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We love videos. Who doesn’t? Videos are a great way to spread your message and create genuine, emotional connections with your community members. Here’s a video about volunteering that one of our wonderful interns created. Doesn’t her passion just ooze from this and make you want to get involved?
Here is a word from the filmmaker, Lauren Pattugalan:
“I made this video because I want to inspire individuals to take the initiative in volunteering. My intent for is to give an example of how one can help make the world a better community.
“Helping those who live in hunger is just one example of the many ways someone could help. I also want to show that volunteering is enjoyable and lifts the spirit of oneself and the spirits of those we are helping.
“Everyone has the power to volunteer. I wanted to make something that inspires people to use that power, and that is why I made this video.”
Has a video helped your organization spread your message and engage your community? Share it below!
Lauren Pattugalan is a sophomore at Immaculate Conception Academy, a Cristo Rey School. She is a student in the class of 2015 and takes part in the corporate work study program at ICA, which is how VolunteerMatch was lucky enough to get to know her.
Recently I was perusing my long list of LinkedIn groups, and I stumbled upon a discussion about what skills people have acquired from volunteering.
I was quickly captivated by the stories the group members told. The more I read, the more two things became clear:
1. Extraordinary people volunteer.
2. Volunteering will help make you an extraordinary person.
Below is just a sample of what people said they learned from volunteering. I bet if you ask your volunteers what they’ve learned from their experiences with you, they will have some similarly incredible answers:
Working with adults who have ADHD is challenging and fun, and you learn to think on your feet.
“I have volunteered for most of my life as well. In high school, I helped tutor inner city children, and I still remember one young girl in particular. I learned that perhaps all they needed was a little extra help and attention (at least back then). Being an assistant Brownie leader was also rewarding, learning how to relate to girls in that capacity. Then my volunteerism leaned towards the environment and activism. I parlayed my years of learning and experience into a new career after I lost my job in 2009. Yet another rewarding opportunity was being a facilitator for a local ADD support organization. Working with adults who have ADHD is challenging and fun, and you learn to think on your feet. While earning my BS, and then after, I turned that experience into a part time side business leading a mutual ADD coaching group.”
“I have learned human resource management and project management skills. Collaborating skills, training with executive staff, and leadership skills. Also tons of training, curriculum design and presentations skills. Most important was the team-building and patience. Volunteering is fun, rewarding and so very worthwhile… we always get back so much more than we give…”
“I learned about public speaking while volunteering at the Houston Zoo. We were each assigned an animal at the zoo and had to stand in front of their exhibit and talk to people about the animal and habitat, etc. Also, “manning” booths at various events for a variety of volunteer organizations — that teaches you how to speak with people from all walks of life about something you are passionate about. Love it!”
Have you asked your volunteers what they’ve learned from you? How do you make sure your organization is providing enriching experiences for your volunteers?
How one organization has engaged volunteers to help its efforts to fight hunger in America grow and bear fruit for thousands of struggling people.
Guest post by RL Mathews
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, limited resources prevent over 50 million Americans from getting enough food, forcing many to go without food for several meals, or even days. But among the forest of nonprofit organizations that are attempting to address this issue, there is a tree of hope that grows in the heart of America, one that was planted in 1979 and is respectfully known as Harvester’s Community Food Network.
The symbolic reference to a tree is an ideal representation of this amazing organization because in order to produce good fruit a tree must first have good soil; a foundation in which to spread its roots and grow. Harvester’s Community Food Network laid its foundation in the Midwest over 33 years ago with its mission “to feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow”.
And just like a tree, Harvester’s Community Food Network has required water and
sunlight to grow, and these vital nutrients are represented by the generous donations and spirited energies of its volunteers. Every day hundreds of amazing people from all walks of life pull together to give life to a tree that has grown to bear the fruits of an abundant harvest – one that has produced more than 42 million pounds of food in 2012 alone.
And what good is a fruitful harvest if it cannot be used to nourish the minds and bodies of those who need it? Once again, because of the solid foundation and dedicated nurturing, the branches of this tree have grown to extend their reach to over 600 agencies in 26 counties across eastern Kansas and western Missouri, making the fruits of its harvest accessible to as many as 66,000 people per week, all of which have helped to establish Harvester’s Community Food Network as a tree of hope for thousands who struggle with hunger each day.
