The Nonprofit Hero Factory: Episode 36

Tapping the Power of Online Volunteers to Deliver ROI for Your Nonprofit, with Dana Litwin

In this Episode:

Nonprofit volunteer time across the U.S. in 2021 is now $28.54/hr on average. They are often your greatest investors and champions… and that’s not even counting the donations that they make on top of their time. But with COVID and other challenges, too many organizations just don’t know how to capitalize on this opportunity.

Even for nonprofits who understand the tremendous value of their volunteer force, COVID-19 presented seemingly insurmountable challenges. Many halted or completely abandoned their volunteer programs, breaking the connection with their biggest supporters or worse, breaking their trust at the worst time possible.

Dana Litwin is a Certified Volunteer Administrator (CVA) who specializes in helping nonprofits create more volunteer opportunities online. She joins us on the show this week to share her insights on the ROI of volunteers and how we can help them help us regardless of pandemics, geographical and time constraints.

Listen to this Episode

[00:00:05.270] – Intro Video
Welcome to the Nonprofit Hero Factory, a weekly live video broadcast and podcast. Where we’ll be helping nonprofit leaders and innovators create more heroes for their cause and a better world for all of us. Da-Ding!

[00:00:22.110] – Boris
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Nonprofit Hero Factory. Thank you for joining us today. Taking some time out of your schedules, on your walk, on your drive, or maybe you’re at work and watching something for a little bit of inspiration. That’s exactly my hope here, is to inspire you and all the nonprofit professionals that enjoy the show, ways to activate more heroes for your cause.

[00:00:44.970] – Boris
Today, I am joined by Dana Litwin, who is a principal consultant at Dana Litwin Consulting. Dana is a CVA—which I’m going to ask her what that is—and a globally recognized strategic advisor, keynote speaker, and thought leader in volunteerism tech trends and civic service.

[00:01:02.190] – Boris
Since 2002, she has guided organizations in California, Silicon Valley, and nationwide to produce breakthrough volunteer and community engagement programs. Dana is the creator of the YouTube series “Priceless Advice for Leaders of Volunteers” and serves as President of the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement, known as AL!VE. When I asked Dana what her superpower is, she said it was building volunteer and community engagement, and that’s exactly what I want to talk to her about today. With that, let’s bring her on to the show.

[00:01:33.330] – Dana Litwin
Hi, Boris. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:35.310] – Boris
Hi, Dana. It’s really a pleasure to have you on the show. I am excited to talk to you about all of these things. But first, as I like to ask everyone, tell us what’s your story.

[00:01:46.170] – Dana Litwin
My story is, like most people who become leaders of volunteers or get into this profession in this sector, you kind of come in sideways. You know, no little kid who’s five or six years old sits and dreams about their future profession of, “I’m going to design volunteer programs and run community engagement.” But I started entry-level with Project Open Hand, which is kind of a food/critically ill charity here in San Francisco around 2002 and did that for about five years. And really found that the combination of creativity, and people skills, and systems, and structures, and as we’re going to talk about, use of technology.

[00:02:29.730] – Dana Litwin
All of that combined really just is so appealing to me in that it’s kind of a constant challenge, and it’s a constant science and art and craft to develop volunteer engagement. And not enough people are really doing it as a career, seeing it as a career path. So in the 20 something years that I’ve been doing this, at least the last ten years, I’ve been really involved in kind of advocating for the profession and helping other people achieve things like the CVA.

[00:03:03.510] – Boris
Which is…

[00:03:04.890] – Dana Litwin
Which is Certification in Volunteer Administration, and it’s the only global certification for our profession. There’s a little bit over 1,000 people with the CVA around the world, and it’s existed for some decades, and it’s not a class that you take and then get a certificate or a degree that you study for.

[00:03:28.710] – Dana Litwin
It really tests your professional experience and judgment, and it takes about a year. Are you accepted as a candidate to even take the test? Then you take the test. And again, it’s kind of real world scenarios that aren’t specific to any region around the world, or it’s not like California laws or something. It’s kind of general best practices. So it’s not an easy test to take or pass, and you need to professionally renew it and kind of do constant professional development units and renew your certification every five years. So if someone has CVA, you know that they’re going to be really good at volunteer engagement and program design and everything that’s related to it.

[00:04:12.030] – Boris
So this is definitely, you’ve decided, your calling and you’re pursuing it to the most professional standards you possibly can.

