Take a peek into the Volunteer Relations committee.
In addition to our project teams, there are many operational roles that keep CCT running smoothly. We recently spoke with Dana Attar, the Co-Chair of Volunteer Relations, to shine a light on the committee and share insights on how CCT works with volunteers and staffs projects.
Can you tell us about the Volunteer Committee?
The volunteer relations committee really has a couple of responsibilities: firstly, to drive the project staffing process, with a goal of creating the most effective teams for each non-profit project, and secondly, to work collaboratively with marketing and business school liaisons to recruit new volunteers and help them understand the nature and value of this fulfilling work.
We are always looking for volunteers to help us evaluate, improve, and innovate in many areas such as:
How can CCT help build a stronger and more diverse volunteer community?
How can we structure the CCT engagment to be more meaningful to our volunteers?
Where can we improve on the recruiting and staffing process using data analytics and volunteer’s feedback?
There are many opportunities at CCT for our volunteers to be engaged outside of volunteering on a client project, but they all support the overall goal of serving our clients.
CCT volunteers have very diverse backgrounds; we try to look for common characteristics that we think will be relevant in the execution of a project. Many of the items in the application are considered, such as experience in disciplines such as marketing, finance, strategy, etc. that are typical of the projects that our clients describe. We look at prior volunteer experience, any leadership roles or non-profit experience, and their ‘why’ – how they described their motivations for volunteering with CCT. Our overarching goal is to ensure that the volunteers are a good match for this type of work and that they will find the experience enrichening.
How does the matching process work?
Matching is a process of understanding what each project is trying to accomplish and attempting to design a team that is aligned to the needs of that project. That is usually a combination of characteristics, such as volunteers’ skills & experience, their project
preferences, the number of prior projects executed with CCT (we try to design teams that include both experienced and new volunteers), etc. We also overlay the volunteer’s logistical preferences, trying to staff projects that favor remote collaboration or in-person meetings. It’s a multi-day process and very time consuming!
Our clients consistently tell us how appreciative they are of the CCT volunteer community and the strength of their commitment, so we do our very best to match experience with project needs. Sometimes though, even qualified volunteers are not matched to a project. For example, in the most recent project cycle (2021-2022), we had more projects than Project Managers, so we couldn’t staff as many projects as we would have liked. Unfortunately, that meant some volunteers found themselves without a project. It's worth noting that volunteers can also contribute as committee members to help with client development, volunteer relations, business school relations, etc. You can see some of these non-project roles here: https://www.cctboston.org/volunteer-opportunities.
With so many shifting factors for volunteers with busy work and personal lives, how do you ensure a solid team?
It is a challenge for sure – we do have a reserve pool of volunteers that we can pull from when work commitments or personal circumstances emerge that impact a volunteer’s ability to continue with a project. The way teams and projects are structured is to allow volunteers to stagger the work and contribute more or less at different times during the project cycle.
The reserve list is critical – life events can happen at any point in the project cycle, so being able to backfill a volunteer with another qualified and enthusiastic individual is very important! We are always amazed at how our volunteers roll-up their sleeves and dive in to add as much value as they can, as quickly as possible.
Another aspect of team design is balancing seasoned and new volunteers. For instance, projects typically have two project managers (PMs), one experienced and one who is new to the role. This helps us constantly expand the bench of experienced volunteers and allows projects to progress even though life events can temporarily throw a project off track. In such circumstances, we do ask volunteers to please communicate with the team PMs or sponsor, so we can ask people on our reserve list to step in.
How do you stay connected with volunteers after a project wraps?
For the most part, each project team organizes their own social gatherings, as the collaborative nature of the work and the impact that each team makes is much more keenly felt by the team members who have done the work. We’ve heard loud and clear in the post-project surveys that the networking and social aspects of this work is very important to volunteers.
So as we emerge from COVID-19, we are encouraging teams to embrace a hybrid format where some team meetings are in person. Ultimately, though, each team will determine their own collaboration preferences. We are also starting a series of one-on-one coffee chats to better understand the people that volunteer for this work and how we can be a more effective and useful organization to serve their needs. For example, if meeting like-minded people is an important part of your volunteer experience, how can we create more networking opportunities for you? If you have any ideas or feedback, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What have you learned since joining the committee? Any surprises?
The biggest surprise has been the amount of people, effort, and thoughtful process that goes on behind the scenes to ensure the right match between volunteers and clients. We are actively working this cycle to try to simplify things as much as we can, so we can focus more time on designing new programs or structures and scaling activities overall, but we’re not there yet. We are exploring some pilot programs that may help us with more flexibility in serving smaller nonprofits, which we hope will reduce the load on volunteers while still meeting the needs of local nonprofits. Stay tuned for more on these experimental programs!
Learn more about volunteering with CCT here.