5 Ways to Use Your Website to Retain Loyal Volunteers

Work hard to keep your volunteers in the flock.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of your cause. They keep you going in the face of budget cuts and small staffs.

Nonprofits work hard to bring in volunteers and train them, but all too often the training and retaining ends there. One woman volunteered for years at a local organization working in one specific area on a weekly basis. At the beginning of 2010 they no longer needed volunteers for that task because of staff efficiencies – which was great news! But as a volunteer she was left wondering what she would do now to help. Most of their volunteer opportunities were Monday – Friday, which she couldn’t do because she worked. Since they made no overtures to keep her, she found another group to volunteer with.

How could they have done a better job with communication, particularly online communication, to help keep her as a loyal supporter?

Try these five tips to retain volunteers:

  • Target web and email content based on volunteer interest.
  • Survey volunteers online to see what they like and what ideas they have for improvement.
  • Encourage volunteers to network with one another online to keep them engaged and facilitate a community
  • Create and send a volunteer newsletter updating your potential and current volunteers on activities and the impact of their volunteering. For example, having a “Volunteer of the Month” is a great way to highlight and thank your loyal volunteers!
  • Ask lapsed volunteers, either online or through email, why they haven’t volunteered. What can you as an organization do differently to rekindle their interest? You won’t know unless you ask!

What could you do to engage your volunteers and make them more loyal to your organization? What about organizing some free training sessions to upgrade their online skills? They’ll thank you for opening their world.

5 Ways to Say Thanks That Volunteers Understand

Volunteers often quit if they do not think their contribution is noticed or important. Finding creative ways to recognize volunteers can help you retain them. If you’re wracking your brains for ways to do that, read on.

Make them feel appreciated

Skip the dinner. Who needs another overcooked chicken breast with cardboard veggies? Take the money you would spend on another tired volunteer banquet and put it toward creative ways to say thank you all year long.

Give TLC Time

Look at the demographics your volunteers represent. Providers may be willing to offer samples or first time discounts on a manicure, facial or massage. Businesses offering personal care products or health care services may offer samples in exchange for displaying information.

Make Mini-Parties Fun.

Let them bring their friends and family to a breakfast or lunch bar outside of their regular volunteer time. You might get some more volunteers in the bargain. Host a “Sundae on a Saturday” ice cream social. Or put together an outdoor movie – or in the rec room – with popcorn and soda on a warm night.

Gifts They Actually Use

Will they really feel grateful for a t-shirt, mug or lapel pin with your organization’s name on it? What about a basket with the ingredients for an easy-to-prepare meal, or BOGO coupons just for your volunteers? These days a snail mail thank you card will really stand out and wow your volunteers!

Thank You Matters

Don’t worry that they’re corny. Tie a “You’re a lifesaver!” note to a roll of candy or put “You brighten up the room!” on a candle. Who doesn’t appreciate a birthday card with a few words of thanks and a coupon for a free cup of coffee?

Whatever volunteer appreciation ideas you decide on, mark them on the calendar at the beginning of each year and follow through. Making volunteers feel appreciated is a sure way to keep them coming back time after time.

Learn more at

Eight Ways to Use–Not Abuse–Your Valuable Volunteers

You’re the straw boss but you can’t use force. Coordinating volunteers is one of the most important jobs in any social-profit organization. But it’s no easy task. Here are some tips for success.

1. Go ahead: ask.

Making a pretty website, brochure or facebook page isn’t as effective as directly asking people to volunteer. Make a list of people you think could do the jobs and then call them up or ask them in person. Most people don’t think you’re talking to them, unless you ask them directly.

2. Make volunteering easy.

This is amazingly difficult and rarely accomplished, but these steps will help:

  • Organize volunteer opportunities into small, easily accomplished tasks.
  • Give each task clear start and end points.
  • Offer varying time and date slots.
  • Ideally some tasks require working in a group and others allow people to work alone.
  • Structure some tasks that can be done from home.
  • Make sure volunteer location is easy to get to.

3. Background checks.

If your organization serves people who might be victimized (children, the elderly or people with, set up a system for running background checks. Always complete the check before a volunteer begins serving.

