Betty Jeanne here again, Talent Coordinator for YNPN National. Over these past couple of months, I’ve been doing lots of reading and online research about talent management. But some of the most valuable feedback for my work – especially in terms of how YNPN thinks about talent management – came via the virtual road trip with all 29 of our active chapters that Trish and Ashley took on in January.
For many YNPN chapters, the fact that so much of our work is made possible by volunteers is a source of great pride and accomplishment. We are a wide network of young nonprofit professionals who have worked passionately and tirelessly to build a thriving and rapidly-growing organization – and that’s on top of juggling our “day jobs” and personal lives! Our organizational culture truly centers and empowers volunteers: at YNPN, volunteers know they have a stake, a voice, a crucial role to play, and an area of expertise to offer and build upon.
Yet, our volunteer-driven nature also presents some real obstacles. For example, most literature on recruiting and developing volunteers in nonprofit organizations assumes that there are paid staff charged with volunteer management. But what about organizations like YNPN, where volunteers are managed by other (busy) volunteers? How do we provide the consistency, availability, and strategic leadership development that volunteers need to do what’s expected of them, and thrive in the process? How do we build volunteer engagement systems into our organizations, when we have little financial or paid staff resources available to make that happen? How do we maintain morale and motivation when we are bumping up against real limits of volunteers’ capacity?
What we learned is this talent quandary looks different for each chapter: Some are looking for better ways to recruit people into their leadership structures – especially folks that lend all manner of diversity – and perhaps wondering if the leadership structure needs to be revamped in order to bring new people in. Others might excel at recruitment, but struggle with retention: for example, how to build an ongoing ladder of engagement which develops leaders as they get more and more involved in YNPN. Some chapters want to strengthen the ways they orient and train leaders when they come on board, and find the most appropriate roles to build on their talents and interests. Others are at the point of considering hiring paid staff, and evaluating whether this is the best approach to growing their organization.
To help our chapters with all of these undertakings, I’ve been wading through all sorts of information on talent management. Much is geared toward human resources professionals in for-profit organizations – though there are plenty of transferable lessons for the non-profit sector. Even among articles geared toward nonprofit organizations, I’m scouring to find more resources that speak directly to YNPN’s situation, as an almost entirely volunteer-driven organization.
But because we also heard that our chapters learn best when they learn from one another, we are thrilled to offer an interactive webinar series this spring to foster dialogue and resource-sharing on talent management among our chapters. Some of the topics we’ll address include:
- What leadership structures are our chapters using, and what are they rationale behind them? What structures are serving chapters well, and which are posing challenges?
- Thinking creatively “beyond the board”: What are other models of volunteer engagement – committees, chapter “ambassadors”, and more – that folks are experimenting with?
- Tools on how to identify the core goals of your organization, and develop an appropriate talent pool to meet them.
- Lessons from YNPN National about developing talent to meet our goals. For example: how the hybrid volunteer/staff model of LaunchPad Fellows was developed, and how it’s helping YNPN National achieve success.
These live webinars will be happening Wednesday, March 20th and Tuesday, April 16th at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific. We’ll record them for folks who can’t make it or want to refer back to the content, and we’ll be providing print resources to provide additional tools and resources. Keep an eye on this blog, our Facebook and Twitter, and your inbox for complete details.
Meanwhile, check out last month’s blog post for more on how YNPN is developing dynamic strategies and systems for talent – volunteer, staff, and board – recruitment, management, and development.
As always, we want to hear from you. Are you a YNPN chapter struggling with or testing out solutions to some of these issues? Do you work in other parts of the sector and face similar challenges? Leave your comments below, and, if you’re a chapter leader – make sure you join us for those webinars. We hope you’ll join the conversation!
by Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, LaunchPad Fellow and National Talent Coordinator