President’s Message: March 2017

luckyMarch is almost over, already! Seems somewhat hard to believe, but it is a reality. In light of the season, my theme song for this month’s President’s message is “With a Little Luck” by Paul McCartney and Wings. It is a great song and who doesn’t want to feel like they have a little Luck on their side? When we think about our work with volunteers we have to not only feel a little luck, but have definite plans and processes in place to ensure success. As leaders in the field, it is imperative we are equipped and ready to receive, orient, train, engage, coach, recognize and retain our volunteers.

At the March Workshop, we had a great panel to share their experiences and expertise in working with and making the most of episodic volunteers. Doing this successfully is not a bi-product of a little luck, but so much more. We have to make sure we examine everyone’s roles. We need to make it meaningful and connect to your “WHY”. People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it. We were also lucky to learn that people have a limited amount of time to give to your organization and most people work full time. So we must be respectful of the time volunteers can donate to our organizations. We are lucky to have them!

I feel lucky to be on this journey with you!

See you in April!

Melissa M. Gilmore, M Ed., CVA
GRAVA President

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February Meeting Recap

Peer to Peer Learning: Challenges and effective strategies

Thanks to the Health Brigade Team of Sarah Ann Jennings, Volunteer Coordinator, and Polly Foster, Resource Manager, for a lovely, renovated space for our February Roundtable, on Peer to Peer Learning: Challenges and effective strategies.

Robust discussions in the three focus groups provided some great insights to problems which participants were currently working through at their organizations.


Brynn Markham facilitated the discussions on “having difficult conversations with volunteers.”

  1. Provide clarity through job descriptions
  2. Make sure training includes step by step procedures which are monitored by the trainer to be sure that the volunteer understands what is required. Help volunteers understand the importance of their part of the process.
  3. When volunteer responsibilities are changing, include volunteers in the planning.

Melissa Gilmore and Jen Miller led the discussions on getting staff buy-in on the value of volunteers to an organization.

  1. Educate staff by including volunteer information in their initial orientation with your organization. Offer guides and mentoring for staff as they work with volunteers.
  2. Help staff build relationships with volunteers by including their stories in newsletters, including them in celebrations, and or team meetings, and other communication channels.
  3. Encourage and help staff develop volunteer roles which will help relieve staff stress.
  4. Look at Betty Stallings trainings to train staff on topics which are meaningful for your staff.

Whitney Guthrie and Tawana Demery facilitated discussions on finding and recruiting new participants for your volunteer program.

  1. Evaluate your program and be intentional in looking for new sources of volunteers.
  2. Include your staff in planning for new volunteers and trouble shooting any perceived issues.
  3. Network with peers to find opportunities to address new pools of volunteers.
  4. Be specific in developing job descriptions so the organization which skills you need to recruit for.

With these strategies and more coming out of the discussions, Brynn Markham, Professional Development Chair for the GRAVA Board, explained the Peer2Peer Mentoring available through GRAVA. More information is available at the GRAVA website here or email Brynn if you are interested in the peer learning opportunities.


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President’s Message for February 2017

supremes“You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes and then later re-recorded by Phil Collins is a soul classic!  It seems only fitting to discuss love in the month of February!  As managers and leaders of volunteers we love what we do!  Sure we have some days where we have to remind ourselves of why we do what we do, but ultimately at the end of the day, we know we have made a difference and our volunteers have made an impact.  We love knowing our efforts have made our community a better place for everyone.

We don’t want to hurry when we think about our volunteerism efforts.  The time we spend recruiting, screening, interviewing, orienting and training should be quality time and know that the work we do on the front end, is well worth it.  When we put time into volunteer staffing and development, we reap the benefits in the long run.

At the February Roundtable, we were able to share our knowledge, ideas and love in regards to How to have difficult discussions with volunteers, How to have difficult discussions with staff who don’t see the value in volunteers and How to recruit diverse volunteers and find new volunteer audiences.  I loved facilitating one of the discussion tables and hearing all the input from our members!  We really do have a wealth of knowledge in our GRAVA family and it is always a joy to see that shared with one another.

