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VolunteerMatch Blog for Social Change Organizations
Updated: 56 min 56 sec ago

Know the Facts: Volunteer Drivers and the “Ride-Sharing” Liability Controversy

1 hour 29 min ago

Guest post by William R. Henry, Jr.

 Volunteer Drivers and the “Ride-Sharing” Liability ControversyIf your organization engages volunteers to transport people, and the volunteers use their own vehicles, you may be concerned about liability. Now those worries have been amped up by the controversy over “transportation network companies” (TNC’s) such as Uber and Sidecar, which use Web portals to act as brokers between those who need rides and those who are willing to provide them in their private vehicles.

The controversy is that the liability exposure of TNC’s falls between the scope of commercial auto policies and that of personal auto policies, and it will take some time before insurance companies and government regulators can sort it out. Meanwhile, nonprofit-sponsored programs are at risk of an unfair comparison, because TNC’s sometimes are described as “ride-sharing” – a term that volunteer-based programs have used for many years.

There is a major difference in the two models – volunteers driving their own vehicles for nonprofit organizations might be reimbursed for their expenses by the organization or by passengers, but they are not driving to make a profit. In contrast, vehicle owners drive for TNC’s to make money.

Based on all evidence I have been able to find, insurance companies understand this difference. Although individuals who drive for TNC’s might jeopardize their personal auto insurance, there is no reason at this point to believe that an insurer would deny a claim, cancel coverage, or increase premiums of a customer just because that individual is a volunteer driver, and is reimbursed for reasonable expenses.

Most insurance companies writing personal auto coverage have an exclusion for liability “arising out of …a vehicle being used as a public or livery conveyance.” In other words, don’t use your vehicle as a taxi. In response to the rise of TNC’s, the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which provides standard policy forms, recently issued a policy “endorsement” (modification) excluding coverage for TNC-type arrangements.

My organization has approached several underwriters with the question of whether a customer’s coverage might be jeopardized if that person serves as a volunteer, transporting clients for a nonprofit organization, and is reimbursed for expenses.
Although underwriters always remind us that coverage determinations depend on specific facts of a claim, one underwriter from a major insurer did venture to say that a claim would be covered unless the compensation the volunteer had been receiving “exceeded normal reimbursement of expenses, including wear and tear on the auto.”

Jim Levendusky, manager of Insurance Solutions Underwriting for Verisk Analytics, the parent company of ISO, told me he is not aware of any insurance companies that are contemplating adverse action against customers who drive as volunteers.

The California Public Utilities Commission, in a 2013 ruling on regulations and insurance requirements for transportation network companies, also recognized the difference between TNC’s and volunteer-based programs. The rules exempt nonprofit organizations from the requirements.

Even in the absence of evidence, insurance agents and brokers sometimes warn their customers that they are jeopardizing their personal auto coverage by serving as volunteer drivers. A few states have enacted laws to prevent insurance companies from taking the kind of adverse action that no company yet has taken. The “facts on the ground,” as reporters like to say now, do not justify those warnings and legislative actions.

If your organization engages volunteer drivers, make sure your staff and volunteers know these facts!

William R. Henry, Jr. is executive director of Volunteers Insurance Service Association, which provides insurance and risk management services to volunteer-based nonprofit organizations nationwide, under the brand CIMA Volunteers Insurance (www.cimaworld.com).

Why and How VolunteerMatch Works with Sponsors

Tue, 2014-04-15 07:33

Keep your remote employees in the volunteering loop.Yes, VolunteerMatch works with sponsors. It’s a good thing that helps us do even more good in the world. Over the past couple of years we have tested out ways to help companies, brands and other nonprofit organizations get their special messages in front of our massive membership of dedicated do-gooders. In exchange, these sponsoring groups help support VolunteerMatch.

You might have seen this sponsored content on the side of VolunteerMatch.org while you update your nonprofit’s listings, sign up for a webinar, or search for a volunteer opportunity. You also could see a sponsored message in an email or newsletter, and in one of your Opportunity Alert emails we send to you.

Aren’t We Selling Out?

We really don’t think so. As any nonprofit knows, it takes money to do good – and VolunteerMatch is no exception. You might already know about how we help companies run successful employee volunteer programs. This work not only further fulfills our mission of connecting good people and good causes by exposing your organization’s opportunities to large populations of corporate volunteers, it also helps support the free services we provide for nonprofits and volunteers.

Sponsorship is one more way to do that – it gets important messages about social good and giving back in front of nonprofits and volunteers, and helps support the VolunteerMatch organization and network so we can continue to provide free services and better support.

Our Promise to You

It’s important to us that the sponsored content and ideas we present to you are well aligned with the mission and values of VolunteerMatch; we want them to be important to you, just like you are important to us. If you ever feel the messages we present to you from our sponsors are not in line with the VolunteerMatch spirit, let us know!

In the end, we’re all here to make a difference, and the sponsors we work with help us do that. If you have questions, please leave them in the comments!

Want to Join In?

We know why sponsorship is great for VolunteerMatch and for nonprofits and volunteers who care about doing good, and it can also be beneficial for your initiatives – walkathons, unique volunteering projects, etc. We are engagement experts and our members want to take action. The VolunteerMatch network is growing by leaps and bounds thanks to all of you: we had 12 million visits to the website in 2013, and 2014 is shaping up to be even better. Hundreds of thousands of people get our emails each month.

