Favorite Volunteer Quotes

While anytime is a good time to acknowledge volunteers for their dedication to helping others, National Volunteer Week provides a special opportunity to celebrate their efforts.

In support of National Volunteer Week, here are my favorite quotes on the tremendous value of volunteers.

“Volunteering is so pervasive it’s invisible. We take for granted all the things that have been pioneered by concerned, active volunteers.”  Susan J. Ellis

“Volunteers … work not for money but because they want to give back, make a difference, change the world.”  Sally Helgesen

“Volunteers are not servants. Volunteers are partners working together for improving America’s future.”  Mayor Richard J. Daly

“At the risk of oversimplifying, we should make it a habit to treat volunteers like donors. Just as we should be appreciative for every financial gift big or small, we should be just as appreciative for every single gift of time and talent.”  Vu Le

“A volunteer is like a rare gem. When placed in the right setting and cared for, they will shine and give pleasure to all who see them.”  Unknown

“Volunteerism is currency that appreciates.”  Susan J. Ellis

“Volunteers are precious resources. Treat them carefully and with the respect they deserve.”  Sybil F. Stershic

While this next quote doesn’t specifically mention volunteers, it could have been stated with them in mind.

“If you don’t believe one person can make a difference, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”  Anita Roddick

Engagement Training & Development

The Three Most Important Questions You Need to Ask in Human Resources

In addition to the fine folks who work in Human Resources (HR), or in the absence of an HR function, everyone who is responsible for managing or supervising employees needs to consider three critical questions from the employee’s perspective. Answers to these questions are key to strengthening employee engagement. Note: Nonprofit managers can also apply these questions to volunteers who serve in their organizations.

  1. Does my employer care about me and my work?
    People need to know that managers recognize and respect their roles within the organization and will support their efforts to do the best job possible.
  2. What difference do I make?
    Employees and volunteers also need to know how their efforts contribute to the organization’s mission and goals. This includes having a clear line-of-sight as to how their work impacts customers or clients, co-workers, stakeholders, the community where the organization is located, and the organization’s overall success. (Think of the NASA janitor who wasn’t just cleaning floors — he was helping to put a man on the moon.)
  3. What’s in it for me?
    Addressing this question gets to the heart of why an employee’s work matters and why s/he should stay with the organization. Considerations include the meaning and purpose of the work involved, the quality of the workplace culture (how employee- and customer-focused it is), and basic benefits,

How do you learn the answers to these questions?
A variety of listening posts are available in most organizations, including (but not limited to): employee engagement or satisfaction surveys … exit surveys … management by wandering around (MBWA) … everyday conversations with employees … and “engaging conversations – open-ended, non-judgmental conversations with each employee about passions, aspirations and opportunities.”

Ask first, then listen for understanding.



Coping with the Credibility Gap in Employee Engagement

Our current practices and approaches to employee engagement are failing. They are failing to achieve organizational results and most employees fail to experience the benefits of their own engagement.”  Excerpt from David Zinger’s 21-Point Employee Engagement Manifesto.

A disheartening statement, but not surprising as employee engagement gets more intention than action. In my workshops, I frequently hear managers lament about being told to initiate engagement and/or recognition programs with insufficient commitment and resources needed to support their efforts. Then when these programs don’t work, the well-meaning but clueless-in-charge look for other quick-fix workplace remedies.

Frustrated by wasting precious resources on “flavor-of-the-month” engagement initiatives, employee cynicism continues and top management’s credibility gap widens. If this describes your workplace, here are several tips to help you preserve whatever sanity you have left.

Help for hanging in there

  • Keep in mind that across your life’s spectrum this situation is only temporary.
  • Another important perspective is your workplace isn’t all that unique – the world is filled with Dilbert-like organizations. While “misery loves company,” refrain from wallowing in a victim mentality.
  • Until you can change jobs, or if you’re unable to make the switch, look for whatever positive, fulfilling aspects of your workplace you can find such as making a difference through the work you do, helping customers, enjoying some of the people you work with, and yes, even getting a steady paycheck.
  • Find healthy ways to de-stress and maintain your mental and physical health – it’s the most precious resource you have.
  • Consider the opportunity you have to learn what works and what doesn’t work in dealing with people in the workplace. You can apply “lessons learned” in your next job and any community activities you may be involved in as a volunteer. (Note: the practice of engaging employees is similar to that of engaging volunteers.)

