Life Lessons: Hard Work Pays Off!

I have been involved on the operations side of running events for the past 14 years and the thing that keeps me always coming back, or taking on more, is seeing the faces (young and old) cross the finish line having accomplished their goal and dream!

A couple months back I was asked by my  fellow past Red Crosser, Annie Taff, if I wanted to help lead up the course volunteers for the Girls on the Run of South Central Wisconsin 5K event.  How could I say no to help with this amazing event that helps to build self-confidence in girls 3rd-5th grade while preparing them to run a 5k at the end of 10 weeks. I wish I had something like this when I was growing up.

From my experience course monitors are always the last area to fill for every event I am involved with, but I feel one of the most critical areas. I am happy to say we had 25+volunteers for race day and had an AMAZING crew to make sure the girls were safe on the course while for many of them, completing their first 5K.

I watched at the finish area for a bit and it was so incredible to see the faces of these young girls, as they crossed the finish line and realize what hard work, perseverance and dedication feels like.

These are life lessons that all young girls and boys can hopefully hold on to as they get to junior high, high school, college and adult hood.

I feel people want to take the easy route out now a days, and as a society we are loosing the essence of a hard work ethic. In my life, the harder I work for something the greater the reward. I feel if it comes to easy we don’t appreciate the end result as much.

Two years ago, I completed my first half marathon. Running is not easy for me at all, fitting in the training was hard, race day was HOT, but I finished. I will never forget that feeling and I can honestly say I am so proud of myself for completing that dream of mine.  I hope everyone who crossed the finish line on Saturday continues to feel that feeling of “crossing the finish line” in everything they do and know….. that if you put in the hard work, it will pay off!

ps. I also got to volunteer with some amazing friends too = BONUS!

National Volunteer Week

April 23 – 29 is National Volunteer Week. It is great that we have this designated week to bring awareness of the good done in our community. Volunteer recognition should also be on going, not just given during this week.

In my current role of Donor Recruitment for the American Red Cross I am lucky that I get to work with lifesavers every day! Our volunteers coordinators who organize the local blood drives in their work place, community or school. Our blood donors who give of their time to help save lives. I am also one of those lifesavers giving 61 times in my lifetime and saving a potential of 183 lives.

This video is dedicated to all those who give of their time and/or blood. The American Red Cross is grateful for the community support!  We can’t save lives without our volunteers and donors.

31 Days of Giving: Day 11– Gift of Laughter

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When was the last time you had a good belly laugh among family, friends or co-workers?  If you can’t remember you need to go out stat, and find something or someone who can make you laugh!

Tonight, I am fortunate to have shared MANY laughs with my co-workers and volunteers. I had two holiday parties to go to, and at one of the parties we had a “white elephant” exchange. I have to admit, I got the best gift. You can not help but look at this object and laugh, and the greatest part, is every year, it continues to be part of the white elephant exchange and we look forward to see who gets it the next year. I hope you get as good of a laugh as we all did from “her” tonight.

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If you feel you need to laugh more, here are some tips and a link to a great article I found online from the Huffpost:Healthy Living: Ways to incorporate more laughter and joy in your life:

• Don’t take life too seriously.

• Find the humor in a bad situation.

• Remind yourself of funny moments from the past.

Surround yourself with fun people who like to laugh a lot.

• Get a pet.

31 Days of Giving: Day 8 – Take the Time

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If you have not read Day #7 post, please go back and read because day 7, prompted day #8.  Today I went and visited one of our long time volunteers in the nursing home. Cora went into the home about 2 year ago, and I made a promise to myself that I would go visit at least once a month, and I did, at first.  Then it got to be every 2 months  and before I knew it, it was over 8 months ago since I last stopped to see her. I have no excuses.

Cora and I in 2002 at out Red Cross Volunteer Banquet. I have her the "Hard Working Old Lady Award".  I was a joke between us.

Cora and I in 2002 at the Red Cross Volunteer Banquet. I gave her the “Hard Working Old Lady Award”. It was a joke between us.

Today, I made the time, and surprised her and we had the best visit for almost an hour. We shared stories, she gave me advice, we laughed and it felt so good to get that hug from her.

Some recent events has taught me when it comes to people, take the time now, don’t keep saying, I will see, or call or visit with them tomorrow….. because what if Tomorrow Never Comes?

 

Volunteer Recognition Comes in All Shapes & Sizes!

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This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to celebrate and honor almost 100 volunteers at our agencies Celebration of Support event for volunteers, donors and community partners. This was a formal event, with a sit down dinner and the evening concluded with recognition awards given for exceptional service. It was a wonderful event filled with amazing stories and energy.