[00:04:19.350] – Dana Litwin
Absolutely, yeah. For myself and just for the profession as well.

[00:04:24.750] – Boris
Very cool. So let’s talk then, about your profession and about the things that you are most expert at, because I’m here to learn from you and I’m excited to do so. What is going on today in the nonprofit sector in terms of volunteering? I’m sure that the pandemic has, like every other area, upended so many programs when it comes to volunteering. What’s going on and how are nonprofits responding?

[00:04:53.910] – Dana Litwin
Nonprofits, overall, did not respond well. There was kind of a panic at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there has been actually a lot of great research by has done studies about once a year, every six months and surveys. And has done some as well, in the independent sector. So what we found early in 2020 was about 90… a little more than 90% of nonprofits or government agencies did the worst possible thing they could in response to the pandemic, which is to completely shut down all of their volunteer programs and in many cases, did not check with their volunteer administrator, program director, and in many cases didn’t communicate properly to the volunteers themselves.

[00:05:46.410] – Dana Litwin
So that was a really serious mistake. That was also a good data point to study of like, why was the volunteer program either undervalued by the leaders in that organization—certainly not the directors of the programs who are running it day-to-day—and why aren’t the leaders, the directors of volunteers, at the decision table with the rest of the c-suite leadership team? So I happened to be doing some other research on, kind of, that subject of how can we communicate to different organizations—both funders and leaders like executive directors, CEOs—the value of their volunteer program so that things like this don’t happen when there’s a panic moment? And particularly hard hit was health care, and human services, and food banks and things.

[00:06:36.630] – Dana Litwin
So some of the, you know, safety nets that we rely on—particularly in the United States, but this happened around the world —immediately were, didn’t have the personnel, to do all those things. And so that caused a really bad impact and ripple effect throughout communities that suddenly lost access to food or health care, certain health care services, or in-home services and things like that.

[00:07:00.450] – Dana Litwin
Now, what we’ve learned in the last year and a half is that—the agencies who kept their volunteers engaged, either shifting to virtual things, or figuring out how to safely have volunteers still do client contact, or work together in the same work site, or something like that—they’ve been the most resilient, and they’ve still been fine even throughout the other economic impacts of the pandemic in the last year and half, almost two years.

[00:07:28.890] – Dana Litwin
And those… I’ve had a lot of calls as a consultant from agencies like, “Well, we immediately shut down our volunteer things, and we didn’t really tell our volunteers until it was too late, and how do we get them all back?” It’s like, well, you’ve broken trust… so you probably can’t. Is the answer that you don’t want to hear, but is the truth.

[00:07:48.930] – Dana Litwin
And so how can we learn these lessons and help convince leadership of these many organizations—tiny nonprofits, medium sized, giant, global or national entities—that pretending that the volunteers that you have, which are probably the biggest department or the most headcount of your whole agency, and they’re probably having the most client or community-facing contact representing your agency, you can’t treat that as a nice to have, or an add on, or someone, something, that’s on a shelf or in a refrigerator where you can just take it out and put it back, and take it out and put it back.

[00:08:25.230] – Dana Litwin
It has to be built on relationships, and trust, and a connection to the people who are doing the work. And when we saw that not happening, that’s been the organizations that didn’t keep their volunteers engaged and didn’t communicate honestly with when they needed people, and what they could do and all that, are really really struggling.

[00:08:48.750] – Boris
So, the breaking of the trust is so critical and so upsetting in so many ways, because that’s one of the big currencies that we have, that we really establish with our supporters. Whether they’re donors or they’re volunteers, whatever… or they’re just sharing their voice, whatever it might be. I classify things into three different types of resources: time, money and voice. So I can vote on your behalf, I could do something on your behalf, speak up, or I could volunteer my time or my money, volunteer my money towards your cause.

[00:09:27.270] – Boris
And anytime a nonprofit can’t sustain that trust, can’t deliver on what is promised, or can’t keep treating you as a valuable member of the community… it really just breaks everything. And it’s very hard to build back, as you were just saying.

