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To “geek out”:
To become enthralled by a subject that is considered by many to be geek-favorable. This includes comics, books, technology, etc. ~ Urban Dictionary
To temporarily enter techno-nerd mode while in a non-hackish context, or example at parties held near computer equipment. ~ The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing
I don’t know about you, but for us, a couple thousand nonprofit professionals passionate about creating change through technology gathering in one place for three days to learn, share knowledge and schmooze sounds like a seriously good time.
In one short month a few of us from VolunteerMatch will be heading to the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), hosted by the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). And how appropriate that this year’s event is being held in Minneapolis, Minn., which just happens to hold the distinction of the highest volunteering rate in the country – for the past two years straight.
At this year’s conference we’re looking forward to talking with folks just like you from all over the country to hear about technology needs, the challenges and triumphs of running a nonprofit in today’s multi-platform, multi-technical world, and how volunteers can make an impact both internally and externally when it comes to nonprofit technology.
We’ll also be speaking at a few sessions. Check them out below:
Will you be at the NTC this year? Let us know, and we’ll grab coffee!
Sometimes time and budget just don’t allow for these types of events – we get it, and so does NTEN. If you can’t make it to the NTC this year, you should definitely check out the Online NTC, a great way to follow along with all the action from the comfort of your office or home.
Either way, come geek out with us!
Guest post by Jeff Huber, President, Home Instead, Inc.
More than one in four adults ages 55 and older volunteers each year, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. This statistic may surprise those who associate older age with a less active lifestyle. But in reality, millions of seniors selflessly give their time, skills and knowledge to benefit their communities, including through organizations like your nonprofit.
Now there’s a meaningful way to thank and honor Americans 65 and older who have positively impacted your organization: By entering him or her in the Salute to Senior Service® contest.
Salute to Senior Service is an annual program sponsored by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® franchise network, that recognizes the many ways seniors positively impact communities through their volunteer work. Now through March 31, you can nominate someone who has made a difference and inspired others by dedicating their time and talents to your nonprofit and the people you serve.
Salute to Senior Service nominees not only receive public recognition and appreciation for their dedicated community service, but are also eligible for a chance to win up to $5,500 that will be donated to their favorite volunteer organization.
Jeff Huber is the President of Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care network of global franchise offices that provide in-home non-medical care services for seniors. In this role, Jeff oversees the franchisor’s daily operational functions, including marketing, business performance, franchise standards, franchise development, global business and training—all of which help support the franchise network. He also provides strategic leadership on key Home Instead initiatives, including CAREGiver SM Leadership.
Hey Everyone! My name is Steven and I’m the new Communications and Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. I’m excited to embark on an internship with a nonprofit organization that has earned my admiration as well as the respect of at least three U.S. Presidents!
Last spring, I graduated with a degree in Technical & Professional Writing, with an emphasis in Digital Media from San Francisco State University. During my undergraduate studies, I developed technical documents, authored promotional material, and worked on graphic design projects. Most importantly, I got the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of volunteerism, through grant writing and community service learning.
San Francisco is one of the most giving cities on the planet and living here and connecting with the local nonprofit community has been an inspiration. Early last year, I had the privilege of writing several documents for a wonderful Bay Area nonprofit called Black Girls Code, which seeks to educate young women of color in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by providing tuition-free courses on computer-related subjects such as Ruby on Rails and Python as well as critical thinking and logic.
As a Communications and Social Media Intern, it is my responsibility to engage and foster open dialogue about volunteerism through the web. I will assist the communications and social media team on various blogs and writing-related projects, and help develop a greater online presence in VolunteerMatch’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) community.
There are several important outcomes I aim to achieve during my time at VolunteerMatch. One is to better understand a web-based nonprofit organization from the inside. Another personal objective is to enhance my writing, editing, and graphic design skills. Above all, this internship at VolunteerMatch will allow me to broaden my horizons and embrace new and interesting challenges.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read about my internship journey. Stay tuned to see more of my content on the VolunteerMatch blog page. And make sure to use VolunteerMatch as a resource to engage and connect with volunteers in your area!
Guest post by Amanda Carlson
Despite how cynical people often feel, there are reasons to be proud of being a human. Humans are known for sacrificing their own well-being to help others, and some even perform actions that will help people they will never see.
It’s important to understand the inner motivations of your volunteers – so you can make sure their experience with your organization is as fulfilling as possible. Here are some of the factors driving volunteerism and some facts about the psychology behind it:Why do we volunteer?
A number of theories have been proposed to explain why people help others for no benefit. Some say that it is a result of human evolution: before civilization was developed, humans would have to depend on each other in order to survive. While volunteering is no longer essential for individual survival, this instinct still remains.What about religion?
Some propose that it is primarily religion that encourages people to volunteer their time and energy. Indeed, monotheistic religious texts place an emphasis on helping others. For example, the concept of karma in Hinduism may make volunteering tempting.
