United Way Worldwide Volunteer Engagement Summit

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United Way Worldwide Volunteer Engagement
By Kristina Coby

I was privileged enough to attend the United Way Strategic Volunteer Engagement Summit at the United Way Worldwide headquarters in Alexandria, VA last week.  60 colleagues, in similar roles to myself from across the country, were in attendance, some of whom I have known for years, some I had met for the first time.  Regardless of how long I had known any of them, I found we all shared one thing in common; our communities are finding it more and more important to not only provide opportunities to volunteer, but we must also help to facilitate the process which people take to become ENGAGED in their community.  We are doing so many things right along the Lakeshore and, yet, our United Way has significant opportunity to align and strengthen our role in volunteerism that builds relationships, generates revenue, and drives impact.  After all, isn’t that what we are here for?

Facilitators shared three essential practices to better align volunteerism with the goals of the United Way: creating a discrete function that reports to the CEO or C-Suite Executive; establish a board-level volunteer engagement committee; and connect volunteerism to long-term goals. Once the volunteerism function is set, they recommended seven best practices proven to make volunteerism thrive: create a volunteer engagement culture; collaborate across functions; offer programs that generate revenue; invest in staff and staff training, invest in and integrate technology as a relation management tool to register, check-in and communicate with volunteers; leverage corporate relationships to engage corporate volunteers in community service projects to strengthen employee morale and reinvigorate relationships; and measure results that include tracking volunteer hours and show how volunteers help advance impact goals and whether there is a correlation between serving and giving. It was reassuring to hear the significance of the role that leadership and board level support plays in volunteer engagement to drive success.   We must not take that for granted and use it to our advantage with our key volunteers and leaders here at United Way of the Lakeshore.  

In the grand scheme of working with volunteers to advance United Way objectives, the Summit reaffirmed my belief that we have a great deal in common with other United Ways, AND, we can benefit by incorporating a few of the best practices that were revealed by my 60 colleagues. It’s always a pleasure to see best practices that we can adapt to our use after the bugs have been worked out by others. I’ll certainly keep that in mind as we set our annual strategic plan for 2017 and beyond.