What do you perceive as a gratitude of thanks? There is no right or wrong answer, which is why volunteer recognition must be a mixed bag of showing our appreciation and thanks.

Recognition comes in many different forms, and volunteers value recognition in different ways.  A verbal thank you, a hand written note, a little token of appreciation, a birthday/anniversary card, a formal recognition event.  All of these ideas are great ways to say thank you.

Here is a list of some of my  top 10 ways to show appreciation and recognition all year-long to your volunteer work force:

  1. Always say Thank YOU!
  2. Have a smile on your face when working with volunteers. Volunteers are coming into your organization to help others. They don’t want to hear you complain about your co-workers, other volunteers or problems in your life.
  3. Create a comfortable working environment or create their own space to call home.
  4. Send a birthday card. Go one step further and have it signed by all your staff and other volunteers they may work with.
  5. Recognize anniversary dates.
  6. If you see an article about a volunteer (or donor) cut it out and send it to them with a note of congratulations.
  7. If you know about a loss of a family member, illness, or if they are just going through a hard time – send them a note of encouragement, a single flower, cup of coffee….. just a simple thing to let them know you are thinking of them during this time.
  8. Comment on a volunteers Facebook page with “Great job today” or “Thank you for volunteering”. This also shows their friends and family the good work they are doing within your organization.
  9. Show interest and get feedback. Ask volunteers “Are there ways we can improve things, how can we improve your volunteer work, etc?
  10. Provide a name badge or some type of logo apparel.

Beside the last one, none of these tips cost much to an organization. The thing is this cannot just be the culture of just the Volunteer Department.  To be extremely effective, this should be the culture of your entire organization.

Please share your ideas and other simple but meaningful ways to say thank you and to show volunteers they are appreciated.

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.

 

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

The Island

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I am sitting with my coffee early Saturday morning reading The NonProfitTimes when I came across Susan J. Ellis, President of Energize Inc., article titled “The Organizational Chart: Decisions on Where Volunteer Engagement Belongs.”

This article got me thinking about my title – Volunteer and Communications Director and where I am “housed”.  In my 13 years in the field, I have maybe come across someone with my same title once or twice. I have a dual role, so I report to our Communications Officer and to our Chief Operating Officer.

In the article Susan talks about the benefits and challenges of reporting to marketing and public relations staff, human resources, placed within the executive offices or as an independent volunteer resource department.

There is no perfect placement for what we do, to show the value an organization places on the volunteer resource manager. From reading her article, I think it comes down to what makes sense for your organization based on your size and talents of your team.

For me, the dual title, can be challenging at times, but it makes sense and I am surprised more organizations, especially smaller non profits aren’t doing the same thing.  Where do you find your stories to share with the community? Who are the people most passionate to tell the story? Who can provide you valuable information about programs and services being delivered in the community?  VOLUNTEERS!!

I see communications and volunteer management going hand-in-hand. By telling the story of our volunteers and what they do in the community, I am helping recruit new volunteers and increasing retention and recognition by valuing the great work being done by our volunteer workforce.

I would love to hear the opinion of other volunteer managers. Where are you “housed”? What are your thoughts on a dual role?

The Orientation

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There is the in-person, group and the phone screening. Every organization has their own method and you have to figure out what the best method is for the culture of your organization.

I am a firm believer of the in-person orientation. It has its challenges since my territory includes 20 counties, but I try to make it work for my schedule and theirs.

This is the first touch point that a volunteer is having with your organization and I believe the personalization of a one-on-one orientation can be a critical component in the success of an agencies retention rate.

I tell people when they come in for the orientation that my job as a volunteer manager is to connect people with opportunities in the community and if they decided the agency that I work for is a good fit for them — bonus!

But if not, that’s ok. Based on what the volunteer is looking for I can help make educated referrals for them to pursue an opportunity that would be a better fit.

My philosophy is I would rather spend that one hour with them to see if they are a match for us, and if we are a match for them, than to have them start, not enjoy it, and just stop coming.

I also learn so much from the volunteer in that time. Why do they want to volunteer? Why did they pick this agency? Do they have a personal connection to the agency?  This information is invaluable in helping connect the volunteer with an opportunity in or outside of your organization. These personal connection stories are a gold mine to your agency communicator and fund development team in sharing the mission and the power of your agencies community impact with donors and other stake holders.

I have done thousands of interviews in my 13 years and I must admit, I still get excited for each one. Meeting someone new, wondering what sparked that interest to volunteer and how can I keep that spark going.