But Harvester’s cannot solve the issue of hunger in America alone. If we are to
meet this challenge head-on it will require the other trees of this forest to produce, as well. In order for these trees to reap the benefits of a fruitful harvest, these challenges can be overcome by following Harvester’s example:
Planting the seed of your nonprofit is vital to establishing its foundation and continued growth. Make sure that your cause adds value to the needs of its recipients and that your intentions are reflected clearly in your mission statement. Once you’ve established your foundation it is important that you communicate your cause by promoting your organization using all the traditional forms of promotion, such as organization websites, social media and special events.Nurture Your Tree
Engaging and retaining volunteers is just one of the many key challenges that face nonprofit organizations today, but one that is critical to the nurturing and ongoing growth of your tree. As a long-time volunteer, I can tell you from experience that volunteering is a personal choice and one that is made for different reasons. However, by using these key examples established by Harvester’s you can learn some important ways to engage and retain the volunteers so vital to the nurturing and growth of your tree:
In the forest of nonprofits, to address the challenges of fighting hunger in America today, we can all learn a lot from Harvester’s Community Food Network. By following their example we can establish our own tree of hope and bear the fruits of an abundant harvest for years to come!
RL Mathews is a longtime volunteer in the community, writer and owner of A Man Of His Word, a company that promotes organizations in the nonprofit sector.
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.
Your organization is trying to solve real problems – in your community, in the country, and in the world. Like many organizations, however, chances are you don’t feel the support you need to really change things.
Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) has found a way to address this problem: Focus locally for global impact. Through its unique model of encouraging “informed engagement,” THI has amplified the impact of volunteering in its community, making real strides in the fight against hunger.
How to Solve Global Problems with Local Engagement
Register for this free event.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)
For this month’s Nonprofit Insights webinar, join THI founder Jeremy Everett and Carol Rigby-Hiebert, a community volunteer in San Angelo, Texas, to learn about THI’s model for tackling hunger by mobilizing communities and volunteers at a micro level – for macro results.
About Our Speakers:
Jeremy Everett is the founding Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI), a capacity-building project within the Baylor University School of Social Work. THI is a partner of the United States Department of Agriculture, Texas state agencies, and a number of other national and state based anti-hunger and poverty organizations that seek to develop and implement strategies to alleviate hunger through research, policy, education, community organizing and community development.
Jeremy was recently (2012) recognized for his work in social engagement by the University of Texas LBJ School’s Strauss Center for International Security and Law as a Next Generation Project Fellow. He is the co-author of “Advancing Childhood Food Security through Organizing Strategies.” Jeremy is married to Amy Miley Everett and they have two sons: Lucas and Sam.
A 34-year resident of San Angelo, Texas, Carol Rigby-Hiebert is an avid volunteer and advocate for the vulnerable in her community. She, with the help of fellow San Angelo resident Mary Herbert and others in their community, helped establish one of Texas Hunger Initiative’s very first pilot projects in 2009. Together, Carol and Mary have planned, developed and implemented efforts to alleviate hunger in Tom Green County, including providing summer meals when school is not in session and identifying local resources for food.
Carol has served in the public sector for 20 years, including more than 10 years of service as a San Angelo City Clerk. She has also worked in the private sector for 15 years, including eight years as an insurance office manager.
Along with her efforts in the Tom Green County Hunger Initiative, Carol volunteers with Southland Baptist Church as a HOPE Market Coordinator, the Junior League of San Angelo and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate – Guardian Ad Litem.
Our latest Nonprofit Insights webinar was an intense one! Dr. Christopher Spera and Anthony Nerino of The Corporation for National and Community Service joined our president Greg Baldwin for a fascinating discussion on new statistics about volunteering in America. We dived deep into data from the Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 (VCLA 2012) study to explore who is volunteering in America and what that means for volunteer engagement.
This was a chance to see, in numbers, how Americans are volunteering, where they are and who is most involved. We learned some fascinating statistics, and our audience had the opportunity to ask some very applicable questions and discuss how to apply this new info to their own volunteer engagement strategies.Looking at the Numbers
The VCLA 2012 study presented some fascinating numbers relating to different demographics, regions and service categories in America:
While we often think of numbers as boring and not very personal, Dr. Spera and Mr. Nerino taught us just how important looking at the statistics can be. Because we usually think about how we can engage volunteers, it was helpful to look at the numbers for more directed insights. Greg Baldwin did a great job as mediator, asking questions about the VCLA 2012 facts and engaging the two Corporation speakers on how such data could be relevant to organizations.
Applying Stats to Volunteer Engagement: What Do They Mean for Your Organization?
