Lori Gotlieb Shares Her Tips On Volunteer Management During the Holidays

Lori Gotlieb holiday Volunteering
Is your nonprofit ready for the holidays? Tis the season to give back which means a huge influx of people ready to volunteer for their favourite nonprofits. Now is the time to get your volunteer program ready for the holidays while thinking of new and creative ways of engaging your volunteers. 

Lori Gotlieb is one of the contributors of Volunteer Success, a resource hub and match-making site for volunteers and organizations to grow and connect. She shares tips for managing your volunteers during the busiest time of the year. 

Lori’s Top Tips 

  1. Embrace virtual spaces. COVID is still impacting how we work and a lot of people are not ready to be back in person just yet. Consider creating roles that allow volunteers to work from home and find ways to connect with volunteers like with zoom parties or virtual activities.
  2. Reach out and partner with other nonprofits. If you are experiencing an influx of volunteers see if there are any organizations looking for helping hands. See how you can collaborate and share resources to boost your impact. 
  3. Invest in your website. It is the digital face of your organization and it has to be up to date and reflect who your organization is now. 

Our Favourite Quotes 

[01:33] The holidays are coming fast and I think there's still this unknown. I think we're still dealing with an unknown factor. And I think at this point it's about having conversations and talking to your stakeholders, both your volunteers, seeing what they're willing to do. Kind of read the room to see what your program coordinators are looking for, what your clients are looking for. And then you've got a short window to be creative and come up with some ideas 

[07:16] Now we're looking at third party for volunteering. Go out and do something, engage, make baked cookies, get your neighbours together and do toy drives and then deliver those toys to the organization that can then control the distribution of things, drive through activities. So there are all kinds of stuff that I think is going to start to come out.


Let's talk about volunteer management during the holidays with the fantastic Lori Gotlieb.

Hello, and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes Podcast. I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente. As an innovator in nonprofit technology, our team at Driven is determined to help you unlock your true fundraising potential, make sure to give us a visit at trustdriven.com. We'd love to talk about your donor, volunteer or member management needs.

It's time for the holidays. It's very exciting, but it can also be super stressful. And what better time of the year to volunteer than now?

Everyone is in a giving mood. They are ready to get out there and get their hands dirty and help out their community. But that offers a huge challenge to you, the nonprofits. So how do you stay calm, cool and collected this holiday season? Well, Lori Gotlieb's got you covered. She is an award-winning consultant. She's been on the show before, but if you're not familiar with her work, Lori really is a force in the volunteer industry. She has had numerous articles published both print and online.

She has helped contribute to the second edition of The Volunteer Management Handbook, and she helped build and teach Humber's Volunteer Management and Leadership Program. So thank you again, Lori, for coming on the show. I'm so excited to have you here.

My pleasure.

So as we are gearing up for the holidays, how should volunteer managers be preparing? What do they need to keep in mind?

Yeah, the holidays are coming fast and I think there's still this unknown. I think we're still dealing with an unknown factor. And I think at this point it's about having conversations and talking to your stakeholders, both your volunteers, seeing what they're willing to do. Kind of read the room to see what your program coordinators are looking for, what your clients are looking for. And then you've got a short window to be creative and come up with some ideas that you can come up with. But I think now is the time to start reaching out to your clients, your stakeholders, your volunteers and see what their needs are and even do check-ins.

I think at this point, we're still wanting to make phone calls and check-in with our volunteers and see what's going on. So right now, I think it's going to be a bit of a hybrid. I do believe that organizations that are focused on things like delivery, food and the ones that have been active through COVID. I think it's still going to be active. I do believe organizations are still not at a level where they're servicing clients and or volunteers on site. So my big word, if you're going to ask me what the big word is for, this question is creativity.

I've done a bunch of research myself and I'm looking to see what kind of positions are available, and it's changed. There are a lot of positions related to those things that have to be done physically, like meals on wheels, food banks, basket deliveries, those types of things. But a lot of other things have moved online, like friendly visiting virtual volunteering. I am seeing boards and committees. So there are those types of things that are happening. But I still think that there's a lot of opportunities that were not around because the COVID are still not around.

So it's a short window. But now the time to kind of take a look and see what people want and be creative and be flexible.

Yeah. Creativity is always super important, especially when it comes to this kind of work, because every organization is so different. How can you create one model and then just copy and paste it across the industry? 

And as things are loosening up, there's some flexibility there. But physical distancing is still a big issue, and working anything related to children is still a big concern. And so as we are starting to open up and people are starting to realize that they have to have some semblance of life outside of their home, I don't know what people's comfort level. I wouldn't even attempt to guess what people's comfort levels are. So you got to read the room. You got to do a temperature check and see if your volunteers are even around. The other thing is start looking at organizations that you can maybe connect with or network or partner with.