However, volunteerism is still high among those who subscribe to no religion, and there is no evidence that religious people volunteer more regularly than those who are not religious. Still, religious institutes are often at the forefront of organizing volunteer efforts.Who volunteers?
It’s difficult to determine who volunteers most frequently from a demographic perspective. Volunteerism is popular among both young people and the elderly, and people of all races and religions tend to volunteer at similar rates. That said, a majority of people do not volunteer regularly, but most people state that volunteering is a goal. Some have suggested that there may be techniques for encouraging more people to spend their time helping others.Does encouraging volunteerism work?
Some have proposed increasing the tax benefits for those who volunteer. Further, some suggest funding volunteer efforts so that those who help are paid for their time. However, the most effective way to increase volunteerism might simply be to talk about it more often.
Simple television advertisements, blog posts and social media conversations about volunteer opportunities may be able to help, as most people express a desire to volunteer more frequently. Some have also suggested making volunteering a group effort: Instead of people signing up individually, they could form groups and decide where their time will be spent collectively.
Amanda Carlson, a blogger as well as a former newborn care nurse contributed this post. To stay connected to her previous career and share the knowledge she gained, she began writing for www.newborncare.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo from Hey Paul Studios on Flickr.)
March is Women’s History Month, and here at VolunteerMatch we want to acknowledge all the great women who have dedicated time and energy to volunteering—around the world and in their own communities. Thank you so much for your work and inspiration!
I want to highlight two women in particular who have inspired me to become a volunteer. The first is my mother, a hardworking woman who has been tirelessly involved in bake-sales and church functions as long as I can remember, and who raised my sister and me to help out, too. The second is Melinda French Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and number four on Forbes Magazine’s list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.” She is someone I have always admired and aspired to be like.
Both these women are my role models, showing in their own ways how far a woman can go and how much difference she can make. But what motivates these two very different women to volunteer? What does the work of an internationally-renowned women’s rights advocate and co-founder of one of the world’s richest nonprofits have in common with my mother’s quiet efforts in her community? Most importantly, what can I, as a woman and a volunteer, learn from them?Filling a Need
My mom has always used my sister and me as her excuse for why she started volunteering in the first place. However, now that we are both grown up and moved away, she can no longer say we are her only reason. She is still very involved in her community, running over to the school on weeknights to set up for fundraising dinners, or taking time from her weekends to manage church finances. Her reason now is that she continues to see a need for what she’s doing, which didn’t go away after we left. Although they are someone else’s children now, she explains, she volunteers because she cares.
Melinda Gates sums up the work she does in much the same way. “Our desire to bring every good thing to our children is a force for good throughout the world,”she explained recently in one of her TED talks. This desire has motivated her to help other women achieve this for their own children.
Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and her own work, Mrs. Gates has committed herself to improving people’s health and wellbeing, and to improving education for young people. Most recently, she has joined the fight for women’s reproductive rights, even standing up against the Catholic church in defense of improving access to contraception in some of the world’s poorest countries.Propelling Societies Forward, One Woman at a Time
While both women have made different impacts in volunteering, it seems they are inspired in similar ways. They both care for family and community, which helps them empathize with other women and motivates them to make a difference.
According to Mrs. Gates, such care and desire to provide what’s best for our children “propels societies forward.” Understanding this has allowed her to connect with mothers and women around the world. At the same time, my mother’s care for her children led her to first recognize and then continue “filling a need” in the community, even after her kids grew up.
So although caring is not a feeling exclusive to women, we certainly learn a lot about how to care from our mothers. I want to make a difference because I have been inspired by the world-changing work of Melinda Gates. However, I began to get involved because of my mother’s continued involvement in her community. Thanks to both of these caring women, I volunteer.
Image provided courtesy of Foster Grandparent Program/VolunteerMatch.
It’s a new month and that means we have new webinars to share! In February we taught you how to step up your recruitment game. This month you’ll learn everything you need to create an engaging management program. We’ll teach you how to set goals and expectations for new and existing volunteer staff. We’ll also teach you how to become an advocate for volunteer engagement within your organization.
Here are some webinars you don’t want to miss in March:
In this webinar, you’ll learn how to create a living document that can help both paid and volunteer staff be better informed and know what is expected of them. A good Volunteer Handbook can also help you better identify and deal with challenging volunteers. Whether you’re just starting to create a Handbook or if you’re looking for best practices on information to include, this webinar will evaluate the Handbook you have and help you create a stronger framework for your volunteer engagement program.
Too often the role of engaging volunteers falls exclusively to the volunteer program manager. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “your volunteers” used within organizations. How do you make volunteer engagement everyone’s job? This webinar will provide you with the tools to become an advocate for volunteer engagement. Learn how to create a step by step communication plan to reinforce the importance of volunteer engagement to key stakeholders within your organization.
