The inaugural VMG Conference for Nonprofit Volunteer Management held on Friday, March 27, 2009, at Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY, was a huge success. Attendees experienced a one-day event of presentations and networking to empower and motivate them to go back to their offices and improve their programs. The day kicked off with an energetic, engaging and timely keynote speech from Eileen Kennedy, founder and CEO of The Kennedy Factor. Eileen’s keynote touched on paradigm shifts, Maslow’s Higherarchy of Needs, and a motivational video “212 Degrees”, and readied the crowd to be open-minded and in a mindset to absorb the information to make a change in the way they perceive the potential of their volunteer programs.
Followed by Eileen was the morning breakout session offering two choices depending on if you were a newcomer to the field or developing a new program, or if you were experienced in the field with an established program. Jerry Pannozzo, a consultant and trainer in the field for over 15 years, offered a quality introductory presentation focused on a 7-Step model covering how to Vision, Champion and Plan your program (first 3 steps of the model were covered in morning session). Alex Collier presented a Nuts & Bolts approach to getting your staff involved, selling your program and retaining volunteers. Both session received extremely positive feedback. At 11 am, Janice Hoffmann, a career and lifestyle coach, offered a motivational talk on the Power of Wow, covering how to double your goals to achieve something great and how to design and shoot to achieve a WOW project. How do we make a volunteer experience a WOW exerience, Janice had great advice on how to create the WOW experience. Lunchtime offered the attendees an opportunity to network. Some attendees were college grad and undergrad students and I could tell they took advantage of the opportunity to seek advice from some of the mid-career attendees.
Just after Janice finished speaking, I mentioned that we all need to stay focused on our goals no matter what obstacles life puts in front of us. For myself, I had to set aside my career ambitions temporarily to focus on dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis. After sharing some hopefully motivating words with the audience, I had a particularly heartfelt encounter with a young woman who went through a double mastectomy and reconstruction just recently. She looked so young and in fact was just 30 years old. I admire her courage and strength. We discussed what each of us had been through. I realized how important it is for me to tell my story, always, at any opportunity. All women must be knowledgeable about their breast health.
The afternoon was fabulous. We had the afternoon breakout sessions, 7 Step Model Part 2 and Project Management for Volunteer Projects. Jerry lead a discussion on the remaining 4 steps for the 7-Step Model: Train, Measure, Monitor and Adapt. I lead a session on project management. I was pleased with the presentation. I was hopeful that the audience would be open to learning some of the project management terminology and best practices. I feel this information is critical to the success of creating well-executed projects.
The day ended with a panel discussion on corporate volunteer opportunities. Marlo Tablante from Goldman Sachs, Pam Haas from IBM, Maria Collins from New York Life and Eileen Kennedy from The Kennedy Factor each participated in answering questions from the audience. The panel was so informative. I find it’s always so helpful to hear first-hand how employee volunteer programs are operated. It was beneficial to the audience to learn how to engage a corporate partner and what to expect from business employees as volunteers.
At the end of the day I was so happy to have executed my first VMG Conference. I just loved meeting all the attendees and coordinating the entire event. I hope everyone benefitted a great deal. From the survey responses I’ve received, it sounds like the event was very useful for the attendees and I look forward to doing more events of this type in the near term.