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Blog > Involving High-Skilled Volunteers

Involving High-Skilled Volunteers

affiché le 28 nov 2018

by Maria Lahiffe

High-skilled, or pro bono volunteers differ from most volunteers in that they donate their professional skills. This is best known among the legal community, but really anyone with strong professional skills could provide them free of charge.

Here are some examples of professional skills which a volunteer could donate: [1]

  • A student looking to apply their social media skills at a local organization with a goal of further developing their resume
  • A young adult volunteering with their mother at an ESL conversation series for new comers
  • A recent teacher retiree offering volunteer mentoring at an after school program
  • A senior volunteering on the board of their condo association applying their previous career experience as an Executive Director

The management high-skilled volunteers is based on the same foundational principals as all volunteer management.

  • Develop high-quality job descriptions,
  • follow consistent and transparent recruitment processes,
  • orient people to the organizational context,
  • monitor their work as it is ongoing,
  • allocate appropriate resources, and
  • make sure to recognize the value of the volunteers’ contributions.

There are some things which you should do differently, to make the most of high-skilled volunteers. [2] Basically, high-skilled volunteers typically behave more like contractors than staff, normally working independently on a project with defined outcomes; it is up to the volunteer to use professional judgement to develop the necessary processes.

1.      Catalogue potential projects

Create a wish list of tasks that need to be, or could be accomplished. In addition to the examples above, other examples include: upgrade your computer network, develop a new strategic plan, rewire your electrical system, or develop training materials for new volunteers. Ask multiple stakeholders, such as board members, other staff, other volunteers, and clients, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

For each project, make sure you write a good job description. Here is a blog post about how to do this, and here is one with a good job description template.

2.      Set up systems

This should not be difficult because you can use the same systems you already have in place; however, you need to make some decisions. For example, will you screen high-skilled volunteers the same way you screen paid contractors, or the same way as your other volunteers? For your project wish list, above, decide for each one who the volunteer would report to. Make sure everyone in your organization, including management staff and board members, know what the systems are, for engaging high-skilled volunteers.

3.      Spread the word

Let people know about your wish list. When interviewing potential volunteers, ask questions to make sure you have a good idea of the full set of skills and abilities they bring to your organization. They may be applying for one position, but have great skills for another.

The Volunteer Ottawa website is a great way to get the word out about potential projects which volunteers could take on. VO members can post unlimited volunteer job opportunities to our site, which gets over 10,000 unique site visits every month. Check out our website to learn more about membership.

4.      Screening

Everyone who works for you, paid or unpaid, needs to be screened. You need to check their knowledge, skills, and personal attributes against the needs of the role. Here is a blog post about linking screening to position risk. Volunteer Ottawa offers a course on the 10 steps of screening. Click here for more information.

5.      Be flexible

To paraphrase a famous saying, no project plan survives contact with reality. Schedules change, or project requirements themselves may change to fit changing circumstances. Be ready to reconsider plans if good information arises.

Click here to register Tuesday, April 16, 2019. 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Click here to register Thursday, September 12, 2019. 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Click here to register Tuesday, November 19, 2019. 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Want to learn more?

 Come to an upcoming workshop.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Volunteer Ottawa offers a full slate of courses on all aspects of volunteer management. Everyone is welcome to register. The best course to start with is Volunteer Management 101. Click here for a full list of courses.

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Related blog posts:

[1] "Skills-Based Volunteering," Volunteer Canada, 2018. [Online]. Available: https://volunteer.ca/index.php?MenuItemID=350. [Accessed 30 October 2018]. [2] A. Telfer, "Getting Ready for the Skilled Volunteer," Charity Village, 30 April 2014. [Online]. Available: https://charityvillage.com/cms/content/topic/getting_ready_for_the_skilled_volunteer#.W9hoLmhKjcs. [Accessed 30 October 2018].
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