Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Jennifer Bennett, VolunteerMatch

Jun 9, 2015 1:50 PM ET

Originally published in VolunteerMatch's Engaging Volunteer Blog

VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Jennifer Bennett, CVA, Senior Manager of Education and Training, VolunteerMatch.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
Originally I was asked to write about the three Rs of volunteer management – Recruitment, Retention, Recognition. However, as a field, we aren’t talking about (or working with!) volunteers in that same way.

Therefore, the title of my chapter is The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit. It covers a new way of thinking about day-to-day interactions and experiences volunteers have with your organization. Hopefully all readers, both those who are new to the field and those who are not, can find something that resonates with them.

Why is this topic important?
Historically, a volunteer manager’s role was to keep volunteers happy, busy and safe. But that’s really changing. Volunteers are demanding meaningful, impact-driven work.

Today’s leaders of volunteer engagement need to be thinking about volunteer experience holistically. It needs to be about measurable impact, collaborative outcomes, matching passions and talents, and empowering volunteers, as well as keeping them safe. This chapter focuses on prioritizing quality over quantity – making every minute of volunteer engagement, and every volunteer, really count!

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I have the immense privilege of being the voice of volunteer engagement at VolunteerMatch. I’ve spent my career working with volunteers, building volunteer training programs, and being a volunteer myself.

I hear from those working with volunteers (and from the volunteers themselves) every day about the challenges of creating meaningful volunteer opportunities and the changes that are happening in the field of volunteer engagement. This gives me a unique perspective and real insight into what it takes to engage today’s volunteers.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
The scope of what I wanted to include was huge – it could have been its own book! Narrowing down the content of the chapter, and putting those big ideas into digestible, actionable pieces was really a challenge. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Make a promise to yourself that you’ll engage the right volunteer for the right role – every time, no exceptions! After 20 years, even working at VolunteerMatch, I still make exceptions – relax a rule, overlook a warning sign – and it never works out. 

To read Jennifer’s full chapter, The New Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.