Tag Archives: voluntary organizations

National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability

A national dialogue is underway focused on changes ahead for the Public and Private Sectors; however, we have heard nothing about the Voluntary Sector.  Yet we know it will be affected by the types of changes being discussed for the governmental and business sectors. 

This Memorandum represents a call to recognize the importance of the “Quality of Life” Sector.  It suggests establishing a non-political, non-ideological, fact-based process that provides us with the data and understandings needed to make sound decisions on voluntary sector policy, education, professional development, work force readiness, and overall capacity by these organizations and their dedicated professionals and volunteers to meet growing human services needs.  Successfully doing so will help ensure the “greatness” of our future national Quality of Life. 

Tracy D. Connors, PhD

MEMORANDUM FOR COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT STEPHEN BANNON

Subj:  National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability
Executive Summary

America’s Voluntary Sector of the economy – more than one million charitable, philanthropic organizations employing more than 10 million professionals – is a vital contributor to, even determiner of, any national strategy seeking to “make America great again.”

Recognizing the vital contributions made by the Voluntary Sector to America’s current and future “greatness” of our national quality of life, the new Administration is urged to consider a national initiative to better understand and define the role of the Voluntary Sector in America’s “greatness” and to identify what is needed to ensure the Voluntary Sector adds the capacities needed to sustain and improve America’s national Quality of Life.

The paper suggests the establishment of a National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability.

Answers would be sought by the nonpartisan, blue-ribbon Commission to three broad questions, including:

  • What is the current state of the “Quality of Life” sector?
  • What will the Voluntary Sector be expected to provide in the way of human services in coming years if it is to meet the growing needs, and to ensure continued improvement in national Quality of Life?
  • What will be required in the way of additional or expanded capacities for the Independent Sector to not only sustain overall quality human services delivery in the face of changing and challenging operating environments, but to improve overall excellence, organizational performance, and quality results?
Background

America’s economy is broadly organized into three “sectors,” including:

  • The Public (government) Sector: those portions of America’s economic system that are controlled by national, state or provincial, and local governments;
  • The Private Sector: businesses earning profits for owners; and,
  • The Voluntary Sector (also called “Third Sector,” “Independent Sector”: charitable, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations whose purposes are to benefit and enrich society.

The Trump Administration’s emerging plans for the Public and Private Sectors reflect a vital strategic focus on results and outcomes that will “make America Great Again.”

To date, little is known or has been communicated regarding the role of the Voluntary Sector in making America great again.

However, America’s more than one million charitable/philanthropic organizations employ over 10 million professionals providing a myriad of human services that collectively provide the majority of America’s quality of life.

The Voluntary Sector is essential to any national strategy that seeks to make America great again.

Discussion
America’s overall quality of life depends on the collective human services provided by nearly one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations.

The charitable-philanthropic/nonprofit sector is the most rapidly growing and changing economic and organizational domain in the world — a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action.  The Voluntary Sector has more than doubled since publication in 1980 of the first handbook recognizing the new professional field of “nonprofit organization management” (Connors, 1980).  It has become a universe of voluntary associations and organizations representing civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action.

America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services.  Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a myriad of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by the ever-growing demands for social human services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.

Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations.

Unanswered Questions

Regardless of one’s political views, all sides appreciate the significant contributions made to America’s quality of life by its voluntary action organizations–and the need to develop policies and guidelines that enhance cooperation, improve performance and results, and add capacities needed to ensure America’s future quality of life, without undermining the core values that make America’s nonprofits so important to its overall quality of life.

Improving performance and capacity while strengthening Voluntary Sector core values requires answers to the following broad questions, including:

  • What is the state of the “Quality of Life” Voluntary Sector?
  • What will the Voluntary Sector be expected to provide in the way of human services in coming years if it is to meet the growing needs, and to ensure continued improvement in national Quality of Life?
  • What will be required in the way of additional or expanded capacities for the Independent Sector to not only sustain overall quality human services delivery in the face of changing and challenging operating environments, but to improve overall excellence, organizational performance, and quality results?
Results and Outcomes

During an approximately one year charter for the National Commission on Voluntary Sector Capacity and Sustainability, the following results and outcomes would be sought, including:

