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Home2021 MAVA Conference Sessions

MAVA is excited to present the following workshops for our 2021 Virtual Volunteer Engagement Leadership Conference. Participants will select from five workshops offered during each timeframe
Conference sessions are subject to change.

“From the Ground Up” Volunteer Engagement

Terry Straub

Like anything that grows in the ground, a volunteer program needs a good foundation. This session will cover the basic elements needed for a volunteer program to thrive. We’ll review a volunteer system, discussing fun and exciting components like: needs assessment, position descriptions, motivation and evaluation! Don’t get stuck in the weeds – this session will provide the fertilizer your program needs to grow strong!

Volunteer Engagement During COVID-19 and Beyond

Maureen Bourgious

Join this session for a discussion about how organizations have been handling volunteer engagement during COVID-19 and suggestions for ways that organizations can retain, recruit, recognize and inspire their volunteers during challenging times.

Words & Action: Understanding the Language of Diversity & Social Justice

Ree Ford

Words & Action: Understanding the Language of Social Justice will aid volunteers and volunteer leaders in understanding and defining terms such as: oppression, intersectionality, mental shortcuts, microaggressions (microassualts, microinsults and microinvalidations), privilege and allyship and will emphasize the real-life ramifications of these terms as well as how participants can use what they’ve learned moving forward in their careers and day-to-day life.

Purpose-Driven Volunteer Impact

Sue Carter Kahl

Volunteers make a significant impact to the organizations they serve. Yet, the industry standards for reporting their value reveal volunteer volume instead of volunteer accomplishments. This session provides a holistic approach to demonstrating volunteer impact by linking it to the organization’s mission and audiences. Participants will receive practical tools, derived from research and practice, to help them select meaningful volunteer value indicators in their organizations.

Designing Meaningful Work for Volunteers

Betsy McFarland

The most important factor for successfully engaging volunteers is the design of volunteer positions. An organization that offers interesting and meaningful roles will have a much easier time attracting and keeping volunteers. Unfortunately, too many agencies don’t do this well and end up providing disappointing experiences resulting in volunteer turnover and frustrated staff who feel they can’t rely on volunteer support. Taking the time to think through and plan the roles volunteers will play will go a long way in providing your organization the people power it needs to thrive. In this session we’ll explore:

  • How to identify and define tasks for volunteers that benefit the organization, provide the volunteer with a significant and appealing way to make a positive contribution and still fit within the abilities of today's time-challenged population.
  • Different approaches to thinking about creative and useful ways in which volunteers might be of assistance to your organization.
  • The format, shape and range of volunteer assignments you can consider—from one-time opportunities to leadership positions and how to formalize roles for maximum impact.

Supervising Volunteers

Kathleen Cannon

Effective volunteer efforts depend on effective direction and positive, constructive, timely supervision. Learn what it takes to be a successful volunteer supervisor and what your organization can do to support this key process. “Supervising Volunteers” is a part of MAVA’s Volunteer Impact Leadership Training Series. Attend the full virtual series and earn your Certificate in Volunteer Impact Leadership! Register at

What We’re Learning from MAVA’s 2021 Shifting Environment Survey

Polly Roach, Jacklyn Cooney

Join us to explore early findings from MAVA’s 2021 survey of volunteer engagement leaders. In this session, we’ll explore what MAVA’s most recent trends survey is telling us about the impact of 2020’s tumultuous events – the COVID-19 pandemic, reckonings with racial inequity, political unrest – on volunteerism. We’ll also take a look at how patterns identified in prior surveys are continuing to evolve. This will be an interactive session, drawing on participants’ experience to help MAVA put these new findings into context and develop new recommendations for ways to capitalize on emerging trends.

Equity in Rural Volunteerism

Cairn Reisch

The challenges facing rural volunteer programs are being exacerbated due to the ever-changing societal landscape during the pandemic. Based on MAVA’s recent survey of Greater Minnesota volunteer engagement leaders, we will do a deep dive into these issues and plan a path forward. You will leave this session with tools and resources to begin tackling inequalities you see in your organization, such as the need to recruit a younger volunteer base and how to adjust roles to address transportation or internet issues in our communities.