Ideas like these kept coming up as our presenters reviewed the VCLA 2012 data. Our audience was also curious to know the “why” behind some of these fascinating numbers and seemed to take away some applicable theories of their own. All of us found a new appreciation for numbers after this webinar, as well as a better understanding of what they mean for volunteer engagement.
Want to learn more about the Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2012 study and the Corporation for National and Community Service? Visit the VCLA 2012 website, watch our webinar on Youtube, or view and download the webinar slides from Slideshare.
Don’t miss our next Nonprofit Insights Webinar, How to Solve Global Problems with Local Engagement, coming up May 29th. We will be speaking with Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) about how local organizations can fight global issues like hunger with volunteer engagement. Register today!
Guest post by Jessica Vaysman, Total Family Support Clinic
I am proud to say that today, I work for a nonprofit organization called the Total Family Support Clinic in Downtown Los Angeles.
Since moving to Los Angeles 5 years ago from Brooklyn NY, I have spent the majority of that time working in the glitzy entertainment industry that many often associate with this city. Like many who are thrust into this world, I eventually became disillusioned with the lack of meaning my entertainment positions provided.
After much debate, I decided to make a change and leave the lavish entertainment world in search of something more, something that was more beneficial to humanity, and ultimately something that would allow me to be more fulfilled.
I am proud to say that today I have found that something. Since I started at the Total Family Support Clinic, I have opened myself up to so many new and wonderful opportunities.
The first being the opportunity to witness a completely new side of the city I live in. Beyond the celebrities and below the manicured lawns that lie to the north is a completely different Los Angeles. Even though this side of Los Angeles is one filled more with despair than achievement, I have found that it radiates with a current of hope. I have seen this hope in both the talented counselors I work with and the population our clinic serves.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to participate in our free weekly food distribution. This is a far cry from the weekly PR updates I used to distribute, but so much more rewarding.
The Total Family Support Clinic provides everything from produce to canned goods to fresh meat to the hundreds of families that depend on us. Watching hungry children leave the clinic with a smile would have been enough to brighten my day, but I think witnessing families offer to volunteer with TFSC because they felt indebted to us, was even more touching. It really showed just how meaningful a helping hand can be and how the spirit of giving back is so contagious.
One of the hats I wear at TFSC is volunteer coordinator – people from all walks of life are coming in: lawyers, teachers, people in recovery, to give their time and efforts. Though they all may be from different backgrounds, everyone has the purpose of giving back. The amazing juxtaposition of a business professional giving out free food to a man that doesn’t even own shoes is incredible. It makes me feel invigorated and motivated to do more.
I asked one of our volunteers, Raymond, why he comes every single week, and he simply said because he hopes someone would help him out if he needed it . Seeing that beautiful glimpse of humanity working together is enough to make everyone work harder.
Days like this solidify the hard decision I made months ago. I have truly found that “something” I was looking for and I know as long as I work for an organization so dedicated to serving their population, that “something” will come often. I am so blessed in my new life here and I hope you join me on this journey as I continue to explore and participate in this new world.
Please know, the free food distribution is just one of the many amazing services the Total Family Support Clinic provides. If you want to learn more please visit our website at www.totalfamilysupport.org.
Jessica Vaysman is a 27-year-old New York transplant documenting her journey into the world of nonprofits.
As nonprofits, we’re constantly thinking about how we can engage our volunteers. We spend a lot of time learning how to recruit, retain and recognize our volunteers. But this interaction can go both ways.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of volunteer coordination and management, but how often do we think about all the things our volunteers are teaching us?
At the revived and upcoming Nonprofit Boot Camp, Silicon Valley nonprofits will have the chance to learn from experts and each other. What we want to know is: What do we all learn from our volunteers?
VolunteerMatch has decided to have some fun with this, so we’ve created a contest! Now’s your chance to honor your volunteers and share tips, inspiration and other lessons you’ve learned from your volunteers. Answer our question and you could win one of five scholarships to the upcoming Nonprofit Boot Camp, Silicon Valley!
Enter now for your chance to win!
To enter, click this link and add your volunteer lessons in the comment section. Creative and inspirational entries encouraged!
Winners will be chosen by popularity vote, based on the number of “likes” each comment gets. So make sure to “like” your favorites and get your friends to help you out too.
Each of the top five entries will receive a pass to the Nonprofit Boot Camp, Silicon Valley. This includes the full-day conference, networking sessions and workshops, as well as breakfast and lunch.
Please note: We can only award scholarships to those able to attend the Nonprofit Boot Camp, in Mountain View, CA on June 12. Each scholarship is good for one event pass, which covers the full-day conference, workshops and networking, as well as breakfast and lunch; transportation and hotel are not provided.