Gain Better Understandings regarding the:
  • Overall contributions by the voluntary sector to national quality of life.
  • Dynamic operating environments in which most voluntary organizations seek to survive and to fulfill their public purposes and missions.
  • Nature and depths of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing voluntary organizations.
  • Current relationships and/or partnerships between government and voluntary sector organizations.
Provide fact-based knowledge needed to:
  • Ensure the ability of the voluntary sector to sustain current levels of human services delivery;
  • Understand the scope and depth of challenges to needed capacity by sector organizations;
  • Put into place the educational and professional development resources and opportunities needed to ensure improved organizational performance as measured by effectiveness, efficiency, and transformational organizational environments;
  • Establish a government-voluntary sector relationship that represents an effective balance between policies that protect public purposes and missions, and that support the traditional charitable ethos that characterizes and inspires voluntary constituencies.
Overall Milestones:

Broad milestones for the Commission would include:

  • Creation of a national survey designed to provide a robust data base from which to develop answers to the basic research questions.
  • Analysis of the survey to identify conditions, needs, trends, and understandings contributing to sound policy considerations.
  • Hearings to provide the forum for public participation and input to the process.
  • Compilation of the Commission’s Findings and Recommendations, followed by publication.

Views from a strategic mirror

mirror-image-titleBackground:

The NPO Strategic Mirror is a convenient tool for senior leaders of nonprofit organization to better understand how — or whether — the organization’s strategic planning and deployment are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

This strategic directions profiling and self-assessment resource is based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997, 2001, 2014), and was most recently used by Norwich University as a tool  to review and assess strategic planning by Vermont charitable-philanthopic-nonprofit organizations.

The answers sought on the questionnaire are related to and focused on those management actions, activities, and competencies that senior NPO leaders have identified as contributing to their successes and those of their organizations.

The NPO Strategic Mirror is a strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool created by Dr. Tracy Connors based on the self-renewing management model (Connors, 1997/2001) and rankings provided by senior NPO practitioners during the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2014).

About the Strategic Mirror assessment

The actual assessment can be completed in a few minutes by those who are familiar with the organization’s strategic plan and/or related materials. The resulting data can become the focus for analysis, and serve as a form of agenda for any meetings focused on the subject.

The Strategic Mirror assessment and review process helped participating organizations to better understand their organization’s long-range vision, goals and objectives and how these are aligned with the operating environment.

The data collected and developed during the assessments used a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. It is designed to provide macro level insights into the strategic planning process and documentation, and to do so in the three overarching management domains that represent the organization’ operating environment.

The reviewer – external or internal to the organization – can make a determination about the presence of a management function or action, and the extent to which it seems to be effectively used within the planning process to improve effectiveness or efficiency. The reviewer then assigns their determination to a broad Likkert scale range to generate quantitative data that is then available for other useful purposes, e.g., basic statistical understandings.

The data collected can help provide a broad measure of understanding about the use of these management actions and activities within the organization’s planning processes, how that use compares with other nonprofits, and how the organization’s use of these potential tools within its strategic planning process may change over time.

Need to improve NPO capacities directly linked to improved mission fulfillment

The future of America’s quality of life, in many important ways, depends on the quality and quantity of human services provided by its more than 1 million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations. America’s C-P NPO’s are under continuing and growing pressure to improve their Effectiveness, Efficiency, Accountability, and Transparency (E/EAT). These pressures and proddings are increasing, a process some have called the “tides of reform.”

C-NPO’s must improve and increase their organizational capacities in ways that are directly linked to outcomes and results that demonstrate improved mission and public purpose accomplishment.

Strategic planning is one of the most critical competencies self-sustaining C-NPO’s attain and practice.  However, the results and outcomes achieved as a result of an organization’s strategic planning and deployment will depend on the extent to which the plans reflect and incorporate those management actions, activities, and results that research has identified as among the strongest contributors to organizational performance improvement and mission fulfillment.

Strategic Mirror aligns strategic planning with management actions contributing to performance improvement

“Views from a Strategic Mirror” is a research-based charitable-philanthropic organization self-assessment tool designed to help leaders, managers, and practitioners identify the extent to which strategic planning and related future-focused management processes reflect the incorporation of specific management actions and outcomes that are major contributors to overall organizational performance improvement in the three overarching management domains – Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Transformational Organization.

