Good to Give and Receive

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When is the last time you received a hand-written card in the mail?

Think about how excited it made you, how good you felt…. Now imagine what it can do for a volunteer or donor.

I am always buying unique thank you cards, birthday cards or blank note cards and when the feeling strikes, or when I want to say thanks, I pick the perfect card from my stash and I send it out hoping to make that person’s day.

Here are a few of my favorite online card sites and links for inspirational and thoughtful gifts.

The best gifts don’t have to be expensive, but it does have to show meaning.

Enjoy!

Compendium Inc – “Live Inspired” – LOVE this site.  So many inspiration gifts, they have a blog you can follow on how to live inspired and you can also sign up for a quote of the day.

Paperwink – Nothing makes sending or receiving a card more personal than a personalized return address stamp.

Kathy Davis –  Beautiful sayings and hand painted card art work. Mail someone this card, and they will know how special they are.

It Takes Two – Greeting cards and gifts for volunteers, hospice, nurses and teachers.  My favorite card for volunteers is “fruits of their labor” – T4309V

Positive Promotion –  This site is great if you are looking for decorations or trinkets related to National Volunteer Week or other types of volunteer recognition events.

Baudv!lle – This is another site great for inspirational items — from water bottles, picture frames, cards to notepads.

 

Book Review: The Promise Of A Pencil by Adam Braun

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“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  – Howard Thurman

This is the opening quote for the book “The Promise of a Pencil”. As soon as I opened this book and read that line, I was intrigued. This book was recommended to me by one of the board members at the nonprofit I work for and I am so thankful that she did. The book chronicles Adam’s journey on finding his passion, and at first not knowing what his real passion was. This is how I feel about my journey in becoming a volunteer manager. I had no idea this was my passion, and it found me.

To give you a bit of a back ground on the book, Adam Braun started the nonprofit Pencils of Promise with $25 back in 2008 at the age of 24. Five years later Pencils of Promise has now built more than 200 schools around the world in areas of poverty within developing nations. His story tells how “an ordinary person can create extraordinary change.”

Below are a list of principals from the book that resonated with me in my career and why:

Page 36“I had always thought that I was too young to make a difference. I had been told that without the ability to make a large donation to a charity, I couldn’t help change someone’s life. But through the small act of giving one child one pencil, that belief was shattered. I realized that even big waves start with small ripples.”

This is so true – I see everyday how small acts of kindness can make a huge impact on people’s lives. You don’t have to be a millionaire to change the world, you can change the world by the way you treat people in your everyday life.

Page 116 – “Every conversation began with the same question: “What do you love doing most?” Once I understood that person’s passion, we could craft a way for him or her to use it to support PoP. Through that approach, our volunteer force expanded rapidly.”

This is the model I try to follow when I meet with new volunteers. Find out their skills, what are their goals, and what led them to want to volunteer? My goal is to help guide them to their passion.

Page 196 – “I knew that the only way to win the respect of our for-profit peers would be to wed our values and idealism to business acumen. Rather than thinking of ourselves as nonprofit, we would begin to refer to our work as for-purpose.”  

Wow, what a concept and I love this statement and I am proud to say I work “for-purpose” not for a nonprofit.

Page 244 “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female elected head of state in Africa, said, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

This statement really resonated with me, because I feel like I am struggling right now to figure out what is the next step for me and what do I want to accomplish in these next 40 years? It’s scary but also exciting. Like Adam, I believe I am an ordinary person who can create extraordinary change, what that will be, I look forward to figuring it out, and hopefully impacting lives along the way.

Me with Blake Mycoskie -- completely star struck!

Me with Blake Mycoskie — completely star struck!

Here are some other books that I recommend reading if you are like me, and want to change the world in small and big ways.

“Start Something that Matters” – by Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver, TOMS – I admit it, I am a TOMS addict. I have over 12 pairs. I was fortunate enough to meet and have dinner with Blake in 2010 when he spoke on campus of UW-Green Bay.  I was completely in awe of him. His book tells the TOMS story and how it started out of his little apartment in CA to what it is today. An amazing story of true entrepreneurism at its finest.

“The Third Wave – A Volunteer Story” – by Alison Thompson – This book was given to me by a dear friend and volunteer. This book is the story of how volunteering changed Thompson’s life. A great book to give to that special volunteer in our life.

Finding that Right Fit

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Finding the right volunteer opportunity is like dating, and trust me, I have lots of experience in that field. We sometimes have to try out a lot of opportunities before we find the right fit.

Some of us never find that right fit, but we like to try on a variety of opportunities because we learn something new from each one.

Sometimes we find that perfect match and it becomes our passion and focus.

Other times, an opportunity is great for a long time, and then you change, circumstances in your life change, and what you thought was the perfect fit is no longer. You begin to explore new opportunities to give you the fulfillment you are looking for.

 How do you find the right fit for you — long or short term?

  1. Self assessment

I recently sat down with a friend who is going through empty nest syndrome and she was looking to volunteer now that she had free time. I asked her, is there a cause near and dear to your heart that you might want to get involved with.  She said no. Then I asked her is your goal to meet new people your own age, or with your kids out of the house, do you want to be a mentor for other kids, or are you looking to learn a new skill?

She was blown away by all the questions I was asking her, and at the end of our conversation, she told me that she had to think, what did she really want?