Yeah, partnering is a big thing that I've seen so many people just start to do with COVID, and it's like, how have we not been doing this the whole time? Like even with social media? I've been doing a lot of research into places, afflict, TikTok, and people are finding so much more success when they are reaching out to other organizations and other people even influencers people in the community and just bouncing ideas and seeing how they can benefit each other.

It's funny you say that because I've been preaching this virtual volunteering thing for years and preaching using your website better and being creative and thinking outside the box. And it took a pandemic for people to embrace it. The virtual volunteering was prime years ago to get people engaged in that. And when they used to say, when you worked, where you have to have your bum in your seat, we now realize that we're highly productive people not having to physically be in a building. And that translates to volunteerism now, like it used to be that you had to physically be in the building because the whole volunteer management cycle revolved around that physical contact, whether it was the interviewing and reading, those cues that were nonverbal, whether it was the training, whether it was just the connecting of the volunteers as they're going down the hallways, recognition, the barbecue, the holiday party, all these things were all based on a physical connection and that's blown up.

So the next thing is going to be how do we better use our websites? How do we better interview or put out information and educate people by using technology and that, I think is going to stick. I don't think that's going to go away.

No, it can't like it's become so accessible now that I feel like it would be a clutch to remove it.

Absolutely. And therefore, volunteer programs are going to have to create hybrids. So I think that's the next level in this world is hybrid volunteerism, where you kind of flip back and forth between physically going into a building and not going into the building or having a job that can be split between somebody who's willing to go in and somebody who's not willing to go in. There's a whole potential of volunteer opportunities out there waiting to be created, and we're not there yet. I'm still seeing that traditional model of things that we normally do, but I'm starting to as the holiday season-

I think we're going to see some very interesting things come out. I saw a couple of postings that were very much what a great idea. Like that third party model again, where it was always third party for fundraising. Now we're looking at third party for volunteering. Go out and do something, engage, make baked cookies, get your neighbours together and do toy drives and then deliver those toys to the organization that can then control the distribution of things, drive through activities. So there are all kinds of stuff that I think is going to start to come out.

Yeah. Peer to peer volunteering.

Yeah. Unfortunately, or unfortunately, the unorganized volunteering from a professional manager of volunteers. I always go "ah!" because the risks are there, and I always worry about those risks. But that's my job to figure out those risks. Yeah.

And the good thing is, with the holidays is that people are even more motivated to get involved. But with that comes like an incredible influx of people wanting to volunteer. So how do you even begin to manage this incredible, overwhelming feeling of, like the numbers overpowering the number of positions.

My first thought is always you're going to have to be realistic. You just can't take everybody. Right. So the capacity has changed in organizations. So again, like I said in the first question you ask me is now the time to figure out what the capacity is and talking to your staff, your clients, your leadership team and see what they have the capacity to do because it takes a village during the holiday season to do things. The other thing is like we mentioned before is that partnership concept.

So maybe you're not doing something specifically, but you hook up with another organization, like a shelter. But you're an educational organization. You hook up with a shelter and your volunteers kind of work together on things. So I think that, yes, there's going to be an influx of people wanting to get involved. But I also think there's going to be an influx of people that are going to ask to do things at home. And so looking at ways that we can again shift our opportunities, for example, holiday phone calls, where you can take on tons of volunteers.

And not only do can you call your clients that you can call your staff, you can call your other volunteers. So volunteers supporting volunteers because not only is it a happy time, it's also a challenging time. So we have to look at both sides of the point during the holiday season. And again this year it's going to be challenging people and may not be able to see their grandchildren, their nieces, their nephews because kids are not vaccinated. That's a realistic issue right now. So we're not there.

We're almost there. But the other way is just like I said, networking being flexible, collaboration. So to me, it's like this is the podcast of the "Cs", being creative, being collaborative, being concise, knowing exactly what it is that you need to do being communicative. So I think that we just have to be realistic. And if you cannot take volunteers, have a list of places that are looking for volunteers and pass them on, or make that conversation to the volunteer coordinator at the local food bank and say, how many volunteers do you need if people come to me, can I pass them on?

So be part of the process and be part of their support team? Again, crossing boundaries. Let's break down those walls.

Exactly. Are there things that you can do to people who come to you, in addition to referring them to other organizations to help keep them engaged with you in the future? Or should they focus more on just spreading the love and seeing where they can find the opportunities? 

