(Why experienced hands are needed for robust AWSC National Service.)
Dated: July 15, 2013
To: Dwayne Hunn (People’s Lobby Inc.)
Phone: 415 383 7880
From: Joseph Mulvey
Regional Director Corporate Programs
Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI)
270 Peachtree St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
847 991 0369
In response to your request for information on volunteering at Habitat, I am summarizing what I told you on the phone last week.
First, the most important need for Habitat is what I call “non construction building” volunteering. This is in areas to help in lieu of hiring staff to do the work of Habitat affiliates or the national office. Focus should NOT be on “swinging a hammer” on a Habitat build site. While that is important, we have more than enough people to help on this important work.
What we need is usually under the category of professional volunteering. I consider the best nonprofits to plan volunteering as a strategic resource and actively recruit, train, and retain these important workers, who are generally paid little to no compensation to do this work, but do it out of love of the mission.
Other useful areas where some remuneration is received by workers are AmeriCorps and Vista volunteering which extremely beneficial and cost little to the Habitat affiliate and the national government from securing this kind of service. I personally have used the Vista program, and the service and person were great. I also was a service volunteer in the Peace Corps at the beginning of my career and I have to say it helped shape my life and what I think has been for myself a very productive and successful career in government, education, business, and most recently working for a nonprofit.
In the area of volunteer professional service, I would say based on my experience that the following are in high need in Habitat affiliates across the U.S.:
- Financial services – help with structuring improvements in organizations accounting, reporting, forecasting, planning and internal controls. My experience is that most nonprofits except the large ones like HFHI, are very week in finance, especially small Habitat affiliates (which are separate 501.3© charities in Habitat and relatively independent of the governing body (HFHI)).
- Project Management (PM) – most work done in all organizations today are done on projects. Good PM skills in most organizations are lacking. This is especially true in nonprofits. All nonprofits have multiple projects to get work done and probably no one leading and driving. People with PM experience can add tremendous value almost immediately in any nonprofit.
- IT – most nonprofits have weak computer and IT systems. For example, making a big improvement in a web site is just one area where an IT professional volunteer can make a huge difference. We recently used all volunteers to make a major improvement in a Habitat affiliate that I served as a board member on in Chicago. This new web site not only made a dramatic improvement in our marketing, but also gave us new powerful software to help with fund raising.
- Strategic Planning – most nonprofits (except for large ones like HFHI) don’t have any real strategic plan for their local board to evaluate and set direction. Without a strategy, how do you know where you are going? Many Habitat affiliates struggle with just maintaining and staying in existence, never mind capability building and growth achievement. We engaged collaboratively with a major consulting company, (including two of their partners personally joining our board of directors), to do a probono strategic plan for a Chicago Habitat affiliate that I served on; something which has proved extremely helpful in driving our growth plans in the Chicago Habitat. Having a professional company with expertise in strategic planning is extremely valuable to any nonprofit.
Along with the Government funded service programs like AmeriCorps and Visa which Habitat uses today, the above are some of the other areas that I have noticed where it is imperative that nonprofits utilize volunteers.
Volunteers to me are the most important untapped resource of nonprofits. If you wish to speak with me further on this, please call at (847) 991-0369.