As an added bonus, all entries have the chance to be included in a special Volunteer Inspiration booklet, which we’ll have available to download at the Boot Camp.
The contest ends May 30, so don’t waste time – share what you’ve learned from your volunteers now!
You use VolutneerMatch to connect with the volunteers you need, but what happens next? Following up is an important part of the recruitment process. It’s the first opportunity for your organization to engage new volunteers. For this month’s tip I’ll teach you how to use the tools in your VolunteerMatch account to follow up with everyone who expresses interest in your opportunities.
Following up does not have to be a long, involved process. Most of the time a simple ‘Thank You’ note will work. You can also use follow up messaging to inform volunteers of next steps in your on-boarding process. If your organization has a Community Leader subscription you can even create customized questions that are sent out automatically.
When you post an opportunity on our site it will be visible to thousands of individuals within our network. Each time an interested volunteer clicks the ‘I Want to Help!’ button we will automatically save their contact information into your VolunteerMatch account. You can use this information in your follow up process by accessing your Referral Report.
To learn how to access the Referral Report watch this short Tools Training Video.
Use the information stored in your Referral Report to send out follow up messaging to prospective volunteers. Let them know you received their inquiry and inform them about next steps. Schedule a phone interview, send them additional paperwork or invite them to register on your website. Taking the time to follow up promotes engagement and retention, so make sure your organization doesn’t drop the ball.
Do you have any tips for following up with volunteers? Share them in the comments below!
Guest post by Toan Lam, Go Inspire Go
There are inspiring stories everywhere – as nonprofits who work with dedicated volunteers, you know that better than anyone. But when you turn on the tube or surf the net, it’s often hard to find them.
This is the story of how I’m trying to make the stories of people who go above and beyond to help others – people like you and your volunteers – more visible.
After reporting the news on TV for about eight years, I realized didn’t want to bring you stories of death and destruction anymore. Many people have told me that instead, they want to see stories of volunteerism, inspiration and community.
So I did something about it! I quit my TV gig and ventured into my new GIG – Go Inspire Go, a multi-platform website dedicated to telling authentic stories of everyday community heroes, leveraging social media to build community and spark action.
I’m sure each and every one of you has witnessed the incredible dedication and impact of volunteers. We want to get their story, and yours, out to the world. Know of someone who fits this description? Please tell us about them.
I truly believe that a story well told will further inspire you and your community to become civically engaged.
Here are some examples of great stories:
GoInspireGo (GIG) shed light on these everyday heroes and helped multiply their movements by sharing their stories.
For the past four years, my all-volunteer team and I have been bootstrappin’ it to find inspiring content that sparks civic engagement. Content that awakens something inside you to action. And people tell us they want more!
It takes a village to create more stories, however.
We need your help.
We can do this together.
We’re launching a campaign called 50I50 to highlight 50 heroes in 50 states, and we’re inviting you to support a superhero and join our movement to inspire:
Through my new GIG, I know that there are everyday heroes out there that are living examples of generosity, goodness and selfless service. GIG can connect and inspire these communities.
Your small acts, and those of your volunteers = BIG, meaningful changes. Help us multiply our movement and uncover more everyday heroes that make it their GIG to give back.
VolunteerMatch’s Community Leader account is a premium service package that helps you recruit more of the volunteers you need, even more efficiently. In other words, Community Leader saves you time and helps you build better relationships with prospective volunteers.
Now we’re excited to announce some great upgrades to Community Leader to make the service even more valuable, and make it even easier for you to connect with the volunteers you need:Show Prospective Volunteers Your Impact with More Photos
We’ve found that the most successful volunteer opportunities in the VolunteerMatch network contain photos. So we decided to make it even easier for you to include photos with each of your listings.
Now nonprofits with Community Leader accounts can add a unique photo for up to 20 volunteer listings. So you can use the power of your own photos to show prospective volunteers how they can make a difference working with you.Get the Info You Need with More Custom Questions
Now when a volunteer clicks “I want to help,” on your listing, you can ask them up to five custom questions, increased from three questions.
This feature enables you to get valuable information about prospective volunteers right at the moment they express interest in your opportunity. Essentially, you can pre-screen your volunteers, saving time that you’d otherwise spend calling them or emailing them.
If you’re running a big volunteer event such as a race or a phone-a-thon, you can use these questions to ask about T-shirt sizes, food choices, shift sign-ups, etc. For example, need to know a prospective volunteer’s T-shirt size? You can now require them to choose from a drop-down menu when they express interest in your opportunity.