Caring for and Nurturing Volunteers During Social Distancing

Ken Culp, III

Organizations are focused on two key priorities: 1) fulfilling its mission and accomplishing its objectives and 2) reinventing program delivery methods and outreach in a time of social distancing. Its little wonder, therefore, that we tend to neglect our most valuable resources… volunteers! We serve clientele, accomplish our mission and achieve program objectives. But the collateral damage remains: volunteers are feeling under-appreciated, lost or neglected. This workshop focuses on strategies to assist those who work with volunteers to understand the importance of nurturing and caring for the volunteer corps during social distancing.


Beating Burnout: Taking a Proactive Approach to Managing Stress

Paul Johnson

It's no secret that burnout is a pervasive issue in the workplace today. A recent Gallup poll found that over 2/3 of employees reported feeling burned out at work at least sometimes. Not only does burnout take a toll on our well-being, but it also affects our performance at work. To be at our best and boldest, we need to get stress under control. The key to preventing burnout isn't about eliminating stress, it's about managing it better. In this highly interactive and practical session, you'll learn stress management strategies such as mindfully addressing your stress, learning about the power of saying "no" and prioritizing self-care into your day.

Build Capacity with Volunteer Leaders

Becky Lunders

There are people in your community who can help you build capacity and grow. They are volunteer leaders and they are, perhaps, the most under-utilized resource in most organizations. These people are highly skilled and come with high expectations. They are also deeply committed to the cause for which they give their time. They are anxious to take on programs and projects, if you are willing to allow them to do so. In this session we’ll:

  • Define “leadership volunteer” and look at how they can up your game;
  • Examine the characteristics of a volunteer leader so you know what you’re looking for;
  • Explore where to find leaders and how to utilize them;
  • Discuss the importance of being volunteer centric when working with these key leaders

Designing Service-Learning Partnerships

Dr. Bradley Wolfe

In our nonprofit world, are students worth the hassle? Some nonprofits have great experiences with students giving their time, whereas others feel students are more of a headache than they are worth. We will discuss some models of volunteer management that work well when working with students as volunteers. How can your organization make the most out of service-learning partnerships? Join us as we discuss how to recruit, manage and recognize volunteers! As an added bonus, we will share how to get students to support your mission through virtual service opportunities.


No “One Right Way”: Creating New Systems for Volunteer Engagement

Lisa Joyslin

One characteristic of white supremacy culture is the idea that there is “one right way” to do things. There are many ways in which volunteer engagement systems reflect this characteristic; for example, the formal processes for onboarding volunteers, the requirement of an ongoing commitment for certain roles, and the limited voice volunteers may have in how services are delivered. MAVA recently held a series of listening sessions with BIPOC volunteers in the Twin Cities to learn more about the barriers put up by the “one right way” mentality, along with brainstorming other ways of engaging volunteers that are more inclusive and equitable. In this session we’ll discuss the key themes of what interviewed volunteers had to say and share their ideas – along with ways we’ve seen these ideas in action – for making “many different ways” a norm in volunteerism.


The Stories We Tell - Using Storytelling for Every Aspect of Engagement

Annette Sutfin

Stories are one of our most powerful tools for engagement, so why don’t we use them more? Using interactive activities, this session will help participants craft stories for every aspect of volunteer engagement, from recruitment to retention and recognition. In addition to reviewing examples of effective storytelling, participants will receive tools for: story cultivating and gathering, telling an impactful story to audiences with short attention spans and integrating storytelling into everyday processes. Attendees will complete a worksheet to start their first story. This will be a fun session where participants will leave with tools they can implement right away.

Let's Talk Volunteer Engagement in Healthcare!

Susan Connolly, Kelly O'Brien

Connect with fellow volunteer engagement professionals who work in healthcare settings such as hospitals, long term care, clinics, home care, hospice, mental health, recovery, etc. Our networking sessions are an informal discussion of current hot topics determined by the participants. This is an opportunity to ask questions, share your experience and learn from your peers. Please join us for the conversation – the more who participate the richer the exchange of information!