[00:09:46.770] – Dana Litwin
Yeah, and I think about it—I like your framing of it—and I think about it as the three C’s of a happy team or happy volunteers. Which is comfort, convenience, and connection. And what we found was that organizations broke that connection, and under connection you can think about it as trust, which you’ve talked about, and the sense that we’re all in this together. That good or bad, whatever we have to do, if we’re transparent and honest about, like, “Well, we have to shut down some of our services, but here’s other ways that you can still stay connected or volunteer.” Or at least, “Here’s how we can still be social with each other. Virtually, as a team of people working for this agency, even if there isn’t a volunteer task to do.”

[00:10:27.390] – Dana Litwin
That agency suggested social things, actually, have been better at bringing those original team members, those volunteers, advocates, donors, everyone back. And when you break, someone has to feel comfortable and safe and supported in their role. It has to be convenient for them to do, either with or without technology. But really, that connection is what was… that was where people kind of dropped off the cliff and the pandemic, was breaking that connection.

[00:10:57.990] – Boris
And I wonder, too, if the donation rates also dropped. And I wanted to ask you about this. Last week, I put out an article and a podcast about the IKEA Effect, which I think you’re familiar with. What that basically says, for those that aren’t in the know, is that when people assembled their own piece of furniture from IKEA, or a Lego set, or origami… they weren’t experts at it, they just assembled it as best they could, and it wasn’t perfect. They still valued it a lot higher than if someone came in, a professional came in, and did that same, assembled that same object, that same piece of furniture or something else, sometimes by as much as 63% more.

[00:11:39.270] – Boris
And so what it’s got me thinking about is that, the more you can engage your supporters—your potential supporters, whomever they might be, volunteers or donors—in the creation of your work, then the more they’re going to value it, the more they’re going to support it. And so I was wondering, do you know what the overlap is between volunteers and donors? What percentage of volunteers maybe become donors as well?

[00:12:06.810] – Dana Litwin
Extremely high overlapping, Venn Diagram. Consistently, there’s a ton of research about this over the last several years, and it very consistently shows that someone who’s volunteering, who’s giving their time and their talent to an organization, is at least ten times as likely to be a donor in addition to volunteering. As, you know, trying to chase fundraising or donor leads in warm or cold calls who aren’t already connected to the mission of the agency. So every director of development knows that information. I think very few executive directors, or CEOs, or general managers of organizations understand that overlap. And I think we may not have had that break of that connection and trust if leadership-level decision makers got that, “Oh, your donors are probably also your volunteers”.

[00:13:02.490] – Dana Litwin
And there was a very specific example, unfortunately recently, with the Chicago Art Institute. Which fired all of their docents all at the same time. Not for cause, but because not exclusively, they considered the population of docents to be too old, too white and too wealthy to represent Chicago. And they said it was as part of a diversity, equity, inclusion, access, justice measure, and all of us in the consulting space from all of those topics screamed that was the exact wrong way to do that, because it hurts DEIAJ efforts that are more legitimate that get woven strategically, you know, and change… the change is managed gently over time for people to get buy-in and build the IKEA piece of furniture of trust and diversity in the community themselves.

[00:13:56.010] – Dana Litwin
But it also just showed that there’s been like, a just off the charts toxic relationship, apparently, between staff and the docents and volunteers, and that’s just sad to see. And too late, the institution realized that, “Oh, most of those docents were our highest donors, and we’ve just lost them, too”. And there was, I think, a Guardian article and some articles about it a few weeks ago—recording this November 5th, so it was in October—but that’s a prime example of what not to do. The worst possible way to try to handle updating or diversifying your volunteer teams.

[00:14:38.850] – Boris
Yeah. So, you know, they had all the best intentions, but completely the wrong execution and didn’t realize just how valuable volunteers are. So, I’m assuming at this point that if whoever is watching or listening didn’t realize the value of volunteers and how important they are, they do now. Let’s get into, it is still the pandemic, some organizations are able to bring volunteers back in-person, but many still cannot, for one reason or another. How do we engage them online? Which, I think actually even opens up the number of people that can be volunteering from different places around the world, right. So what do we need to be thinking about? And what do we need to be doing to start engaging volunteers online and creating those opportunities?

[00:15:23.910] – Dana Litwin
Well, the thing to remember about virtual volunteering, or online, or remote opportunities is overall, it does actually improve access and equity for people who couldn’t… You know, usually a big barrier to volunteering is time, transportation, which is economic, or technology can be its own barrier. So if people have access to technology—but it’s harder for them to afford to drive, or park, or get physically to where previously they would volunteer—that opens up a lot more opportunities. And it opens up a lot of opportunities potentially for anyone around the world, as you mentioned, or from any other location, to do something to support the agency.