These upgrades to Community Leader make this premium service even more valuable for nonprofits to engage volunteers. And we want all our nonprofit members to be able to try it out and make sure it’s a good fit. Right now, use promo code CLPROMO2013 to get three free months of Community Leader – this works for both new and existing Community Leader subscribers.
At 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.Creating a Virtuous Cycle of Engagement for Millennials | Frogloop
There seems to be a growing disconnect between Millennials who believe they are supporting activism versus what organizations see as truly engaged participation. In this post Kari Dunn Saratovsky shares some ideas from her recently released book “Cause for Change,” co-authored with Derrick Feldmann, for how to build your organization’s Millennial engagement strategy.My least favorite fundraising framing: Shame | Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog
UNICEF Sweden has created quite a buzz in the nonprofit marketing world with their campaign telling people that liking their Facebook page doesn’t actually help. In this post Katya Andresen from Network for Good shares her opinion – what’s yours?Volunteer Retention is Worth Your Time and Effort | Event 360
Written before the Boston Marathon bombings, this post by Michele Campbell of King Fish Media about how nonprofit organizations can treat their volunteers to instill deep loyalty. After the tragic events of that day, this post rings even truer to inspire volunteer appreciation.2013 NTC Round-Up: Your Takeaways | NTEN
Whether you were at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in person or not, don’t miss out on the mountains of great resources that have come out of the event. Here’s a great round-up from NTEN itself of collaborative session notes, reflective NTC blog posts, fun videos and more.
What if there was a one day event dedicated to helping you learn practical, real-life strategies for making social media work for your organization? What if this event were affordable and right in your own backyard? That sounds pretty worthwhile, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, the Social Media for Nonprofits conference series makes this dream a reality. 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 truly 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!
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.)Attention Bay Area: The Return of Boot Camp
But wait, there’s an extra-special opportunity for those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area! The folks at Social Media for Nonprofits are bringing back Nonprofit Boot Camp, what was once the most popular nonprofit gathering in Bay Area history.
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.
VolunteerMatch is taking part in Boot Camp this year by organizing the “Ask the Experts” mentoring sessions – an opportunity for attendees to have one-on-one coaching time with experts in areas like marketing, fundraising, strategic planning, board development… More on this after you register.More Special Opportunities for VolunteerMatch Members
Additionally, we’re giving away scholarships to nonprofits in the Bay Area so more of you can attend Boot Camp. Stay tuned for more information on how to win one of these scholarships.Upcoming Dates
Monday, May 20
Nonprofit Boot Camp
Wednesday, June 12
Mountain View, CA
Thursday, June 13
Mountain View, CA
Tuesday, June 25
Monday, July 15
Tuesday, August 13
This May we have exciting news to share: We’re adding two new sessions to our webinar schedule, both focused on volunteer engagement. We’ve also rolled out the remainder of our 2013 webinar calendar. New dates are now available in our Learning Center.
Read more about our two all-new webinars below. Each one focuses on an important aspect of volunteer engagement.
Is your organization open to engaging volunteers in new ways? Often one of the biggest challenges to a new model of volunteer engagement is the resistance of paid staff. Often attitudes and fears of our co-workers prevent us from expanding the work that volunteers do. In this webinar we’ll discuss strategies for working with paid staff to engage volunteers. We’ll cover how you can train and support your coworkers as they become responsible for managing volunteers.
In this webinar you’ll learn how to create a strategic plan for volunteer engagement for your organization. We’ll tell you which components need to be included in your plan. And we’ll share ideas for working with organization leaders to include strategic goals for volunteer engagement in your organization’s overall strategic plan.
If you missed one of our webinars earlier this year, not to worry. We host each title multiple times throughout the year, including the following:
Using common volunteer opportunities from hunger relief organizations we’ll discuss best practices for creating listings on VolunteerMatch that will appeal to the volunteers you’re looking for to run your programs. We’ll look at before and after listings, and we’ll discuss how to use our Premium Account tools to pre-screen and get to know prospective volunteers before you talk to them. Sample descriptions, custom questions, and useful examples will be provided.
Your volunteer engagement program can be measured by more than just the hours a volunteer gives your organization. What other kinds of information should you keep track of, and how do you know if you’re doing a good job with your volunteer engagement program? This webinar will help you think through both the quantitative and qualitative information you can use to evaluate your program.
To view our full webinar calendar, visit our Learning Center.
Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.
Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.
Interview with Ted Kain, Social Care Volunteer Coordinator at the St. James Food Pantry.
Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?