VSM helps C-NPO leaders conveniently and quickly review and compare their organization’s strategic plan and related documents.  The Q&A process provides a convenient reminder of the management actions and/or outcomes that have been strongly correlated to overall organizational performance and success by research and practice. The VSM provides the “mirror” that helps reflect the extent to which the planning process has included and focused on those management/leadership actions and outcomes that are closely associated with organizational performance improvement, and the extent to which the organization has incorporated those contributors to excellence and mission fulfillment into its plans and practices, and used them to define strategic results and outcomes.

Next: Reflections Before the Mirror

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2016, October 17). Views from a strategic mirror [A strategic directions profiling and self-assessment tool for charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations created based on the self-renewing management model.]. In NPO crossroads: management domains and outcomes. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/management/views-from-a-strategic-mirror/

© Copyright 2016 T.D. Connors

norwich-cert-prog-ad-01

The Way Ahead for Charities: E/EAT-ing Towards Excellence

Recent discussions in national media, including the WSJ, have highlighted the undeniable need by our charitable organizations to significantly improve their effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and transparency (E/EAT). Some have framed the national dialogue for improved E/EAT as a choice or trade-off by charities between embracing societal values emphasizing more economical allocation and expenditure of public funds and charitable donations, versus compromising (by reduced or inferior human services delivery) more traditional charitable values (ethos) that place a higher value on public and human services missions. Choosing “more business-like” or “commercialism” over “charity,” is seen as dangerous by some sector leaders, threatening humanistic, traditional charitable core values.

Such polarity framing represents a false dilemma.

First, “business-like” as a metaphor for effectiveness and efficiency is contradicted daily in WSJ headlines. Second, the range of promising new business model options available for nonprofits is steadily growing. In fact, many nonprofits are developing and using new (hybrid) business models, adapted (not adopted) from both for-profit and public enterprises, offering improved E/EAT without abandoning traditional charitable values. Further, such models provide the additional flexibility needed to deal with the complexities of today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments.

Clearly, E/EAT pressures will continue as “society” asserts primacy for the “economy” core value. In any values conflict between society and organizations such as public charities allowed to operate within its physical or economic borders, society will ultimately prevail.

America’s charities can wait to be forced into various modes of compliance based on external pressures, e.g., regulations or stipulations placed on resources; or, opt for self-directed, values-driven, internal compliance, e.g., adapting and using new business models improving E/EAT, while retaining essential organizational ethos. Such models will also reinforce another traditional charitable core value: excellence, sustained superior performance directed at public service mission fulfillment. Nonprofits can resolve potential conflict, fulfill their societal social contracts, and retain their essential ethos, by adapting and using those business models and strategies from all sectors that foster their continuing pursuit of excellence.

National media coverage of new emerging NPO business models leading to excellence represents its own significant contribution to improving charitable E/EAT, and our national quality of life.

Quo Vadis Voluntary Sector: Nurturing the capacity and developing the change leaders needed to sustain America’s Quality of Life

Quo Vadis Voluntary Sector:
Nurturing the capacity and developing the change leaders needed to sustain America’s Quality of Life

The growing importance of:

Self-renewing models that align mission and purpose within ever-changing operating environments.
Capacity-building focused on mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment.
Change Leadership reflecting Purpose, Environment and Person (PEP).
Competency-focused workforce professional preparation, development and training.

America’s future quality of life will depend in large part on the ability of its more than one million charitable-philanthropic-nonprofit organizations to collectively provide a myriad of human services ranging from arts and education, to health, advocacy and social services.

Sustaining our national quality of life in the face of expanding needs and dwindling resources will require significant improvements by our voluntary organizations in mission fulfillment, performance, productivity, and human services delivery. These voluntary organizations must deliver a vast range of human services in the face of ever-changing operating environments, compounded by growing demands for the social services needed to sustain our nation’s overall quality of life, and further complicated by growing calls for improved Effectiveness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.

