As a Restorative Justice nonprofit, volunteer development is key!

One of the elements St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) provides is volunteer in-service opportunities.  This was designed to provide on-going training to volunteers.  Session volunteering is always focused on providing the service.  The volunteer in-service is a time and place for volunteers to build relationships with each other, with SCVRJP staff and with the concepts and philosophy of Restorative Justice.

In-service topics have included having guests from a neighboring program share their experiences.  SCVRJP held an in-service on brain-based change, showing volunteers and the public connections between evidence based practices and Restorative Justice.  Tonight we will be watching a film called Room to Breathe.  In-service sessions are worked within our busy schedule, and provide alternative times for people to be part of our program.  We usually have a dozen of our 50-70 volunteers attend these offerings.  We promote these as “open to the public” hoping to engage people by topic, that might then become volunteers.

Holding these sessions is another way for SCVRJP to deliver on the stakeholder triad of Restorative Justice (victim, offender, community).  This wonderful graphic from IIRP:

rjtypologyThe graphic shows “communities of care reconciliation”, at SCVRJP, we consider everyone within our geopgraphy part of our community.  SCVRJP reaches out to share what we do with the public by engaging social groups, faith-based organizations and offering training and in-service sessions.

Board members are volunteers, another structure of SCVRJP is to have board members attend sessions.  This provides an element of “quality control” and guarantees SCVRJP leadership is in close contact to what we do.  Historically, not that long a go, when SCVRJP was very new, board members also facilitated sessions.  Smaller or new Restorative Justice programs may still be in that same position.  As you grow, it is still helpful to have board members participate in what you do.  Asking a board member to attend one session outside of the regular board meetings is enough to keep the entire board engaged.

A SCVRJP board member, explained how helpful attending an in-service session was.  It was the expectation that board members attend sessions, that led to a board member in a volunteer in-service session.

Development is learning over time.  Volunteer development, allows your volunteers to develop as your program develops.  What we hear, can greatly be influenced by what we already know.  Sometimes what we think is a truth in the morning we can learn by sunset is no longer true.  Myths begin with slight mis-communications.  At SCVRJP we offer half a dozen different programs, and volunteers might assume what they know about one session, applies to all.  That isn’t accurate, and one victim-offender dialogue could have different nuances than another.  It is important to have a consistent message on what your program is doing, key concepts, core philosophical approaches and a pulse on your programs ambassadors to the public, your volunteers.  A volunteer in-service session gives time to clarify these questions or myths that might develop.

Managing a business or a non-profit requires juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.  I’ve used it so much I don’t know where I found it, but I have post-it notes and listed these 5 in lots of places.  Priorities for successful non-profits: 1)Service Delivery 2)Outcome Measures 3)Financial management system 4)Fundraising plan 5)Demonstrate impact, capacity and sustainability.  Taking the time to care, connect and develop volunteers helps move an agency to success or maintain the existing success.  Good luck with your program!