With millions of members, we are a trusted resource and destination for anyone who cares about getting involved in their community. Where better to put messages about your projects and efforts?

We’ve got a bunch of different, flexible opportunities for you to share your organization’s message with the perfect audience, inspire more people to get out and make a difference, and support VolunteerMatch’s work.

Interested in sponsorship options at VolunteerMatch? Get in touch!

Was VolunteerMatch Affected by the Heartbleed Issue?

Mon, 2014-04-14 06:19

Was VolunteerMatch affected by the Heartbleed issue?On Monday April 7, we (along with many other Web services) received notification of a widespread internet security issue – called Heartbleed, impacting the popular OpenSSL technology – and we moved quickly to respond.

We began testing the fix on Monday morning and applied the changes to our production environment Tuesday afternoon. We have verified that the exploitable bug has been fixed.

The servers impacted by Heartbleed do not store user information, and since we were able to close the gap quickly, it is unlikely that this had a security impact on our users.

To be extra vigilant, this is a good time to choose a strong new password for your account and remember to change it often! We’ve made it a priority to take all the steps necessary to keep your data secure.

To update your account information, including your password, you can follow these steps:

  1. Log in and access your organization’s dashboard at www.volunteermatch.org/post
  2. Click ‘Manage Personal Account’ on the left side of page.
  3. Choose ‘Edit Personal Profile.’
  4. Make any desired changes and click ‘Continue.’

If you also change your email address, please make sure to check your inbox for a request to verify your new email address.

Don’t worry, we’re taking care of you and your information, but you can help out by changing your password often!

Welcome to the Family

Fri, 2014-04-11 09:50

Welcome to the VolunteerMatch network! Here's what happens after your nonprofit organization joins to recruit and engage volunteers.Congratulations! You just registered as a nonprofit on VolunteerMatch.org. You’re now part of a rapidly growing network of close to 100,000 organizations that have realized the value of engaging volunteers through our network.

What now?


Good question – here’s what happens next, once the honeymoon is over and the good stuff really begins…

We Vet You

Believe me, this is a good thing. Our crackerjack team of nonprofit community support folks checks each new organization that joins VolunteerMatch to make sure they are truly doing the good work they say they are. With tools like GuideStar to help, this rarely takes more than a day, and ensures that the nonprofits and listings in our system are real and wonderful. It’s a major way we fulfill our commitment to accountability, transparency and quality.

We Support You

Not sure how to post a new listing? Confused by a message you got from us? Wondering where the volunteers are? Just want to chat? So do we. Support for the nonprofits in our network is a major priority for us. Whenever you have a question or a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll get back to you very quickly.

We Teach You

It’s not just about the tools, though. Successful volunteer engagement is a complicated career skill, and we know that in order to truly make a difference we need to help nonprofits learn how to do this better. Our Learning Center is your hub for learning how to be awesome at volunteer engagement. We’ve got free webinars, downloadable resources, books and websites. Definitely something to explore during your professional development/coffee time.

We Connect You

Finally, joining VolunteerMatch means being connected to a huge community of nonprofits, volunteers and companies focused on giving time and doing good. Follow our blog, join the conversations on Facebook and LinkedIn, keep up with news via Twitter, and get inspired on Instagram.

We’re so happy to have you as a member of VolunteerMatch! Good luck engaging volunteers, and keep up the great work!

The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

Thu, 2014-04-10 10:09

Editor’s Note: There’s been a lot of hoopla lately about a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the volunteer rate in the U.S. to be lower than it’s been in a decade. With our 16-year relationship with the nonprofit, corporate and volunteering sectors, VolunteerMatch is in a unique position to clearly view what’s really going on. To help everyone understand this phenomenon better, VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin published this post on LinkedIn.

The Obvious Reason Volunteering is at a 10-Year Low

It is National Volunteer Week, a time to celebrate the irrepressible spirit of goodwill, generosity and hustle that is as much a part of American culture as the 4th of July, Mount Rushmore and our aversion to the metric system.

It is a time to be reminded that America is the place where we celebrate our freedom to come together to get things done, to fight injustice and to invest in our future. It is also a good time to point out that in 2013 volunteering hit a 10-year low, and try to explain how it is that so few people seem to understand why.

Click here to read the rest of Greg’s article and discover the obvious explanation for this recent volunteering trend…

Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part Three: Stay in the Conversation

Wed, 2014-04-09 15:36

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

Engage more supporters by keeping your nonprofit organization in the conversation.When communicating with your volunteers and community members and applying your content marketing strategy, keeping your content relevant is crucial to your success.

And who decides relevancy? Your volunteers and supporters! They want to go to your Facebook or Twitter page and see posts that interest them and make them want to keep reading. This will make them come back for more.

While your organization’s needs should certainly be considered when applying your content marketing strategy, the needs of your volunteers and supporters should be the primary focus. As Kivi states in her book, “Always remember why people are there on the trail with you. It’s not solely for your benefit. It’s because they want to get something out of the experience, too.”

This blog post will explore the key to keeping your content relevant and becoming your volunteers and supporters’ favorite organization: staying in the conversation.

Produce Content That’s Refreshing

With social media allowing information and news to be sent and received instantaneously, it is crucial that your content is up-to-date and current. Yet coming up with new content can take time, and the demand might seem to frequently outweigh the supply. How do you satisfy a community that is constantly seeking new and fresh information?

