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!

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