Ted: There is such a great need in our community, let alone our world, for people to be fed. There are so many myths about hunger that it’s been incredibly educational for me to learn how many people are hungry in our neighborhood. St. James Food Pantry is blessed to provide this service in order to try to help our community.
Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?
Ted: VolunteerMatch has been very helpful in promoting our service. We’ve been fortunate to meet individuals and groups who want to contribute to our mission. VolunteerMatch has provided another outlet for St. James Food Pantry to invite our neighbors to give back and help those in need. The work of volunteers helps us exponentially – we’re extremely grateful and inspired by the volunteers who donate their time and talent with us.
Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? What’s the most rewarding?
Ted: It can be difficult to hear stories of difficult circumstances and situations our clients may be facing. There’s only so much we can provide to our clients, but it’s hard not to be able to do even more after meeting clients each day who struggle to get by.
The most rewarding aspect of my job is receiving a genuine thank you or smile after providing our service. Our clients understand the effort put forth by our volunteers and staff to make our food pantry a success. To bring happiness, comfort and respect through simple acts of kindness brightens my day tremendously.
Adam: What do you love about your work?
Ted: I love working with staff and volunteers who care passionately and seriously about the service we provide. I’m exposed to great generosity every day. The contributions people make through time, talent, donations and respect is humbling to lay witness to. I’m thankful to work with those who give in any way they can. Some people may not have a lot to give, but they give what they’re able to. I find that to be an inspiration for how to live life daily. One doesn’t have to possess the most resources to make an incredible impact on a community.
This post was inspired by the Nonprofit Blog Carnival.
I don’t know how they pulled it off, but when I was in 10th grade my tiny high school managed to get David Mamet to teach an after-school screenwriting class for one semester. As a bushy-tailed aspiring writer, I could not have been more excited.
Sadly, most of what he taught me about actual writing has faded over the years – or perhaps I have so completely assimilated his lessons into my daily practices, I can’t tell where his ideas end and mine begin. That just means the class was a success for me.
But this post isn’t about writing lessons – it’s about life lessons, really. And it was from Mr. Mamet in this screenwriting class that I got the single best piece of advice of my life.
I remember it clearly – it was a day he didn’t want to focus on writing, but on everything else. His lead-up was dramatic, as he said, “If you take nothing else away from this class, remember this one thing forever.” And then he wrote on the chalkboard in big, underlined letters:
Since that moment, these words have been in the back of my mind, pushing their way to the surface whenever I have a choice of how to react in a difficult situation. The server got my order wrong? Someone is frustrated with an online webinar’s bad audio? Trying to get a hotel upgrade? Nothing I or anyone else tries is ever more effective than a genuine smile, empathetic language, and the two most powerful words in the world: “Please” and “Thanks.”
The beauty of this advice is that it translates well across all of life’s difficulties, both personal and professional, and that includes volunteer engagement issues. Here are three general ways being polite can help your organization work with volunteers:The Ask
We said it before (including during our Nonprofit Insights webinar with the Corporation for National and Community Service about volunteering data): The best way to get people to volunteer is to ask them. But be sure to ask them politely – keep in mind what your prospective volunteers care about, and approach them from a place of understanding and kinship. You’ll be amazed what a simple, well-thought-out “please” will do for your recruitment efforts!The Work
Having trouble with your volunteers? Sometimes they don’t understand the importance of staying focused and on-task. Perhaps you’re working with young volunteers who spend too much time socializing. Perhaps you need to provide some constructive feedback on the job they’re doing. Remember to be polite by respecting the hard work they’ve already done, and expressing your support as they find more ways to make a difference for your organization.The Follow-Up
Nothing is more important for your relationship with your volunteers than saying “Thank you.” Make sure you are sincere – you don’t necessarily need a fancy trophy or a gift card. But you will always need a bright smile for each person. Lead by example with your polite and appreciative attitude, and your volunteers will take their cue from you.
I hope this advice has been as valuable to you as it is to me. At this point, it’s unlikely I’ll be a famous screenwriter. But I’ll tell you one thing – I can always, and will always, be polite. In that respect, David Mamet and I have a lot in common.
Has a polite attitude helped you with your volunteer engagement? Tell us about it!
National Volunteer Week isn’t just about recognizing the contribution of your amazing volunteers. It’s not just about building and strengthening relationships with volunteers, either. National Volunteer Week is also a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about how to do these things!
Everyone loves a good “how-to” post, and below we’ve gathered some of the most popular posts from Engaging Volunteers about volunteer engagement and recognition in the past year – all of them chock-full of juicy tips. Enjoy!
