Advocacy & Risk Mgt Advocating for Volunteer Engagement in These Risky TimesEmilie Bromet-Bauer, CVA much advocacy to be done; and volunteer managers must pay even more attention to the additional elements of risk and liability inherent in volunteer engagement. How do we advocate for volunteer engagement keeping in mind and front and center the issues of risk and liability?
First, become familiar with what the risks and liabilities of volunteering are to organizations and to volunteers. And know how to manage and mitigate these risks. A great and timely place to start is by attending Managing Risk: Balancing Aversion and Innovation Hybrid Conference put on by AL!VE, Better Impact, and VMPC this October 20-21. To register, go to: http://mms.volunteeralive.org/members/evr/reg_event.php?orgcode=ALIV&evid=22155761
Second, do a thorough assessment of the particular risks and liabilities of renewing volunteer opportunities with your organizations. Be sure to consider risks to the volunteers as well as to the organization, its staff, and clients. Be especially careful to consider risks that will come with new volunteer opportunities and volunteer activities that are adapted from in-person to online.
Third, anticipate what push back you might hear from your organization's executive leadership in this area of risk and liability. You might hear that there will be too much risk to bring volunteers back. Or that there are no longer the resources (human and monetary) to handle the risks. Or that the resources needed and the risks and liabilities outweigh whatever benefit volunteers can provide to the organization reaching its goals and achieving its mission.
Fourth, this is where it all comes together. Pull out whatever advocacy toolkit you use, prepare your advocacy strategies and tactics, practice your best persuasive narratives and presentations. Here are some tips:
Be prepared to show your organization's leadership that the payoff to the organization of investing in risk management of volunteer engagement now can be both short term and, just as important, long term. Demonstrate how planning for and investing in risk management now will make the organization more adaptable in the future, especially now that we know that constant and quick change is our new normal. Remind the organization's leadership that welcoming back volunteers to a safe and healthy and risk-free volunteer experience - especially your older and longterm volunteers - helps build loyal volunteers which in turn builds loyal donors.
Be prepared to show that you, the Volunteer Administrator or Manager, can manage the risks and liabilities of volunteer engagement. You have the knowledge - don't forget to register for the Managing Risk Hybrid Conference. You have thoroughly assessed the obvious and less obvious risks and liabilities of your organization's culture, operations, and programs as well as the risks to your volunteers' health and safety. And you know how to mitigate or manage these risks. You have also done an especially thorough assessment of the risks and liabilities of any innovative and new or slightly modified volunteer opportunities.
Finally, and most importantly, you have agency. You can make some changes to manage risk even if they feel very small and minor. They are not. They are the beginning. Adding a training component for virtual volunteers that clearly explains what they can and cannot post online that protects your organization's reputation. Adding a line in a volunteer "contract" that requires the volunteer to follow the organization's policy on social distancing and wearing masks. These may appear small acts, but they demonstrate that you know and can manage risks and liabilities inherent in volunteer engagement. Leverage these to advocate for greater involvement of volunteers despite perceived issues of risk and liability.
These acts, whether small or big, and your advocacy for increased volunteer engagement show your credibility, your knowledge, your resourcefulness, and your power to lead volunteers in these risky times.