Suppose it is the winter holidays. Your organization wants to send your fans into the break with a few “tweets”, but you’re out of news to talk about. A great method of producing content is re-purposing. Remember that tweet you sent out a few weeks ago telling volunteers how they can make an impact at a local homelessness shelter? You can re-purpose that tweet along with a few others and create a list of ways people can give back over the holidays. The old tweet is made new, and it is refreshing because it is relevant in the specific context of the winter holidays.

Tell Compelling Stories to Connect on a Human Level

Social media, email, print newsletters – whatever your medium, you want to come off as a helpful friend and a trusted expert. Telling fascinating stories will allow you to connect with your volunteers and supporters on a personal level. And this is crucial for you in becoming their favorite organization.

Telling stories might also come in the form of testimonials. What is the success of a website like Yelp? A lot of it is relying on people’s testimonials. If 100 people give a restaurant a 5 out of 5 rating, it is very likely that a new customer will decide to try that restaurant for the first time. So why not use testimonials in your content?

One approach is the volunteer success story. Invite a volunteer who had an awesome experience with your organization to talk about it for one of your blog posts. Have that person explain how they became interested in your organization and why they enjoyed their volunteer experience. Not only will that volunteer feel rewarded and likely keep volunteering, other potential volunteers will see the post and envision themselves having a similarly great experience.

Create a Network with Other Organizations to Gain Support for Your Cause

Rather than compete with other organizations in your community, partner with them to reach out to both their supporters and yours. Sharing the work of other organizations with your followers is an awesome method of conveying your own values while staying relevant.

This can be as easy as “retweeting” the tweets of other organizations. If a local nonprofit led a successful beach clean-up last weekend, even if your work might be totally unrelated to environmental awareness, a simple retweet is a great way to say to your audience, “The work these guys are doing is awesome, and we support them.”

This makes your organization feel personable and conscientious, showing that you aren’t just pigeon-holed into one area, but supportive of a number of diverse causes. People are much more likely to volunteer with your organization because they will see that there are actual people who care about multiple issues producing that online content.

We want to hear from you: how does your organization stay in the conversation?

Use This Awesome Free Graphic to Say “Thanks!” to Your Volunteers

Mon, 2014-04-07 14:30

Happy FestiVOL! As part of this week’s celebration of everything that’s fun about volunteering, here’s a super cool graphic that you can customize to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them.

Customize this cool graphic to show your volunteers how much you appreciate them for National Volunteer Week and FestiVOL!

Click here to easily customize and download the graphic, and then share it on your blog, on social media and over email, and be sure to use the hashtag #VolunteerHeroes to share inspiring stories.

Great job Nonprofit Toolkit for coming up with this graphic – we can always use more super heroes in this world! Make sure you thank the ones who are already helping your organization.

How are you celebrating National Volunteer Week? Let us know using hashtag #FestiVOL!

It’s FestiVOL Season

Fri, 2014-04-04 09:12

Volunteering is the best, right? So this year, in honor of National Volunteer Week, we’ve decided to celebrate volunteers and the difference they make by launching a spectacular week-long FestiVOL – and we want YOU to join us!

Why FestiVOL?

Join VolunteerMatch for FestiVOL, a week-long celebration of volunteering in honor of National Volunteer Week.At VolunteerMatch, we hope FestiVOL will help your organization make the most of National Volunteer Week. Whether it‘s appreciating your volunteers, strengthening existing relationships, or building new ones, VolunteerMatch will be providing tips on how you can increase engagement.

Part of our goal for FestiVOL is to help more nonprofit organizations – like yours – find the right volunteers. So each day we will release three “nuggets” just for you: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. We hope you’ll share these with your volunteers and community members, learn from them, and encourage everyone to get more involved.

What about ways that you can make an impact volunteering? FestiVOL will also provide resources to encourage your own participation in the community. Often times, simply sharing what causes you are passionate about can inspire others to make a difference, as well.

Join FestiVOL!

FestiVOL will run from April 6-12. You can see all the nuggets as we release them on the FestiVOL landing page.

You and your nonprofit can join FestiVOL by following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the hashtag #FestiVOL. We hope FestiVOL gives you the energy, passion and ideas to make our communities stronger and our world happier all year long!

How will YOU celebrate volunteering during FestiVOL?

Gorgeous FestiVOL graphic designed by Katy Roby.

Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part Two: Get Everyone On Board

Wed, 2014-04-02 11:58

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

 Get People On BoardYou are the in charge of running your nonprofit’s volunteer program. You are ready to implement the two-way conversations, targeted engagement, and multi-channel communication we discussed in the first blog post of this series.

But in order for your program to truly welcome change and successfully apply new content marketing strategies for volunteer engagement, you need to make sure that the other departments and everyone else in your organization are on the same page.

Using the example of a Communications Director, Kivi explains that it is a misconception that other departments are not part of communications and marketing. The fact is that everyone plays a role, and marketing is more successful and done better in a team rather than alone.

Similarly, by getting your colleagues aligned with your volunteer program goals, you will strengthen the internal structure of your organization, which will result in more volunteers and supporters for your cause. This blog post is aimed at strategies you can employ to get everyone on board with your volunteer engagement goals.

