Volunteer Notes Summer 2015

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Volunteer Notes Summer Issue 2015
Mission: The Volunteer Council in partnership with the League of American Orchestras strives to lead, advocate, encourage, support, and serve our member orchestras and their volunteers.
In this issue:

Notes from Margarita Contreni, Outgoing Volunteer Council President
MargaritaPortrait11.jpgFourteen members and two ex-officio members from twelve states representing all volunteer organizations of all orchestra group sizes dedicated themselves to the 2014-2015 Volunteer Council and its mission to support orchestra volunteers nationwide.   
Here are some of the highlights from this year:
  • The Volunteer Council participated in the League’s Strategic Planning, a year-long effort intended to produce a coherent vision and a road map for the League for the next five years. Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras, and Ken Cole, Vice President of Learning Leadership Development, each met with the Council at our winter meeting on February 23-24. They discussed the formidable issues facing our orchestras and the League, including the single biggest and most complex issue of relevance. Council members appreciated this opportunity to share our volunteer perspective. It also provided us with significant food for thought on rethinking programming for volunteers in the years ahead.
  • League staff contributed to our Strategic Conversations, our conference call series from October to December for thirteen volunteer association presidents and president-elects.  Jesse Rosen talked about leadership from his unique vantage point and Natalie Kimball, manager of the League’s Annual Fund, shared her ideas on fundraising through social media, including the increasingly popular Day of Giving approach.
  • We worked closely with the League’s development staff to create and implement a fundraising strategy to raise $40,000 from volunteers. Shirley McCrary, a volunteer from Mooresville, Alabama, recently pledged $5,000 to match volunteer donations to help us achieve our goal by the end of the summer. We thank her wholeheartedly for this generous donation and encourage you to help us reach our goal and help the League expand the work it does for orchestras across the United States and Canada, including their volunteers. To make a gift please contact Samara Ungar at 646 822 4008 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or visit the online donation page.
  • Planning the volunteer sessions at the League’s National Conference in Cleveland represents our most significant contribution and is detailed below by Conference Chair Debbie McKinney. However, I must take this moment to mention the gracious hospitality and wonderful support we enjoyed from the Cleveland Orchestra and their three volunteer association presidents: Faye Heston, President of the Volunteer Council; Claire Frattare, President of the Blossom Women’s Committee; and Dr. Patricia Moore Smith, President of the Women’s Committee. I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to fellow Volunteer Council member Iris Harvie, who as a Cleveland local worked tirelessly to make sure that all of us who visited her city were well cared for.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to serve as President of the Volunteer Council this year. I would like to thank our members for their incredible dedication and service as well as Samara Ungar, the League’s staff liaison to the Council, who is an integral part of our organization and instrumental in the execution of all our work. I also thank all of you for all that you do, year in and year out, to support North America’s orchestras. 
Margarita Contreni, 2014-15 Volunteer Council President
Representing the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra in Lafayette, IN

2015 National Conference in Cleveland: Highlights

The League of American Orchestras' 70th National Conference was held in Cleveland, home of The Cleveland Orchestra and Severance Hall, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a number of other first-class arts institutions, from May 27 to May 29. In addition to the a full range of programming that the League provided for delegates across the orchestra field, the Volunteer Council curated a track of Conference with programming specifically for the 125 volunteer delegates in attendance, including the presentation of 22 award-winning programs:
Eleven projects received the Gold Book Award of Excellence, including Austin’s Youth Leadership Council, Waco’s Sharp Flats Loft Tour, San Francisco’s Symphony in Flowers, the National Symphony’s Sound Health, Charlotte’s Guild 101, Kansas City Symphony Guild’s Intermezzo Candlelight Tour, Oklahoma City’s Sky Ball Wine Pull, Kansas City Symphony League’s Concerto a Venizia, Milwaukee’s The Emerald City Soiree, and Houston’s Centennial Ball. These last three were presented as a panel of milestone achievement projects, celebrating longevity mixed with fundraising.
The eleventh project, presented as a participatory musical experience, Scouting and Symphony: A Partnership, had each delegate make a musical instrument from household recycled supplies, "playing" it when directed by a volunteer "conductor" as part of this hands-on program. This Girl Scout Musician Award workshop from the Illinois Symphony Orchestra Guild of Bloomington-Normal could easily be replicated by any organization in partnership with its orchestra.
You can find the PowerPoints and handouts for each of these presentations here on the League’s website.
Ten additional outstanding projects, from volunteer groups around the country, were presented as part of the Roundtable sessions Martini Monday Musicales & Winey Wednesdays, Past Presidents' Fund,
Table Art 2014 Featuring Designer Michael Aram, and Symphonic Turquoise Bracelet   to name a few. Volunteer Council members rounded out the session by presenting two additional Roundtables on Leadership Tools and Online Resources.
Last, but certainly not least, the Houston Symphony League received the Classic Award for its long running Ima Hogg Competition.
New ideas and insights in education, membership, fundraising, and community engagement were shared and eagerly noted by delegates to take back to their volunteer organizations.
The final day of Conference started with a fun and creative Membership Board game, designed (by two Volunteer Council members) to share old and new ideas for member recruitment and leadership development. Dice, game pieces, playing cards, and attrition jail were all part of the Monopoly-style game which elicited much discussion and received high accolades from the delegates. The game also set the platform for the networking luncheon's keynote address by speaker, Susan Howlett, author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully. Susan offered common sense approaches to recruiting volunteers and promoting leadership in volunteer organizations.
The League’s Conference in Cleveland has come and gone, but new ideas shared and networking opportunities experienced for orchestra volunteer organizational leaders continue throughout the year!