The Elusive All-Volunteer Organization

Kathy Ahlers

Mostly ignored as irrelevant by many agencies that provide capacity-building for nonprofits, the humble all-volunteer organization hums along – or doesn't – as it continues its modest work. Such organizations are common in communities across the state. What are the unique challenges for organizations with no full-time paid staff? How many such nonprofit organizations are there in Minnesota? Covered will be dynamics of the volunteers who serve on so-called "working boards," the importance of well-crafted and frequently reviewed policies including separation of financial duties, ethical challenges, situations that may arise when a volunteer fills multiple roles, avoiding nepotism, preventing burnout, consideration for providing professional development, DEI and more. Come prepared with your questions for a dynamic exchange of ideas. The community is more powerful than any one individual, so your wisdom will be valued.


Identifying and Addressing Microaggressions With Volunteers

Wendy Vang-Roberts

We want to retain and build good relationships with our volunteers, so how do we address microaggressive acts while making sure volunteers know they are still valued? In this interactive session, we will define and provide examples of microaggressions, discuss how microaggressions can show up in our volunteer programs and talk about the harmful effects of microaggressions. You will leave with strategies to navigate these difficult conversations with your volunteers to create more inclusive spaces.


How to Use Digital Marketing to Attract New Volunteers

Chris Barlow

In this session you will learn a consistent and effective strategy to help you – as an Executive Director, Marketing Director, Volunteer Manager or

Boards – to find new volunteers. Instead of pulling focus away from the mission, this marketing approach will bring deeper alignment between mission, volunteer management, fundraising and marketing. You will learn:

  • The 3 questions nonprofit leaders need to deeply understand in order to attract volunteers
  • A 5-step campaign a Marketing/Volunteer Director can put together to consistently find new volunteers
  • How a new way of thinking about "attracting" people (whether they are clients, volunteers or donors) can help you reshape any activity that you do as an organization.

The State of Greater Minnesota Volunteerism

Eleanor Burkett

So here we are in year two of the COVID pandemic. There are still a lot of unknowns even with the vaccination process well under way and businesses reopening. We will review survey results MAVA conducted in August 2020 to learn about pandemic impacts for greater Minnesota volunteer professionals and discuss what is significantly different now from then. What changes are you seeing? What is still on hold? Here is your opportunity to (re)connect with volunteer engagement professionals in greater Minnesota to share your experiences of the current state of volunteerism and unravel what is to become the “new normal.” Let’s discuss how we can share strategies and build support for each other, as we are all in this together!

Storytelling Strategies on a Shoestring

Nancy Angus

Volunteers have stories that can assist in the “R’s” of volunteer management: Recruitment, Retention, Recognition and Respect. Learn to gather, listen, share and celebrate the stories of volunteers that will boost your recruitment efforts as well as the spirits of your volunteers. This low-tech, high-results workshop will help you build a cost-effective toolkit for action. Let's face it - we all have stories to share from 2020 and beyond. Let's share the bold and learn from the brave!

Successfully Implementing Volunteer Program Changes

Jennifer Bennett

What should you do when it’s time to change the policies and procedures that govern or guide the volunteers that work with your organization? How can you create a culture of inclusion and get buy-in for those new policies? This training will give you the tools to approach program changes in a strategic way. We will also cover what to do if volunteers either can’t or won’t adopt the policies, how to manage that situation and what to do if ultimately you need to ask a volunteer to leave.


High Tech, High Touch: Finding the Balance in Volunteer Engagement

Dana Litwin, CVA

Learn how to balance the latest technology with a personal touch to work smarter, not harder, in engaging volunteers and managing data. No matter your budget or comfort level with technology, by the end of this workshop you will have the strategic tools to dig deeper into new diverse communities to reach the right volunteers with the right skills. The session will review a variety of apps and programs – including some not typically used for volunteer administration – from a neutral, field-tested perspective. This is a fun, dynamic and interactive experience from the heart of Silicon Valley.