4. Provide useful training.

Don’t waste their time in silly “training.” Keep it focused, relevant and as short as possible. Remember to feed while you train them. People will put up with a lot for some good snacks.

5. Use their gifts wisely.

Try to match their strengths and interests. If you have truly tedious jobs, why not multitask and have envelope stuffers brainstorm ways to improve the organization. Ask for their ideas, listen to what they say, and implement their suggestions whenever possible.

6. Don’t abuse their goodwill.

It’s tempting to ask reliable volunteers to do more and more. Watch it. Listen to what they say and let them set limits. You must avoid burning out your volunteers. It’s important not to push your unpaid workforce to their limit. Listen to what they are offering and don’t ask for more.

7. Reward your volunteers.

They won’t come back if they don’t feel appreciated, so get creative about showing your gratitude. Candy, coffee, small gift cards for ice cream or movies, or enter them into a drawing for larger prizes. Perhaps a sponsor might donate a getaway or services, or you could arrange free babysitting or household help.

8. Say thanks.

Say thank you early and often, in writing, in person, on the phone, on the web. Spotlight your outstanding volunteers to brag about them. Never let paid staff take them for granted. Happy, satisfied volunteers will help your organization succeed.

Learn more at

Change Messages to Girls, Change the World

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D.

Dr. Nancy and Family Members

As a mother of three daughters, I did my best to raise my girls to be strong women who are capable of doing anything they want. Dr. Janet Rose is an educator and speaks nationally about women leaders and the importance of independence, hardiness and self-reliance. She has written the book, “The Seven Secrets of Parenting Girls” which, along with her blog, provides valuable resources for nurturing female leadership in young women.

I talked with Dr. Janet about the future of women leaders, how our roles are changing in this new century and what battles we must continue to fight to achieve equality. We need to plant a positive image of strength in our girls as we raise them and with young women around us in the workplace and community.

Dr. Janet says our childhoods show why we as women make the choices we do in our careers, education and roles.

“One of the biggest barriers to women entering into leadership is not the external barriers, but the internal barriers,” Dr. Janet says. “We don’t see ourselves as valuable or as leaders. The messages sent to us as young girls caused us to grow up seeing ourselves as sexual beings and we don’t see ourselves as having leadership skills.”

One of the roots of this problem is the over-sexualization of girls. “We see little six-year olds dancing to Beyonce’s Single Girls song in their skimpy outfits, shaking their booty,” Dr. Janet says. “Parents think it’s cute and okay, because it’s dance, but I don’t agree at all. They become middle school girls who are way too sexual, who come to school dressed totally inappropriately, gearing their lives around how pretty they are or how sexy they are and what boys they attract. That is what we should be teaching our girls.”

Is Playing Princess So Bad?

Recent reports say girls are playing princess more than ever before, probably due largely to successful Disney marketing. “That bothers me,” says Dr. Janet. “Boys don’t say, ‘I want to grow up and be a prince.’ Playing dress-up is fun but I like the approach of a woman in England who said, ‘Sure I’m letting my daughter play princess, but I’m telling her that she’ll grow up to be prime minister.’ That’s what we want to do.”

So often girls think they can become a princess by finding Prince Charming, but they’re lost if he turns into a frog and they can’t take care of themselves. “Girls need to learn marketable skills,” Dr Janet agrees. “I have no problem with being a stay-at-home mom if you can afford it. But if you have a divorce, do you want to become a single mom without any skills to support yourself and our children?”

It doesn’t help than men still scorn and denigrate women. “I read a neat blog NASA had about the four female astronauts and I couldn’t believe what the men were saying,” Dr. Janet says. “They were saying women are going to be putting on makeup in space; and tripping on their stiletto heels; and that men invented space travel so why are women butting in on it? We must raise our sons to respect women for their talent and skills. We can raise really strong women, but if men don’t respect us, we still can’t reach equality.”

But to me, what’s worst is that women still aren’t very supportive of each other.

Women Undercut Each Other

Dr. Janet told the story of a woman who wanted a superintendent position but said, “I haven’t got a good chance because the women on that school board have the attitude: “Who does she thinks she is? I was a stay-at-home mom….” It’s shocking that it could actually hurt you to have women on the board.