So many volunteer managers at hunger relief organizations depend on groups of volunteers to meet the needs of their programs. Using various hunger relief organizations as examples, we’ll discuss ideas for working with corporate groups, youth groups and many more. You’ll learn effective practices for engagement and the importance of creating opportunities with measurable impacts. We’ll also share ideas for diversifying the work load and commitment level of volunteer groups. Though geared towards hunger relief, volunteer managers from all types of organizations are encouraged to attend this webinar.
This webinar covers the basics of what should be included in a position description. You’ll learn how to create and update position descriptions for all of your volunteer opportunities. We’ll also share how accurate and up-to-date position descriptions can help you recruit and train volunteers, and how they can help with retention and the development of leadership positions within your volunteer engagement program.
To learn more about our March webinars please visit our Learning Center.
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.
This month we are focusing on data and measurement.Data Informed vs. Data Driven | Beth Kanter
Drawing from content in her book, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit,” Beth Kanter explains the difference between these two types of relationships organizations can have with data, and why being data informed is better.Data Privacy and Public Trust | Philanthropy 2173
Lucy Bernholz asks the question: shouldn’t nonprofits be responsible for what they do with their constituent’s personal data? What sort of regulation is needed to make sure the data collected by nonprofits is used solely for social good purposes?Sharing a Cause and Data Across Multiple Orgs | NTEN
Repurposed from the quarterly journal NTEN:Change, this guest article from Rachel Weidinger of Upwell explains how that organizations has worked to make its data more shareable, thus increasing the potential for collaboration and impact.Dive Deeper into Facebook Page Insights | Socialbrite
Because a major source of nonprofit data is now the social media world, here is a great post by expert John Haydon about how nonprofits can make the most of the data provided in Facebook Page Insights.Nonprofit Data and the Arc of History | Markets for Good
Markets for Good is an initiative to discover how the social sector can better use and share information to improve outcomes and change lives. Naturally, the topic of data comes up a lot. In this blog post, Darin McKeever, who is a deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation leading the foundation’s Charitable Sector work reminds us that discussions around nonprofit data are nothing new. He highlights a few of the initiatives currently at work in the field, and ponders whether we should support them, or challenge the sector to come up with something better.
On this blog we talk a lot about volunteer recognition. This is a critical piece of the overall volunteer engagement lifecycle, along with recruitment and retention.
However, it’s important not to forget that our paid employees need recognition, as well. Especially at a nonprofit, it’s a good bet that your staff people are not in it for the money. It’s the work itself, and the cause that work supports, that drive the employees at our organizations.
Tomorrow is Employee Appreciation Day, and today we want to use this space to explain how our staff people work together and form a team that is way more amazing than the sum of its parts.
As VolunteerMatch President Greg Baldwin says, “There is nothing I enjoy more about VolunteerMatch than the opportunity to be surrounded by such a talented and generous team.”Engineering Team
VolunteerMatch would not exist without our technology, and our dedicated and often overworked team of engineers makes sure our technology actually works. The epitome of behind-the-scenes leaders, we are so proud of the award-winning work our engineers continue to do to help connect good people with good causes.
Way to go, Aaron, Stephen, Omid, Daryll, Vaishnavi, Eric, Fahad, Henry and Kirk!Services Team
The more VolunteerMatch grows, the bigger this team gets. Encompassing our Product, Solutions, Client Services, Education & Training and Marketing & Communications departments, this cross-functional group is on the front lines of our “people-facing” activities.
Thanks for your hard work, Russ, Molly, Michele, Seth, Dianna, Vicky, Maura, David, Jeff, Alyssa, Samir, Laura, Kevin, Adam, Jennifer, Robert, Lauren, Abby, Matt and Shari!Finance & Administration Team
At VolunteerMatch we are proud of our supportive culture, our great benefits and our cheery office. None of that would be possible without the hard work of our Finance & Administration Team.
Thanks for your dedication, Jackie, Julia and Rose!Executive Team
Think of them as a compass guiding our organization in the right direction, and providing excellent leadership for the rest of us along the way.
You’re the best, Greg, Greg, Denise and Zeph!
What does your company do to recognize your employees?
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.
These days, it’s not just about the fancy technology you use to raise money and support online – it’s how you use it. As more nonprofits turn to online platforms like Razoo for crowdfunding campaigns, the world of online fundraising can seem a bit like the Wild Wild West.
What separates the campaigns that just “do alright” from the ones that go viral and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars or more? You might be surprised to know that the difference is made by virtual volunteers – online champions that care so much about their causes they give their time and tap their networks to help raise money for nonprofit organizations.The Secret Sauce for Nonprofit Crowdfunding
Register for this free event.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)
In the March Nonprofit Insights webinar, Lesley Mansford, CEO of crowdfunding platform Razoo, will give us a glimpse into her world, sharing tips and best practices gathered from online campaigns that have raised more than $100 million for nonprofits from over 300,000 individual donors.