It’s important to remember that engagement is a two-way proposition between employers and employees. While the management team is responsible for creating an engaging workplace, employees are responsible for showing up each day ready and willing to engage in their work. The absence of the former may mitigate–but doesn’t preclude–the latter.

Engagement Marketing Training & Development

Best Job Ever! Reflecting on 2014

“To give your best is to receive the best … ” Raymond Holliwell

I’m fortunate to do work that I enjoy. This past year I had the opportunity to train managers how to strengthen employee engagement with internal marketing, facilitate planning retreats, and help marketing team members “get on the same page.” What’s most challenging is that each client presents a unique workplace culture and situation. The process of working with them to achieve positive outcomes in the context of their organizations is rewarding and a privilege I do not take lightly.

In addition to my client work, I met many fascinating folks at a variety of conferences. Highlights of this past year’s speaking engagements include:

  • Asomercadeo’s International Marketing Congress – I traveled to Medellin, Colombia, to share internal marketing practices with South American marketing colleagues.
  • BlogPaws – For the second time I participated in this special gathering of people who are passionate about animal welfare; my workshop there was designed to help rescue/shelter volunteers and staff better understand nonprofit marketing.
  • Volunteers in Medicine – I was truly inspired by this dedicated group of healthcare professionals and volunteers driven to improve health care access for the under-served and under-insured  in their local communities; in multiple sessions we discussed how to strengthen volunteer and board engagement.

Here’s to a new year of new opportunities and challenges and why it will be another successful year:

“The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Hope you find similar success in 2015!


Engagement Marketing

Culture + Brand = Passion for Engagement: Volunteers in Medicine

The value of having a favorable brand is that it inspires public trust and confidence – the stronger the brand, the more likely people will associate with it. A most important contributor to brand strength, and one that is difficult to duplicate, is the organization’s culture.

“Over time … we ultimately came to the realization that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin.”  Tony Hsieh

A strong culture and brand also support effective workplace engagement. Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) is a perfect example of this culture-brand-engagement relationship. With nearly 100 community clinics throughout the U.S., VIM’s mission is to “promote and guide the development of a national network of free clinics emphasizing the use of retired medical and community volunteers within a culture of caring to improve access to health care for America’s under-served, particularly the uninsured.”

Amy Hamlin, VIM Executive Director, with speaker Sybil Stershic
Amy Hamlin, VIM Executive Director, with speaker Sybil Stershic

I had the honor of working with this organization as a speaker at their Volunteers in Medicine Alliance Conference. Preparing for and participating in the conference, I was impressed by VIM’s Culture of Caring, a hallmark of its clinics and overall brand that appeals to patients, volunteers, and staff.

Volunteers in Medicine’s Culture of Caring is an approach:
based on an ethical standard in medicine acknowledging that how people are treated during a clinic visit is as important as the actual medical care they receive. We believe that people who come to a VIM clinic are our friends and neighbors, good people in need of help. Surviving on limited resources, they often exhibit great courage simply trying to get through each day. Recognizing the strengths of those in need and respecting their dignity, the ‘Culture of Caring’ seeks to heal not only physical illness, but also the injury caused by bias, prejudice and indifference.”

As the foundation of its mission and brand, this special culture enables VIM clinics to successfully attract, engage, and retain physician and medical volunteers, as well as administrative volunteers, by offering them high-impact, meaningful opportunities to:

  • serve people in need
  • in a patient-focused environment
  • and with greater scheduling flexibility and more control than in traditional healthcare settings.

The chance to “practice the art of medicine, not the business of healthcare” through its culture of caring to engage volunteers and staff is critical to VIM’s brand strength and sustainability — a winning formula for patients, VIM volunteers and staff, and the communities VIM serves.