Solve Your Organizational Jigsaw Puzzle

Coordinating your nonprofit’s volunteer engagement requires you to be an all-star. You have to constantly communicate with members of your community and other organizations, lead your volunteers, attract new ones, and make sure you are meeting the goals that your organization hopes to accomplish. A solid organizational device like a timeline will allow you to navigate through all of these tasks with efficiency.

One strategy Kivi encourages her readers to try is an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar consists of the different events and deadlines you must meet over the course of a given period. It pushes you to stay focused on your goals and prioritize the tasks that you have to complete at a certain time. With handy online sharing tools like Google Docs and Calendars, you can get other departments to work around your schedule and fit in new assignments on your editorial calendar.

You might want to create multiple editorial calendars, including one specifically for communicating with your volunteers. This will allow both you and your volunteers to get a clear picture of what you hope to accomplish over the next few months or year. Furthermore, you can make sure that you do not have a surplus of volunteers working on an assignment one day and a lack of volunteers on another day.

Get Other Staff Members Involved in Your Volunteer Engagement

It’s easy for us to get caught up in our own work. Each day holds a multitude of tasks that need to be completed, and there simply doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do them all. It might even feel like the work of other departments isn’t relevant to the mountain of assignments on your desk – and vice versa.

That mindset must be changed, because everyone in your organization plays a role in determining the success of your volunteer program. In fact, engaging volunteers should be the goal of someone on the tech side of operations just as much as the person in charge of running the volunteer program. So how do you get those other departments and staff involved?

One method is to simply invite them to participate in your activities. This past MLK Day of Service, a group of New Sector fellows volunteered their time to explore innovative options for VolunteerMatch to approach volunteer engagement in 2014. VolunteerMatch staff from different departments participated in the event, and the group was divided into four discussion groups: big picture engagement, global outreach, marketing and communications, and technology.

This event invited the fellows to examine different areas of the organization and suggest new approaches. Perhaps even more importantly, the staff gained a reinforced understanding of how volunteer engagement is the thread that ties the different ends of VolunteerMatch together.

By getting everyone on board with your volunteer program goals, your organization will develop a clearer understanding of its overall goals and driving purpose. As a result, your staff will feel unified and on the same page, and you will feel much more organized and prepared.

Be Constructively Self-Critical

As your organization gets stronger internally, it is important to keep asking yourself questions to adapt and make further improvements:

  • What does your organization most need volunteers, supporters, and community members to actually do, and how soon do you need these things accomplished? Being able to clearly communicate to your volunteers what you need them to do will make sure they make the greatest impact possible.
  • What are the most pressing needs for your volunteer program? If you are lacking volunteers, then perhaps allocating more time for outreach via social media should take precedence on your editorial calendar.
  • How is your staff representing your organization’s image? While social media can be a useful tool for communicating with a vast number of people, it also means that your staff have to present themselves professionally. Drafting basic tweets or Facebook posts for your staff to cut and paste is a great way for them to be involved while keeping up-to-date with your volunteer program.

What strategies does your organization use to get everyone internally working together on volunteer engagement?

Winning People Over to Your Cause – Part One: Welcome Change

Thu, 2014-03-27 15:38

Content Marketing for Nonprofits, by Kivi Leroux MillerEditor’s Note: This series explores ways to apply content marketing strategies to help lead a successful nonprofit volunteer program. Using the wealth of information in Kivi Leroux Miller’s book “Content Marketing for Nonprofits” as a jumping-off point, this four-part installment discusses how a solid content marketing strategy will pay dividends in drawing volunteers and supporters, bridging the gap between volunteers and donors, and engaging your community.

Welcome change to enable the success of your employee volunteer program.What is content marketing in the first place? Here is Kivi’s definition: “Content marketing for nonprofits is creating and sharing relevant and valuable content that attracts, motivates, engages, and inspires your participants, supporters, and influencers to help you achieve your mission.” Your content marketing strategy, then, is your blueprint to success.

It might be cliché to say “there is always room for improvement,” but it is well-used for a reason – and it is more relevant than ever when designing a content marketing strategy. The most important thing that will allow a nonprofit to benefit from Kivi’s book is keeping an open mind to new ideas and methods of engagement, because her book is full of them.

Journeying through Content Marketing for Nonprofits is similar to the backpacking analogy Kivi uses throughout her book: there are so many concepts and strategies that will cross your path, that making sense of them requires you to be well-prepared. And the best way to be prepared for this long trek is to welcome change. It’s rarely easy, but it’s necessary.

Here are a few ways you can begin to think about new methods of engaging your volunteers and community:

Have Two-Way Conversations

The phrase “target audience” might come to mind when you are thinking about your content marketing strategy. Yet it is one of the first terms Kivi asks us to rethink in her book. In communicating with your volunteers and community, start seeing your engagement as a dialogue: you aren’t talking to them, you are talking WITH them.

This concept is especially important to keep in mind when using social media platforms. As Kivi notes, one of the biggest opportunities that social media presents to nonprofits is that anyone can be a spokesperson for your organization. This means that as people speak out publicly about your organization, any opinion about you can be floating around on the internet, outside of your control.

However, what you can control is how you prepare for those comments and speak to those people. By inviting feedback that applauds or constructively criticizes, by having a conversation, you will begin to adapt to the needs of your volunteers and community. Your content will become relevant to them as you gain a reputation for keeping an open ear to your community’s needs, and you will ultimately win people over to your cause.