Dr. Janet says she hears from college students all the time, “I don’t want a woman boss. A woman is bitchy to work for.” I don’t know if that’s real experience or just a perception about women. Maybe women think they have to emulate men to be a good boss.

Research is showing that women are wonderful leaders. “The typical female characteristics of vulnerability, cooperation and collaboration all fall under the wave of transformational leadership,” Dr. Janet says. “Women provide balanced leadership that has proven to be highly successful in corporations and organizations. Yet it’s still not recognized that we have those strengths.”

Dr. Janet is right that we must change childrearing practices and raise strong girls and fair-minded boys to change the future. Her Seven Secrets e-book is available as a free download and I have adapted her ideas into tips for mentoring the women around us.

Dr. Janet’s tips for parenting strong girls apply to other women around us as well.

Women’s Vulnerability Brings Secret Strength to Business

By Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D

Women will really love this idea: We can actually feel womanly without guilt.  Get ready to embrace your feminine vulnerability. Women’s special gifts––relational intelligence, holistic perspective, seeing connections among things, web thinking, admitting mistakes––just may save the world!

So says Dr. Birute Regine, a developmental psychologist who received both her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in human development from Harvard University. I interviewed the impressive Dr. Birute recently. While researching the critically acclaimed book she co-authored: The Soul at Work: Embracing Complexity Science for Business Success, Dr. Birute realized that women were poised to lead in the 21st century. She also noticed that the successful male leaders she had interviewed all embraced a “feminine” style of leadership that valued the quality of relationships in the organization.

Dr. Birute decided to learn more about women leaders. She contacted women like the former Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell; former CEO of PBS, Pat Mitchell; novelist and environmentalist Barbara Kingsolver; Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnston from Texas; as well as doctors, lawyers, teachers, dancers, successful entrepreneurs, and more.

Not Sperms with Perms

Her resulting book Iron Butterflies, released in 2010, describes women who have brought their feminine skills and gifts into the workplace. Women once tried to fit into the male-dominated workplace by wearing padded shoulders, suits and ties. Dr. Birute calls those women “sperms with perms.” I’ve also heard them called “Honorary Men.” Like the mythical Amazons who cut off their breasts to be better warriors, those women cut off their feminine side to achieve success. The successful businesswomen were not like that, nor were they “shape changers,” a term describing traditional women who satisfy and support everyone except themselves.

“That’s not to disparage either type,” Dr. Birute says. “I have been both. But women who used these styles often found themselves saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I have everything I’m supposed to want and I don’t feel satisfied.’” She tells the story of Deborah, who was from a poor family in the Bronx and built a successful company called Umbrella Plus. She had jewels, cars and homes, but she fell into a soul crisis of depression and paralysis for several months.

As a psychologist, I know that these moments of pause are so important, a cocoon phase. “It’s an opportunity to find balance and connect with a more authentic self,” Dr. Birute agrees. Deborah pulled herself together, won the Avon entrepreneur award, and claimed her feminine side along with the street-wise kid; she accepted all that she was and turned into an Iron Butterfly.

Dr. Birute was surprised to discover that all of these successful women embraced their vulnerability with a profound openness. A traditional male-dominated culture uses power over others, so vulnerability shows weakness and allows others to diminish you in order to elevate themselves. “But these women showed me that by accepting and addressing their own vulnerability, they could also allow it in others,” Dr. Birute says. “They made vulnerability a new strength.”

Take, for example, the vulnerability of making a mistake. These women admitted it openly (“Oh, I just made this terrible mistake…”). If you can’t admit a mistake, then one mistake covers another mistake until finally there’s a crisis. If, instead, you create a trusting environment where people can admit mistakes, then everyone can learn. A woman who connects to her vulnerability recognizes her interdependence and shared humanity. It’s a more cooperative and collaborative environment.

Women Need Solidarity With Each Other

“This is the revolution that is hidden in plain sight,” Dr. Birute says. This is really big exciting news. Women are doing this in all sectors but they don’t realize that other women are doing it, too. It’s really a movement, and we need a sense of solidarity with each other.