I think that there are other ways to give back that are not what I call traditional volunteering. So there may be things like focus groups or even having them as ambassadors. So I think we can look at different roles that volunteers can get involved in. So I thought about that, and I think that that was the time to evaluate also what our volunteer programs look like. Volunteers can be a great part of that. It's also a time that you can start educating your volunteers, keeping them connected through, I hate to say the word newsletter.

I mean, call it what you want to call it, but a way to keep them informed and connected as to what's going on transitionally in the organization and calls out as to where you can help. Like I said, now is the time to kind of see where those gaps are in your organization and see where your volunteers can get involved in those gaps. So maybe traditionally they were a tutor, but maybe that ability to be a tutor is also an opportunity to be a writer, and they could start writing stories or go out and gather stories.

So I think it's about remotivating volunteers and they don't know what they don't know and they don't know how they can help you. And I think that as organizations right now are in skeletal mold, they're not as full as they could be. People are working from home, which means that there are gaps everywhere. And I think that volunteers and there are a lot of high skilled volunteers that are looking to kind of do these life shifts, that there are ways that you can't get involved, but you have to go out now.

You can't just sit there. I think a volunteer can be this. And I think a volunteer can be that now is the time to go back out into your programs and talk about, where are your gaps? Where do you want to go in the next six months in your program? Where are your gaps? And then go back to the volunteers and see where you can fill those gaps. But on the other side, there are lots of things that can be done again. I'm going to push back to that third party.

There's ways to communities can gather together to knit things, arts and crafts, gather. I see so much stuff that people are giving away at this point. I think everybody's cleaning up their houses continuously. It's been two years of cleaning your houses. I cleaned my cupboards, and like, three months later they're back to where they were. But there may be an opportunity here or a way to gather up puzzles and then give them to hospitals and things like that. So I just think it's a reimagination of things, but still focusing on more on the virtual side.

On the other side of having people coming back and new people getting excited, how much energy should be focused on recruitment on this time of year? Do you think that there should be a heavy focus on recruitment, or should it be more on creating quality experiences so that people already engage with your organization?

You know what? That's a capacity question. So as a general question, I can't answer and say recruitment, I think now is probably depending on where you are, what kind of organization you are and how difficult it is for you to recruit. So if you have something you need done and you can't get people, then, yeah. Then your focus is on recruitment. A lot of organizations aren't having problems getting recruitment. They're having problems keeping their volunteers. They don't have jobs to their volunteers, but also now is the time to collectively engage your volunteers.

Maybe not so much in volunteering, but in supporting each other. So during the holiday season, maybe this is a great opportunity to do a Zoom party for your volunteers or storytelling or a virtual treasure Hunt. So engaging them through the holiday process, if you don't have a ton of volunteering opportunities, would be a really great way to keep your volunteers engaged until you can open up those opportunities. But at the end of the day, recruitment is very important. If you don't have the volunteers to come, and then I'm going to say to you, the first step you do is please take a look at your website because people are looking, they are looking at how they can get involved.

And if you don't have that information on your website, if it's not visually appealing, and I don't like to see volunteers need to kind of thing, but really tell those stories. So that first step up to the holiday season could be a bit of a hybrid of thanking those volunteers, engaging volunteers through your website in a way where you can coach, mentor, educate, connect, but also from a recruitment standpoint, be clear concise as to what you're looking for and don't hide the risks and those types of things because otherwise, you're just wasting your time.

But ensure that you're getting up-to-date information on your website. And I've looked at some websites and they're not up to date in any way they perform. It's almost like what you see on the website for an organization is not even close to what the organization is looking like right now. And I don't think that that's a good way to market yourself or show who you are at this point.

Yes, I agree completely. And what you were saying before about the hybrid model and everything being online now your website really is like the face of your nonprofit.

It's like dating. Listen, I know people that put their 1960s photo in a 2021 website, so at some point they're going to figure out you're not 30 years old anymore, you're 60 years old. So it's the same kind of thinking in my head. It's like put it out there as to where you're at or just update and what you're looking for and where your needs are because the word of mouth is happening, like people are asking, how can we help? And they're asking their friends. So they're not just looking on the website or on volunteer matching websites, they're asking their friends, what are you doing over the holidays?

I want to give back. I want to get involved. And some of the stuff that I'm seeing is exactly still back to that organic where a neighbour says, hey, we're going to go and do a hockey stick drive because we know that there are kids out there that want to play hockey that don't have access to it. And interesting, the supply chain is going to have an effect, too. This whole supply chain issue that's rearing its ugly head. It's going to get bad. Right? So there's a lot of people that need things out there, not just food.

