Was 2023 another year of volunteer leader network engagement challenges? Are your volunteer leaders equipped, empowered, and autonomous? Or are you in the weeds, doing damage control, and bending over backward to make volunteer leadership easier and more attractive? We’ve got you.
Some of the top network challenges across leading companies include underdeveloped volunteer leaders and unfilled volunteer leader roles.
Solving for these challenges builds a strong, well-trained volunteer leadership network that can self-scale and sustain activity and engagement across geographies and business units.
Nurturing Your Volunteer Leader Network
So, how do we get there? It takes consistent nurturing of the network in four key areas:
- Governance – how each level or group within the network delivers effective support to those below
- Onboarding – the critical first step to build community, socialize the employee volunteering program, clarify roles and responsibilities, explore motivation, and frame upcoming tools and training
- Tools & Training – technical knowledge (“what”) and instrumental knowledge (“how”) required to lead Transformative Volunteering experiences
- Support Channels – consistent access to knowledge, resources, and guidance required to deliver effective Transformative Volunteering experiences
Given attention and intention in these four key areas, 2024 will be the year your Volunteer Leader Network hits its stride, with each level of governance – or group of roles – checking in regularly to build skills and connect.
One of the most powerful tools in your network nurturing toolbox is regular check-in calls between every level of the network. This support channel (#4 above) provides regular opportunities to spot trends and challenges in governance, onboarding, tools, and training (#1-3). It is a chance to open communication and capture feedback. It’s a vehicle to deliver essential training and deeper knowledge. It’s a regular opportunity to remind volunteer leaders of the tools, templates, tips, and tricks available to them. And it’s a space for peer connection, support, and recognition. This regular cadence of network check-in calls delivers powerful ROI when done right.
Take the time now to create an annual plan for effective, intentional check-in calls throughout your volunteer leader network.
Principles and Guidance for Effective Volunteer Leader Network Check-In Calls
Before you start to schedule calls or plan topics, ground yourself in what makes regular check-ins powerful rather than tedious.
Below are three principles to keep top of mind when planning your year of check-ins:
- Check-in calls must be consistent. Checking in regularly and consistently creates a sense of community and of support.
- Check-in calls must be experiential. Check-in calls are experiential learning opportunities to strengthen skills. Apply Transformative Volunteering principles to how the call is facilitated, such as the Debrief.
- Check-in calls must be intentional. Each check-in call has a dedicated topic of learning and discussion related to the audience’s activities. Create space for participants to recognize peers and share success stories.
Calls should be formatted to include an opening of updates, news, and framing, and a closing that provides space for reflection and capturing action items. The middle and majority of the call is dedicated to the discussion topic.
For example, a 60-minute call might be structured as:
- Updates & News (10 min): Introductions and quick notes on any program updates, upcoming trainings, event registrations, etc.
- Discussion (40 min): Monthly topic and facilitation of learning and peer connection.
- Debrief & Close (10 min): Debrief regarding call expectations, audience needs, and action steps.
Calls are led by the network level above the participants in your network structure. For example, if your network consists of the Social Impact team, regional volunteer leaders, local volunteer leaders, and employee volunteers, your plan should include:
- Monthly calls for local volunteer leaders, led by regional volunteer leaders
- Quarterly calls for regional volunteer leaders, led by the Social Impact team
(Need help mapping your network structure? Check out the Volunteer Leadership Networks Framework on Backstage!)
Ideally, Volunteer Leaders should participate in monthly check-in calls. Typical cadence for Regional Volunteer Leaders, Global Volunteer Councils, and Volunteer Committees is often quarterly.
(Looking for this guidance in an easy-to-share guide or presentation? Find RW’s Volunteer Leader Check-In Calls Guide on Backstage!)
Your Annual Network Check-In Call Plan
With the principles and guidance in mind, plan out your year of check-in calls. Depending on the structure and complexity of your network, you may be planning each call yourself, providing input to call leaders, or compiling call information from fully autonomous call leaders for visibility and accountability.
Monthly Volunteer Leader Check-In Calls
For each month of the year, establish:
- Topic – the broad area of focus. For example, Scoping & Partnerships.
- Guiding Questions – what you want participants to get out of the call. For example, you might ask “What causes and types of projects are currently working best for employees?”
- Resources – items to support participants in the focus area. For example, Realized Worth’s 6 Steps for Project Scoping Calls Training Aid.
- Date – when the call takes place. Get the date and link to the meeting location on everyone’s calendars early! Keep in mind internal and external events such as National Volunteer Week, employee volunteering events, and giving season when choosing topics and dates.
Quarterly Regional Volunteer Leader, Council, or Committee Check-In Calls
Quarterly calls with higher levels of the network require a broader or more strategic approach to topics, but otherwise the planning elements are the same. For example, a quarterly check-in with regional volunteer leaders, led by the Social Impact team might look like:
- Topic – Leadership & Relationships
- Guiding Questions – How are you finding your strengths and opportunities in your leadership role? In what area can we connect you with development resources?
- Resources – 5 Qualities of an Effective Leader Training Aid
- Date – Always important! 😉
You can use your preferred virtual collaboration tool to capture this annual plan, or if you’re a Social REV member you can use Realized Worth’s pre-populated Volunteer Leader Check-In Call Calendar. You might want to use this calendar tool if you need to:
- Build both monthly and quarterly plans, and view them together on a single-view calendar.
- Plan topics quickly. The calendar comes pre-populated with suggested topics and guiding questions for each month and quarter.
- Use a suite of templated resources such as training aids, tools, and workbooks for call topics. Each resource is available on Backstage!
Plan for Connection and Impact
Nurturing your network intentionally can enable sustained activity across geographies and business units, enable broad, meaningful engagement, and demonstrate true social impact ROI. One of the key tools to unlock this potential is regular, effective check-in calls that provide experiential learning, open communication, and connection.
With your volunteer leader network check-in call calendar for the year, you’re ready to build the skills and connection your volunteer leaders need in 2024. This is the year you solve your engagement challenges and scale Transformative Volunteering across your organization. You’ve got this!
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