Webinar Recap: Making Single Days of Service Short Term and High Impact

Single Days of Service
Meals on Wheels volunteer breakfast servers at the Two Rivers Senior Center, Two Rivers, Wisc. Image from Lester Public Library.

After the tragedy of 9/11, there was a group of people that wanted to do more than mourn – and over the past ten years they turned this day of heartbreak into an opportunity to make positive change in our communities. The example of 9/11 Day of Service has inspired many nonprofits to plan day-long volunteer opportunities that make a big difference in a short time.

9/11 Day of Service is an excellent model for how organizations – nonprofit and governmental – can effectively mobilize groups of volunteers. A single day of service can be useful because it can expand your core mission to involve more volunteers with more diverse backgrounds and interests.

In a special webinar presentation last Wednesday, VolunteerMatch team members Jennifer Bennett and Sarah Christian discussed how organizations can bring in large groups of volunteers to help on single days of service. They also talked about how to build these short-term, high impact opportunities to cater to varied groups, ages and skill sets.

Don’t be fooled, though – planning a single day of service takes more than one day.  What you do before and after can be just as important as what occurs the day of the event. If you decide that a single day of service is right for your organization, you want to achieve the most impact while being as efficient as possible with your organization’s resources.

Before the Single Day of Service

Get personal: It is important to create a sense of commitment so your volunteers will show up. Reach out by making personal phone calls and emailing reminders in the days preceding your event. You want volunteers, not no-shows.

Get pumped: Make your volunteers look forward to their single day of service. Let them know what a difference they can make in just one day. Not only will they be making a positive impact, but it will be fun! Who knows, there might even be free food…

The Day of the Event

Keep orientation short: Concisely orient your volunteers so that they know what they are doing, but aren’t bored from a long presentation.

Count: Log what is happening throughout the day. Quantitative observations, like counting how many people your volunteers helped feed in just one day, can be very powerful

Quote: Another great way to show your volunteers the scope of their impact is by asking the recipients themselves. A group of kids rejoicing over their school supplies is touching and shows direct human impact.

Take action: Action photographs, that is. Pictures of your volunteers in the midst of their volunteer work can be very moving to include in newsletters and on your website and blog.

At the End of the Day, and Beyond

Maintain contact: Encourage your volunteers to sign up for your organization’s mailing list so you can keep them updated. Maybe their picture will be in your next email blast

Prepare to specialize: Have your volunteers fill out more detailed applications for volunteer opportunities in the future. These personalized applications can help you fill spaces for more skilled volunteers your organization might need.

Step up the service: Single days of service can also be an opportunity for your more seasoned volunteers to step into leadership positions. Empower them to motivate and lead their fellow volunteers by example.

During the webinar Jennifer and Sarah talked about how VolunteerMatch is an official partner of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We believe that volunteering is a positive way to honor the victims of September 11, and so this year all your VolunteerMatch opportunities will appear to anyone looking for opportunities to help out on 9/11 Day of Service. To learn more, visit 911day.org and Engaging Volunteers.

If your organization is planning a volunteer day this September 11, be sure to post your opportunities on VolunteerMatch.You can also join the conversation with other volunteer managers on VolunteerMatch’s Community-Powered Support Page, and sign up for upcoming webinars at our Learning Center.

Laura Weiss is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach her at lweiss@volunteermatch.org.

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