How does your culture and brand impact your organization’s engagement with employees and customers?


Engaging in Work and Life: How to “Live Fully”

For World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, employee engagement thought leader David Zinger advocates helping “all employees live fully at work – with a full life and a life full of meaning and mattering. We need to recognize when employees are struggling and what we can do to help.” His message is timely given recent public attention on mental health issues and suicidal behavior, and it has important meaning for everyone inside and outside the workplace.

David describes “living fully” as the opposite of suicide:

To live fully is to have a full life in years while putting fullness into each day. It embraces and acknowledges life’s joys and suffering, both our own and others, letting in compassion and support. Living fully is about living for both us and for others. Living fully at work is more about work/life integration than trying to find an ideal state of balance. Living fully at work is the new meaningful employee recognition when we are attuned to others in our work community and we recognize and connect with them during progress, celebration, setback, struggle, and loss.

He also suggests how to apply “living fully” at work:

  1. Accept each day as an invitation to live fully.
  2. Be mindful of moments and in touch with all your fluctuating emotions.
  3. Engage with both your work and the people you work with.
  4. Acknowledge impermanence – know that even negative experiences will change over time.
  5. Move beyond isolation from others by making connection and contribution.
  6. Flourish at work with positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and strengths.
  7. Open your head, heart, and hands to your coworkers.
  8. Transform the ritual question of “how are you today?” into an authentic curiosity and really listen and respond to what the other person says.
  9. Face fears and create safety at work by caring for others and caring about what they are trying to achieve in their life.
  10. Know that small is big, by taking small steps day after day you will make a huge difference in your life or the life of someone else.

I love David’s suggestion to “entertain a playful serenity with this modified serenity prayer”:

“God grant me the laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today without taking myself too seriously.”

[Note: the above content is excerpted with permission from David Zinger’s post: How to Live Fully at Work: The New Employee Recognition.]

Thank you, David!


Engagement Marketing

Summer Blog Break 2014

After an extremely busy six months of speaking engagements and client work, it’s time for my annual blog break. I find summer is the perfect time to clear my head, catch up on a backlog of reading (preferably outside in the sunshine), and stimulate new content marketing ideas.

This is only a temporary break from blogging. I’m working on several client and writing projects this summer and will continue to stay active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media networks. Until I return to blogging in mid-late August, you can find many great current and archived posts on:

Have a happy and safe summer!


Employees as Volunteers? Or Volunteers as Employees?

If your organization relies on paid employees to get its work done, would you treat them any differently if they were volunteers?

Other thought leaders have shared their views on this topic, including:

Here are my thoughts to build on this management discussion. The key difference between these two sets of workers are that volunteers “aren’t bound by the same command and control requirements that employees have.”  This means volunteers can voluntarily choose to offer their time and services to what they consider a worthwhile organization. They can also voluntarily choose to withdraw their time and services  when it no longer suits them. Even though employees are in contractual work situations, they can also choose to stay or leave an organization. Unlike volunteers, however, employees may need to stay for their paychecks even though they would prefer to leave — engagement for payment purposes only.

If your organization relies on volunteers to get its work done, would you treat them any differently if they were employees?

As I’ve found in my work in the nonprofit sector, the presumption that all nonprofits value volunteerism is not necessarily the case. Some nonprofit managers only give lip-service to their volunteers despite benefiting from their time and skills. These managers can take advantage of their volunteers’ passion for the mission for only so long before those volunteers get frustrated and leave.

What matters to employees and volunteers is being treated with respect while getting the tools and information needed to effectively contribute their time and talents. Whether an organization is profit-driven or mission-driven, the quality of workplace engagement depends on its culture and values including how its people are treated, regardless of their paid or unpaid status. Both employee engagement and volunteer engagement are critical – neither should be taken for granted.