[00:16:04.410] – Dana Litwin
So in remote, the things that succeeded with virtual volunteering or moving online was, again, kind of keeping up honest communication and being consistent with the people you already have. And then being open minded about —we may not be able to have somebody in the hospital cuddling preemie newborn babies because of COVID, but we can still have people on iPads, doing home checks with patients, or playing music for them, or doing some other kind of virtual thing that’s supportive—so starting to think outside the box of what other ways can we use remote volunteer opportunities to support the overall mission of an agency that aren’t the usual volunteer roles, to keep people engaged and to engage new people, and then to keep those online opportunities going, to not stop them when you come back in person to volunteer.And so, to kind of keep building your engagement on both those platforms.

[00:17:01.950] – Dana Litwin
And the second point for virtual volunteering is, you still need to do safety and risk management measures. You know, the internet is a big, vast place with a whole lot of bad actors on it, and I’m not talking about, like, showbiz actors. So some of the same safety measures or even more that you would have for people doing things in-person with clients, or working with minors, or families with young kids, or vulnerable populations, elders, things like that. You still want to keep a lot of the same safety measures in place for the online world as well.

[00:17:38.970] – Boris
Those are really important to keep in mind, and I actually hadn’t thought about that. So I appreciate you bringing that up. Is there a way—maybe it’s part of the process that you guide clients through—but how do we ideate? How do we come up with the ideas for volunteer opportunities? Because, as you said, not everything translates directly to, “Oh, well, we could just do this virtually now.” You can’t deliver food virtually, for example. But there are additional things, I’m sure, that most organizations can come up with that can be done on a virtual level and still in-line with their mission and their overall goals. So how do you help clients figure out what that is, that they could be doing?

[00:18:23.190] – Dana Litwin
Well, it’s a great brainstorming session. And, you know, any kind of evaluation or assessment of a volunteer program, or potentially building one or adding things to it starts with just a very basic needs assessment. And that’s kind of some check boxes, and what can be done, what priority should it be done, and who can do it, and what skills do they have? So that’s a good start. And then my favorite category that I always recommend to clients, if they don’t already have it, is have a special project volunteer category that’s a catch-all. And it can be suggested by volunteers or potential volunteers themselves.

[00:18:57.330] – Dana Litwin
Say, kind of like, you have a wish list online of things you’d like donated. It’s like, “Hey, these are some special projects that we don’t quite have the bandwidth to cover with the people we have now, but is this a fit for you and your skills and your experience?” And then like, “Yeah, I can grab that project for six weeks or six months.” And that also empowers volunteers to, again, that two-way communication, building that connection, that trust that we’re in this together, even if it’s a brand new person saying, “Oh, actually, I do have great database organizational skills, and you can’t afford an additional IT person but here’s my certification and you can do a background check, whatever you want to do. But I can work with your IT as a part-time project to clean up your database and have it talk to your CRM or whatever is necessary”.

[00:19:42.630] – Dana Litwin
And that’s been, kind of, the best solution that I’ve seen. Is, you know, in your absolute pie in the sky wish list, what would you wish that you could get done? And there’s… you can find someone to do anything, quite frankly, in the world of volunteering. If you describe it correctly and you get the recruitment message in front of the right kind of audience, whether that’s targeted or a general big wide net cast out, then you’ll find somebody to do it.

[00:20:11.070] – Boris
That’s awesome, and I love the idea of the virtual suggestion box and having it actually suggestions from your volunteers of, “Hey, how about this, or do you need help with that, or I could take this on.” Talking about the IKEA Effect, they’re literally helping you build the volunteer program. Helping you build the organization as a whole and strengthen it. That’s got to be really powerful and impactful.

[00:20:31.710] – Dana Litwin
Yeah, and you’re not going to need an Allen wrench, and there won’t be a leftover screw when you’re done with it.

[00:20:39.330] – Boris
I have so many Allen wrenches.

[00:20:40.650] – Dana Litwin
I know, I have so many. I have a drawer full of Allen wrenches.

[00:20:42.630] – Boris
I feel guilty throwing them out, and I don’t know what to do with them. Somebody should start a project of just IKEA leftover volunteer wrenches.

