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Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Diversifying your Volunteer Program with Business Acumen

At AAAs the roles of volunteers are as diverse as the people they serve. In order for AAAs to take full advantage of the talents of their volunteers, it is important to think about how volunteers, both skilled and traditional, can help your agency solve organizational challenges and accomplish its mission. With the mounting pressure for AAAs to deliver more services under increasing budget pressures, volunteers are playing an even greater role as agencies find innovative ways to meet service demands. This is especially true for those AAAs that are partnering with the health care system to reduce acute care costs among older adults and people with disabilities.

These innovative partnerships often require AAAs to leverage business acumen skills—from marketing and accounting, to business development and contracting—in order to increase their agency's reach and sustainability. In many cases, volunteers who draw from their previous professional experiences are the AAA's most valuable resource and a cost-effective way for an agency to attain the business-related skills they need to effectively partner with healthcare organizations. Professional volunteers are:
  • Reviewing and helping to draw up contracts with partners;
  • Serving on boards of directors;
  • Developing marketing and business plans; and
  • Facilitating collaborative planning meetings with partners. 
Many professional volunteers are older adults themselves who are looking for ways to use their skills and years of experience. For example, the Venango County Senior Volunteer program, housed in the Venango County Area Agency on Aging, is a dynamic example of how volunteers can  fill these non-traditional roles to provide direct services to older adults in their communities. The Venango County volunteer program maintains several all-volunteer programs that allow volunteers to use specific business skills. In the all-volunteer AARP Tax-Aide program, a volunteer serves as the District Manager who supervises volunteer tax preparers while also preparing taxes, managing schedules, setting up locations, making sure taxes are e-filed, maintaining records  and developing reports. Another program, the Oil City Meals on Wheels Program, uses volunteers to organize and conduct fundraisers, write grants, and maintain financial records.

Is your agency using volunteers in innovative ways? Are members of your agency's board or advisory committee engaged in a way that takes full advantage of what they have to offer? Let us know how you are involving volunteers with business acumen skills, or check out the Aging Network Volunteer Resource Center's business acumen volunteer project template so your agency can get started revolutionizing the way it defines volunteer roles!

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