Achieving improvements in overall effectiveness and efficiency resulting in substantially improved performance, results and outcomes will be among the most pressing challenges facing C-P/NP’s as transformational organizations.  America’s voluntary sector faces numerous challenges, but when considering the future, they can be seen broadly as including:

New self-renewing models and methods.
Embracing change that aligns them with their operating environments and fulfills their expanding public service missions – is a key to achieving and sustaining Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformed Organizations.

Capacity-building resulting mission readiness and public purpose fulfillment.
Linking capacity-building to improved mission and public purpose fulfillment.

Change Leadership with PEP.
Broadening the change leadership construct and model from its current focus on the Person, to include consideration of Purpose and Environment (PEP). Change leadership should be based on a variable mix of actions and traits needed by successful leaders such as Personal attributes and behaviors, but also on two other major factors, including: the nature of the Change (dimensions and complexities needed to advance the organization toward mission fulfillment), and the Environment/Situation (the organizational setting, environment and circumstances).

Workforce Professional Preparation, Development and Training.
Greatly expanded management education and training opportunities are needed for the voluntary sector workforce. Moreover, these opportunities should be framed and focused on professional education, training and development that helps practitioners acquire those competencies identified as most useful and contributory to achieving – and sustaining – results and performance improvements reflecting gains in Effectiveness, Efficiency and Transformation – all of which will be required in ever greater measure to meet emerging national Quality of Life needs.

Transformational Organizations: Adaptable, Transitioning and Evolving

Transformational organizations, Effectiveness and Efficiency represent the three overarching management domains of the Self-Renewing Management Model.

Charitable-philanthropic organizations seeking to achieve sustainable mission fulfillment and operations need a structure, culture and internal operating environment with the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions, to transition to new states – to evolve.

Achieving and sustaining a highly Effective charitable or philanthropic organization, one that is also Efficient in its use of available resources, requires the organization to have the ability to evolve and adapt to ever-changing external environmental conditions, even as it encourages all its members to achieve their full potentials. Change is often disruptive – and can be threatening to those involved. Therefore, the internal environment needed to cope with a constantly changing external environment is one that offers self-fulfillment options and a workplace where it is safe to change (transformational). Self-renewing organizations establish and maintain a transformational organizational environment within and through leadership and human resource development and management (Connors, 1997, 2001). Transformational organizations adapt themselves to changing environmental conditions, constantly transitioning to new states, turning as necessary, in new directions. In short, transformational organizations manage change effectively by reinventing themselves – they stay New.

Profile of a Transformational Organization

A charitable-philanthropic organization that has achieved a transformational internal operating environment, is one in which its senior leaders:

• are focused on improved organizational effectiveness,
• serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment; and,
• are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.

Further, its leaders have put into place systems that foster performance, individual development, and organizational learning, including the identification of stakeholders who serve as a major focus for vision and mission fulfillment.

A transformational organization is one in which education and training are emphasized as a means to improve workforce capabilities and performance, even as the human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers to achieve their full potentials.

Transformational organizations emphasize the importance of staff and volunteers realizing their full potential. They have put into place work and services delivery processes that support client/customer and performance objectives. Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated, to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and as a basis to measure, evaluate and reward staff and volunteers.

Characteristics of a Transformational Organization

Transformational organizations are characterized by the following characteristics as ranked by senior NPO executives during a major research study (Connors, 2013):

• Leadership is focused on improved organizational effectiveness.
• Senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment.
• Senior leaders are involved in organizational performance improvement initiatives.
• Leadership system fosters performance, individual development, and organizational learning.
• Education and training are emphasized to improve workforce capabilities and performance.
• Human resource focus supports and encourages staff and volunteers toward their full potentials.
• Work processes support client/customer and performance objectives.
• Staff and volunteer performance is measured, evaluated, and rewarded.
• Stakeholders are identified and serve as focus for vision and mission fulfillment.
• Organizational and work unit performance is measured and evaluated.

Establishing and Sustaining a Transformative Organization

Philanthropic executives rank Leadership, focused on operationalizing the organization’s core values as effectively as possible, as among the strongest contributors to establishing and sustaining a transformational internal environment.

The Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors,2013) found that three essential elements were needed to achieve a transformational organization, including:

1. Leadership and governance volunteers who use organizational core values as the basis for their decisions which are focused on achieving and sustaining organizational effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Governance leaders establishing and maintaining an ethical internal environment – based on core values – in which all members of the workforce (staff, volunteers, and governance leaders) are meaningfully engaged in helping the organization to fulfill its societal responsibilities.
3. Leadership focused on effective volunteer resource management, including job design linked to strategic planning and mission fulfillment (purpose).

The list below includes the rankings of management actions/activities most contributory to creating and sustaining a transformational internal environment. The list and its rankings was created by the responses of over 350 senior executives of voluntary organizations, and were among the findings of the Charitable-Philanthropic Organization Self-Renewing Management Model (C-POSRM) Study (Connors, 2013). Leadership is the strongest characteristic of philanthropic organizations with what their executives characterize as optimal internal environments.

1. Leadership
2. Organizational Core Values
3. Senior Leadership Efficacy
4. Volunteer Resource Management
5. Societal responsibilities
6. Job design, including volunteer positions where applicable
7. Board Development
8. Governance
9. Workforce Engagement
10. Ethics and Ethical Behavior
11. Workforce Climate/Environment
12. Workforce Capability/Capacity/ Development
13. Workforce Focus
14. Member/Constituent Development
15. Committee Development
16. Workforce Recognition/Rewards
17. Risk Management
18. Human Resource Development
19. Human Resource Management
20. Diversity Awareness
21. Legal

Leadership in such organizations is focused on improving organizational effectiveness, and in improving the organization’s overall performance. Further, its senior leaders serve as role models for values, initiative, and commitment. Human resource development is highly valued as a means to improve professional skills, capabilities, and performance, even as it encourages all members of the organization to achieve their full potentials.

In descending, but closely ranked order, respondents strongly valued other management actions and activities, including: volunteer resource management; societal responsibilities; job design; board development and governance; and workforce engagement. Based on rankings of management actions and activities and their value in establishing a transformational internal environment, heavy focus and importance was given to those actions involving and affecting the organization’s workforce, including: engagement and ethical behavior, climate and environment, capability and capacity development, recognition and rewards, diversity awareness, and an overall priority for the workforce and its best interests.

Note: Adapted in part and with permission from:

Connors, T. D. (1997). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.) (pp. 2-29). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In J. M. Greenfield (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Fund raising (3rd ed.) (pp. 1113-1140). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (May 2013). Towards a theory of self-renewed excellence for charitable-philanthropic organizations, Public Service Leadership, Capella University. DAI-A 74/11(E), p. 276. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com//docview/1427359144

© Copyright 2015 Tracy D. Connors

 

Efficient Voluntary Organizations

Efficient Voluntary Organizations: economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials

Overall, Efficient charitable organizations operate economically, with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials (at least in comparison with their competition). Increasingly, they use a variety of tools to improve business processes, including:

• Information and analysis techniques and systems analysis approaches to minimize waste, streamline their operations, and to make economical use of all resources (Connors, 1997, 2001).
• Processes, products, and services reassessment to optimize resource investments (money, time, and personnel) to achieve improved customer service and satisfaction levels.
• Economic performance and resource conservation emphasis by reducing wasted time, energy, and materials.
• Applicable process improvement and management information/data collection and analysis techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems; and,
• Process performance systems maintenance and operation to ensure they are performing according to their design.

Senior executives of charitable organizations understand and highly value the management benefits of using process improvement and management techniques to design and improve customer/client services and service delivery systems. They also value approaches that reduce wasted time, energy, and materials. Finally, C-P/NP executives strongly support and recommend maintaining process monitoring systems to ensure they are performing according to their design and the value of using information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste (Connors, 2013).

Defining Efficient Voluntary Organizations

Charitable executives identified and ranked the following as characteristics they would include in any definition of organizational efficiency, including:
• Uses process improvement and management techniques to design and improve its customer/client services and service delivery systems.
• Emphasizes reducing wasted time, energy and materials.
• Maintains process performance systems to ensure they are performing according to their design.
• Uses information and analysis techniques and approaches to reduce waste.
• Emphasizes economic performance.