There’s a special place in our hearts, and in this post, for the Nonprofit Tip of the Month series:
Join the fun! What volunteer engagement tips would you like us to share with the VolunteerMatch network in honor of National Volunteer Week?
(Photo from Horia Varlan on Flickr.)
National Volunteer Week is about recognizing and inspiring those who give back to their communities through service. It’s also the perfect time for your organization to engage new volunteers. A great way to promote your cause and grab the attention of volunteers is to post a creative, ‘outside-the-box’ volunteer opportunity.
We’ve selected four of our favorites to share with you. Each opportunity engages audiences through celebrating the role of volunteers and the impact they have within their organizations. Let’s take a look!
If you like magic, music, clowns and fun then this opportunity is for you! This organization puts on monthly birthday parties for low-income children residing in homeless shelters. They believe that children should be celebrated throughout the year and not just on holidays.
This opportunity was posted by Cause For Celebration. For more information about this organization, click here.
If you want to put your beauty talents to good use, look no further. This organization recruits volunteers to bring dignity, hope and respite to people living with chronic or terminal illness through beauty ad grooming treatments. They strive to make clients feel beautiful inside and out, in order to raise self-esteem and maintain dignity and the enhance quality of life.
This opportunity was posted by Beauty Bus Foundation. For more information about this organization, click here.
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and you like working in nature, sign up for this opportunity. This organization strives to develop in children and adults an appreciation for the natural world, and to preserve Eaton Canyon as a natural area for future generations.
This opportunity was posted by Eaton Canyon Nature Centers Associates (ECNCA). For more information about this organization, click here.
Put your video editing skills to use and sign up for this opportunity. Like their counterparts, Evercare Hospice strives to preserve dignity and freedom from pain at the end of life through a series of customized projects and activities. The Life Review Videos help in these efforts by showcasing the lives of each patient.
This opportunity was posted by Evercare Hospice & Palliative Care For more information about this organization, click here.
Does your organization have a fun, creative opportunity that you’d like us to share? Post it in the comments below!
The volunteer experience on Earth Day is changing now more than ever. The Internet has become a great way for Earth Day volunteers to share stories, collaborate efforts and spread general awareness about environmental issues. Using the connectivity of the web, environmentally-focused nonprofits can engage volunteers in a multitude of creative ways on Earth Day and throughout the year.
The Earth Day Network
An excellent online Earth Day resource is the The Earth Day Network, the same group that founded Earth Day over 40 years ago. The nonprofit has developed a number of innovative web-based environmental campaigns for volunteers.
For Earth Day 2013, the group has embraced the challenge of engaging millions of volunteers from around the globe with The Face of Climate Change social campaign, which showcases user-submitted pictures and inspirational stories about people, animals and places directly affected or threatened by climate change.
Launched in 2010, The Earth Day Network’s A Billion Acts of Green is the largest environmental service campaign in the world to date. The campaign encourages volunteers to pledge, donate and commit through various virtual initiatives including Protect Our Clean Air, Recycle Your E-Waste and Restore the Canopy. The Earth Day Network uses its own platform as well as other nonprofits from around the world to spread awareness about a wide array of environmental issues.
Other Great Virtual Volunteering Resources
The Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota are promoting volunteerism this Arbor Day by creating the Volunteer Center, which allows nonprofits, businesses and civic groups around the country to engage volunteers in all 50 states. Through the online tool, volunteers can more easily learn about and share conservation projects in their communities. The interactive database is made possible by support from Toyota and a partnership with VolunteerMatch.
VolunteerMatch is a great resource for virtual volunteers. With the advanced search section, volunteers can narrow their search for virtual opportunities in a wide range of causes, including the environment.
The Environmental Community is nonprofit organization that has developed a unique environmental platform to create new waves of eco-activity. They use VolunteerMatch to find virtual volunteers with a variety of skills to help with environmental projects.
As The Earth Day Network has shown, the Internet can be an effective tool to engage volunteers. As a nonprofit, consider using the web to connect with virtual volunteers. An active volunteer can play a vital role in the health and sustainability of a community and the local environment, and millions of virtual volunteers from around the world can have global impact.
This Earth Day and beyond, use VolunteerMatch as a resource to recruit volunteers who can help you create a sustainable, more livable world – not only for us, but for generations to come.
Guest post by Jason Miner
With National Volunteer Week approaching, and events in Boston and Texas reminding us of the importance of community, it’s become even clearer that volunteers really are the backbone of nonprofit organizations.