So this is the kind of use your website to try and engage people. And this is how you can do a third-party drive. You know, they used to have that fundraising in a box, right. We send you a fundraise and you go and you do it, and we coach you. I think this would be a great opportunity for not fundraising, but like product gathering where we coach you, we help you as a volunteer coordinator, we'll give you what you need, the tools that you need, and you go out and try and find those puzzles, those toys, that clothing, because there are a lot of people struggling, and they want to give their family members a holiday season.

That's positive. That's full of love. And a few tokens. The long answer to your question is there is that yes. How do you recruit in the season? Well, if you need people, then you have to go. And I'm always been a fan of Target recruitment go closest to where the people are that you can get. But I'm also saying on the other side is that if you don't have that need to recruit volunteers into your organization, then be the conduit of either helping other organizations do it or come up with some creative ways that you can help the community.

You really have to look at the situation that you're in before you react. And I love that idea of having volunteers go out and kind of have their own agency and how they choose to give back, because I feel like that makes it a lot more fun. And it is a really creative solution to having an influx of volunteers at this time, right?

I mean, the only thing is I never want this to become go back to the basics before. I don't want volunteer coordinators to lose their jobs over these types of things. So that's what I'm saying. I think that those that manage volunteers should be spearheading this, right and connecting with their leadership. That's the other thing is we want to ensure that volunteer programs are strong and will stay strong as they come out of this pandemic and back into whatever that looks like. Like I said, I think it's always going to be a hybrid, but I think that those that manage volunteers need to spearhead that hybrid and come up with those ways to not only create new, engaging partnerships and collaborations, but also shift the way they manage volunteers so that traditional volunteer management cycle gets shifted to respond to what the hybrid world looks like.

Yeah. And I love again that you're going back to talk about the importance of volunteer management because really, you need somebody. I mean, obviously, that's what we're here to talk about. But you need somebody that is dedicated to giving time back to these volunteers, making sure that they feel valued stewardship is so important. So going back to that idea of how do we keep these volunteers? We are getting so many new bodies in our door. How do we keep them in? So what should the follow-up process be?

How should we be thanking people during the holiday season?

It's a good question. It comes back to planning for it, so not being reactive but Proactive. But I'm starting to see and feel. And I work with a lot of organizations. And one of my tools and my toolkit is shifting towards education, coaching, mentorship and communication. So what I mean is how to keep these volunteers engaged. We're not past. Like I said, the barbecue, that social gathering. So I think moving into, like, a Zoom connection is a really good model to start working with. You could have subjects where you have opportunities for volunteers to join a Zoom call and talk about things like, there's this real shift to adult learning, micro education.

And I think organizations could be really at the forefront of that. And I don't like to use the word newsletter, but keeping people informed and engaged. I think "newsletter" is an old word, but I think that there's a way to a monthly check-in a monthly organizational check-up. So as organizations are going through these changes that volunteers are informed, another way to keep volunteers engaged is letting them have a voice so that iterative process where you build something. But then you take a pulse and see if that's what you meant to say is actually what happened.

So engage volunteers in that way. These are all forms of recognition, appreciation and acknowledgement as well as that check-in and that emoji happy Valentine's Day, happy Volunteer Week. I find that stuff.

It's cute, but it works.

It really does. So I think that updated emails, opportunities for partnerships. I think there's a lot of different ways to engage volunteers. But one of the key, I guess, words for that is networking you as the leader of volunteers, looking at ways to network with both your volunteers, but also other organizations. See what they're doing. Like, you don't have to reinvent the wheel here in Zoom parties.

I mean, they're so easy to set up, and it's just nice to know that again, you have that community.

They're getting married by Zoom. They're being permits fit by Zoom. Their funerals are by Zoom. So why not volunteer engagement by Zoom? Volunteer connecting by Zoom? Everybody else is doing it. No one's doing it. Why are volunteer programs not doing that yet? Got to get on it.

That's the 2022 resolution for everyone listening today.

Make it technology-friendly visiting by Zoom. I got so many people had the opportunity now to connect with other people through technology. And I know the question that people are going to a lot of our clients don't have computers. I understand that letter writing. Whatever happened to the old days where you wrote a letter, pen pal, there are solutions for everything. You just have to be creative about that.

Well, thank you again, Lori, for joining me on the show. It's always a pleasure. And for those listening, I have linked to Lori's website along with volunteer success in the Description box. And if you'd like to stay updated and everything Fundraising Superheroes We'd love to hear from you as well. You can reach out to us at trustriven.com. There you can listen to past podcast episodes. You can learn more about the work we do at Driven or you can get in touch with us. Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.

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By Trust Driven on

Podcast Nov 24, 2021, 12:00 AM

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