Advocacy Updates from the League
Below are a few highlights from the July 10th Advocacy Update sent out by the League’s advocacy staff in Washington D.C:
As Education Debate Continues, Music Advocates Weigh In
Orchestras are speaking up as both the House and Senate re-write the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind.  At the center of debate is the fundamental question of how far the federal government should go in requiring state accountability for equitable access to a complete education. The House has passed its bill, which has earned a White House veto promise given HR 5's dramatic reduction in the federal footprint on education policy. The House bill also omits a definition of core academic subjects, and would eliminate the Arts in Education program, along with 60 other programs of the U.S. Department of Education. As the Senate continues debate on its bill, orchestras are joining other arts advocates in requesting support for the arts as a core academic subject of learning, and asking for approval of an amendment that would encourage states to develop public "dashboards" that offer transparency on disparities in student access to arts education and other core subjects of learning
IRA Rollover Remains Expired as Congress Mulls Comprehensive Tax Reform
The IRA Charitable Rollover provision has spurred new and increased giving to orchestras and thousands of other charitable organizations, but remains unavailable to donors following its expiration on December 31, 2014. Orchestras and other nonprofit advocates continue to ask Congress to act now, and to #Act4Good by making the IRA Rollover and other expired charitable giving incentives permanent. Action on reinstating the IRA Rollover is hung up as Congress considers next steps in comprehensive tax reform. On July 8, the Senate Finance Committee released reports from their working groups, including consideration of charitable giving incentives. The report includes comments that are generally supportive of considering action that would "increase certainty for taxpayers and increase the amount of funds that flow to charities" regarding the IRA Rollover, but provides no firm plans for action. More than 40% of the revenue that supports orchestras' work in service to their communities comes from charitable giving. The League is representing orchestras in ongoing tax reform conversations, while orchestras continue to weigh in from home as policy leaders on both sides of the Capital dome consider next steps.
Summer Homework: Meet Your Elected Officials!
Summer is the best time to connect with your elected officials. They will be home for the entire month of August, which means now is the perfect time to reach out and invite your Representative and Senators to meet with you, attend a summer concert, witness an education program at work, or participate in an event that demonstrates your orchestra's engagement in the community. Getting in touch now pays off later, when you need to contact members on urgent issues. Please stay in touch with the League's DC Office as well-- we'd love to know how you're connecting with your officials at home, so we can help reinforce your relationships in Washington!
To read the full versions of these updates and more from D.C., click here for access to the July 10th updates. If you do not already receive advocacy news from the League (alerts and updates) and would like to start receiving these e-mails, please e-mail Najean Lee, Director of Government Affairs & Education Advocacy, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Submit a Project to Gold Book
Does your volunteer organization have a successful, innovative, or practical project that you would like to share with others? Consider submitting your project to goldbookonline.org. Gold Book is the ultimate resource for volunteers, by volunteers. Its goal is to inspire, educate, and excite you bringing you details about the best volunteer-driven projects from across the country. On the website, you will find:
  • Background information about the Volunteer Council's Gold Book Awards
  • Past award recipient projects
  • Information on how to submit a project of your own (including a section called “Helpful Hints”)
  • Other resources
The most outstanding projects submitted in the categories of Fundraising, Education, Audience Development/Community Engagement, Membership, Communication/Technology, Leadership/Organizational Structure, and Service Projects will be selected by the Volunteer Council. Awardees will present at the League of American Orchestras' National Conference in Baltimore next spring, providing successful examples for other organizations to adapt and follow.
The deadline to submit a project (completed between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015) is September 2, 2015.