Next: Secrets to Achieving Voluntary Organization Efficiency

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2015, July 31). Efficient voluntary organizations: Economical with reduced waste of time, energy, and materials. In Efficient voluntary organizations: NPO crossroads. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/category/efficiency/efficient-organizations/

 

© Copyright 2015 BelleAire Press, LLC

Motivating Volunteers: What the Management Model Reminds Us…

Management activities taking place within a typical volunteer resource management program when arranged in the logical sequence derived from the PDCA continuous improvement cycle concept provide program leaders with the ability to establish and sustain a volunteer program that learns from its successes and constantly improves as performance.

The link between our national quality of life and volunteer motivation

All of us want the best quality of life possible for ourselves, our families, and her fellow citizens. A strong case can be made for the vital role our charitable-philanthropic organizations play in determining our nation’s overall quality of life.

Charitable, nonprofit organizations, by definition, exist for a variety of public purposes, the majority of which, in the form of providing a wide variety of human services, make significant contributions to the nation’s overall quality of life.

Just over1,000,000 charitable, philanthropic organizations provide an astonishing number and variety of human services that, collectively, help shape America’s overall quality of life.
Sustaining and enriching the overall quality of life in our communities through improvements in human services is a worthy, broadly supported social and moral goal.

Since the great majority of these hundreds of thousands of charitable organizations depend upon the services of volunteers in order to fulfill their missions and purposes, we can see how important volunteer resource management is when it comes to sustaining or improving our nation’s quality of life. There is a direct link between the overall effectiveness of volunteer resource management by our charitable and philanthropic organizations and our nation’s quality of life.

We tend to refer to the collective group of dedicated, grassroots philanthropists who offer their services of their own free will to charitable-philanthropic organizations as a demographic segment called “volunteers.” In the broadest sense of the word that is true, but only as a construct that has the meaning we give it. These volunteers can be of almost any age, come from any segment of our society, have a wide range of educational backgrounds, have – or not – have a myriad of skills and abilities, and perform a vast range of services for these organizations, whose collective human services comprise so much of what we term quality of life.

Why Volunteers Volunteer…

The term volunteer means “of their own free will.” It typically means without expectation of monetary rewards or remuneration. People serve charitable-philanthropic organizations of their own free will and without expecting compensation for a number of reasons. Depending on the reason an individual decides to volunteer, the most effective motivation or combination of motivations might be quite different. Volunteer opportunities are not always labeled as such. They could be internships, community service positions, or self-learning opportunities. Volunteer resource managers will need to keep these various categories of volunteer in mind as they best determine the most effective combination of motivational strategies to use.

A quick Google search for the term “motivating volunteers,” returned 2,810,000 results in .31 seconds. Clearly, a great deal has been published on this important topic.

When we talk about “volunteer motivation,” we mean those influences that are at work in determining how a person behaves toward our organization. Motivation can be either positive or negative, and, measuring motivation is very difficult. However its strength can be inferred based on how a person’s behavior toward our organization changes or how its intensity varies. People serve philanthropic organizations for many different reasons and in many different ways. No “one size fits all” is certainly true for our charitable organizations, how they are managed, and the reasons why people volunteer for particular organization.

Good, generic advice is at your fingertips…

Our Google search provided some good information on motivating volunteers that we should keep in mind. We should ensure our research begins with articles and information that address the fundamental motivators responsible for why people work for an organization “of their own free will.” To be effective as a volunteer resource manager, you need to have a fundamental understanding that motivation to volunteer is not a quality that you and, but rather a response and behavior that you identify and nurture. Motivations come from within.

The better we understand why people behave as they do, and apply that knowledge to fulfilling our organization’s purpose and mission, is the extent to which our efforts to recruit and retain volunteers will be successful.

For example, some typical recommendations from the “secrets of volunteer motivation” type articles, include:
• providing positive feedback
• rewards and recognition
• providing on-the-job vocational training
• providing perks such as refreshments and comaraderie at your facility when they volunteer
• hiring staff that are trained and committed to volunteers

All of these recommendations are fine…as far as they go.

Using the volunteer resource management model…

The first nonprofit organization handbook was published in 1980. Subsequently, that area of management practice grew rapidly and is now understood to be a separate field of management science. The first volunteer resource management handbook was published in 1996. The most recent was published in 2011 (Connors).