“When Iron Butterflies gather and start talking about these issues,” Dr. Birute says, “we can figure out how to collaborate with each other, which is a pretty complex thing to do.” I’ve noticed that you can put five or six women in a room and as you walk out the door you have a plan in place that you can execute. To me, working with women like this is the most phenomenal, exciting thing I’ve done.

All of the women Dr. Birute talked with were mentoring other women, which is one of the most valuable things we can do. Above all we need to support one another. When I worked for my doctorate years ago, I was surprised by how many women tried to make me feel guilty for leaving my children. I told them, “I’m doing this to provide an example for my daughters that they can do anything.”

But it’s getting better. “My daughter’s boss is really supportive about her having children,” says Dr. Birute. “I don’t think women in previous generations experienced that at all.” Today women have many supportive organizations, and Fortune 500 companies have shown that promoting women into leadership is good for the bottom line.

Part of Dr. Birute’s mission is to bring understanding to the young women who say, “I’m not a feminist.” Dr. Birute would counter with, “How do you think you got that job if not for feminism?”

Feminism became identified with “bra burning,” which historically stemmed from a planned PR stunt that ran afoul of fire regulations and never actually happened. Really, feminists just wanted equality in the home, opportunity in the workplace and a voice. Women leaders can use their feminine power to make the world a better place. As more female leaders collaborate we can create a workplace that is more caring and also more productive.

“If you’re one of those bridge builders, a collaborator, then I urge you to fully embrace those gifts,” Dr. Birute says. “If you’re in a leadership position and you see those qualities coming out in someone else, reward them. We need to make women’s style of leadership more visible. I have stories of leaders who were doing amazing work, but because it was interactive and behind the scenes, nobody recognized the skill it required.”

Women bring people together to work toward a collective answer. “Once we connect those dots,” Dr. Birute agrees, “it’s going to be awesome!”

While she urges you to patronize your local bookstore, you can learn more about her book and her retreats for awakening your inner iron butterfly online at

Remember: A woman’s Iron Butterfly is already within her; she just has to awaken it.

High Achieving Women Connect With Tribe, Improve Workplace, World

Have You Found Your Tribe?

Women going up stairsWhat is your work style? Are you a doer, happiest when leaping tall buildings and achieving the impossible? What do you do when you’re finished? Do you feel let down and empty? If you immediately try to fill the void with another impossible challenge then you are probably a Wander Woman.

I recorded a podcast interview with Dr. Marcia Reynolds about her best-selling book, Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. It is directed specifically at women who were raised to excel. Wander Woman is the term she uses to describe high achieving women who get their biggest charge from doing of great deeds rather than getting praise from others.

Dr. Marcia speaks worldwide and coaches women to help them make decisions, build relationships, find personal satisfaction and achieve success. With a doctorate in organizational psychology, her message is backed by research and experience. You’ve read her articles or seen her quoted in Psychology Today, Huffington Post, NY Times and more.

“Nobody was addressing high achieving women,” Dr. Marcia tells me. “Our culture still assigns women roles in the workplace based on the assumption they are weak.” But today’s high achieving women aren’t weak; they are strong, capable and confident. Rather than needing to learn to speak up, they want to improve the way they communicate. They may not like to talk about their power, but they certainly like to use it, Dr. Marcia says, and they even like to compete. But “because they engage with their jobs, work really hard and do great things, they get frustrated when they don’t get the recognition they feel they deserve.”

Why Women Leave Their Jobs

For these women, the corporate world provides a training ground rather than a lifelong career. It’s not so much that the glass ceiling keeps them down (although it certainly still exists); it’s that they don’t stay around long enough to move up into the top spots. They leave because their managers:

  • Stifle their drive for achievement
  • Devalue them by withholding choice assignments
  • Do not provide mentoring
  • Don’t bother to get to know them
  • Are overly protective
  • Form opinions about them without basis in fact

Sound familiar? Dr. Marcia calls it The Patty Principle. Where The Peter Principle was about rising to your level of incompetence, The Patty Principle is about reaching your level of tolerance, beyond which you can’t take it any longer! When people still won’t listen no matter how hard the women try, many move out to start their own businesses.

Women want self-satisfaction, yet they may not know how to create it, Dr. Marcia says. “There’s a distinction between who we are and what we do. We are confident in our abilities, but then we confuse who we are––and our life purpose––with our accomplishments.” This means that we constantly have to accomplish more great things to feel good.