[00:20:50.550] – Dana Litwin
That’s our next volunteer special project.

[00:20:53.010] – Boris
Perfect. So, what’s the biggest challenge that organizations are facing when it comes to creating programs like this? Is there some particular bottleneck? Is it technology itself? What is holding them back? And if you have any possible solutions to that.

[00:21:10.410] – Dana Litwin
Yeah. I mean the biggest bottleneck, we’ve kind of touched on before, is usually just a lack of valuing or understanding the volunteer services or the community engagement, and really, a tendency in organizations to really underpay or under-resource that capacity-building mechanism that they have. So, very often, there’s an entry-level or close to entry-level, an underpaid volunteer coordinator who’s a department of one. And again, that one person might be in charge of the most personnel or the most headcount of any other department. It’s just that they’re volunteers and they’re not paid.

[00:21:48.810] – Dana Litwin
So there’s a disconnect at an executive level and sometimes at a funder level, that volunteers are free, and they absolutely aren’t. It has to be resourced just like anything else, it has to be a line item. It should be someone with, you know, a CVA who’s an expert or has the proper experience to design these programs and do these levels of engagement with the community and build that connection, and comfort, trust. But that’s really, it’s usually the bottleneck is the culture within the organization, not understanding and undervaluing the contribution—literal—with money, and with time, and skills that volunteers offer.

[00:22:28.890] – Boris
You know, I was doing a little bit of homework before we started talking—that’s one of the things I love about doing the show, is I get to learn about all kinds of subjects—and I saw that nationally the average value, hourly value, of volunteering is something around $26 an hour.

[00:22:45.570] – Dana Litwin
Yeah, that’s run by, and they actually do a lot of great data collection on volunteering and, kind of, the big product or output that they do every year is the average hourly value of volunteers. And the sector itself actually has to move even further beyond that. That’s kind of your baseline metric for—and in California, I think it’s up to almost $30 an hour—I think they’re 2020 numbers were like $29.36. I’ll have to look it up, but you’re right about the national average.

[00:23:16.950] – Dana Litwin
But that’s actually, that can be a barrier in itself—of only thinking someone’s worth their hourly wage—when what they’re really worth is like you said, a voter, an advocate, an ambassador, advertising, a donor. I always approach it as, you never know who someone is or who else they’re connected to. So, if a teenager has to do their 10 hours to graduate this year and they just need a quick drop-in weekend opportunity at a food bank, if they have a great experience, maybe that becomes their career.

[00:23:47.310] – Dana Litwin
Maybe they circle back and they’re the executive director of that food bank in 10, or 15, or 20 years. So really treating, I think of it as—each interaction with a volunteer or potential volunteer is an invitation to stay engaged or an invitation to go and not talk well about that organization or that experience—so there’s a lot more value, and there’s a great actual, our return on investment for volunteering that is done by Sterling Volunteers. If you go to, they run software products, but they have a free ROI volunteer calculator.

[00:24:23.190] – Dana Litwin
So, any organization can punch in some pretty basic numbers of who they’re working with and what. And a calculation I did recently for a client who is a major Zoo, was that for every dollar that they invest in volunteer services/ resources, they get $8.39 back in a variety of ways. So for people who need to do numbers, that’s a great way to start, but think about it in a more holistic way—as an advocate, a voter, a supporter—in the community.

[00:24:53.910] – Boris
It’s a great resource, we’re going to be sure to link to that in our show notes. And that’s exactly the reason why I was trying to bring it up is, as you said, you need to pay someone to manage the volunteers to be… I’m sorry, what is the title called, the position?

[00:25:11.130] – Dana Litwin
Usually we like to do leader of volunteers, because sometimes people are volunteers themselves, and sometimes it’s a paid staff position. But it can be director of volunteers, volunteer coordinator, but usually it’s whoever’s leading the volunteer programs.

[00:25:23.310] – Boris
So oftentimes that leader of volunteers will be a paid person. Or you need to invest, as you said, in your volunteer programs. So I was trying to get to, that there is an ROI—if you’re going to pay someone X amount of dollars an hour, but they’re helping you in terms of volunteer hours bring in, even if we go with the national average of $26, without thinking about all the donations that they’re responsible for, all the extra connections that they have—because they are, even at $26 an hour, are probably your biggest investors.

[00:25:53.790] – Dana Litwin
Yeah, for sure.