Recruiting Members to Leadership
SusanHowlettEmail.jpgAre you looking for easier ways to recruit members and promote leadership for your volunteer organization? If so, Susan Howlett, consultant and author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully, has some helpful tips. For example, make tasks simpler and affordable, saving time and money. Instead of catering an event or appointing several people to organize the menu, why not have a potluck and assign everyone an item to bring, from forks, to one kind of flower, to paper plates, to ice? Attendees have buy in and show up. Susan went on to say that it might be easier to recruit leaders if we tried less intense events. Instead of balls or galas, try "salons" or "house parties," and segment these gatherings for smaller groups such as board members or volunteers. How about a "disappearing task force" which goes away after several meetings? Susan shared stories, statistics, and ideas about member recruitment and leadership at the League of American Orchestras' Volunteer Networking Luncheon in Cleveland last May.
The Charlotte Symphony Guild put Susan's words into action several years ago when it simplified its Musical Petting Zoo (MPZ) responsibilities and received a Volunteer Council Gold Book Award for this work. For 10 years, the MPZ had the same two chairs doing a large job. New leadership roles and a team concept needed to be created for managing the work load – doable jobs today are smaller jobs. A plan was developed to divide the chair’s duties into smaller individual jobs such as venue contact, scheduler, zoo keepers, thank you goodie bags, and instrument service and supplies. Detailed job descriptions were written and served as guidelines for present and future committee members of the MPZ team, and a system was set up to mentor each person in his or her new job. The results were new chairs and more volunteers. To read more about The Musical Petting Zoo: Fine Tuning Responsibilities, go to goldbookonline.org.
Susan stated research shows that people want to feel three things from their relationship with our volunteer organizations: they want to feel appreciated and valued (e.g., shout outs), they want to feel that they are making a difference, and they want to feel a sense of connecting to something larger than themselves. (Use words such as family, connection, and community on your recruitment site.) Adults are looking for autonomy, mastery, and purpose when joining a nonprofit organization. Perhaps the most valuable take-away from her presentation was to encourage a sense of belonging with your members.
For more information on Susan Howlett or to purchase Susan’s book go to www.susanhowlett.com

A Plethora of Resources – Strategic Conversations and More
A Letter from Incoming President, Linda Weisbruch
LindaWeisbruchEmail.pngI attended my first League of American Orchestras National Conference over a decade ago. One week prior, I had become President-elect of The Symphony Guild of Charlotte – a flourishing, venerable community institution founded in 1950. I was new. I was nervous. I was, well, needful! 
The League’s Volunteer Council offered a session for Presidents and Presidents-elect at Conference that year. I sat in the front row, a sponge ready to soak up every molecule. I was not disappointed. Best practices literally flew around the room – from membership and fundraising to infrastructure and orchestra relations. Successes and challenges came from every corner, not just the podium.
This was powerful stuff! The League provided us with a forum designed to educate, nurture, encourage, and connect us in our common search for a better way. I never looked back; I attended all but one Conference from that point forward, well after my Guild leadership years were behind me. In all these years, I have never stopped learning and sharing. In fact, I remain in awe of the new ideas and simple solutions offered by our delegates at Conference every year.
In the last ten years, we’ve experienced seismic social and economic change: the Great Recession, generational shift, and social media/technology to name a few. How our orchestras navigate these uncharted waters (and how we volunteers are able to fulfill our mission of support for our symphonies) is immensely challenging.
Just as I discovered I was not alone in 2004, we are not alone now. The League has been at the forefront, recognizing trends and reacting quickly and appropriately to re-educate our constituents to operate effectively and efficiently in an ever-changing landscape. 
League resources are continuously being developed and enhanced for every constituency. For volunteers, much resides online, from award-winning volunteer projects to best practice webinars about all facets of auxiliary management (www.americanorchestras/org/board-members-volunteers/volunteers).The Volunteer Council also offers mentoring services for nascent volunteer organizations and auxiliaries in stress, as well as one-on-one sounding board conversations for current leadership. (Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to be connected with the appropriate person for your specific needs.)
Additionally, over the past several years, we have developed an intimate conference call series for presidents and presidents-elect – Strategic Conversations. The series consists of six 60-minute calls on the following Tuesdays at 3:00pm EST: September 29, October 13, October 27, November 10, November 24, and December 8. Together, we will talk about governance, leadership development, member recruitment and retention, fundraising, and other topics. We will email agendas and resource materials to all participants in advance of each call, and minutes from the conversations will be distributed following each call.
Please join me and Volunteer Council President-elect Debbie McKinney (Oklahoma City Orchestra League) for these in-depth conversations with your peers. Our participants represent diverse orchestra volunteer associations from across the U.S, and Canada; we welcome orchestras from every group size.
To register for this Strategic Conversation, please complete the following online form no later than September 13, 2015. In order to ensure everyone can participate fully, we have limited space, so sign up early and join the conversation.  We look forward to sharing, learning, solving. and laughing with you!

The tuition fee is $50 for this program.
Exclusive Offer for Volunteer Notes Readers!
If you book before 11:59pm EST on August, 13th and enter the discount code VOLNOTES you will receive a 20% discount on this Strategic Conversations series. This $40 rate is being offered in this issue of Volunteer Notes exclusively, as a thank you to our readers.
*If neither the president nor president elect of your organization is available for this series, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. about the possibility of having a vice president or chair (particularly fundraising and/or membership chairs) attend this call series.