Marketing Training & Development

Marketing Animal Rescues & Shelters – BlogPaws 2014

One of the reasons I love my work is that I get to meet dedicated nonprofit professionals and volunteers eager to share their stories. They’re also eager to learn how to further their respective organization’s mission in the marketing workshops I teach.

The volunteers and employees from a variety animal rescues and shelters who attended my recent BlogPaws 2014 Conference session, Fundamentals of Nonprofit Marketing: Building Share of Mind & Heart for Your Rescue/Shelter were no exception. These people involved in animal welfare are most passionate and inspiring. While rescues/shelters benefit from showcasing cute and appealing animal images in their marketing and social media outreach (i.e., the “aww … ” factor), they face intense competition from other rescue/shelter groups doing the same. They also run the risk of “wearing out people’s compassion.”

Animal Rescue/Shelter Marketing Challenges

In their efforts to save animals and find them “furever” homes, animal welfare volunteers and employees are challenged with service demands that often exceed their resources. Yet they manage to do what they can to:

  • educate the public about animal welfare, including raising awareness of animal abuse
  • advocate for spay and neutering
  • obtain the necessary support of volunteers, pet foster parents, donors, veterinary assistance, community sponsors and partners
  • communicate via social media to support their special events and the important work they do.

Intentional Marketing

Like many nonprofit organizations, animal rescues/shelters strive to maximize their mission with minimal resources. With this mode of operation, marketing is often a casualty — ” Marketing? Who’s got time to do marketing?!” But being a well-kept secret won’t sustain an organization. That’s why building and maintaining brand awareness through marketing needs to be intentional, and it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It starts with understanding that each point of personal and/or media contact between the shelter, its stakeholders, and the market-at-large (e.g., every phone call, shelter visit, special event, email, letter, press release, Tweet, Facebook post, etc.) impacts the public’s perception of that shelter’s brand. Recognizing people’s individual and collective impact on the brand, intentional marketing then focuses on how best to ensure its brand contacts are as positive as possible.

Employees and volunteers who run animal rescues/shelters are already intentional in their commitment to help animals. By marketing intentionally as well, they’ll be able to continue their valuable work.

“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.” —  John Muir



Celebrate Service – It’s National Volunteer Week!

While engaging and caring for volunteers is an ongoing activity, National Volunteer Week (April 6-12, 2014) is an important reminder to celebrate volunteers and their impact. This week provides an opportunity to honor “the enduring importance of recognizing our country’s volunteers for their vital contributions” and “their collective power to make a difference.”

It’s also an opportunity for me to share a glimpse into what Lehigh University’s Alumni Association (LUAA) does for volunteer recognition. Lehigh is my alma mater, and I served on the Alumni Association Board many years ago. I asked Lori Kennedy, former director of alumni volunteer engagement and current director of Lehigh’s career services, about the Alumni Association’s volunteer recognition. She explained that National Volunteer Week is “part of our five point recognition plan [to] recognize our volunteers very thoughtfully throughout the year.” LUAA’s calendar of volunteer recognition efforts include:

  • August – volunteers receive a copy of the Alumni Association’s annual impact report
  • November – volunteers receive a thanksgiving “thank you” card
  • December – volunteers receive a holiday card
  • April – recognition e-mail for national volunteer week
  • Throughout the year – each volunteer receives a personal birthday card signed by Bob Wolfenden, head of Lehigh Alumni Relations.

Volunteer recognition isn’t limited to these activities, as alumni volunteers receive additional recognition from the Association’s program managers throughout the year. From my own and others’ experience, I know that Alumni Association staff members (current and retired) build great relationships with alumni volunteers and leaders. Here’s one example that Lori shared with me.

“Monica Timar, LUAA associate director, worked with a volunteer who moved to Florida. The volunteer shared with Monica how much she enjoyed fall and the leaves on campus. One fall, Monica went outside and filled a box with leaves and sent the box to the volunteer in Florida!  A great example of a personal and meaningful way to recognize a volunteer.”

Way to go, Monica! She understands that volunteer engagement is all about creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. Without that relationship, any volunteer recognition is token at best.