Let’s take an example: Suppose you are an environmental organization, and you are seeking volunteers to spend a day educating elementary school students on water conservancy. Your Facebook page can be a great way to convert community members into volunteers, and a simple post can often do the trick.

The post might include things like: a statistic on how much water is wasted in the United States annually; a question that invites conversation and hints at the post’s main goal, such as, “Why do YOU think it’s important that kids are educated on water conservation?”; an invitation for community members to volunteer their time and share their knowledge; a photo of someone presenting to a elementary school classroom; and a link to a page on your website where people can sign up to volunteer.

Notice how most of these elements invite interaction from and with the community. (These are also great things to include in a listing on VolunteerMatch, too!)

Engage Different Types of Volunteers

While you are removing “target audience” from your vocabulary, focusing on specific groups or types of volunteers is still a useful tool. The with whom people you engage come in all different shapes and sizes: they vary in age, are of different backgrounds, and bring unique skill sets. Your job is to sift through your pool of volunteers and individually assign them tasks that they find relevant and can flourish in.

This is one strategy we apply on VolunteerMatch.org, where volunteer opportunities are placed into unique categories. For example, a family interested in volunteering at an animal hospital with their children can refine their search by clicking the cause “Animals,” then finding an opportunity listed as “Good for kids.” By engaging different types of volunteers and placing them into specific roles that best fit them, you will find that your volunteers’ outputs will be greater because they are truly interested in their work.

Another great way to get the most out of what your volunteers have to offer is to give them greater responsibility, namely through titles or positions of leadership. A younger volunteer who is particularly skilled in social media will be more encouraged if you give her the unique title of “Social Media Specialist.” A volunteer with lots of experience with your organization might be promoted to a “Team Leader” position, guiding and showing the ropes to newer volunteers.

Letting your volunteers know that you appreciate them for who they are will foster a relationship built on giving, and will get people in your community and potential volunteers excited about supporting your cause.

Communicate Across Multiple Channels

It is likely that digital technology is one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of recent changes in nonprofit communications. And it can certainly seem daunting, even scary with the instantaneous flow of information and the rapid shifts in our modes of communicating.

Rather than look at these changes with fear, see them as expanding the ways in which you can connect with your volunteers and community. More outlets might mean more work, but it also means more people who see your accomplishments, hear about your cause, and recognize your organization’s name.

We want to hear your stories: How has welcoming change allowed your organization to better engage volunteers?

Are You One of the 3,000?

Wed, 2014-03-26 14:32

No, we’re not talking about the much-desired second sequel to the movie “300.” Even we aren’t that ambitious. Instead, we’re referring to the 3,000 connections made every single day on VolunteerMatch.org between nonprofits and volunteers.

Every day on VolunteerMatch.org, about 3,000 connections are made between nonprofits and volunteers.

As the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, this is just what we DO. We make it easier for your nonprofit organization to find the volunteers you actually need. We’ve got all sorts of awesome free tools.

So are you one of the 3,000? If not, get right on it. It takes about 5 minutes – another happy number – and your organization’s needs will be seen by millions of skilled, dedicated volunteers. So all-in-all, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Start recruiting volunteers with VolunteerMatch now.

Lessons Learned and Good Times Had at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference

Mon, 2014-03-24 17:01

The VolunteerMatch team having a great time at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology ConferenceAlmost two weeks later, the VolunteerMatch team is still processing our experience at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in Washington, D.C. VolunteerMatch was involved as an exhibitor and partner for the Day of Service event, and VolunteerMatch team members spent as much time as possible meeting other nonprofits, schmoozing, and geeking out.

Here are reflections from two attendees about what was most valuable about this year’s NTC conference:

Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Lauren WagnerThis year was my first time at the NTC and I was definitely impressed. From the smooth logistics to the networking events and learning sessions, it was overall a great conference. In between shifts manning the VolunteerMatch booth, I was able to attend a few sessions and was able to come back to San Francisco with tangible ideas to put into action in my own work – which is, in my opinion, the sign of great speakers and sessions.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

My favorite two sessions were the session on rethinking online engagement with Ash Shepherd of Minds On Design Lab and Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, and a self-help session for nonprofit marketers led by Sarah Durham of Big Duck, strategist, speaker and blogger, Nancy Schwartz, and marketing specialist Stephanie Bowen.

In the engagement session, Ash and Farra shared a new model for growing and developing your online engagement strategies to help you self-identify where your current online engagement lives and how to get it to the next level. This can seem like a large and daunting task, but luckily in the second session I mentioned above, we discussed tips and tricks for keeping yourself productive based on the three keys from Todd Henry’s book “Die Empty.” These three keys are: define your battles; be fiercely curious; and step out of your comfort zone.

Shari Ilsen, Director of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Shari IlsenThis was my fourth year at NTC, and it really felt like coming home. I caught up with old friends, made some great new ones, and reinforced my feeling that all of us who deal with nonprofit technology are in a great big, exciting, growing community together. The themes that emerged for me from the conference follow along those lines:

We’re not alone! If you have an idea or a problem, reach out to others. Not only are others dealing with the same challenges, but others are probably finding great solutions! This became clear in the session I led with nonprofit consultant Lauren Girardin on impact measurement. This is a tough topic for many, but it doesn’t have to be if you grab models and examples of what others are already doing to achieve success. Tip: to find some of these great models and examples, join LinkedIn groups and local Meetups to connect directly with folks dealing with similar issues.