[00:25:55.170] – Boris
And if you think about it that way, they’re your strongest supporters. They want what’s best for your organization. They are going to be your biggest champions. And also, if you do break that trust, they’re going to be some of your bigger detractors as well. They’re going to take it personally.

[00:26:08.190] – Dana Litwin
And the hit of losing volunteers, and just kind of the sudden cut off that happened in the pandemic—again, as Chicago Art Institute is learning the hard way—it’s like, you lose donors, you lose voters, you lose advocates, you lose trust with the wider community when that happens. And no one wants to do that, no one should set out to do that as a goal. That should not be your goal.

[00:26:32.610] – Boris
So I want to be respectful of your time and our listeners time, we’ve already learned a lot. What should nonprofits do, in terms of creating virtual programs or in terms of taking their online volunteerism to the next level? What advice do you have for them, that they could at the end of this interview, go and start doing either on their own or talking about with their team?

[00:26:56.310] – Dana Litwin
Yeah, I have one of my most popular webinars, or speaking topics, is called High Tech High Touch and it’s really about finding that balance. So that’s an evaluation of if you decide that you can, and want to, and it will serve the needs of the agency to do online or remote or virtual volunteering, you can actually get that resource. Not just from the people that are already working in your department who might have expertise, but if there isn’t expertise, you don’t have to be an expert in technology to find other volunteers or other agencies like TechSoup, Tech for Good, Code for America, National Nonprofit Technology Center.

[00:27:38.850] – Dana Litwin
So there’s actually already entities that can help you make that connection and do it correctly with virtual volunteers. And then my favorite kind of one-stop shopping API and website for any kind of volunteer recruitment is, which I’ve mentioned before. And their, again, their API gets used in a lot of other different apps, but their original site is really great at honing in on those specific skills that you’re looking for.

[00:28:07.830] – Boris
Perfect, and again, we’ll link to all those. Are there any other tools or resources that you recommend nonprofits check out, whether they be digital, or something that they should read, or whatever it might be?

[00:28:21.570] – Dana Litwin
I mean I think a good, another overall resource website, is the Engage Journal. So there’s, you know, professional associations like AL!VE. I was the President of AL!VE through, I was on the board for six years, but President through 2019, and Engaged Journal—which again, you can just look up in the search engine of your choice, ask Jeeves whichever one you’re using—and they have a lot of articles, they have a lot of research, they have a lot of resources. It’s very well organized, and I think if you’re not sure where to start, that’s a really good place to start, wherever you are in the world. It’s primarily in English but, you know, it really serves kind of that worldwide audience for resources for leaders of volunteers or program design.

[00:29:07.830] – Boris
What about in terms of actually managing your volunteers?

[00:29:12.690] – Dana Litwin
Well, the biggest tool that you should have in your toolbox is a VMS, a Volunteer Management Software System. And as I talk about in High Tech High Touch, that it’s not that VMS companies are competing with each other, they’re actually competing with the idea that people don’t know that they need that software to manage their volunteer programs. That they might be using paper files, or an Excel spreadsheet, or you know, you can get a certain amount done using the Google Suite or some free things. But there is very specific database CRM software that usually, depending on the company, plays well with whatever other CRM module software that you might be using. And a lot of them have both volunteer and donor management modes and modules that again, either work with what you’ve already got going on or, you know, play very well together.

[00:30:07.230] – Dana Litwin
My favorites are really—I think the most robust and best kind of customization, and you can do almost anything you want it to do—is Bespoke Software’s VSys One Suite. That’s built on a, kind of a salesforce platform, but the company VSys has done all of the kind of customization that you need to, and they’re very responsive to customer feedback. My second favorite that’s a little more in an affordable category, is Better Impact. And again, just because it’s got a great customer feedback response to it, but I’m going to steer people.

[00:30:44.550] – Dana Litwin
We’re giving people a lot of links in this interview towards… there should be, within that Engage Journal, there should be an article or tool listed that should be pretty easy to find that’s comparing VMS. And it’s a little checklist of, what do you need it to do for your programs? And these are the ones that do it best, and here’s the price range for that. So, I’ll send some other links of some other kind of neutral, compare your VMS sites together, that aren’t a sales pitch from any one of the companies. It’s genuinely, you know, we want to find the best fit for the company. But using software at all is going to be extremely helpful and save a lot of time.