Our society creates this condition when adults focus on achievement in children. “It’s especially true now that we’re raising girls whom we tell, ‘Go out and change the world,’ says Dr. Marcia. She calls it the burden of greatness. “Women have to do something amazing! So you regularly drive yourself to the point of exhaustion. Then you wonder if it is all worth it.”

Dr. Marcia works with her clients on identifying “who I am” as separate from “what I do.” She’ll ask women to list the top 10 attributes that make them great. Not, “I’m a good friend and I’m a great mother,” but instead, “I’m intelligent, determined, a great listener, generous, passionate.” “They need to have an appreciative dialogue in which they state these things, claim them, and ask others to reinforce them,” she says.

There’s a tremendous opportunity here because if you put passionate women together they can accomplish something great. “We are the great connectors,” Dr. Marcia says. “We see how people can work together, get along and have empathy for the whole group and not just the individual. It’s a perfect time for women to rise into leadership, just being their natural selves.”

What Women Want At Work

Companies that change to accommodate women’s strengths can have valuable employees who will stay and grow within the culture. “Women like communication that does not just flow downward but travels up-down-sideways like the Internet,” Dr. Marcia says. “We want flexible work arrangements and freedom to complete goals in our unique work styles. We don’t like operating within hierarchical silos.” Here’s her short list of what keeps women happy on the job:

  • Frequent new challenges and opportunities
  • Flexible schedules
  • Collaboration with other high achievers
  • Recognition from their company
  • Freedom to be themselves

Would those factors increase YOUR workplace happiness? It’s better for men, too, but women, especially, work better in this model because they can act like owners and be creative. “The United States fell from first to eleventh in innovation in the world this year and I think it’s because we aren’t changing fast enough to engage women,” Dr. Marcia says.

I especially liked what Dr. Marcia said about women surrounding themselves with their tribe, their community of other Wander Women. These gifts are not something unique to us as individuals but in fact are bubbling up in women everywhere. Dr. Marcia says women will succeed better and feel more satisfaction if they connect with one another to test out and share new ideas, listen to each other’s stories, and encourage one another. Women need each other if they are to thrive.

It’s tremendously exciting to me to talk with a woman like this who perceives the opportunities facing women today. As we reach out our hands to help each other, we can transform our own lives, our workplaces, and the lives of our communities.

by Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D.

What Women Need for Social Profit Activities

Women Connect4Good conducted an online survey of women’s experiences in social-profit (not-for-profit or community) activities in order to assess the demand and determine content for an online resource.

Of the 98 women who responded, nearly all (90%) said they participated actively in social-profit ventures with two-thirds of them filling leadership roles. Nearly 40 percent said they plan on becoming more active in the next 1–3 years and half said they planned to continue the same level of involvement. Nearly half have been active in social-profit groups for 15 or more years. The next largest group (22%) had been active from 1-4 years, the remainder between 5-14 years.

Likely Use of Online Resource

When asked about their likely use of an online resource that addressed the issues in the survey, 85 percent said they would use it frequently or occasionally while more than one third would recommend it to others. More than one fourth said they would use it to share their expertise with others.

Forty respondents offered their email addresses and said they would help develop an online resource to address these issues.

Benefits of Social-Profit Activities

On average, women selected three or four benefits they derived from their social profit work. Networking with other women was most commonly cited (86%), with making new friends and having fun each cited by 81 percent. Nearly two-thirds sought to build up their companies, careers or salaries (62%) and 44 percent cited improved health as a benefit. Several wrote in other benefits, including spiritual health, self-satisfaction, and improving their world with more services, resources or opportunities. One participant emphasized the satisfaction of inspiring others to stay involved more than one time.

Challenges of Social-Profit Activities

The survey asked them to check challenges they had encountered. Eight individuals said they had not experienced any challenges. Of the 90 women who selected one or more specific challenges:

  • 47 cited fundraising hurdles
  • 35 each cited helping members feel included and organizing volunteers
  • 26 had problems with managing committees
  • 25 had challenges gaining stature and recognition for group’s efforts
  • 23 had issues communicating with members
  • 20 wished for more creative ideas for program operation
  • 19 each had challenges delegating or managing e-mail and Internet
  • 15 cited making decisions as a challenge
  • 14 struggled with demonstrating win/win benefits to participants

Twenty-four women (27%) wrote in “other” challenges, which centered in three areas.

