Maximize your Board of Directors, Staff, Volunteers and Constituents
Understanding the role of your board, staff, volunteers and constituents is necessary. However, it's also important for each of those roles to understand each other and how they can and will interact together.
1. Engage Your Board of Directors:
Your board should include a variety of members from the cancer community, including from the medical, psychosocial and administrative aspects. Make sure your board members provide new perspectives, valuable connections to the community or unique skills and expertise. Consider the following strategies to create the best experience possible for both your organization and your board of directors:
- Conduct periodic surveys of your board members.
- When each member comes on board, it can be helpful to have an introductory survey that identifies their areas of interest, their skills and abilities, their connections within the community, and their personal goals for their participation on the board. Additional surveys can be used throughout the board's experience to garner feedback on their participation, their views on the organization and their suggestions for future board members.
- Create a board of director's handbook. Items you may want to include in your handbook are:
- An overview of the organization, including organizational contacts and staff roles
- a position summary including bylaws and a description of your governance model
- expectations of board members (financial obligation, committee participation, meeting attendance, etc.)
- membership and committee rules
- calendar of important events and dates
- board member terms and contact information
- board member bios and resumes
- copies of forms that board members may need (i.e. expense reports)
- conflicts of interest policy
- Engage your board of directors in your organization's activities:
- By engaging your board you will have a larger group vision for the direction of your organization.
- Include your board in the development or review of your mission and vision statement and bylaws.
- Invite board members to participate in organizational activities, events, celebrations and staff meetings.
- Capitalize on momentum following board meetings and stay focused on long term and short term goals.
2. Manage Your Constituents:
- If possible, get good database management software and keep careful track of all constituents, such as participants, volunteers, staff, donors and partners.
- If you do not have access to or the means to purchase specific software, Microsoft Excel can be just as useful for tracking information.
- Use software to create processes to maintain and update mailing lists and email lists.
- Understand why you are collecting information, what information you will want to collect and what you plan to do with that information and create your database fields accordingly.
- Do not collect information from constituents that you will not be using in some way to enhance your program. For example if you only need to know how many constituents were served then just collect basic information. However if you need to know demographics on race, sex, location, gender, age, etc. then you will need to have intake forms and a database to capture that.
3. Support and Train Your Staff and Volunteers:
Appropriate and ongoing support and training of the staff who work at your organization as well as the volunteers who work to support your mission is a necessary component. It not only helps to maintain consistency but it also provides your staff and volunteer base with the confidence to represent your organization well. In this section you will learn strategies to best support your staff and volunteers.
- Develop a functional organizational chart so your staff and volunteers understand what everyone does, what the chain of command is and who they can go to with specific questions.
- Assess if there are any gaps in skill sets or backgrounds that cannot be met with your current staff. You want to have the right staff matched with a project that they have the skill to manage. Do not create a project or event that you do not have appropriate staff support to manage well.
- If possible, offer professional development opportunities for staff. While it can be costly, supporting your staff and providing them with training that is essential to their job and can go a long way in not only retaining staff but ensuring that your programs have a better chance of being successfully staffed.
- Develop a clear decision-making process that can be shared with your staff. This should address the who, what, when, where, why and how of all decisions. This will not only involve staff in decision-making but build trust that all perspectives are being considered, when possible.
- Be aware and realistic about staffing and volunteer needs for programs and events
- If you can't staff it, don't have it.
- Hire staff with a background that matches the program and organizational objectives for the targeted group.
- Make sure the skill sets of your volunteers match your needs. Many people may want to help but be discerning how you use them, especially in your core programmatic activities.
- Effectively communicate with participants and volunteers
- Communicate early and often; clearly and concisely.
- Do not rely solely on email; a direct conversation can add a positive personal touch. Identify what mechanism of communication works best for your staff and volunteers.
- Be an effective leader and convey your spirit and enthusiasm for your mission in all communications. Your attitude can be infectious.
- Manage Volunteers:
- Learn the basic steps you will need for each volunteer role. This includes planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling.
- Ensure that volunteers know what they are doing by establishing roles, completing trainings, using a handbook and developing policies and procedures.
- Ensure that you have a good grasp on your volunteers by completing a background check and establishing liability guidelines.
- Keep track of how much money you have saved by utilizing volunteers. This is always impressive to your board.
- Always make volunteers feel welcome and be grateful for their assistance and express your gratitude.
- Recognize the value and importance of each volunteer. Recognition is important for maintaining happy volunteers and staff. Provide opportunities for recognition, such as an appreciation lunch or dinner.
- This is a tough situation that inevitably will arise: If a volunteer imposes their own agenda or ego into the program, do not be afraid to find a better fit. Finding and working with their strengths can be valuable. While they may mean well the objective of the program needs to take precedent.
- Keep in mind that many of the tasks that volunteers are needed for are low-level administrative tasks, i.e. mailings, filing, database entry, etc., which can be tedious and monotonous. If you explain the significance and background of what it is they are doing and how their work will directly impact your organization, you will keep them motivated.
- Communicate with volunteers:
- As you get to know volunteers, keep a record of what they indicate as interests and the ways they would like to be involved. This will help you match a person's interest to a specific activity.
- Engage in regular communication. Touching base periodically even through an email or newsletter will help maintain a long-term relationship.
- Always be clear about your expectations.
- Find ways to turn volunteers into leaders.
- Ask for feedback. It is always important to find ways to improve your organization, particularly how you communicate with and effectively use your volunteer base. Asking your volunteers to give feedback is a great way to ensure that their needs are being met.
Volunteer Newsletter Sample
Board Management help can be found at: http://www.managementhelp.org/boards/boards.htm
BoardSource is dedicated to increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations by strengthening their boards of directors. Its programs and services mobilize boards so that organizations fulfill their missions, achieve their goals, increase their impact, and extend their influences: http://www.boardsource.org/Knowledge.asp?ID=3.367
Managing Volunteers: http://www.managementhelp.org/staffing/outsrcng/volnteer/volnteer.htm and http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/downloads/IS244.pdf
Clearinghouse for Volunteer Accounting Services provides services to nonprofit organizations by matching accountants with organizations in need of accounting services: http://www.cvasusa.org/