Through real-life stories and practical examples, Lesley will present the elements that contribute to a successful fundraising campaign on Razoo, including how nonprofits can best engage virtual volunteers to help spread the word and raise money.About Our Speaker:
Lesley Mansford, as the CEO of Razoo, has built the company into the fastest growing crowdfunding platform for causes. She is a seasoned general manager, marketer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. She has 20 years experience in senior roles with companies like Electronic Arts, building billion dollar brands. She was co-founder and COO of pogo, the largest online casual games community, acquired by EA in 2001.
From 2006 to 2010 she served on the board of directors for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, heading up their fundraising committee. She was named Woman of the Year in 2003 for her fundraising efforts. Lesley is a graduate of Bristol University, England and lives in Sonoma County.
Guest post from the folks at Build-A-Bear Workshop
Build-A-Bear Workshop® is searching for the next class of extraordinary youths to be named 2013 Huggable Heroes®. Is there an amazing young person in your community of volunteers? Nominate him or her today!
For the past 10 years, the Huggable Heroes program has recognized young leaders, ages eight to 18, for their outstanding community service efforts and leadership with a $10,000 grand prize which includes an educational scholarship, a donation to a charity of their choice, and a mentoring scholarship to support their charitable entrepreneurships.
The 2013 Huggable Heroes nominations are open through February 28. The deadline is quickly approaching, so nominate a youth from your volunteers that’s making a positive impact on your organization and in your community!
Huggable Heroes are kids who are speaking up for those who are less fortunate. They are making a difference at home and around the world. Collectively, Huggable Heroes have recruited thousands of volunteers, collected more than 316 million items to donate and raised approximately $9.4 million.Jourdan Urbach
Jourdan Urbach is a 2010 Huggable Hero. Jourdan knew at a young age that he was a talented violinist and it was never a question if he would use his talents to help others, but simply a matter of how he would do it. At the age of seven, he founded Children Helping Children – an international musical charity organization that supports pediatric divisions of hospitals and other medical organizations through in-hospital concerts. To date, this organization has raised more than $4 million and has brought the healing element of music to thousands.
Jourdan has gone on to become an internationally recognized musician and continues to help others as the National Director of the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, a prestigious national recognition organization honoring public service.A Special Anniversary
In celebration of the 10th birthday of the Huggable Heroes program, Build-A-Bear Workshop has teamed up with Jourdan and the Jefferson Awards to offer the 2013 Huggable Heroes unique mentorship opportunities through their GLOBECHANGERS training system. Ten Huggable Heroes will be paired with a mentor through the Jefferson Awards GLOBECHANGERS system for a year in order to develop valuable skills for writing business plans, networking and fundraising. The training and on-going support the Huggable Heroes receive from their mentors will enable these future leaders to grow personally and scale their efforts globally.
Do you work with young volunteers? Is there a young person you know who’s making a positive impact in the community? Nominate them as a Huggable Hero by visiting the website or picking up an entry form at participating Build-A-Bear Workshop stores.
It’s a fact: Filmmakers insert products, messages and themes into their movies that influence the way we think and act. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.
Below are some of the most popular movies of the past couple decades, and they just happen to include strong elements of volunteering and giving back. Browse the trailers below and think about how these films could inspire your volunteers, staff and supporters:Volunteers
What are your favorite movies about volunteering and doing good?
Guest post by Andrea McArthur
Today’s participation climate is flooded with volunteer opportunities for youth. They can join various campus and community clubs or councils tasked with raising awareness, conducting advocacy, or fundraising for large pockets of vulnerable populations around the world.
Popular examples of organizations engaging large groups of youth in this type of volunteering include Invisible Children, Free the Children, and Do Something.org. This type of volunteering is called indirect services, as the volunteer-to-client relationship is not peer to peer, but stretched across a vast network of stakeholders including educators, policy makers, the media and others.It’s About Power
What makes this type of volunteerism so attractive and successful? I explored this question and others about youth engaged in indirect volunteering in my Masters research and will elaborate on one of the major themes: Power.
Indirect volunteering is highly empowering. Youth find indirect volunteering empowering because this type of volunteering allows them to educate, influence, and motivate others to do something about their issue of interest. This often involves starting “by youth, for youth” initiated campaigns where youth volunteers are in a position of leadership, educating key stakeholders in their service community.The Other Side of the Coin
There are also unfortunately a few characteristics of indirect volunteering that are dis-empowering for youth. Many of these characteristics exist at the organizational level and are indicative of bureaucratic and resource related challenges.
Youth leaders often feel taken advantage of by large volumes of youth volunteers recruited for their cause who demonstrate considerably less commitment to the service initiative. On the other hand, youth who join indirect service projects to expand their leadership skills often feel overshadowed by other youth volunteers who seem to naturally have strong leadership qualities.
Additional factors such as organizational hierarchy, volunteer turnover, competition from youth groups doing similar work, the complexity of indirect service work and an apathetic public can sometimes make indirect service work dis-empowering for youth volunteers.
One of the biggest barriers that can dis-empower youth engaged in indirect volunteering is role ambiguity. The absence of a “volunteer to client” delivery model for this type of volunteering means that youth often do not see all of the outcomes of their work in their intended service community. They must infer the outcomes of their work from the stakeholders connecting them to their clients in their service network.Showing Impact to Empower
There are a few recommendations for improving role clarity, as youth feel more empowered when the outcomes of their work are clearer. Some youth recommend that volunteering internationally in their clients’ communities makes them feel empowered as they can directly see and clearly articulate the outcomes of their work.
Charity Village highlights the pros and cons of temporary international volunteer opportunities in their article on “backpacktivism.” Recommendations for working directly with, engaging, and empowering service communities abroad are provided.
Organizations can help youth better infer the outcomes of their work with reflection-based evaluation after an indirect service project. In a recent blog, I offered a sample survey and framework that helps youth identify all of the stakeholders in their indirect service network and anticipate all of the outcomes of their work together. Through reflection, youth can create a narrative that empowers them to make the outcomes of their indirect volunteering clearer.
Youth can feel empowered about the outcomes of their work through photovoice. Photovoice allows populations in a service community to construct a photo narrative of their struggles and triumphs as they see it from their own eyes. It also helps the volunteer network engage the service community with the challenges they face exactly as they see it, and to see images of the outcomes of their work. Plan Canada has a terrific example in their slideshow of media projects that empower youth for social change.
Empowerment also often comes from inspiration through peer motivation, especially for youth in the indirect service arena. Canada’s youth-initiated Count Me In conference inspires youth through motivational presentations from engaging youth leaders and big actors. Following the conference, the youth audience then attends the “Count Me In After Party Charity Marketplace” where they “mingle with charity representatives and find community service opportunities that are right for them.”
Indirect volunteering opportunities empower youth to engage vast audiences to affect global change. While youth can run into barriers to their engagement, such as role ambiguity, there are many strategies such as reflection, photovoice, peer motivation and where possible, travel, that can ensure all people within the network of an indirect service project are empowered by the work.
Andrea McArthur is a Research Consultant and Program Coordinator for the nonprofit sector. She has recently completed her Masters of Social Work, including a thesis about youth volunteers providing indirect services. Read more from Andrea at the Volunteerguru’s Blog.
Pinterest is mostly known as a place full of cupcake recipes and wedding ideas, but it is so much more than that. Pinterest is a site for discovering and sharing inspiration–which makes it a great place for nonprofits. Here are some useful tips:Showcase the impact of your work.
Your Pinterest page should showcase the positive impact that your work does for the community. Sharing your impact on Pinterest is a great way to increase your nonprofit’s visibility while attracting new volunteers and gaining donors.
For example, Operation Smile has touching before and after portraits of children who have gained new smiles through life-changing surgeries. Given the fact that Pinterest is a highly visual site, consider pinning photos that visually tell a powerful story about the work your nonprofit does.Share your ideas with other nonprofits.
Pinterest can be used to engage with other nonprofits. One way to connect with other nonprofits is by sharing creative ways to fundraise. For example, look at the inspiring ideas charity: water pinned onto their fundraising board.Create a business account.
You can convert your existing account into a business one. Upgrading your account gives you access to exclusive goodies such as a board widget, follow button and pin it button – all of which can be used on your blog and website.Add a Pin It Button to your website.
Add a Pin It button to your nonprofit blog so readers can easily pin their favorite posts onto their own Pinterest page. Be sure to place the button near your other social media sharing buttons to make it easier for your readers to find it.Use Pinterest to fundraise.
Pinterest can be another platform for fundraising online. The easiest way to fundraise is by turning your pin into a gift. Simply type in the price in the pin’s description. As soon as your pin has a price tag, it’s automatically added to the gifts category. Just make sure your pin links back to your nonprofit’s donation page.
If you want to take your fundraising to the next level, think about creative ways to reach donors. Take a look at the powerful Pinterest campaign that UNICEF launched for some inspiration.
Check out the VolunteerMatch Pinterest page here.
How does your nonprofit use Pinterest?
Guest post by Kathy Witkowicki, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance
A version of this article also appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
When I speak to groups about mentoring, a question that invariably arises is what makes the most difference in mentoring at-risk youth. My response is always “mentor commitment.”
I find that adults who volunteer to mentor an at-risk boy or girl can only have a lasting positive impact if they are prepared to create an enduring relationship.
While there are mentoring programs that are successful using a short-term model, recent studies such as this one cite ‘time’ as the secret sauce of effective mentoring – the longer the match, the better the outcomes. It also shows that brief mentoring relationships that end prematurely can do more harm than if that child was never matched in the first place.
We’ve taken this to heart at the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, so when we talk with potential volunteer mentors, we tell them they need to be prepared to “mentor for life.”
Yes, it’s a daunting request, but it’s also a great way to find those individuals who can make the biggest difference. As a result, we have been successful at weeding out the indecisive, non-committed volunteers, and attracting those willing to put forth the effort to enhance the life of an at-risk child.
I believe nonprofits should not be reluctant to ask for a high level of commitment, especially when volunteers, like our mentors, are integral to the organization’s mission. You may get fewer volunteers, but you will very likely get better ones.
Asking for commitment is one thing, however, you also have to follow through to support it.
We found it’s not enough simply to be a match-maker when it comes to pairing an adult with a child. It’s also vitally important to provide mentors with access to proper training, on-going education, motivational speakers, individual counseling and support groups.
There’s also the need to keep mentoring fun, which is why we supplement our K-12 school program with planned outings, field trips and social events for mentors and mentees on weekends and during summer vacation.
The result is we are seeing better outcomes. Among recent high school seniors in our program, eight out of ten have had the support of a mentor for at least six years, and half for eight years or more. This compares with a national average of six to twelve months for most school-based mentoring programs, and two years for community-based programs. Our program comprises both models.
Most important, our mentees, who were referred to us because they were at a higher risk of dropping out, are graduating in numbers equal to their peers, and are also moving on to college at a comparable rate.
We realize the world is not perfect, and our “mentoring for life” mantra is a goal, not a promise. The reality is that some committed mentors will need to leave their mentees after a short relationship for very understandable reasons. But by articulating this vision early, we raise the bar regarding expectations and thus attract the best volunteers from our community. The youth we serve deserve no less.
Kathy Witkowicki is Executive Director of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance in Sonoma, California. Her comments are drawn from her presentation at the 2013 National Mentoring Summit on the subject of “How To Keep Your Mentors Mentoring For Life.”
You might disagree with me, but I think that giving blood is a form of volunteering. I take some time, give of a valuable resource that I possess, and save someone’s life. It’s amazing, and I feel proud and lucky to be able to do it.
Without fail the Blood Centers of the Pacific chapter here in San Francisco calls me up every month to schedule an appointment (I actually give blood platelets, which are in higher demand, don’t last as long, and can be given more often than normal blood donations.) While no one could fault them for their recruitment or retention methods, it’s their volunteer appreciation that really has me impressed.
Last month I received an unexpected package in the mail in the form of a desk calendar from Blood Centers of the Pacific. It was a thank you for being a blood donor, and in my mind this quirky gift embodies several of the best practices when it comes to volunteer appreciation. Read more below:No Ask – Just a Thank You
The calendar didn’t come with a “You can renew your support” or “Don’t forget to schedule an appointment.” This gift was only about making me feel appreciated. Taking dedicated time just to thank your volunteers will show them that what they have already contributed matters – and you’re not always looking to get more from them.Useful Swag, Not Silly Fluff
Unlike many other thank you gifts (trophies come to mind), I could actually use a desk calendar. And as it becomes a daily part of my life, so will the Blood Center – each time I look at it.Personalize, Personalize, and Personalize Again
My desk calendar had my name inserted in various clever ways, such as on a child’s drawing, and as part of a page signed by patients. Another brilliant personalization was marking off on the 2013 calendar each day that I gave blood in 2012. A reminder of the time I spent with them previously, and a subtle suggestion for how I could continue. This illustrated the strong relationship I have with the organization.
Because of these elements, the desk calendar from Blood Centers of the Pacific made me feel special, very appreciated, and proud to be associated with them.
Which reminds me, I need to make another appointment to give blood.
What is your organization doing to make your volunteers feel special?
Editor’s Note: When most people think about skilled volunteering, they think lawyers, doctors, mechanics, writers, marketers… but skilled volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own set of challenges and rewards. Here is an article about finding volunteers with the right skills for a crisis center.
Guest post by Casey Wheeler
If you are a manager or recruiter for a crisis center, you know how important it is to find committed volunteers. On top of this, you also need volunteers who are emotionally and mentally capable of listening to and seeing things that, at times, may be unsettling. There are many people who have these qualifications, but there is one sub-group of people that is particularly suited for this type of work: psychology graduate students.
Crisis centers can benefit from recruiting volunteers with psychology degrees, because many topics in psychology can be applied to crisis counseling, including the following four:Knowledge of Therapy Techniques
Crisis center volunteers often provide basic counsel to people who have experienced suicidal thoughts, domestic violence, sexual assault or abuse, substance abuse, and other traumatic events. Although volunteers are trained to handle these situations, crisis centers could benefit from recruiting counselors who already have backgrounds in psychology and therapy techniques. Because psychology grad students are required to learn similar information in school, they should find it easy to learn and apply the counseling methods used at crisis centers.Knowledge of and Ability to Recognize Mental Illness
Not all victims of tragedy suffer from mental illness, but some do. Volunteers who recognize the difference between normal behavior and mental illness will know when a person needs additional professional help, and this knowledge could help save a life.