Volunteer Resource Management Process and Quality Management
Volunteer Resource Management Process and Quality Management

The field of management practice for volunteer resource programs has developed substantially since publication of the first volunteer management handbook. One of the most useful management tools for VMR’s is the representation of a typical volunteer resource management program.

As volunteer resource management science has evolved, we have learned more about the various management actions and activities that are used within a typical program. Further, if we arrange these activities in a logical sequence – from planning through evaluation – we can suggest a program design management model – sequencing the activities to give us more ability to establish and sustain a volunteer program that learns from its successes and constantly improves its performance.

In other words, the model reminds us that a successful volunteer resource management program has important components, many of which do not receive the attention they deserve in terms of their importance to overall program results. Further, the model gives us the ability to look at important program objectives, e.g. motivating volunteers, from a new perspective.

Volunteer Resource Management Model

When we look at the range of volunteer resource program management actions and activities, we can see that they can be aggregated and modeled as a process that includes four basic steps or phases: assessment/analysis; planning; program deployment/implementation; and, results/evaluation. Each of these phases contains opportunities for successful volunteer resource managers to reinforce those reasons the volunteer considered when they were making their decision to affiliate, train, serve, and extend their commitment to your organization. Each organization that uses volunteers is able to deduce because it offers these volunteers enough reasons for them to participate in serve of their own free will. Often, we think we understand what these reasons are. But, do we?

Each volunteer is an individual devoting his or her service and loyalties to a specific organization at a specific time. Therefore, not all typical “best practices” apply to all volunteers, organizations, or situations. Rather than simply adopt such best practices, we must instead thoughtfully adapt them to our programs and our organizations. The volunteer resource management model can serve as an important tool in that process. Using the model, we can focus on what the model suggests to better understand what we should know and/or keep in mind as we adapt well intended best practices to our organization.

Volunteer motivation is both a process and a culture

Volunteer resource managers are always alert to management practices that help them improve their abilities to motivate potential and actual volunteers.

There are opportunities – and pitfalls – to motivate – or de-motivate – volunteers at every stage along the continuum of the volunteer resource management model.  Attention should be given to practices and policies that affect volunteer recruitment, performance, and retention throughout the volunteer’s lifecycle.

For example, even before recruiting begins the organization should know exactly what potential future volunteers will do to help the organization fulfill its mission and purpose. That means position descriptions that not only clearly describe the duties, responsibilities, authorities, and obligations of a particular position, but relate the results of that position to the organizations mission and strategic planning.

Once the potential volunteer has been motivated enough to affiliate with the organization, that commitment must be sustained through orientation and whatever training may be required for the incumbent of the volunteer position. These requirements very, of course, depending on the position, its responsibilities, and the nature of the organization or human service being provided. As with a professional staff member, any direct contact with clients receiving a human service must be carefully thought through beforehand, and appropriate orientation, training, and supervision plan policy must be established.

Once the volunteers properly recruited, oriented, trained, and in place assisting the organization as outlined in their position description, motivation then turns to practices that will help sustain their commitments not only to the organization but to excellence in the services they provide on behalf of the organization.

Motivation operates at every stage of the volunteer life cycle

VRM’s need to first understand their organization, its mission and purpose, and the organizational culture that currently exists for its volunteers. Then, using that as a baseline, they should analyze their organization to better understand the various types of volunteer opportunities that exist and what the respective motivations might be for these opportunities.

Volunteer resource program managers should know and/or determine the specific reasons why their organization attracts and retains volunteers – or not. The following discussion is organized around the four stages suggested by the volunteer resource management model. Overall, it underscores the importance of program planning by the volunteer manager, and the careful alignment of the volunteer program with the organization’s overall strategic plan and its deployment.

Phase 1: Assessment/analysis
  • What combination of management, leadership, and program activities are required for our organization to fulfill its purpose and mission?
  • What do we have to do in order to be successful?
  • How do our activities logically aggregate themselves into areas of responsibility, e.g., positions filled by people – paid staff and/or volunteers?
  • How do these respective positions contribute to our ability to fulfill our mission?
  • To what extent have we thoughtfully analyzed and articulated these areas of responsibility and activity into position descriptions that explain and outline in detail the nature of these positions, including: duties, responsibilities, authorities, training, evaluation, and risk factors?