  1. Research

Once you figure out what it is you are looking for then it is time do the research. Look at an agencies website to view their volunteer opportunities, call the agency to ask questions, or go visit the office to see the culture of it.  Again, like dating, you need to build up a comfort level to see if you want to make the next move.

  1. Jump in

You know what you want, you think you found the right fit, now it is time to make your move. Go ahead fill out that application (go out on that first date) and see what type of amazing adventures are next to come.

ps…. I am still trying to find my right fit!  🙂

CVA – What is it?

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What is the CVA you ask?  The CVA is a credited certificate in the field of Volunteer Administration. From my research this is the only credited program for the field of Volunteer Management.

I first became certified in 2009. I came across the information in an e-newsletter from Engergize Inc. and thought, this would be an excellent training to help elevate my knowledge and skills within the field.

I signed up to complete the certificate and a few weeks later the books I had to read and the class information came in the mail.

I had to read The Volunteer Management Handbook by Tracy Connors and From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Volunteer Program Success by Susan J. Ellis along with some other articles. These books and articles talked about the principles and best practices related to the field of volunteer management.  In May of 2009 I had to complete a multiple choice test on the theories and principles of the books.  I thought the test was challenging because of the way they had the multiple choice questions.

  • A
  • A and B
  • A, B & C
  • all of the above
  • none of the above

I found out a few weeks later I passed, and I was so excited!  Next I had to finish up my two papers I had to write. I had to do a philosophy statement and a case study.

My philosophy was on “Volunteering Keeps You Young – Mind, Body and Soul” and my case statement was on failing to get a youth program launched and what I learned from it.

I wrote my papers, sent in the information and a few week later I learned I passed – all parts!

It was so exciting to receive that package in the mail with my certificate, a CVA pin, and best part was being able to put the letters – CVA behind my name, on my business cards and e-mail signature line.

For me, going through this process helped solidify for me Volunteer Management is the perfect profession for me. This process also fueled my passion to teach others that Volunteer Management is a profession, training is needed, it takes a certain skill set and continuing education to stay current in the field.

I am currently in the process of renewing my CVA certificate. The purpose of the CVA renewal process is to enhance continued competence of certificants by requiring documentation of learning, reflection and participation in activities related to volunteer engagement and leadership.

I have a stack of articles I have written, documents of presentations I have made and other supporting documents on my engagement and leadership over the past five years.  Going through this material, I can see the growth in my practice and leadership and I am excited to see where the next five years takes me.

Anyone in the field of volunteer management, I would highly recommend going through the CVA certification process. For more information on the process check out their website:  http://www.cvacert.org/

Jody Weyers, CVA

Are You in the Career Meant for You?

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This past May I attended and presented at the Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinators Association (WVCA) conference. There were 200 other volunteer managers like myself who have been in the profession from 40 years to the newbie of 14 days.

There is nothing like being in a room full of people who share your same drive, passion and career goals as you. The conference kicked off with key-note speaker Tom Krause. Tom was a retired teacher/coach of thirty-one years in the Missouri Public School system, and he was a 20 time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

He shared with us heartwarming stories during his coaching and teaching days, that came back to the same inspirational message:

 PEOPLE COUNT – PEOPLE MATTER

 YOU COUNT – YOU MATTER

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

This statement really resonated with me. The more I am in this profession (13 years now and counting) I am learning it is not just about finding people to fill the needed roles of your volunteer organization, but it is more about connecting people with the right opportunities for them to serve in our community. Everyone has talents to share.

As a volunteer manager, there is nothing more rewarding than helping someone recognize and help facilitate that perfect volunteer match. Granted overtime, that perfect role might change, but then we have the challenge of connecting people with new opportunities and making that match again and seeing them thrive and find success.

I was up next to present to a crowd of 52 people. My presentation was on “Networking On and Off Line”.  (watch for a later blog post on that topic.) 

After I got done presenting, one of the greatest things happened. I was packing up my supplies, and I had a few people in line to ask me questions, so I stopped packing up, and this gentleman was before me and I asked him if he had a question. He said “No, I just want to give you a hug.” So, of course I hugged him.

I felt so honored, that he wanted a hug from me. It also made me laugh, because, Hector, the photographer I worked with on my national deployment to Colorado last September, called me “the hug whisper.”  If a hug from me makes people feel better, I am all for it, it also makes me feel pretty darn good too!

There was another really great moment that also came from this conference. This was another “ah ha” moment when I knew that I was in the right career for me.

I was in the hall between sessions, and a women came up to me and she began to tell me how my presentation last year (3 R’s in Volunteer Management – Retention, Recruitment and Recognition) helped her in revamping her program, and the success she was having.  I seriously teared up, I was so touched that she took the time to share this with me, and now I was the teacher. I am so grateful for my many mentors and now for me to be the person mentoring someone. It is a really cool career high moment!

After saying my good byes to my fellow volunteer manager peeps and I drove the hour and half home, I had a sense of peace wash over me in knowing, that I am in the profession, that I am meant to be. I hope everyone can experience this feeling, and maybe if you can’t find this sort of peace in your career, maybe you can find it in service. I encourage everyone to keep searching for it!

Save the date for the 2015 Wisconsin Volunteer Coordinators Association Conference May 7th & 8th, 2015 at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton.