Pride Month: It’s Not All Just Rainbows

So this June is Pride month, when we celebrate the accomplishments of the LGBT community. I’m someone who works alongside nonprofit professionals. I’m also someone who benefits from the economic empowerment and healthcare services that local nonprofits provide. The fact that I’m a transgender person of color puts me in a demographic more likely to face employment discrimination and less likely to be able to access healthcare — it was this acute awareness of this injustice and my own negative experiences that motivated me to work for the nonprofit sector in the first place.

LGBT or not, we all need a home, food, employment, healthcare, and a sense of self worth. LGBT people are also people of color, immigrants, the young, the old, survivors of violence, the homeless, the poor, the under and uninsured, the unemployed, and the marginalized.

Regardless of how you feel about LGBT people and whether or not your organization is LGBT, those you serve and who work alongside you—a good chunk of those will be LGBT, whether they tell you or not. To serve your communities also means to serve the LGBT community.

So how can your organization adapt to the needs of LGBT people? Here are a couple pointers:

  • In the space where you interact with the people you serve, make sure there’s a visible sign that shows you are an LGBT ally. Think about hanging a rainbow flag someplace easily seen, or hanging “safe space” signs.
  • If you are a shelter, make sure that your policies cover the needs of transgender people, especially transgender women. (Read Transitioning Our Shelters: A Guide to Making Homeless Shelters Safe for Transgender People)
  • If you are an organization that serves women, make sure to mention that you also support transgender women somewhere visible on your website and print materials.
  • Train your employees in LGBT sensitivity. For those in the San Francisco Bay Area, public health consultant Willy Wilkinson actually offers free sensitivity training.
  • On your forms, think about adding a “preferred name” field. For most, it will simply be a place to write in a nickname. For transgender folks, this provides a space for them to disclose their transgender identity.
  • Make the extra effort to recruit LGBT volunteers, especially people of color and transgender people. In your recruiting efforts, make it clear that you want to serve the LGBT community, and part of that effort depends on volunteers.
  • When meeting transgender clients or volunteers, make sure to ask what pronouns they prefer. It might be an uncomfortable thing for you to ask, but asking about appropriate pronouns is common in the transgender community, and shows that you want to accommodate their needs. It will also be worth it to look up gender neutral pronouns.

June is certainly a month to celebrate the resilience of the LGBT community. This weekend is Pride weekend here in San Francisco, and I’ll be out there, waving my little rainbow flag. We’ve come a long way, and there is a lot to be proud of. But Pride is also a reminder that though there’s a lot to be thankful for, there’s a lot more we need to do.

To learn more:
How to Respect a Transgender Person (WikiHow)
Cultural Responsiveness in Serving LGBT Individuals and Families (Gil Gerald & Associates)
Caring for LGBT Seniors (Lavender Seniors of the East Bay)
Growing Leadership: Shining a light on LGBT people of color (Model D)

Allstate’s Give Back Day 2012: The Winners

It’s been pretty busy around VolunteerMatch the last few months. But with a bit of breathing room this week, we thought it would be a great time to look back at the results of our partnership with Allstate for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Each year the buzz about MLK Day brings a surge of new visitors to the VolunteerMatch network. But a lot of nonprofits still aren’t quite sure MLK Day is for them. This year, as an incentive, Allstate and VolunteerMatch teamed up to award grants of $1,000 to five member nonprofits. To be eligible for the grant nonprofits had to post a new listing related to MLK Day and recruit during the month-long run up to that day of service.

By the time the dust had settled more than 190 organizations qualified for the final drawing. Combined, they posted 70% more listings than from the same period the year before. From this group, five organizations were randomly selected by Allstate. (Congrats!)

Below we’ve posted some information about each of the five winners. Of course, with more than 43,000 visitors to our site the day before MLK Day, there’s a good chance that even the non-winners still came out stronger than they were before.

Without further ado, here are the five organizations that were awarded grants:

Nurture

Nurture, based in Illinois, empowers people of all ages to make healthy meals. Through cooking and fitness classes, donations programs and economic empowerment programs, children and adults are getting the resources they need.

“I know we were randomly selected,” says Nurture’s Lisa Brewer in an email, “but for an organization of our size, $1,000 makes a big difference!”

Check out Nurture at VolunteerMatch.

Reading to End Racism

Reading to End Racism has a simple mission: to eliminate racism through literacy. They provide reading materials and volunteer training for the Boulder Valley School District, local libraries and community organizations, and they teach students about diversity through reading.

As Program Coordinator Susan Pfretzschner shared, “Thank you for making this opportunity available to us and the many other organizations devoted to equity issues in our communities… The new volunteers who joined us for this project this year have signed up for orientation to prepare them to work in our school-based programs throughout the year.”

Check out Reading to End Racism at VolunteerMatch.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity provides affordable housing for the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, one of the most densely populated areas in the nation. TCHFH builds or rehabilitates over 55 homes every year, and more than 900 families have purchased TCHFH homes since 1985.

Check out Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity on VolunteerMatch for volunteer opportunities.

The Oregon Cat Project

The Oregon Cat Project, founded in 2010, is working to create a “no-kill” society for animals through sterilization and heightened public awareness. Among other things, the organization provides affordable sterilization for cats and is planning on opening a no-kill animal shelter in 2015.

As founder Dana Lionel said: “I can’t tell you how exciting it is [to receive this grant]. We were talking yesterday of doing another day of service in April because our volunteers were so great and we got so much accomplished.”

Check out The Oregon Cat Project on VolunteerMatch.

Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance

Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance provides economic empowerment programs and financial assistance to residents and businesses of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area in order to attract new residents and retain current ones.

Check out Mid-City Redevelopment Alliance on VolunteerMatch.

Congrats again to all the winners! And thanks, Allstate, for making it easier for nonprofits to find great volunteers.

Leaving the Nest: Reflections of a VolunteerMatch Intern

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Editor’s Note: As our amazing interns transition out of their roles at VolunteerMatch, they’re reflecting on what brought them to work with us, what they’ve accomplished, and where they’re headed. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we have been by these “ultimate volunteers!”

Leaving the nestI’m Cris Bautista and I’m the Communications and Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. You’ve probably read my blog posts here about the importance of diversity and introverted volunteers.

Now my reign as intern is coming to an end, and I’ve been given the opportunity to write a bit about myself.

My Background

As a sophomore at Stanford, I began transitioning from female to male. As if figuring out my own identity wasn’t complicated enough, my school often didn’t meet my needs — professors called me the wrong name, housing was awkward, and it took two years to change my ID.

I started asking for things, and before I knew it I became an activist. I spoke with several student groups and administrators and even wrote a column senior year in order to help raise awareness and change school policies. Now Stanford is much more transgender-inclusive, and I’m glad I left that mark on my alma mater.

After graduation I soon realized that despite my school’s inadequacies, they were tiny obstacles compared to the rampant inequality that existed in the real world. I live in a society that assumes people like me don’t exist. Unemployment for transgender folks is twice the rate of the general population (four times the general population for people of color) and 44% of transgender people are underemployed.

When I logged onto Facebook or Twitter over my first cup of coffee each morning, I was bombarded with horrible things – transgender teens committing suicide, another transgender person murdered, the increase of hate crimes towards transgender women of color. I lived in a world where people like me were hurt and killed on a regular basis, and when we do survive, we are punished for it.

That was a world that I wasn’t okay with, and a world I was going to change.

I discovered nonprofits like the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law Center – organizations whose missions matched mine. I realized the nonprofit world was my world.

I spent several months unsuccessfully applying to jobs. Then browsing through Idealist one day, I found an internship opportunity with VolunteerMatch. I applied, and to my surprise, I got it.

What I’ve Learned at VolunteerMatch

When I arrived to VolunteerMatch, I had the energy, but I didn’t know what I had to offer. Thanks to the people here, I have not only learned specific skills in social media and communications, but I’ve discovered more about myself, how I work and what I care about.

Every cause is connected.

When I took on this internship position at VolunteerMatch, I had the initial plan of learning what I needed to learn and then find an LGBT nonprofit to work for. But as I interacted with nonprofits and volunteers I came to care for other causes, as well. LGBT issues are still important to me, but I’ve become more aware of the intersections between different social needs.

LGBT issues don’t exist in a vacuum — they are entwined with immigration issues, challenges facing people with disabilities, women’s rights, reproductive rights, children’s rights, poverty as well as others. Through VolunteerMatch, I’ve realized that there are many causes that I am invested in, and I hope to work on these issues during my career.

Social media can catalyze social change.

Before VolunteerMatch, I always thought that Facebook was where all productivity goes to die. It had never occurred to me that there possibly was a connection between my borderline obsession with Facebook and nonprofits.

During my internship I discovered how technology is used to promote, support and connect with both nonprofits and volunteers. I was able to apply my experience with Facebook to other websites, from Twitter, to Pinterest, and even Google Adwords.

Each social media platform has a different set of tools and caters to different audiences — in particular, social media is necessary in order to connect with younger people, such as college students. I wrote about social media, like using blogs for volunteer recruitment and retention, and utilizing Facebook Pages for your organization (complete with a video tutorial featuring my awesome voice). I even tweeted at a conference once and made some great professional connections. Keeping an open mind and adapting to new social media is essential to maximizing nonprofit impact.

Marginalized communities, even when geographically spread out, can come together online and synchronize their voices and their cause. Nonprofits, by using social media, can reach more people than ever at little to no cost. The potential for social change through social media is so mind-numbingly exciting, and I get to be part of that.

Working for social justice is a marathon, not a sprint.

I can easily get excited about a project and work on it for hours on end. But more than once I’ve burned out from exhaustion.

While at VolunteerMatch I’ve learned about the nitty gritty practical stuff when working for a nonprofit. Yes, the drive and passion are necessary, but working for a nonprofit isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. When I come into the office, I have a set number of tasks I intend to complete for the day. I make sure I get those tasks done — no more, no less.

Many nonprofits are stretched thin, with employees working long hours in the office and even continuing to work when they get home. I know that I’ll feel the pressure to do that as well. But I also know that taking care of myself and achieving a healthy balance in life is important, so when I’m at the office, I feel energized enough to maximize my productivity.

I’ve discovered the importance of working at a steady, sustainable pace, which I know will help me when it comes to fighting for causes in the long run.

So What’s Next?

I’m glad I can add VolunteerMatch to my story. The people I’ve worked with have challenged me and pushed me to do my best, and for that I’m grateful. Now I can finally go out and help organizations achieve their mission.

After building up a couple years of experience working for nonprofits, I plan to get a masters in nonprofit management and support the marginalized of the LGBT community through empowerment programs, similar to the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative at the San Francisco LGBT Center. Eventually, I want to become a director for an LGBT community center somewhere in the United States.

Watch out, nonprofit world. This won’t be the last you hear from me.

If you want to contact me for job opportunities or just want to know me a little better, my email is cristopher.s.bautista@gmail.com. You can also follow me at @CristopherMarc and connect with me on LinkedIn.

College Students: Not Just Summer Volunteers

College Students: Not Just Summer VolunteersAlthough I graduated from college several months ago, I still get emails from those at my old school about volunteering — mainly, about volunteering during vacations. This makes me wonder: why don’t community organizations do more volunteer recruiting from college campuses during the school year?

The truth is, students can make volunteering a normal part of campus life and serve the local community. And you can make recruiting them a part of your nonprofit’s overall volunteer engagement strategy. Here are some good ways to get started:

Research your local universities’ volunteer programming.

Do the colleges and universities in your area have volunteering or public service programs that target students/alumni? Is there a “Day of Service” that they hold every year? If they do, it might be worth it to contact the staff there so they can add some volunteer opportunities from your organization to their database.

Also, be sure to contact the school far in advance — weeks, or even several months, particularly if you would like to recruit volunteers for a large event.

Use social media to target college students.

If you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, direct some of your social media campaigning towards college students, as 71% of those with at least partial college education and at least 8 in 10 people aged 18-29 use social media.

Directly connect with student government or student clubs.

Send over an email to someone in student government and ask about the possibility of partnering for a volunteering weekend where students can both bond with fellow classmates as well as do some good in the world outside of their dorm rooms.

Reach out to student clubs and groups at your local universities. There are student clubs that serve very specific demographics, from ethnicity, to occupation, to various political causes. Offer to partner with like-minded organizations for service learning projects.

Fraternities and sororities often have philanthropy programs. Connect with them for potential fundraising and/or volunteer opportunities. According to NP Catalyst in a survey conducted with university Greek fraternities and sororities nationwide, 100% of respondents have raised money for nonprofits and 60% have directly partnered with local nonprofits.

Make sure to connect with these groups well in advance. Students are busy with schoolwork, athletics, and extracurriculars, and though they would like to volunteer, they need to find a way to fit it into their schedules.

Hold your opportunity outdoors and during a time when students are most likely to be free.

Oftentimes the only times students are free are on a weekend afternoon. Friday and Saturday afternoons are often the best time to schedule opportunities.

When I was in college, I spent most of my time switching between my bed, my desk, and occasionally leaving my room to go to class. Get your volunteers moving around outside and talking to others. Some ideas include mural painting, gardening or cooking.

If there is a student who is interested in volunteering with you long-term, follow up ASAP.

Things happen so quickly in college that there is a very narrow time window when you can catch someone’s attention for the long term. I’m someone who spent four years in college and I still have no idea where the time went — college seems to be this strange time vortex where it all just flies by. (Unless you’re in class, of course. Time stands still then.)

So if there’s a volunteer who is interested in working more long term with you, be sure to get their contact information from them and send them an email within the next few days while you’re fresh in their mind.

Provide food at the volunteer site.

College students like free food. A lot. Providing snacks while on the job is a good way to entice people to volunteer in the first place and keep volunteers energetic throughout the day.

Design virtual opportunities.

Students might want to volunteer, but might not have an afternoon free to leave campus. Some ideas for virtual volunteering include graphic design, web design, grant writing, copy editing or translating. You can find more ideas and resources for virtual volunteering here.

Emphasize volunteerism as a means for better mental health.

As a recent graduate, I can tell you — college is tough. Classes are hard, and we aren’t even guaranteed to have a job after all that hard work. This overwhelming pressure, as well as other factors have made mental health a big issue in colleges and universities.

Studies show volunteers live healthier emotional and physical lives. See if you can partner with a health and well being program at your local universities.

More Resources

What are some ways that your organization has reached out to college students during the school year?

Cristopher Bautista is the Communications & Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. You can send him an email at cbautista@volunteermatch.org.

How to Make Every Day Earth Day

Make every day Earth Day!Earth Day is quickly approaching, and whatever your nonprofit’s mission, you can do your part to help the environment. Here are some tips for going green in the office, working with volunteers sustainably, and caring for the environment at fundraisers:

In the Office:

  • Provide reusable plates, cups, and utensils.
  • Use energy efficient products, such as incandescent light bulbs.
  • Turn off and unplug your electronic equipment at the end of the day (avoid “vampire power.”)
  • Sign up for programs that provide discounted public transportation for employees.
  • Use only double sided printing and limit use of the fax machine. Instead, send your communications through email and digital file sharing. Google offers nonprofits Google Apps at a discount and Dropbox comes with two gigabytes of free storage.

With Volunteers:

  • Email your volunteers and put all the information they need online.
  • If your event requires consent forms, have volunteers give online consent before they arrive. It not only saves paper, but it also saves time during the event!
  • If your event is outdoors, ask volunteers to bring their own reusable water bottles.
  • Provide local food that is in season.

At Fundraising Events:

  • When looking for a place for your fundraiser, be aware of how close it is to bus stops and bike paths. When advertising, encourage attendees to take public transportation.
  • Ditch paper invitations. Focus on emailing attendees and using social media. If you need to print out invitations, use recycled paper.
  • If your fundraising event is indoors, make sure that the building meets the LEED standards of low energy consumption.
  • Use biodegradable plates and utensils, and provide local, seasonal food.
  • Label recycling, compost, and waste bins and remind attendees what goes where.
  • Post flyers around the site that let attendees know about your efforts to go green.
  • If you’ve got leftover food, donate it to a local soup kitchen.

Here are some more ideas:

What efforts has your organization made to go green?

Cristopher Bautista is the Communications & Social Media Intern at VolunteerMatch. Contact him at cbautista@volunteermatch.org.