Recruiting and Inspiring Volunteers

Tips on Fundraising and Motivating VolunteersThe challenges mentioned most frequently related to recruiting new volunteers and maintaining the ranks year-to-year. Finding ways to inspire others to “take up the challenge” of leadership and take initiative and responsibility for getting the work done formed the core of most of the difficulties. One participant wished for more active, committed volunteers who were not resume builders and social status seekers.

Another stated that many career women did not realize how uplifting non-career-specific activities can be, nor the benefits women under 35 derive from working with more experienced women. Further, many do not understand how important it is to support and advocate for other women through volunteering and friendships.

Others cited the challenges in mentoring others to organize new or restructured events, as well as the challenge of increasing awareness of an organization. One woman lamented a flip-side problem: establishing credibility to gain acceptance as a person new to the area.

Working with Boards

How to recruit new board membersBoard relationships challenged many who struggled to gain board support or to understand what leadership expects of committees.

Some boards seem to actively hinder efforts, notably by keeping the choice assignments for themselves and thereby discouraging new volunteers.

Interpersonal Dynamics

One respondent noted the difficulty of collaborating with other social-profit groups and keeping them focused on the mission without competitive jealousy and territorial issues. Another mentioned the difficulty of working with strong-willed individuals who have a hard time letting go of their ideas and compromising.

Change the World

Are you are angry about some injustice? Or do you wish you could help someone who needs it desperately and has no where to turn? Do you feel powerless to help?

This amazing young woman will inspire you to get engaged in what you care about and take action to change the world.

Dallas Jessup At 13 years old, Dallas Jessup, a Martial Arts Black Belt, saw a news clip about a girl who was abducted and murdered. She realized that this could have happened to her or any of her classmates. She also thought that if this girl only knew a couple of self-defense techniques, she could have escaped.

Dallas embarked on a journey to make a difference with a home movie. Her mother suggested she take a scriptwriting class; her teacher asked permission to share it with others. 100 extras with celebrity appearances, professional staff and $600,000 worth of donations later, “Just Yell Fire” was offered for free on-line.  It had over one million downloads in two years and has launched a non-profit effort to protect young people from abduction, rape and abuse.

Now a college student, Dallas has written a book, telling the amazing stories of other “kids” who took action to change the world. Her book, Young Revolutionaries Who Rock: An Insider’s Guide to Saving the World One Revolution at a Time, is an inspiration to everyone to stand up and make a difference.

Women Who Help Other Women Are So Amazing

FLiP Female Leaders in PhlianthropyToday I had the privilege to meet with 12 spunky, successful women who are taking their professional experience, their money and  time out of their busy schedules to help women  transition from poverty.  These are just a few of the woman who are helping other women to become self-sustaining women caring for themselves.
They are often alone in the care of their children. By simply donating gently used business clothes to give to women who need work clothes seems a simple way to help other woman.
The mentoring and the exchange that takes place between a woman who has made it and a woman who really wants a better life can be so very powerful.  There can be no better feeling watching another woman find her joy, and surprise that there are so many women who care about her well-being.

Just One Woman Helping Another – That’s All It Is

The Suit Yourself Program is not about money it is about the respect and kindness one woman gives  to another woman.  She gains  self-confidence and pride in herself.  You cannot measure any of this in dollars, gold, or any material stuff.  This is about one woman helping another woman along.  Can their be any better reward?  I think not!

A Simple Way to Help Another Woman

Do not let the day go by without helping one of your sisters along, it can be as simple as a kind word or a  pat on the back.  Make today a better place for woman by giving her a hand up……not hand out….You both will gain so much.  I am proud to say I am one of these woman and the  Women’s Initiative of the United Way can help women who have fallen on hard times pick themselves up and make better lives for themselves and their children.  We all must help to bring another woman along if we want this to be a better world for her and especially her daughter and her grand daughter.

Have a great life…Dr. Nancy
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