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University of Tennessee VOLthon Receives National Dance Marathon Organization Management Award

VOLthon at the University of Tennesse, Knoxville was recently awarded the Organization Management award at the Miracle Network Dance Marathon Leadership Conference in July. The Organization Management Award recognizes a Dance Marathon organization that demonstrates success in areas such as board and committee structure, retreats, strategic planning, internal communication, and data tracking.

Over two years, VOLthon took in feedback from multiple sources on their program and how to improve it. VOLthon realized that, in order to grow their program, they needed to start with a change to their structure as an organization. The previous executive board structure was led by three vice presidents that took on a majority of responsibility, leaving the rest of their board members underutilized and under-involved. The executive board did not utilize their staff/committee members until the main Dance Marathon event at the end of the year and, as a result, experienced minimal engagement from the staff.

The new VOLthon executive board moved away from the “top-down” approach of the previous structure to a new organization structure that helped to improve communication, collaboration, and team enthusiasm. VOLthon’s new leadership structure includes six vice presidents with three to four directors working on each team. With the changes implemented, VOLthon staff members were better utilized and ideas were able to be developed and implemented by the staff members.

“Since implementing this structure, we’ve seen significant improvements in year-round utilization and engagement,” said VOLthon President Nicole Maestri.

The increase in staff member engagement also lead to an increase in fundraising, with staff members raising $32,278.43 for the 2019 event compared to $14,625.56 in 2018. Staff members were also provided with a variety of fundraising resources to help them in their efforts.

In addition to altering their organization structure, VOLthon also worked to improve their member selection process.

To recruit new committee members, the student leaders increased their outreach efforts to reach new students whose skills could contribute to their organization. Specifically, they made efforts to find students with specialized skills for their Marketing and Finance teams in order to expanded their capabilities to promote their organization and begin actively tracking and utilizing data.

Their updated committee application allowed for students to apply for committees or positions that best met their skills and areas of interest. VOLthon also incorporated presentations and interviews into the selection process. The outgoing senior members sat in on the interviews to help place members where they would best fit based on their skills and ideas for the organization.

Based on feedback from previous board members, VOLthon implemented a structured process to better transition from the outgoing board to the new board. During this retreat, directors reviewed staff contracts and discussed board member expectations with the hope of improving member accountability. They participated in team building and communication activities and discussed topics like goal setting, professionalizing, and bringing innovation into their organization. Leaders also hosted training on how to lead a committee and effectively delegate tasks. The retreat concluded with position transitions, where new board members got to meet with outgoing board members, and sharing a binder of resources with new board members.

To better utilize staff members, VOLthon broke up their meetings after recognizing this was not enough time to accomplish the agenda. Their six executive board members met weekly, with full board of director meetings and director team meetings happening on alternative weeks. Committee meetings happened weekly/biweekly to maintain committee engagement.

VOLthon also created a point system to engage their staff members and recognize hard work. Members could earn points through fundraising, recruitment, attending events, and other various opportunities. Members were encouraged to earn five points per month to be put in a drawing to win prizes and other director incentives..

Overall, VOLthon realized they had a serious issue and it had impacted their entire program. They went back to the drawing board and looked at what was wrong and how to fix it. With their mindset of accepting these issues and reaching out to members to figure out a solution, they demonstrated their commitment to keep fighting for the kids at their local children’s hospital.

VOLthon members received the Organization Management Award at DMLC 2019.

Miracle Network Dance Marathon is an international movement, involving over 400 colleges, universities and K-12 schools across North America that fundraise for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since its inception in 1991, Miracle Network Dance Marathon has raised more than $250 million–ensuring that no child or family fights pediatric illness or injury alone.

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