Technology is just a tool! Your organization doesn’t have to be a pioneer or early adopter in order to make the most of technology. Be strategic about how technology can help your mission – because that, after all, is the whole point. Here’s a tweet I sent that ended up becoming famous during the conference:

If it’s not your org’s mission to change tech, don’t worry about it. Just focus on changing the world. #14ntc #nptech

— Shari (@silsen) March 14, 2014

It’s important to have fun with what we do, no matter what challenges we face. Put some effort into making yourself and others laugh, and you’ll see the impact of your work skyrocket. At NTC we saw this in action not just after-hours during the parties, but during the sessions as we appreciated the humor embedded into every speaker’s agenda. It kept us alert, engaged and excited.

After all, in the end the main goal of our jobs is provide joy. So even if you work in a tough, emotionally charged field, find a reason to smile, and spread it.

Did you attend the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference? If so, what did you learn? Share it with us below!

Nonprofit Insights: How Nonprofit Data and Volunteers Can Save the World

Thu, 2014-03-20 10:23

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

 How Nonprofit Data and Volunteers Can Save the WorldRecord-keeping is not an exciting word, and inspires equally drab reactions from nonprofits who work to fulfill record-keeping and reporting requirements. But there’s a secret many organizations are just beginning to discover: your data is the key to helping you fulfill your mission – and save the world.

How Nonprofit Data and Volunteers Can Save the World

Register for this free event.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
10am – 12pm PT (1-2pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #NPOdata.

Join VolunteerMatch on April 8, 2014, for a free Nonprofit Insights webinar in honor of National Volunteer Week. Erinn Andrews of GuideStar and Lisa Pool of the Technology Affinity Group, who have partnered on the Simplify initiative, www.simplifynow.org, will share how data and record-keeping in the nonprofit sector is becoming so much more than just the IRS Form 990 – and why paying attention to this trend, and engaging volunteers to help you contribute, will help your organization get more funding and support.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

The Chicken, the Egg, Volunteering, and Employment

Tue, 2014-03-18 14:05

How are volunteering and employment linked?It’s not often we dive into data here. Stories of impact are so much more inspiring, and tips and tools are so much more useful. However, sometimes it’s necessary to haul out numbers to glean relevant insights about volunteering and nonprofits.

In this case, I’m not going to dive in headfirst – merely dip my toes in. I was curious about the nuggets to be found in the most recent “Volunteering & Civic Life in America” report released by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). It’s actually pretty easy to get caught up in this survey data, especially when comparing the volunteering information from different geographic areas.

For example, here are the cities with the top 10 volunteer rates in 2012:

  1. Minneapolis
  2. Rochester
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Seattle
  5. Salt Lake City
  6. Portland
  7. Washington, D.C.
  8. St. Louis
  9. Charlotte
  10. San Francisco (hooray!)

I thought it might be illuminating to compare this data to the most recent unemployment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After all, the economy is the top priority for pretty much all of us, but especially for nonprofits that depend on the generosity and sustainability of the public. What I found is…interesting?

Of the cities that have the highest volunteering rates, only one of them (St. Louis) is above the national average in unemployment. In other words, most of the cities that are great at volunteering appear to have stronger than average economies.

Additionally, when I compared historical data from CNCS’s report, I discovered that the three cities on the list above that have dramatically lower unemployment rates than most others (Minneapolis, Rochester and Salt Lake City) have all been ranked in the top five for volunteering rates for the past few years.

What does this mean?

Well, it certainly suggests that there’s some sort of connection between volunteering and strong economic recovery. Of course, we shouldn’t get too excited yet:

Recently the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual “Volunteering in the United States” report, a supplement to the Current Population Survey. The data shows that in 2013, employed folks volunteered more than unemployed. So are these cities strong because they volunteer, or do they volunteer because their economies are strong? Is it the chicken or the egg?

One thing is certain: more data is needed. I won’t try to trick you into following me down the black hole of correlation vs. causation. But it does seem clear that volunteering and healthy economies, in some way, go hand in hand. And that makes me happy.

Nonprofits: Connect with Corporate Generosity through Volunteer Grant Programs

Thu, 2014-03-13 08:15

Guest post by Adam Weinger, Double the Donation

Connect with Corporate Generosity through Volunteer GrantsVolunteers are the lifeblood of many nonprofit organizations or educational institutions; without them, nonprofits would struggle to meet their goals and fulfill their mission. But did you know that corporations are increasing the value of volunteers’ time with employee volunteer grant programs?

Thousands of companies offer monetary grants to eligible nonprofit organizations when employees volunteer their non-paid time, seemingly doubling the value of a volunteer’s time.

Here are a few large corporations with more than 100,000 employees that offer generous volunteer grant programs to their employees. If any of your supporters work for one of these companies, make sure you’re taking full advantage of their generosity!

Bank of America

Bank of America was ranked by Forbes in 2010 as the third largest company in world, and employs nearly 250,000 people worldwide.

In 2012, Bank of America employees volunteered over 1.5 million hours to more than 6,000 nonprofit organizations. This includes more than 487,000 hours in education and youth development organizations, 397,000 hours in health and human service organizations, and more than 315,000 hours toward general community support.

