Creating Sustainable Volunteer Engagement
Today, November 5th is International Volunteer Managers Day and Flutterbye’s first birthday. The premise for Flutterbye is ‘sustainable volunteering’ with the aim of increasing the long term viability and success of volunteerism in your organisation.
Sustaining volunteer engagement is ultimately a balancing act. Volunteer Managers are required to utilise resources in the most effective way possible to address organisational need. Additionally, they need to ensure volunteers are supported with meaningful roles and a positive and rewarding volunteering experience. Success happens when this win-win balance is achieved.
At Flutterbye we believe the sustainability of volunteer engagement is increased through a combination of the following elements:
- Leadership and development;
- Continuous improvement;
- Change management; and
- Risk management.
A Volunteer program that excels in these areas will ultimately be successful and most importantly, sustainable into the future.
Leadership and Development
Effective leadership is an important element in cultivating volunteer engagement and is vital to delivering a successful and sustainable program. Building leadership capability in staff, supervisors and volunteer leaders will increase engagement, improve performance and develop resilience. In addition, the ongoing development of volunteers and staff will strengthen volunteer engagement and enhance skills and self-confidence. Some tips to grow your leadership capability can be found here.
The theme for this year’s International Volunteer Managers Day is ‘Be the Voice’. As leaders of volunteers it is our role to advocate for our volunteers. Doing so will raise the profile of volunteering and demonstrate the positive impact volunteers bring to our community. Additionally, as leaders of volunteers we have an responsibility to advocate for our profession which Flutterbye has previously discussed here.
Through advocacy and storytelling Volunteer Managers are able to promote volunteer engagement, identify program improvements, influence and inspire action. Furthermore, advocacy and storytelling can lead to successful grant applications and improved financial sustainability of volunteer engagement. Some tips to apply storytelling in your organisation can be found here.
The fundamental principles of continuous improvement can be a powerful tool when applied to the management of volunteers. By adapting some key learnings from corporate practice; Volunteer Managers can deliver sustainable volunteerism that evolves and improves for the betterment of the organisation and the individuals who volunteer their time. When we view our volunteers as customer, gather data to make informed decisions and improve the processes in which volunteers are involved; sustainable volunteerism can become a reality.
Continuous improvement should be an essential element of volunteer management, however the human element cannot be understated. For all your good intentions, if you do not consider how people react to change, your efforts may be in vain. To support your volunteers to adjust and thrive in times of change, applying change management principles is recommended. Some core principles of change management have been discussed here.
By developing and implementing effective volunteer risk management, an organisation is able to minimise exposure to risk and in doing so, protect its people, reputation and assets.
Organisations are legally responsible for providing and maintaining a safe working environment for their volunteers. Therefore, it is crucial that risk management is considered and strategies are put in place to identify and reduce risks associated with volunteer engagement. This post discusses how a contemporary view of risk can be taken to ensure the unpredictability and variability of human behaviour and decision making is considered as an exercise in risk.
While it has been personally fulfilling discussing these elements of sustainable volunteering over the past year, they of course are not the only factors to consider. Coming soon on Flutterbye we will look to discuss additional elements which can help strengthen the sustainability of volunteer engagement including:
- Strategic Planning;
- Partnerships and Collaboration; and
- Engagement and Connectivity.
Thank you for a great first year and to leave you with a question, what other elements do you feel are vital to creating sustainable volunteering? Please contribute your ideas and suggestions for future blog discussions.