Monday, December 14, 2009

Volunteer Impacts on Your LinkedIn Profile

Looking for an effective way to enhance your brand on LinkedIn? Post your volunteer "jobs"! That's right - add your volunteer roles (especially those involving leadership) to your profile. This helps you in a variety of ways:

1. expands your visibility by including impacts you're having both in and outside of the workplace
2. gives you the opportunity to gather recommendations for your work outside of your professional role
3. makes it evident that you have a commitment to community/nonprofit support
4. highlights your initiative and accomplishments - nice complement to your professional successes

You can include both current and past roles giving yourself the opportunity to create a very robust online profile - and enhancing your personal brand!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Volunteer Interview

Now that you have reviewed your development goals and are well on your way to finalizing your volunteer resume - are you ready for the interview? Part of your responsibility in being a strategic volunteer is finding the right fit for your desired engagement. What nonprofits are right for your goals? Here are a few questions you can ask to aid in your evaluation.

Does your organization:
  • have a volunteer manager?
  • regularly post open volunteer assignments?
  • indicate leadership opportunities in volunteer roles?
  • have a leadership/career path for volunteers?
  • provide general and/or skill-based opportunities?
  • provide long-term and/or short-term assignments?
  • require a volunteer application?
  • have a volunteer placement and/or removal policy?
  • provide training for volunteers?
  • value the role of volunteers in your strategic plan?
While this list is by no means all-inclusive, it will definitely help you identify the organizations that can best accommodate your strategic volunteering goals and foster your nonprofit leadership journey.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Your Strategic Volunteering Action Plan - 3 Steps You Can Take Today!

Last week, I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to the Cbeyond Women's Network about strategic volunteering. I always love talking to this group because they are wonderfully engaged in their leadership development and growth. Kudos to all of the CWN members!

We talked about the concept of strategic volunteering, how it affected me personally, and how to formulate an action plan for next steps. There were a few key "takeaways" that I believe everyone can benefit from - so here goes.
  1. Quantify the impact of your volunteer service. Don't limit the value of your volunteer service to a line-item on your bio. Take the time and energy to really think about your impact on the organization and/or your community. Work with the organization's leadership to set metrics for your volunteer projects and track their progress.
    Here's an example:
    Served as volunteer training director for XYZ nonprofit. Collaborated with board of directors to compile training materials and create a "career path" for current and future organization leaders. The creation of the new training system resulted in a 25% increase in knowledge retention and reduction in volunteer leader turnover of 30%.
  2. Set yourself apart from the crowd - combine your professional and volunteer skills to create your Volunteer Resume. This addresses the complication of approaching an organization with your offer to volunteer and their inability to know the best place to utilize your skill sets. Be sure to include your project impacts! And if you want to be a high-level volunteer leader or board member, it's a bonus to include references. As a volunteer coordinator, if someone came to me with his/her volunteer resume including a statement of which skills they want to further develop and/or acquire - I would do a happy dance and then immediately work to place them on a great project, program, or event team.
  3. Use your performance reviews and goals to help set your volunteer strategy. That's right - haul out that last review from your manager and take a look at the areas where you either need improvement or could gain a competitive advantage in your workplace. When you line up your professional goals with your volunteer goals - you start to get some serious traction. And this is where you can get buy-in from your company if you need to take time from work in order to serve in one or more volunteer role. Remember, strategic volunteering = FREE leadership development training!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Volunteers and Your Strategic Plan

I'm currently working with a local, all-volunteer nonprofit to develop and deliver their training curriculum. Part of that training for their leadership, of course, includes the review of the organization's strategic plan and the contributions of the various teams to the annual plan. Your organization can have the most impressive strategic plan on paper, but unless your teams put an annual plan in place to support those goals (and measure their progress on a regular basis) doesn't mean a thing!

If you're volunteering: ask the organization to share with you their strategic goals and how your team is supporting those goals and the mission this year. Use the team's progress toward the strategic goals as part of your personal success story.

If you're utilizing volunteers: be sure to share the strategic goals of your organization on a regular basis and give periodic updates on how the various volunteer teams are impacting your annual and strategic plans. You may even go one step further and help each team create a success story that they can add to their professional bios -- or compile these success stories and use them in your annual community service/philanthropy reporting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Volunteering as Networking

With the downturn of the economy, many people approached me (in both my professional and volunteer leadership capacities) to help them find things: mentors, connections, jobs, etc. While I haven't had the bandwidth to personally help with all of these requests, I do have one consistent piece of advice - Volunteer! Why? Because your volunteer networks can become your job and mentor seeking networks. When looking to transition into the nonprofit sector as a profession, I had to evaluate who could serve as a reference for me regarding these specific skill sets - and it almost always came back to my fellow volunteers, past and present.

Want to see if a volunteer network could benefit you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • Outside of work, where am I involved?
  • What is the list of people that I could call today for a favor or introduction?
  • Could the leaders of organizations for which I volunteer serve as a reference for me?
  • Have I tracked the impacts of my volunteer service/projects? (this is a BIG one, and I'll go into more detail in an upcoming blog post)
By looking at the individuals in your volunteer network, you greatly open up your networking possibilities. It's never too late to start - find a volunteer opportunity that fits (strategically) with your goals and utilize that opportunity to expand your possibilities.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Strategic Philanthropy and Building Your Brand

I had the opportunity last week to serve in a consultative role for a corporation looking to get more strategic with their philanthropic activities. The issue sparking the conversation is not uncommon: companies put dollars and/or volunteers into their communities but don't seem to get the level of expected visibility for their efforts. Why? Most likely because they aren't making the kind of impact that is going to get attention by the media (which, let's face it - drives visibility by the community). In this case, the company was doing some great things, but they were spreading out their volunteer efforts and donations without a true plan in place. As the CEO of this company realized during our conversation - you have to put together a business plan for strategic philanthropy just like any other business initiative.

Being deliberate with the allocation of your community relations resources can positively impact both your branding and outreach. Developing a plan to align your business mission with where you'll place your employee volunteer hours and dollars can make all the difference - and develop an interesting media angle. In the technology arena? Bring volunteers into a local nonprofit to develop or enhance their technology plan. In the biotech industry? Donate time and dollars to build a new science lab at your local high school or college. You meet your community mission by giving back - while also promoting your business line/brand.

The same can go for individuals. Are you volunteering at mutiple nonprofits without a plan behind it? If you want your personal brand to reflect a certain skill/trait, then consider volunteer placements that will help you build on that brand.

Selfish thinking? Not at all...just strategic!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Gist of Strategic Volunteering


The aim of this blog is to help individuals, corporate organizations, and nonprofits learn about the concept of Strategic Volunteering and how to utilize the practice to meet their goals. My advice and recommendations are based on over 15 years of experience as a "serial volunteer" - and subsequent leadership experience in various organizations. I often talk about my strong belief that volunteer opportunities can be excellent professional development opportunities. You just have to know what to look for, where to go, and how to get in the right placement. And for nonprofit organizations, you need to know how to structure your volunteer development and management to accommodate these goals.

In a nutshell, it's about making the most of your limited time and energy while making an impact in your community. It's a win-win-win situation!