Courageous Conversations Start with YOU!

Danielle Brady

Let’s face it, we are surrounded by difficult conversations these days! We are constantly challenged with deciding if we want to be “right” or “effective” and what that looks like. Learning how to have difficult conversations constructively with open dialogue when emotions run high can be challenging and uncomfortable for many people; as a result, these important conversations are often mishandled or avoided altogether, which benefits no one. This workshop focuses on self-awareness, simple tools and practice for engaging in difficult conversations with others while maintaining the integrity of the relationship and achieving win-win outcomes for everyone.


How to Diversify Your Volunteer Program

Nicole R. Smith

There is no doubt that our country is going through an awakening. Many events in the past year have ignited widespread introspection leading countless organizations to acknowledge that a change needs to be made. The question then becomes, "but how?" We will share some actions that have worked, challenges we have encountered and mistakes we have made, and still survived. Learning objectives include:

  • How and where to start
  • Overcoming the fear of saying the wrong thing
  • Connecting with new communities
  • Preparing your current team for change
  • The importance of taking the journey one day, one step at a time
  • Why resilience will be vital

Valuing Volunteer Management

Rob Jackson

In this session we’ll look at the essential role of the leader and manager of volunteers. We’ll deepen our knowledge of the profession, how it has evolved and how we can articulate its value to others.

Sharpening Your Leadership Profile with Service Enterprise

Polly Roach

The Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI), offered by MAVA through a partnership with Points of Light, offers Minnesota organizations a process, tools and resources to take their engagement of volunteers to the next level and better address needs of the clients, constituents and communities they serve. SEI also offers volunteer engagement staff a chance to level up as leaders in their organizations - by increasing their visibility and credibility with decision-makers, positioning their role as key resource managers, and building awareness of the strategic importance volunteers can play in meeting organizational goals. Join MAVA staff and peers who have led their organizations through the SEI process to learn how Service Enterprise can equip you to navigate organizational change and enhance your professional skillset.

Creating Sustainability Through the Power of Volunteers

Lauren Spero, Betsy McFarland

Volunteers are critical to an organization’s response during these turbulent times, and research demonstrates a strong connection between organizations that operate with volunteer engagement as a core strategy for mission accomplishment and the overall health and effectiveness. Millions of people have the desire to volunteer, but most organizations lack the necessary infrastructure to empower this renewable resource effectively. Learn how The National Alliance for Volunteer Engagement is working to change this reality by elevating and driving a national conversation about the power and potential of volunteer engagement, as well as encourage collective action for nationwide engagement strategies. We’ll share success stories of nonprofit collaborations that demonstrate the impact of strategic volunteer engagement and discuss how you can advocate for this work as a professional in the field. Attendees will gain new tools to drive this important conversation and learn about resources that exist to support your journey to leveraging strategic volunteer engagement to spark transformations and build organizational capacity.

Boldly Creating Inclusive Spaces for Volunteers

Cydnee Sanders

Drawing on research into antiracist and decolonizing practices in the adult English classroom, this session will discuss ways we can make our volunteer training and events boldly welcoming and inclusive for people of non-dominant cultural groups and how to honor their backgrounds and knowledge, which are often overlooked in our society. You’ll receive examples and hear about lessons learned and tried in the classroom, and we will discuss how these practices can be applied to your organization.

Navigating Changes in City Volunteerism During COVID-19

Diane Erickson, Jackie Maas, Rachel Boggs, Carla Kress

Volunteer programs in cities and governmental agencies have continued to thrive with a new normal during the COVID crisis. Join a panel of volunteer managers from cities large and small as they share how they pivoted to meet the changing needs as many of their volunteer roles, events and programs were put on hold. Listen as they share their creative approaches to challenges, hear their successes and what they think their programs will look like as COVID wanes and rebuilding begins.