There is a fine line between temporary, situational sadness and chronic depression; volunteers with psychology degrees may find it easier to distinguish between the two, because they have learned the indicators of mental illness.Trained to Handle Confidential Information
As part of their curriculum, psychology students are taught the legal importance of keeping information that is shared in therapy confidential, unless someone’s life is in danger. This same commitment to confidentiality applies to crisis center counselors. With the knowledge they received in school, volunteers with psychology degrees should know how to handle confidential information appropriately and when and how to report information to a manager or to the police.Familiar with Counseling Ethics
In addition to keeping information confidential, there are other standards that apply to crisis center counseling. Some volunteer counselors learn about these standards during their training, but volunteers with psychology degrees should already know them by heart.
Counseling ethics is an important subject that is taught in all psychology programs, so grad students should understand the importance of ethics, as well as the consequences of unethical behavior. Recruiting volunteers with this kind of knowledge is vital to maintaining a reputable crisis center.
Are you interested in bringing on more volunteers with backgrounds in psychology? The best place to start is at your local university or college (if it has a psychology department). A few great places to post information on campus about how to volunteer include the career center, graduate school, and the alumni center. Different college campuses may have different rules for recruiting volunteers on campus, so be sure you know these rules before proceeding with your recruiting plans.
Casey Wheeler is a freelance writer and career counselor with a degree in psychology. Using his educational and professional background as a foundation, Casey most enjoys writing about anything related to psychology and learning. He also regularly writes for www.OnlinePsychologyDegree.net, a great resource for students interested in pursuing an online degree in psychology. Please leave your questions or comments for Casey below.
Does your organization actively recruit skilled volunteers? If not, you may want to re-evaluate your recruitment strategy. Pro-bono and skilled volunteers are changing the world of volunteering for the better. For this month’s tip I’ll tell you how to engage skilled volunteers using the free tools available in your VolutneerMatch account.
Let’s get started.
First things first: think strategically about which skill set your opportunity will target. What are your goals for the volunteers and their work within your organization? Identify the projects they will be working on and intended outcomes. Which skills will be necessary to complete this work? Be sure and incorporate these ideas into your opportunity.
Next you will need to create new content. Posting a new volunteer opportunity is the best way to engage new—and existing—volunteers. Remember to create a straightforward description and include relevant keywords. If you get stuck, reference our best practices to ensure your opportunity is engaging.
Now you’re ready to add some skills to your opportunity. Working with the Taproot Foundation we’ve created an extensive taxonomy of professional skills. To access this tool navigate to the ‘Requirements’ step in the listing flow and click on the box labeled ‘Select Skill’. Hover your cursor over the skills you wish to add and another list—with more specialized options—will appear. To select a skill simply click on the corresponding box. If you do not find the skill you’re looking for you can add it manually by typing into the box labeled ‘Other’.
Do you have skilled volunteer engagement tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Share your ideas in the comment section below!
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.
Many of the highest-performing nonprofits generate as much as 20% of their budget via pro bono resources. We call these hyper-efficient organizations “Powered by Pro Bono.” How can your nonprofit become one of these high-performing organizations?
Taproot Foundation, a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society, has developed a step-by-step guide to help your organization become Powered by Pro Bono.Becoming an Organization Powered by Pro Bono
Register for this free event.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)
In the February edition of the Nonprofit Insights webinar series, Aaron Hurst, President & Founder of Taproot, and Megan Kashner, Founder & CEO of Benevolent, will walk you through the steps to fully embrace pro bono service and enjoy the benefits.
From determining your organization’s needs, to locating the right pro bono resources, to managing and scaling the program, Aaron and Megan will provide high level strategy and practical tips you can put in place tomorrow, whether your organization has never engaged pro bono volunteers or works with them frequently.About Our Speakers:
Aaron Hurst (@aaron_hurst) is a globally recognized social innovator and leading architect of the growing pro bono services movement. He is known throughout Taproot offices for his striped socks, Post-it® doodling, and endless supply of bold ideas.
Aaron’s career is dedicated to challenging and empowering the public and private sectors as well as individuals and organizations to drive our collective social, environmental and economic progress. He is the founder of the Taproot Foundation—a nonprofit organization building a national pro bono marketplace and leading the global service movement—and is a creative force behind the conception of the national Billion + Change initiative and the Service Enterprise model.
A member of the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50, Aaron is widely known for his thought- leadership in civic engagement, nonprofit management and corporate social responsibility. He is a regular blogger for the Huffington Post and Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Megan Kashner is Benevolent’s founder, CEO, tea-kettle refiller, blogger and overall chatterer. A seasoned nonprofit leader with over 20 years of strategic management, community partnership building and organizational planning.
Megan has spent her career leading organizations and programs dedicated to bringing innovation to the nonprofit sector and to improving social service support for women and families living in poverty and at risk. She has served as an Executive Director for the Taproot Foundation and earlier for the Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, Chief Development Officer for Chicago’s Deborah’s Place and Program Director for organizations including the Howard Area Community Center, Methodist Youth Services and the Heartland Alliance.