Volunteers help with fundraising, administrative tasks and operations, and they help spread the word about the mission of the organization. And although volunteers tend to perform such duties out of the care and concern they have for the goals set forth by the organization, there are a few key strategies that can be used to make these all-important volunteers feel recognized and appreciated:
1. Organizational Recognition - The simple things are sometimes the most respected and this holds true for recognizing outstanding volunteers within an organization. This can be as simple as printing off a volunteer of the week award and hanging it on a wall and doing so each and every week, or being a little more formal and making a presentation in front of others.
The point is that when you take the time to publicly recognize the efforts of those volunteers who go above and beyond, they will feel proud of their own accomplishments and thus work harder for your group’s goals.
2. A Little Fun Goes a Long Way - The work that volunteers do for your organization can sometimes be cumbersome, labor intensive and mentally draining. This is a great reason to set aside some fun time every week or month to show appreciation. A night out for dinner, a day of bowling, a round of golf or even a cookout in the parking lot can all be ways to show everyone that their hard work truly does matter and makes a difference.
3. Organizational Attire - Got some swag? Give your volunteers shirts, hats, jackets and other items that are normally reserved for donors. Make sure everyone has at least one item they can proudly wear to show that they are happy to be a volunteer. The volunteer gets to show their pride in their work, and your organization gets a little extra visibility in the process.
Remember: Even the smallest gesture is one that can make a volunteer feel good about themselves and their work.
Jason Miner plays a vital role for www.blogcarnival.com. He is an expert in writing topics of different categories. He is helping the carnival team to grow & working on making this an even better place for bloggers.
Next week is National Volunteer Week, and we hope you’ll join us and spend some time thinking about the significant role volunteers have played, and are still playing, in our country overall. In the days to come, we’re going to be focusing on volunteer engagement, recognition, inspiration and more. But first, let’s consider just how deeply volunteering is a part of who we are as a nation.A Brief History of Volunteering in America
This country has relied on volunteers from its start: Colonists banded together to survive the harsh New World, forming support groups to help each other plant crops, build houses and fight disease. Benjamin Franklin developed the first volunteer firehouse in 1736, an idea that has become the country’s norm, as more than 70% of all firefighters today are volunteers. And during the Revolutionary War, patriotic citizens volunteered to organize boycotts against British imports and raise funds for the war efforts, and of course there were the famous “minute men,” who were a volunteer militia.
It wasn’t until the Great Awakening in the 19th century that formal charitable organizations started cropping up. Inspired by religious revival, people became more aware of the disadvantaged, and the YMCA, American Red Cross and the United Way were all born in response.
Volunteers also played an important role in the Civil War, as groups such as Ladies’ Aid Societies were created to make bandages, shirts, towels, bedclothes, uniforms and tents.
The 20th century was when mainstream volunteerism really began to flourish, shaping the volunteer and nonprofit organizations that we recognize today. The Rotary Club, Kiwanis and the Lions Club were all established within the first few decades of the 1900s.
One of the first nationwide efforts to coordinate volunteers was in response to the Great Depression, including work by Volunteers of America. The first Volunteer Bureau was founded in Minneapolis, MN in 1919 and became part of the Volunteer Center National Network, which today reaches 170 million people in thousands of cities across the nation.
During World War II, volunteers were active in the military and on the home front. Thousands of volunteer offices took part in coordinating volunteers in collecting supplies, entertaining soldiers on leave and caring for the injured. After the war, major developments including the Peace Corps and President Lyndon B Johnson’s “War on Poverty” in 1964 started the expansion of volunteer opportunities that continues today.Volunteering Today
Within the past few years, you could say volunteering has essentially become a national pastime. In 2011 volunteering reached its highest level since 2006, as Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours of their time to local and national causes. Today nearly one in four Americans, an estimated 64.3 million people, have served as volunteers.
The Internet has played a huge role in engaging volunteers, allowing people to find opportunities in their own communities through online resources such as VolunteerMatch. It’s also created the possibility of virtual volunteering, where organizations can utilize the skills of volunteers anywhere in the world. Another growing trend is microvolunteering, in which people volunteer to perform small tasks online, usually to promote a campaign or raise awareness for a cause.
It’s safe to say that volunteering is part of America’s present as well as it’s past. And looking at how Americans volunteer and why, it’s clear that while the “how” has changed throughout history, the desire to help one another will always be a part of the nation’s legacy.
Want to know more about the history of volunteering? Here are some of the sources that were used for this article:
What do you think about the role volunteering has played U.S. history?