A Match Made in St. Louis: Fighting Hunger One Voice at a Time

By Kori Reed, Vice President, Cause and Foundation, at ConAgra Foods.

Rajan Taylor Volunteers with St. Louis Area Foodbank

ConAgra employee Rajan Taylor volunteering at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

I am a child of the 80s whose mom played Barry Manilow’s albums throughout my formative years. So, what does this have to do with Volunteer Month?

Rajan Taylor, a security contractor at the ConAgra Foods’ St. Louis office, makes me want to break out into song. Specifically, Manilow’s One Voice, which he also performed at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert. It’s inspired by the idea that if one person stands up for what he believes in, the rest will follow.

Rajan read about ConAgra Foods’ long-standing commitment to take action against child hunger and that generated an idea. He’ll humbly tell you he simply called a few friends and sent an email, but he ultimately sparked the largest, single-day, citywide food drive in history to benefit the St. Louis Area Foodbank – a member of the Feeding America network. He called the event, held on March 20, 2015, “Spring into Giving,” which is an appropriate phrase to describe his actions to engage more than 75 St. Louis companies to raise more than 50,000 lbs. of food, or rather more than 40,000 meals in one day….

Read the rest of Rajan’s story.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship: NYC Service and VolunteerMatch

NYC Service and VolunteerMatch are better together.Hey New York City nonprofits! Great news!

Starting this week – just in time for National Volunteer Week – all your VolunteerMatch listings will automatically be posted to NYC Service. NYC Service is breaking new ground to become the first City of Service in the nation to adopt VolunteerMatch’s free Public Use API.

What does this mean?

NYC Service will have another thousand volunteer opportunities for New Yorkers looking to make a difference. No more double searching. It will also mean that VolunteerMatch’s nonprofit members will automatically gain additional exposure on the popular NYC Service website.

NYC Service and VolunteerMatch share a goal: To make it easier for nonprofits to connect with the volunteers they need. That’s why a partnership makes perfect sense.

Learn more about this exciting partnership from VolunteerMatch President Greg Baldwin.

The Accidental Collaborator

When a short exercise went a long way towards staff engagement.

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

engaging-staff-with-volunteers-twenty-hats-300x297In my local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies), one of the most common workshop topic requests is: “How to get staff on board with volunteer management.”

It’s a complex subject, most likely because staff engagement brings us into the murky world of soft interpersonal skills. We anticipate barriers and may feel discouraged about achieving any sort of progress.

Sometimes, though, a hard skill exercise goes a long way towards nurturing staff engagement.

That was my recent take-away when talking with a volunteer coordinator who participated in my recruitment planning course. As part of the course she ran what I call a “DNA Study of her successful volunteers.

In a DNA Study, you ask co-workers who supervise volunteers to provide a list of their most successful volunteers. Then, you run the demographic data to see what commonalities surface. The information is priceless when developing a profile of your ideal volunteer.

Unexpected Results
When my student ran her DNA study, she uncovered plenty of interesting findings about her volunteers – AND she noted one unexpected consequence: the process engaged the staff. Being consulted about the volunteers made the staff curious about the study results and more invested in the outcome. In fact, my student and her co-workers are now taking things a step further and convening a focus group to better understand what motivates their volunteers.

What was it about this study that united the staff? I think there were several reasons:

  • Being consulted validated the supervisors and showed that their opinion mattered.
  • The project was simple, with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  •  The exercise was data-driven, and therefore less subjective.
  •  There was a payoff for the supervisors because the project helped clarify which volunteers would most likely succeed in the program.
  • The process was fun – how often does that happen?

What’s your take?
Someone steeped on organizational management may not have been surprised by these findings. If you have ever studied the collaborative process, you probably know that rule number one is to rally individuals around a common goal.

So this one example makes me wonder: are there similar ways to engage your staff in the volunteer management process? If you have had a similar experience, where a project of yours helped bring the staff together, please email me about your project and your results. OR, if reading this post gets you curious to try your own DNA Study and see what happens, keep me posted on your results.

Celebrate the Fun Side of Volunteering with #FestiVOL15

#FestiVOL15: Celebrate National Volunteer Week with VolunteerMatchPeople volunteer for all kinds of reasons. One of the top reasons? It’s fun.

This National Volunteer Week (April 12-18, 2015), VolunteerMatch is celebrating the fun side of volunteering with our second annual FestiVOL. Time to put on those party hats, dig out those noisemakers, and shout with us, “Volunteering is AWESOME!”

Of course, it’s not all fun and games. One of our #FestiVOL15 goals is to help your organization attract and engage volunteers. We want you to get the most out of National Volunteer Week.

To help reach this goal, each day of the week we’ll post three nuggets of information: One piece of inspiration, one piece of knowledge, and one action. Check out our #FestiVOL15 webpage to follow along as they’re posted. You can also follow the hashtag #FestiVOL15 on Twitter to see everything as it’s released, and to join in the fun yourself!

Whether you work with volunteers, give back in your free time, or are still looking for that perfect opportunity, here’s to you!


Expert Snapshots for April: Prospective, Online, and Pro Bono Volunteers

Expert SnapshotsAt VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the field of volunteer engagement and management, and we want to help you stay up-to-date on the latest news and trends. 

Here’s a snapshot to get your April going:

Waiting but Not Idle: How to Keep Potential Volunteers Engaged in Your Organization
One of the worst things you can say when a potential volunteer contacts you is… nothing. While it sounds easy enough to respond to each volunteer request, there are some real challenges that come with engaging prospective volunteers. This article from Charity Village explores those issues and offers actionable suggestions.

Online Volunteers: Don’t Ever Call Them Virtual
By calling volunteers who don’t come into your office “virtual,” are you inadvertently making them feeling less important than “real” volunteers? Virtual volunteering is on the rise, and for some nonprofits and volunteers, it’s becoming a norm. This article from The NonProfit Times delves deep into the world of virtual volunteering, and politely reminds us that we shouldn’t call these volunteers “virtual.”

Pro Bono Can Help Fill Nonprofit Resource Gaps
Nonprofits put a lot of emphasis on fundraising. But what about “resource raising?” This is the question posed by Elizabeth Hamburg, President and CEO of Taproot Foundation. Pro bono volunteers can “fill in the resource gaps”. In other words, these highly skilled volunteers can complete projects that nonprofits would otherwise have to pay a lot of money for. Read this article for more about how your nonprofit can benefit from engaging pro bono volunteers… and how the volunteers benefit as well!

Volunteer Onboarding [Free Webinar]
Volunteer engagement expert Tobi Johnson is hosting a free webinar on April 16, 2015 all about volunteer onboarding. She’ll cover the 5 Things to Remember When Welcoming New Volunteers. And bring your questions! After the webinar, stick around for an informal Q&A discussion.

Follow us on Twitter for news and trends throughout the month: @VolunteerMatch.