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 Danielle Lynch, Volunteer Program Manager at West Valley Community Services
Adam: You’ve been particularly successful at recruiting volunteers for your cause – do you have any suggestions for fellow organizations looking to emulate your success?
Danielle: My best advice would be to know what your volunteer opportunities are and who to reach out to for each volunteer need. At WVCS, we have many opportunities, all very diverse.
From weekly recurring receptionist and food pantry positions to one-time special event and group projects, we have a wide range of positions suitable to different members of our community, whether that decision is based on an individual’s interests, schedules, or skills. It is important to know what each position requires so that you can convey those responsibilities and effectively target and reach out to different members of your community.
Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?
Danielle: VolunteerMatch has been a crucial part of our volunteer engagement strategy. Being able to recruit for each individual position through VolunteerMatch’s large community of givers has been enormously successful.
We are able to differentiate between each volunteer need, identifying key responsibilities and requirements, and potential volunteers are able to filter postings specific to their interests and needs. Having the opportunity to be a part of the VolunteerMatch community has enlarged our volunteer base, and helped us recruit for passionate and skilled volunteers who make WVCS so successful!
Adam: How do you show your appreciation for your volunteers?
Danielle: We are so thankful and grateful for our amazing volunteers at WVCS. Over 500 volunteers participate in WVCS activities every year – clocking in an astounding 16,000 hours – enabling us to provide crucial services to those in need in our community.
To show our faithful volunteers how grateful we are for everything they do, we tell them just that every day. In addition, thank you emails and letters, as well as recognition in our monthly Volunteer Newsletter, are important reminders of just how appreciative we are for their selfless acts. We also host an annual Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony, in which we invite all our volunteers for a dinner full of games, prizes, awards, and personal commendations from staff.
Volunteering at WVCS is not easy, from picking up hundreds of pounds of food at 8am in the pouring rain to translating between clients and case managers during meetings, being a WVCS volunteer is not a walk in the park. It is important for us to make sure that every single one of our volunteers feels our appreciation and gratitude for all the work they do to serve those in need in our community.
Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? The most rewarding?
Danielle: The most challenging aspect of my role at WVCS is managing our large volunteer force. The sheer volume of our volunteers, over 125 every week, warrants applause for our amazing community. Daily scheduling is a large task, but we are never lacking in interested volunteers, a testament to our giving community and the help of VolunteerMatch!
Another challenge of ours is getting supplies for our group volunteers to complete big projects. Although we are always in need, and our community is always reaching out to us wanting to help, it has been difficult to secure supplies such as paint, paint brushes, rakes, etc., for our volunteers to complete the work needed.
The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with our amazing volunteers. These individuals selflessly give us not only their time and energy, but their spirit. Speaking with our volunteers and watching them interact with our clients, it is impossible to miss their passion for our cause and their desire to help those in need. It is a heartwarming thing to witness, and makes me that much more thrilled to come to work each day.
Guest post by Logan Harper, MPA@UNC
From crowdfunding to donations by text, the Internet offers innovations in technology that make it easier than ever to donate to a cause. Charities and nonprofits now have countless ways to reach their audience, allowing people to quickly learn about and support causes that resonate with their personal interests, either as donors themselves or by becoming volunteer online fundraisers.
Here are three emerging trends in online giving that are expected to continue in 2013:Videos Will Become More Popular
Last March, Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012″ video went viral, amassing more than 100 million views in six days. Although “Kony 2012″ was subsequently immersed in controversy and criticism, the video was a success in raising awareness of the organization and its mission. Videos are easily digestible pieces of information that give people a sense of an organization and, as illustrated by “Kony 2012,” can quickly garner support for its mission, especially when fundraising is involved.Mobile Donations Will Spread
As the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Social Media for Social Good infographic illustrates, mobile donations have become a significant resource in online giving. At the beginning of 2010, a total of $1 million had been collected via mobile donations. After the Haiti earthquake, the number rose to $50 million. Within a week of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the East Coast in 2012, the Red Cross received more than $35 million in online donations (including mobile). Mobile donations allow people to give with ease, and creating campaigns and events around mobile donations will help organizations procure more money.Social Media Presence Will Be a Necessity
Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, enable organizations to interact directly with the public. This makes it easier to raise awareness about issues and relevant current events as well as publicize the organization’s own initiatives, including fundraising. Followers can also increase the organization’s public profile by sharing tweets and links within their own social networks.
For more information on trends in online giving, read the original MPA@UNC blog post.
This post is sponsored by MPA@UNC, the online master’s program from UNC’s top-ranked School of Government. Learn more about MPA@UNC.
Logan Harper is the community manager for MPA@UNC, a top Masters of Public Administration program offered through University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as well as a contributor to Online MPA Degrees. In addition to higher education, he is also passionate about travel, cooking, and international politics. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.