[00:31:26.910] – Boris
That’s awesome, and speaking of saving a lot of time, we’re going to do all that research for people in terms of finding all those links. So they don’t have to ask Jeeves, or hit up Yahoo, or wherever they’re searching these days. They can just come see our show notes and all these links will be laid out, courtesy of Dana and our team here. So Dana, I really appreciate your time. If viewers are interested in getting to know more about you and your work, what’s the call to action that you have for them today?

[00:31:56.490] – Dana Litwin
They can pop by my website, and I also have a YouTube channel called “Priceless Advice for Leaders and Volunteers”, which you mentioned at the top of the show, and that’s a great way to get in touch with me. I am happy to respond to email questions that are following up on this podcast, and you can also probably find a lot of answers to your questions within the videos—both short Tuesday tips and longer interviews with other experts in the field—on the Priceless Advice channel.

[00:32:26.490] – Boris
Fantastic. Dana, thank you again so much for joining us today. It’s been great having you on the show.

[00:32:31.710] – Dana Litwin
Thank you so much, Boris, my pleasure.

[00:32:34.290] – Boris
And thank you everybody for joining us for the Nonprofit Hero Factory. If you enjoyed this show and want to help more people discover our interviews, our experts that are helping people create more heroes for their cause. Please subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review, subscribe on YouTube and give us a thumbs up. Wherever you are consuming this content—and we try to be everywhere that you are—please let us know that you’re enjoying it, and let others know so that they can also learn from experts like Dana. Thank you, everybody. We’ll see you next week.

[00:33:06.150] – Outro Video
Thank you all for watching and listening to the Nonprofit Hero Factory. We hope this episode has given you some ideas and strategies for creating more heroes for your cause and a better world for all of us. Please be sure to subscribe to this show on YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, and let us know what you think by leaving a review.

Concepts and Takeaways:

  • An individual obtaining a CVA is well-educated in subjects related to volunteer engagement and program design. (3:04)
  • Unfortunately, the actions of many nonprofits and government agencies in response to the pandemic served as an example of what not to do. (5:16)
  • An organization’s resiliency during the pandemic has been largely dependent on continued volunteer engagement and participation. (7:00)
  • The three Cs of creating a happy and engaged volunteer team (9:51)
    1. Comfort
    2. Convenience
    3. Connection
  • A volunteer giving their time and talent to an organization is 10x as likely to become a donor. (12:17)
  • Creating opportunities for volunteers to service your organization virtually, allows a broader population who could not have volunteered due to time, physical or geographic constraints to support your org and your work. (15:23)
  • Whether volunteers are donating their time in-person or virtually, safety and risk management measures should be maintained to ensure security for all involved. (17:01)
  • If you’re unsure how to best utilize volunteers virtually, start with a brainstorming session, but also ask them! (17:39)
  • Consider creating special projects to empower volunteers by encouraging them to feel included in the building of the volunteer program and strengthening of the organization (The IKEA Effect). (19:00)
  • The biggest misunderstanding nonprofits have is that volunteers are free. It does take resources to organize and manage volunteers, but it’s an investment with tremendous ROI. (21:10)
    • Nationally, the average value of volunteer time is around $26/hour, and much more in some parts of the country.
    • There are ROI calculators you can use to determine your return on investment in volunteers. One of Dana’s clients calculated their ROI to be $8.39 for every $1 invested.
  • Consider each interaction with a volunteer an invitation to remain an active participant in, or to remove themselves from your organization. (23:52)
  • An organization’s volunteers can be your biggest investors and strongest supporters, but because they are so invested, they could become your biggest detractors, should you break their trust. (25:49)
  • In terms of managing your volunteers, a VMS (Volunteer Management Software System) is considered an essential tool by Dana. (29:12)

Action Steps: What Now?

About this week’s guest

Dana Litwin

Dana Litwin

Principal Consultant, Dana Litwin Consulting

Dana Litwin, CVA, is a globally recognized strategic advisor, keynote speaker, and thought leader in volunteerism-tech-trends and civic service. Since 2002 she has guided organizations in California’s Silicon Valley and nationwide to produce breakthrough volunteer and community engagement programs. Dana is the creator of the YouTube series “Priceless Advice for Leaders of Volunteers”, and served as President of the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE).

Connect with Dana Litwin