People First: Communicating for a More Engaged Volunteer Workforce

Karen Reid
Leverage the power of communication and develop a vibrant, engaging team environment fostering collaboration and empowerment. During this interactive session, we'll explore best practices and essential elements of volunteer engagement and communication and share techniques to help you confidently support and lead your teams. Along the way, we’ll look at the volunteer life cycle and scaling solutions to fit your teams and budget. You’ll come away with tips and techniques to help you upgrade recruiting strategies, roll out exciting volunteer opportunities and motivate through recognition; communicate needs, outcomes and impact; and lay the foundation for future growth through succession planning and branching out to younger volunteers.

Managing Challenging Volunteers and Reducing Conflict

Betsy McFarland

Dealing with difficult volunteers is not an easy or pleasant task and is one that is often uncomfortable for those who believe that tolerating poor behavior is necessary when it comes to volunteers. This session will stretch your thinking and give you practical tools for addressing challenging volunteer situations. If you've encountered difficult behavior from some volunteers, don't miss this opportunity to add some new tools to your toolbox. We’ll cover:

  • The factors that cause volunteers to exhibit unproductive or inappropriate behavior; how to fine tune volunteer engagement to prevent many of these behaviors; how to analyze behavioral issues when they do occur.
  • Methods for redirecting challenging behavior, including: how to interact with problem volunteers; provide feedback; and get volunteers to modify what they are doing and how they are doing it.
  • What to do when methods for redirecting volunteer behavior just don't work or what to do when all else fails.

Recognizing and Retaining Volunteers

Cameron Kruger

Regardless of their motivation for volunteering, all volunteers need and deserve recognition and appreciation for their efforts. This session will explore formal and informal forms of volunteer recognition and essential guidelines to make sure your efforts are on track. You will also learn what you can do as an organization to increase your ability to retain volunteers. “Recognizing and Retaining Volunteers” is a part of MAVA’s Volunteer Impact Leadership Training Series. Attend the full virtual series and earn your Certificate in Volunteer Impact Leadership! Register at

Speaking Truth to Power: Pushing Back Against Privilege in Volunteerism

Sue Carter Kahl

At its best, volunteerism is a transformational experience that cultivates community and understanding. At its worst, service reinforces unhealthy patterns of power and privilege. How do we design service that consistently reaches its potential? It requires advocacy, purpose and a dose of courage. This session supports leaders in crafting service that is mission-driven and community-centered. It begins with an overview of the pitfalls of poor volunteer role design. Next, there are examples of how leaders of volunteers have pushed back against practices that prioritized well-meaning, but misguided funders or volunteers instead of the community served. It includes time for participants to role play challenging situations in breakout rooms and then share practical solutions in the large group and chat. Participants receive a worksheet with a framework for preparing for future situations. The session draws on research about radical welcome, right relationship, gift economy and the commons to guide volunteer engagement. It moves our conversations about service beyond how we find and retain volunteers to how we partner with the community to achieve our common goals. It helps us answer the question, “How do we want to be in community with each other?” and root our volunteerism in equity and inclusion.


Ethical Issues in Volunteer Engagement

Rob Jackson
This interactive session will allow you to work with colleagues to examine and explore real-world ethical dilemmas relevant to your work as leaders of volunteer engagement. You’ll have the chance to discuss, debate and reflect on how you might handle them and reflect on what this might mean in your day-to-day work.

Why 70% of Potential Volunteers are Not Coming to Your Organization: What We Need to Learn from Informal Volunteerism

Karmit Bulman, Jaylen Lyles, Jewelean Jackson, Christian McCleary

In every corner of the world, people are responding to the serious problems caused by COVID-19, racial injustices and climate change through what our profession calls "informal volunteering." At the same time many organizations have furloughed volunteers and the professionals who lead them. Join this dynamic workshop to learn why 70 percent of volunteerism is done informally and why our formal approaches to volunteer engagement may unintentionally create barriers for the majority of people who wish to volunteer. We will feature a dynamic panel who will share why informally helping out and pitching in is very much a part of the lives of people from BIPOC communities and how organizations can learn from informal volunteers as we work to dismantle racial inequities in volunteerism.

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