Volunteer managers are often encouraged to engage in professional development opportunities, and NVAVA wants to help! To assist our members as they grow in their profession, NVAVA offers financial assistance scholarship in amounts up to $300. By doing this, NVAVA hopes to further empower members to pursue professional development opportunities in the field of volunteer management and administration. Click on the links below to learn about the scholarship application process and guidelines or to download the application:
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the scholarship application process.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis!
Thanks to the help of an NVAVA scholarship, I was able to attend the National Afterschool Association Conference in Orlando, FL. Not only was I able to attend the conference and gain valuable information, but I was able to present a workshop session for the first time. I’d always thought that people who present at these sessions were much more experienced than me and knew so much more. And of course, for some, that’s true. But, when I thought about my experiences and expertise, I realized that I had something to share as well.
The National Afterschool Association is geared towards supporting all those who work with kids and youth outside of school hours. The workshop that had the biggest impact on me and applies most to volunteer managers was called “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not pizza.” This session was all about how to have difficult conversations, which is something we all have to do at some time or another. This applies to conversations with volunteers, coworkers or clients.
The key thing to remember is that the only person you can control is you. Do what you can to get yourself in the right place to have this conversation. First, think about what you’re bringing to the conversation: what are your goals, preconceptions, the facts that you’ve gathered, etc. Try to keep a positive attitude and think of the other person as a partner in the discussion, instead of an adversary. If possible, let the other person present their side first and acknowledge that you’ve heard them. Most people just want to know that their concerns have been heard. Then, share your position and problem solve by working towards a long-term solution that works for both parties.
This approach can be helpful for volunteer managers in many contexts. It is important to be yourself, because volunteers will value you for your honesty and your support, but if they can tell you don’t mean what you say, they will lose respect for you and your organization. Being as prepared as possible and being reflective about yourself and the situation is a good way to approach any difficult conversation.
Time rolls by too swiftly and I’ve been remiss in sending an article for the newsletter as promised for my NVAVA sponsorship at last year’s Non Profit Capacity Building Conference in Crystal City. Still, for those who may be interested in attending this spring’s conference, my insights may be helpful.
My first impression of the conference was that I was playing above my league. I found myself in the company of various executive directors, board members, and other worthies from local, regional and national non-profits. The many, many vendors lining the halls were from consulting groups and businesses aimed at providing everything from health insurance to retirement planning programs, to software and database systems, to HR and risk management to….. Well, you get the picture. All were happy to talk to little lowly volunteer manager, me, in the hopes of getting an introduction to our agency’s senior management who could make decisions on such matters. They were happy to hand out all the latest gizmos and gadgets for your office and other goodies and drawings for prizes in exchange for simply providing them with a business card. Needless to say, my inbox is now regularly crowded with messages from them all. Some announce great free programs, others for a nominal fee, and more simply hawk their products and services. Still I did garner some ideas for great volunteer give-aways in the future.
There were various break-out sessions during the one day conference. I took the path that dealt most with volunteer related issues. One class was Engaging and Maximizing the Efforts of Volunteers. I was really hoping for a meaty program but quickly found that the presenter, while being one heck of a nice guy, had zero experience in working with volunteers and was more of an executive coach and HR specialist. I couldn’t help thinking that NVAVA could have provided a heaping handful of presenters on this topic all more aware of the nuances of working with volunteers than this gentleman. I found myself during the next break answering questions for folks starting new non-profits who needed advice about volunteer programs.
Another class was more engaging. It was called The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. We took a survey answering questions about our work team and then discussed what our scores meant. I was not surprised to learn that my team, with fellow NVAVA members Nate King and Alacia Earley, is a well-functioning group. We respect each other’s differences and opinions, we complement each other in our skills and strengths. We understand and compensate for our members’ weak points. We air our disagreements civilly and aren’t afraid to broach tough subjects. We genuinely care about each other and our successes individually and as a team. And beyond the work day, we are happy to share each other’s company at the occasional “liquid therapy” session. O.K, that last one wasn’t an indicator on the test, but hey, it works for us!
A main body session called Practice What You Preach—How to Bring Your Organization’s Values to Life encouraged us to really assess what our organization’s values are, and make conscious decisions to live up to those values with not just our clients, but also with our volunteers, donors, paid staff, and in our business dealings. It mentioned that we should be keeping these values in mind as we interview and select new employees, handle HR issues with staff, and go about our daily dealings with the public. It’s not enough to just state that something is a value in our agency. We have to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Some areas that were mentioned were: being family friendly, caring about the environment, believing in fair compensation, fostering work-life balance, and nurturing diversity in the workforce. If any of those is a value expressed by your agency, what is actively done to further the practice of that value?
Another speaker challenged our perception of what prejudice is. His point was that mankind is hardwired to have preferences and prejudices as a means of survival. In days when “stranger” meant “danger”, and the unknown might just kill you, you had to make decisions based on your experience or rational fear of the unknown as a danger. Thus were prejudices toward this or against that formed. We all have prejudices, many as innocuous as pink over purple, or flats versus heels, and although our lives aren’t so much at risk from the unknown, we all still have that element of unease with things we don’t understand and we shouldn’t feel guilty for it. BUT it’s how we recognize these fears and act (or not) on them that makes the difference. It was very thought provoking. (BTW I’m still exercising my prejudice against heels, because they ARE a threat to my well-being and balance!)
Perhaps the most fun presentation of the day discussed personal empowerment and handling stressful situations, including public speaking. Two of my favorite suggestions were the “star” posture, and the “Wonder Woman” stance. The first was suggested as an exercise you employ before going into a meeting or to speak in public. You stretch your arms out and above your head in a pose that makes you ready to embrace the world (think politicians and the V for victory or peace sign). This allows you to breathe deeply, lower your blood pressure, and feel more energized. The Wonder Woman stance is more of a “power” stance, giving you the feeling of control and strength to deal with whatever comes your way. It improves your posture, making you stand tall, opens up your breathing, and generally gives you the air of confidence you need. Both give you great stage presence.
As with any conference I’ve ever attended, I learned more valuable information networking in the halls than I ever could from sitting through a session. The attendees’ talents, expertise and willingness to share information and resources always makes for an enriching experience. Thanks NVAVA for letting me take part in this day!
Theresa Brown and Carol Moran
We would like to say thank you to NVAVA for awarding us scholarships to attend the National Conference on Volunteering held in Houston, Texas this past October. As Fairfax County employees working in the Volunteer Solutions Unit, the conference impacted us greatly.
The expertise of those presenting at the workshop was beyond what we expected. To hear what is on the horizon for volunteer managers and in the realm of volunteering in general was extremely beneficial in helping us keep up with the times. The endless opportunities to network with our peers from around the country provided us with fresh ideas to bring back to our own work with volunteers.
Our favorite part of the conference was the plenary sessions. It was such an emotional experience listening to the passion of the speakers on the Sparking a Global Service Panel. And of course we felt privileged to hear Neil Bush, Chairman of Points of Light and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Leader, speak so enthusiastically about global volunteering.