Continue to spread the love and share the impact you, your volunteers and your volunteer services are making!  

See you in March,

Melissa M. Gilmore, M Ed., CVA
GRAVA President

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Join us for a March Networking Social

For great networking and fun socializing, be sure to make plans to attend GRAVA’s networking social at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, March 23 from 5:30 – 7pm.

Register here.

vmfaA perfect opportunity to bring that colleague or friend who has been thinking about joining GRAVA. Immediately following, docents will provide exclusive tours!

  • Click here for a map
  • Free and ample parking
  • Only $5 admission
  • Cash bar and free appetizers provided
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Save the date for GRAVA’s Annual Conference!

GRAVA is thrilled to announce we’re bringing the Fixler Group to Richmond for our 2017 Annual Conference! Registration opens in March. Here’s what to do in the meantime.

More details coming soon – hope to see you there!

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President’s Message for January 2017

untitled“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was a hit by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. We were reminded of the importance of keeping our eyes on the mountains during our January workshop. What a wonderful way to start the year! The workshop got us all thinking about the importance of going through the process of creating our own personal philosophy statement in regards to our work with volunteers and what fuels our passion. The statement should provide a context and a guide for our daily work as well as incorporate the ethical core values and principles. We are to consider our roles as leaders and how does that fit with who we are personally in the community, the larger nation and in the world?

So, as you plan for strategic volunteer involvement, advocate for your volunteers, attract and onboard your volunteer workforce, prepare volunteers for their roles, document volunteer impact, manage volunteer performance and acknowledge, celebrate and sustain your volunteers, GRAVA is here to support and help you along the way. It is going to be a great year as we keep our eyes on the mountains!

Excited to hear about progress made on your personal philosophy statements and updates on your professional development at our next meeting!

See you in February,

Melissa M. Gilmore, M Ed., CVA
GRAVA President

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January Meeting Recap

fullsizerenderResource List

At our January GRAVA meeting on “Defining Your Philosophy of Leadership,” we were happy to be on Sesame Street, hosted by Community Idea Stations and our board member, Brynn Markham.

Katie Campbell, CVA and immediate past Executive Director of the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration (CCVA), led us through a step by step process to begin developing a personal philosophy statement.

Katie shared the characteristics of a strong personal philosophy statement, and stressed that it is about you, not your organization. It should focus on the present, what you believe about your role as a leader of volunteers, no matter where you work. Your statement should be consistent with our professional core values and principles.  Katie provided this handout  with more details about the value and characteristics of a strong personal philosophy statement.

To get us started on creating our own personal philosophy statement, Katie provided a worksheet with questions to spark our thinking, such as “Why do you do what you do?” and “How does your role as a leader of volunteer engagement fit with who you are a person?”  She encouraged us to start by responding with simple words, phrases and ideas.  She suggested that we use this as a jumping off point and continue to write, revise and reflect on why we engage volunteers, discussing these questions with staff colleagues and finding a GRAVA buddy to further discuss. See Katie’s PowerPoint here.

“The intrinsic elements of service to others do not change – no matter what words we use, what we call ourselves, how we are compensated, or who we are.  Embracing this philosophy means letting go of the notion that there is only one way to operate, one way to climb the mountain, one path to follow.  There are many trails worth exploring and we need not fear we will get lost as long as we keep our eyes on the mountaintop.” ─Katie Campbell, CVA

After Katie’s excellent workshop, Melissa Gilmore, GRAVA president, announced that the group’s professional development scholarship will be renamed the Katie Campbell Professional Development scholarship, in recognition of Katie’s 30+ years of leadership and excellence in volunteer engagement as she retires from her position as Executive Director of CCVA.  Katie also had a gift for all of us as she brought ample books from her library to share and everyone went home with a book to continue our learning.

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