Partnering with Leadership Volunteers Toolkit

This toolkit is available as a WORD document at the bottom of the page. We have done this to make the material as accessible as possible - and to allow people from different organizations to be able to adapt and tailor the toolkit for their needs. If you do so, please provide an acknowledgement that CNIB created the original document.

We’d like to thank everyone who made it possible for us to offer this toolkit in accessible, alternative formats - our braille room volunteers for creating braille toolkits, our library volunteers for producing audio copies and Jim Parkin for formatting large print versions.

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Tips for Working with Leadership Volunteers

Communication preferences. Senior volunteers each have their own preferences for how they would like to be engaged, and this is usually ultimately influenced by the amount of time they can give the organization. Respect for their time is critical. Make sure you understand how they prefer to be contacted – a phone call, email or text messages. How often they can meet in person? Having well-thought-out agendas sent beforehand demonstrates your respect for their time.

Ask if they want to be involved early in the planning and design of initiatives. Some volunteers want to be involved in planning and the nitty gritty of projects, and some don't. Either way, they will appreciate being asked. They are there to make a difference. They can only do that if they are treated as a true collaborator and partner.

Support them with the development of a work plan or a regular schedule for contact. This will outline the scope of their entire commitment, and will let them know when they will be consulted and what you want from them. Make sure you stick to the plan, or if you must deviate, get back to them to explain why. They may have blocked out time for you and deserve to know if your needs have changed. Ensure that the volunteer knows when the staff they are working with will be available to answer important questions and that they will reply in a reasonable time in the way the volunteer has requested.

Explain your consultation process. This will ensure they understand that you are consulting with multiple sources – all of whom will impact the ultimate product or initiative. Let them know you will be balancing the comments of everyone and may not be able to include every suggestion they have.

If you ask for input, use it. A common complaint of leadership volunteers is to be asked for input that is not used. Either the project does not go forward (and they never hear of it again), or the advice is requested and ignored. Make sure when you consult with them that the project is real and their input will be considered and applied, whenever possible. They don't want to feel like they are just rubber stamping something you would have done with or without them. If the project is stopped, let them know and tell them why.

Share results. Close the loop with them so they can see how you used their counsel. This will allow you to explain what was used and why, as well as what could not be used and why. If possible, continue to report back on the impact of the initiative so they can have a sense of the true value of their effort. Remember, volunteers are primarily driven by a desire to do good for the community.

Thank them. Once a project is done or a milestone has been reached that involved a leadership volunteer, make sure they have been appropriately thanked – directly and/or in public (depending on the volunteer’s preference). It could be a personal thank-you note copied to the Regional Vice President or the CEO. Or it might involve an acknowledgement in a report to which they contributed or a shout-out at a staff/volunteer appreciation event. This type of recognition is rewarding for the volunteer, but just as important, it sends a clear message to staff and other volunteers about the value of leadership volunteers to the organization.

Transition them. Once a board member's term is up or the project they were working on is over, we are at risk of losing them. Many people simply assume they have run their course and need to move on. As a senior staff member, you can play a key role in transitioning these people to other kinds of volunteering so we can continue to benefit from their experience.

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The following is a recruitment strategy developed by the North Regional Leadership Council to ease the significant challenges associated with huge, geographic areas, as well as smaller and rural communities.

As North Regional Leadership Council [since replaced by CNIB Northern Ontario Regional Board] members and CNIB volunteers ourselves, we're not really recruiting other volunteers, we're promoting volunteerism and then referring people to CNIB Foundation Staff.

It's not up to us to make a judgement about whether or not a person has the time or the inclination to volunteer, we're providing people we know with an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life and to experience the rewards of volunteering.

People volunteer for many different reasons and after they become involved, they may experience benefits they wouldn't ever have anticipated. Volunteering is often about the wonderful people you meet and also the people you help.

I. What attracted us; what might attract other people to volunteer for the CNIB in the north

Things like:
  • Being a client and wanting to give back to the organization
  • Having a family member or friend who has received CNIB services
  • Initial contact with CNIB, with a staff member or volunteer who provided a convincing, warm and positive reason or reasons to volunteer
  • A desire to gain experience working with people who have sight loss as part of their education
  • Time to contribute more, started out with small interactions through another organization, and gradually developed into a higher level of engagement
  • Exposed to the organization as a child, student
  • Brand identity- knows that the charity does good work- reputation
II. Identifying Potential Volunteers