In the assessment and analysis phase of volunteer resource planning, we should know with some exactitude what positions:
• are truly required by our organizations if they are to fulfill their purpose and mission;
• will be paid staff; and,
• which will be volunteers without financial remuneration.
• We should also know how long it is been since a “zero-based” assessment was done of the organization’s human resource needs.

Phase 2: Planning

The planning phase includes the creation of position descriptions that insofar as possible fully explain the duties, functions, contributions, and risks that are foreseen for each position.

An assessment of the full range of position descriptions enables the volunteer resource director to better understand what recruiting themes and media will be most successful. Different positions may require specific messages in recruiting communications, and various media mixes, as well.

This personnel analysis can also suggest the management and leadership structure that will need to be in place in order to:
• effectively coordinate staff and volunteer services;
• put into place the policies that will be needed in order to ensure both effective and efficient management of human resources within the organization; and,
• establish policies and processes for evaluation of all programs within the organization an annual basis, including personal evaluations needed for salary adjustments (in the case of paid staff), and/or recognition and awards.

Phase 3: Program deployment and implementation

The program deployment and implementation phase of a volunteer management program includes such important components as: overall program supervision, training, legal and risk management, volunteer-staff relations, communications, volunteer evaluation, and rewards and recognition. Each of these management functions should be individually reviewed and assessed for their potential to deepen bonds between the volunteer and the organization, or to become a de-motivator.

Careful thought should be given to the overall structure of the volunteer resource program. Typically, the more programs and volunteers included within the program, the more structure is required for effective management. In turn, the structure will influence the number and type of staff positions (not necessarily paid staff) that will be required for effective program implementation. Of course, each of these positions will need to be defined as to roles and responsibilities, and identified as to its place within the overall management structure.

The volunteer program handbook should be user-friendly and should contain information about the organization, including its mission, purpose, history and workplace policies and procedures. The volunteer orientation placement phase should ensure that all volunteers have a good working knowledge of this important document.

Phase 4: Results and Evaluation

While personnel evaluations for volunteers typically do not receive the attention and priority they deserve, they are very important to both the volunteer and the organization. The organization needs to have a defined and workable system by and through which it evaluates all of its human resources, including volunteers. This evaluation helps ensure that performance is mission-enhancing, and that it was conducted with the highest standards. Evaluations can help identify areas of improvement by both the organization and the volunteer. Evaluations are also needed to provide a supportable basis for personnel actions ranging from retention to dismissal – and as a basis for awards and recognition.

Bibliography

Barisco, M. (2013, June). [Review of the book the volunteer management handbook: Leadership strategies for success (second edition), by t. d. Connors (ed.)]. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 42(3), 624-626. doi:10.1177/0899764012457865
Browning, J. W. (2013). Leading at the strategic level. Washington, DC: National Defense University.
Connors, T. D. (1980). The nonprofit organization handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Connors, T. D. (1992, August 1). Avoiding ‘quality shock.’ Nonprofit World, 10(4), 25-29. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.library.capella.edu/pqdweb?did=671169&sid=2&Fmt=3&clientId=62763&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Connors, T. D. (1993). The nonprofit management handbook. New York, NY: John Wiley.
Connors, T. D. (1995). The volunteer management handbook. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471371424.html
Connors, T. D. (1997). The nonprofit handbook: Management (2nd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley.
Connors, T. D. (2001). The self-renewing organization. In T. D. Connors (Ed.), The nonprofit handbook: Management (3rd edition) (pp. 3-45). New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Connors, T. D. (2010, April). Strategic professional development ahead for volunteer managers. The International Journal of Volunteer Administration, 25(1). Retrieved from http://www.ijova.org/

 

Suggested citation:

Connors, T. D. (2015, August 12). Motivating volunteers: What the management model reminds us. In Transformational organizations. Retrieved from BelleAire Press, LLC: http://www.npocrossroads.com/transformational-organization/volunteer-resource-management/motivating-volunteers/