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Want to Capture Volunteer Talent? End your “Program,” Begin your “Strategy”

Culture: People First
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Jan 25, 2013 | Blog

I object to the term “volunteer program.”

In our sector many organizations use this term to describe all the voluntary roles that perform day to day operations (i.e. actual programs and services). Recruitment, onboarding, training, engagement, supervision and recognition of people in these roles are managed within the “volunteer program.”

If I asked you to list all the programs and services your organization operates, would “volunteer program” be among them? No. Because volunteers aren’t a program. They are the people who bring your programs, services and mission to life. Just the same as salaried employees and board members do.

In my experience, it is rare to hear the word “strategy” alongside the word “volunteer.”

Let’s reframe how we think of our volunteers. Let’s include their role as part of a bigger strategy – your people strategy. Within this frame, we would ask: how do we integrate everyone into one high-performing team? Everyone, including salaried employees, board members and volunteers.

When we use the word “program” to describe how we work with people, we’ve lost the true essence. People who work with us – whether paid with money or paid in meaning – are dynamic, vibrant and able to transform our entire organization.

If you want to capture the talents of people to transform your organization and your mission, start by changing your vantage point. Take a look at all your people. Develop one robust, integrated strategy. One that is clear and consistent, yet adaptable and nimble enough to capture the best talent you require – whether as a volunteer, board member or salaried employee.

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Vantage Point

Our mission is to transform not-for-profit organizations by convening, connecting, and equipping leaders to lift organizational capacity. Every client leaves our programs with resources to excel in their role and grow the impact of their organization.

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