Bank of America’s volunteer grant program greatly recognizes its volunteers’ efforts with monetary donations of up to $500 per employee per year to the organization at which that employee volunteered. When an employee volunteers up to 50 hours, Bank of America will provide a $250 grant to eligible nonprofits, and up to 100 hours yields $500 grants.

Read more about Bank of America’s Corporate Philanthropy program.

Best Buy

Best Buy is an electronics corporation based in Minnesota that employs 180,000 people. It was named “Company of the Year” by Forbes magazine in 2004, and ranked in the top 10 of “America’s Most Generous Corporations” by Forbes in 2005 (based on charitable giving in 2004).

Best Buy has three different kinds of volunteer grant programs:

1. Individual TagTeam Grant Awards – after an employee volunteers at least 40 hours at an eligible nonprofit organization, Best Buy will provide a $1,000 grant to the organization.

2. Individual TagTeam Board Member Grant Awards – if an employee volunteers at least 40 hours at an eligible nonprofit organization and is also on the board of directors of that organization, Best Buy will provide an additional $1,000 grant to the organization (totaling $2,000)!

3. Team TagTeam Grant Awards – when a team of five or more employees volunteers together for a nonprofit organization during non-work time, Best Buy will provide a $1,000 to the organization.


With 2.2 million employees, Walmart is the world’s largest private employer, and the world’s second largest public corporation according to the Fortune Global 5000 list in 2013.

Walmart’s program, “Volunteerism Always Pays” (VAP), offers two different kinds of grants for Walmart and Sam’s Club employees who volunteer with eligible nonprofit organizations.

Walmart Individual VAP Grants – when an employee volunteers at least 25 hours with a nonprofit organization, Walmart will provide a $250 volunteer grant to that organization. Each Walmart employee can request up to two volunteer grants for two separate organizations every year, meaning up to four volunteer grants (and $1,000) can be earned per year.

Walmart Team/Group VAP Grants – when a group of Walmart employees volunteer together or participate in fundraising events (walks, runs, bike races, etc.), they are eligible to request a grant between $500 and $5,000, depending on how many employees are involved in the activity.

In 2012 alone, Walmart employees volunteered over 2.2 million hours and requested over $18 million in grants to nonprofit organizations through the VAP program.

Bottom line: the companies listed above are widely known, but thousands of employers have a volunteer grant program! If your nonprofit benefits from volunteers, it’s almost certain that many of them work for an employer willing to provide grants.

Make sure your volunteers know about this – they’ve already proven they care about your mission by volunteering their time, so they’re likely to be interested in doing something that increases the value of that time. And since it usually only requires them to submit a form at work, it’s often so easy for them to do!

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, a company focused on helping nonprofits increase the amount of money they raise from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Follow Double the Donation on Twitter or LinkedIn.

How (and Why) to Design Traveler-Friendly Volunteer Opportunities

Tue, 2014-03-11 09:07

How (and Why) to design traveler-friendly volunteer opportunities.We’ve all experienced it before – the call of the wild, that insatiable wanderlust that has us staring dreamily out of our windows imagining a completely different place. And we all envy those who turn our fantasy into reality with their own travels.

Why, though, would we want to engage these travelers as volunteers? Sure, they may be transient, but traveling folk can contribute quite a bit to your organization:

  • If someone on vacation wants to give their time to your cause, you know they must be really passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Travelers may be itching to do something for others, after spending their vacation focused on themselves.
  • It takes a lot of energy to pack up and travel around – imagine all of that energy working for your organization.
  • You should always be encouraging diversity among your volunteers. Folks who have been traveling will infuse new life into your existing volunteers with their refreshing uniqueness.

These savvy wanderers may not be swayed by the usual listings you post up to recruit volunteers, however. Here are some tips for designing volunteer opportunities to attract travelers:

Eye-Catching Title

Your title should be witty and eye-catching, yet also descriptive. Travelers on the move won’t have a lot of time to browse through volunteer search results, so make sure your title stands out.

Focus on the Experience

Highlight the unique nature of the volunteer opportunity – will they get a taste of local culture? Meet interesting people? These are both great ways to attract folks who are looking to explore.

Be Specific About the Time Commitment

If you want a traveler to fit you into his or her busy schedule, make sure the time commitment is clearly stated in the opportunity. This will ensure a good fit between you and a potential volunteer.

Design a Training-Free Opportunity

As mentioned above, travelers are not going to have a lot of extra time. Expecting them to go through hours of volunteer training is simply not realistic. So think of ways for savvy, energetic people to help your organization that doesn’t require more than 30 minutes of training.

Say It Straight: We Welcome Newcomers!

Here’s an idea: Engage travelers as volunteers by specifically welcoming them in your volunteer opportunity! Many people search sites like VolunteerMatch looking for ways to help in the areas they will be traveling. So speak directly to them.

Have you engaged travelers as volunteers for your organization? Tell us about it below!

Expert Snapshots for March

Fri, 2014-03-07 15:56

Expert SnapshotsAt VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the field of volunteer engagement and management, and we want to help you stay up to date on the latest news and trends. Check back every month for snapshots of what experts in the field are talking about.

Putting Strategic Engagement at the Core

Beth Steinhorn of JFFixler Group introduces us to the new Strategic Volunteer Engagement Track making its debut at the Conference on Volunteering and Service this year. This development places volunteer engagement at the core of the conference, and with experts like Beth and our own Jennifer Bennett contributing, it’s bound to be enlightening and valuable.