Be a member of the AAAA Club!
  • Always ask anywhere, anytime!
Possible Recruitment Locations:
  • Eye Van locations
  • At any public relations events, such as service club presentations, Chamber of Commerce events
  • At Dining in the Dark or any other fundraising events
  • Personal networking opportunities
  • Canadian Council of the Blind or other consumer group meetings (there is a consumer group in Elliot Lake)
  • Other clubs and organizations that you might be members of, e. g. - church, sorority, legions, service clubs
  • Fellow staff members at your workplace
  • High schools and colleges
  • Businesses
III. Effective Approach
  • One-on-one approach
    • Identify hooks; Just ask!
  • Be specific about how the person can contribute
    • About the time commitment required
  • For Regional Leadership Council (RLC) members, have some sense of what skills and attitudes are required (RLC Skills Recruitment Matrix)
  • Individual may wish to speak to another volunteer currently in a similar role, so we need to know how this can be facilitated
  • Need to know the next recruitment steps and be able to link the potential volunteer to the appropriate staff member
  • We need to have a general idea of what each position entails; the CNIB Foundation Staff will make sure they have the position descriptions.
IV. Personal introduction

Develop personal introduction about making a difference.  You may want to practice ahead of time so that you are comfortable with the key ideas and then you can refine it on the spot if you wish.

Two examples below:
  • Did you know? For CNIB to assist people with vision loss by providing essential services in our community, the CNIB relies heavily on local volunteers. Your skills and talents could be instrumental in ensuring people with vision loss in our community are well served. It only takes a little of your time and energy to truly make a difference in someone's life. Would you be willing to find out more?
  • I am often amazed at the number of ways we rely on volunteers. This is so true for someone who is blind or partially sighted. Have you ever thought about how you would do everyday activities, such as getting groceries or attending doctor's appointments if you didn’t have your vision? CNIB depends upon individuals like you to help make a difference in the lives of others. By giving just a few hours of your time, you can make a huge impact in the life of someone else. Can I give you more information on what a difference you can make?
Name: _____________________________________

First Interview Questions – to be preceded by individual having read the Terms of Reference and Board Member Role Description
  1. What do you know about CNIB?
  2. What about the work of CNIB is of interest to you?
  3. Why are you interested in serving on our Board?
  4. What prior Board and/or committee experience do you have? Are you currently volunteering anywhere and, if so, in what capacity?
  5. How will the organization benefit from your participation?
  6. What would make for a satisfying volunteer experience for you? (probe: what are you hoping to get out of it)
  7. Would you be willing to attend events to support CNIB outside of your Board duties?
  8. What time of day/day(s) of the week would you be available to attend in person Board meetings? Would you be comfortable in committing to attending a minimum of four meetings per fiscal year, with a minimum of one in person?
  9. Do you have anything to share with us that we haven’t ask you?
  10. Do you have any questions for us?
Second Interview Questions - to be preceded by individual having had an offer to visit a local office and speak with regional manager or regional director
  1. Given your understanding of the position, what are the key strengths you would bring to the Board?
  2. Can you describe a time you foresaw a problem and what preventative measures did you take or recommend?
  3. How much time can you reasonably volunteer at CNIB?  What constraints on your time or service might you anticipate?
  4. How would you describe your community and business networks and how would you see yourself leveraging those networks to support CNIB?
  5. Would you be willing to promote CNIB to your business, community and/or personal networks? Can you explain what form you envision this taking?
  6. Can you describe how you have personally supported the CNIB mission within the past year or prior to that? This could be through personal support, through awareness building, or through a partnership initiative.
  7. In your opinion, what do you think are the greatest strengths and the greatest opportunities of this organization?
  8. If the individual works, ask: Does your company approve/promote your involvement with a not-for-profit organization?
  9. If you are selected as a Board member, are you willing to donate two days of your time for orientation?
  10. Do you have any questions for us?
  1. Come to the meeting prepared.
  2. Turn cell phones to silent or turn them off; if you need to take a call, leave the meeting room until the call is finished.
  3. On a teleconference call, remember to mute your phone when you are not speaking so that background noises don't interfere with the call.
  4. Be positive and respectful of others.
  5. Use "People First Language". When speaking about people who are blind or partially sighted; put the person first.
  6. Let others know who is speaking.
  7. Be quiet when others are speaking; side conversations are distracting.
  8. Allow for everyone to take part in discussions and to ask questions.
  9. Stay on track as much as possible when a topic is being discussed and concede graciously when the Chairperson asks to move on to the next agenda item.
  10. Try not to judge others, or be rude or argumentative.
  11. Respect the Chairperson. The Chairperson is the meeting facilitator and is responsible for keeping the meeting on track and on time.
Interviewing Volunteers

Volunteer Appreciation

Eight Creative Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation:


Recruiting and Retaining Good Board Members:

A Guide to Successful Board Recruitment:

Board Engagement:

Board Committees:

Ten Tips for Improving Your Board Meetings:
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