondered when the best time would be to ask for demographics: upfront in the application or after the volunteers were on board. Either way, they planned to make the reporting optional. I immediately…

Adaptive Leadership Equity Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning

The late volunteer management expert Susan Ellis used to tell a story about visiting a friend who engaged hospital volunteers. (We’ll call her Judy). Susan met Judy in her office before a lunch date. Judy opened the closet door to retrieve her jacket before heading out and grumbled as baby booties rained down. “What’s the…

Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” William Bruce Cameron The path ends at a sign informing users that their lap doesn’t count unless they hit the target. I never hit the target. It’s a principle. I know that I have walked or skated the distance; I…

Volunteer Impact Volunteer Worth

Nonprofit leaders love to extol the virtues of volunteers. They declare that volunteers are the heart of the organization. They assert that the organization cannot do what it does without volunteer involvement.   Yet the dirty little secret of the nonprofit sector is that many of these same leaders think that volunteers are more trouble…

Reciprocity Volunteer Impact

“One of the most common ways people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker For years, the big funder in town had been bringing by wealthy donors to volunteer in the large community center. The donors often wanted to (and did) serve in the preschool. The problem was that…

Equity Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning

A little more than a year ago, many nonprofit agencies told their volunteers to stay home. This unthinkable action became reality almost overnight. Now, as we slowly emerge from a world turned upside down, nonprofit leaders are planning for what happens next and reimagining their volunteer strategies. One colleague in the throes of these decisions…

Equity Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning

Three years ago, I facilitated a session about capturing volunteer impact in Manhattan. We discussed connecting volunteer contributions to the organization mission. I encouraged the group to think about capturing volunteer impact instead of measuring it since so much of what volunteers offer doesn’t show up in numbers. The participants teamed up to match volunteer…

Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning Volunteer Impact

Dirty. Icky. Gross. A colleague who facilitates group volunteering shared a trend she noticed in Summer 2020. Some of the groups calling her began asking for service projects “with a diversity focus”. When pressed for what that meant, most could not offer specifics. One corporate representative replied that he was only the messenger, merely passing…

Equity Making the Invisible Visible

The scene… A volunteer administrator puts the finishing touches on his budget for the year. He is excited about the ways this funding will enable volunteers to advance the organization’s mission in meaningful ways and support paid staff in engaging those volunteers well. The budget is higher than in past years but still modest compared…

Making the Invisible Visible Reflecting and Learning Volunteer Impact

As the year wraps up, I want to thank you for visiting Volunteer Commons. My word for the year was dare. One way I practiced daring was to get content out of the journals pictured above and into the world. The best part of this daring was finding community at the other end of a…

Reflecting and Learning