A Better Board Will Make You Better

Most nonprofit boards are ineffective, state Kim Jonker and William F. Meehan III right at the beginning of their SSIR article. If you agree (and also if you don’t, actually,) read their post for comprehensive strategies to make your board a bigger and better influence for your organization. (And for more about nonprofit board engagement, check out our upcoming Nonprofit Insights webinar, “Building a Future-Friendly Nonprofit Board.”)

It’s Red Cross Month

Each year, the president of the United States proclaims March “Red Cross Month.” With stats like “every nine minutes, the American Red Cross brings help and hope to people in need,” it’s easy to understand why. Check out how the Red Cross is engaging people to get involved – and perhaps get some ideas for how your own organization can expand engagement.

5 Nonprofits that Newsjacked Facebook During the Oscars

This one’s mainly just for fun. Still, “newsjacking” – art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story – can be very effective for nonprofits. Here are some examples of Oscars newsjacking that Facebook marketing expert John Haydon called out on his blog.

Social Media for Nonprofits: It Just Makes Sense

Thu, 2014-03-06 17:23

Join your peers for a day focused on how to best use social media for your nonprofit organization.As winter winds down (hopefully) and the polar vortex fades away (hopefully), it’s almost time for the start of another season of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference series.

Each year we make a big deal out of these events, and there’s a good reason: They just make sense. One day dedicated to helping you learn practical, real-life strategies for making social media work for your organization, located conveniently in your own community. These conferences are designed to help you leverage social media for your volunteering program, fundraising and general outreach.

VolunteerMatch is a global partner of the Social Media for Nonprofits series – because we think this is the premier conference series dedicated to social media for social good. Each event features an impressive lineup of local and national experts and practitioners that present best practices for you to use social media in your work. Not to mention all the great networking!

Discounts for VolunteerMatch Members

Attend Social Media for Nonprofits in your area to hear from an impressive lineup of speakers.As part of our partnership, we’re offering special discounts to VolunteerMatch members for Social Media for Nonprofits conferences. Just use the code “VMatch” when registering.

(Note: this discount is for the middle and high-level registration – it unfortunately does not apply to the lowest price level.)

Bay Area Boot Camps are Back

At Nonprofit Boot Camp meet experts on multiple aspects of nonprofit operations, development and leadership.For the second year, the Social Media for Nonprofits team is adding a second day to its events in the San Francisco Bay Area, for Nonprofit Boot Camp. Boot Camp is a highly practical conference designed to connect nonprofit leaders to the resources, best practices and contacts needed to create a better world.

In other words, get ready to meet a lot of inspiring people and learn a lot of practical things. If you’re within driving distance of San Francisco and/or Silicon Valley, we highly recommend attending.

So check out upcoming dates and locations for the Social Media for Nonprofits series, and don’t forget to use your discount code when registering!

Upcoming Dates

New York City
March 17
New York, NY

April 10
Chicago, IL

May 19
Cambridge, MA

Silicon Valley
June 10-11
Mountain View, CA

Washington, D.C.
July 14
Washington, D.C.

August 13
Austin, TX

San Francisco
October 2-3
San Francisco, CA

Books, Volunteers, and Creating Inspiration on Two Continents

Wed, 2014-03-05 11:26

Chris Bradshaw and the African Library ProjectWhat if you had never had access to books when you were young? (This includes e-books on tablets, too.) How would your life be different now? How would YOU be different?

Africa has the highest percentage of illiteracy in the world, and many African teachers have to teach reading, writing, math and English without even a single book to use as a resource. Meanwhile, U.S. shelves and landfills overflow with discarded books.

Enter Chris Bradshaw and her nonprofit organization, African Library Project.

The African Library Project engages volunteers to collect books for libraries in African countries.Chris realized the massive need for books in Africa, and she discovered she had a way to help. The books so many people in the U.S. simply get rid of could be used to educate an entire continent.

Since its beginning, African Library Project has been a grassroots organization. It has always depended on the generosity and leadership of volunteers across the country. In fact, the organization itself is completely volunteer-run – the board meets around Chris’s dining room table.

Read more about Chris and African Library Project, and how volunteers are the magic ingredient that bring books and learning to people a world away – and inspiration to us all right here.

Upcoming Nonprofit Insights: Building a Future-Friendly Nonprofit Board

Tue, 2014-03-04 11:44

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Join VolunteerMatch for a free webinar on how to build a future-friendly nonprofit board.Your board plays a critical role in overseeing your organization’s mission, finances and strategic direction. So it’s equally critical that these board members are supportive of the changes in tools and practices necessary to help your organization stay relevant and viable in today’s rapidly changing world.

Building a Future-Friendly Nonprofit Board

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

Join VolunteerMatch for the March 2014 Nonprofit Insights webinar that will focus on how to cultivate, engage and retain great board members that are “future-friendly.” We’ll hear from Jenifer Holland, Director of Consulting at BoardSource, about best practices and strategies for finding and engaging the best board members for your organization. We’ll also be joined by Shayla Price, Executive Director for the National Search Dog Alliance, who will share her first-hand experience working with boards from the nonprofit side, as well as serving as a board member herself.

Wondering how to build a board that will support your organization as it moves forward into the future? This webinar will provide ideas and strategies so you’ll never need to “fight” your board for change again.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.