2012 VolunteerMatch Impact Report: Working Hard, Connecting Harder

It was my pleasure today to officially unveil VolunteerMatch’s 2012 Impact Report — a snapshot of the data we use to measure the size, scope and impact of the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, and to make sure we’re helping to connect you with the volunteers you need.

Check out VolunteerMatch's 2012 Impact Report

We have never pushed harder to make it easier for good people and good causes to connect, and it is exciting to see how much of it is working.

Last year we added cause area Search Filters to make it easier for volunteers to find what they’re looking for. We launched YourMatch, an all-new platform for successful workplace engagement.

We updated our API Suite and attracted developers from Microsoft to NYU to invent new ways for people to get involved. And we expanded our online Education & Training program to share real-world insights and best practices with thousands of nonprofit and corporate social responsibility professionals.

Together we are eliminating barriers that keep us apart and finding new ways for nonprofits, businesses and individuals to strengthen their communities.

Did any of it make a difference to you or your community? Check it out and let us know – we’d love to read your comments!

Not Everything that Happens in Vegas Should Stay There

Governor Sandoval Congratulates Phyllis James of MGM Resorts International

Just over a week ago I had the pleasure of flying to Vegas and staying at the Bellagio to — of all things — participate in Nevada’s Volunteer and Corporate Engagement Summit and attend the Governor’s Points of Light Awards Luncheon. Nevada Volunteers organized the event and brought together a great group of folks to celebrate and support volunteering in the Silver State.

Kaira Esgate from Reimagining Service set the stage for a productive day by outlining four principles for effective volunteer engagement and highlighting data from the TCC Group that  has found nonprofits with a strong volunteer program consistently outperform their peers on all measures of organizational effectiveness.

I was asked to  speak to trends shaping the future of volunteering and during the process of preparing my thoughts discovered something unexpected hidden in the data behind Vegas’s reputation for the kind of fun you’d rather not share with your Mom.

Much to my surprise I found that thanks to the combined efforts of our partners at Nevada Volunteers, NV Energy and MGM Resorts International network activity in Nevada grew 50% last year and Vegas lept ahead in the national rankings, defying all stereotypes, to become the 10th busiest city on the web’s largest volunteer engagement network.

The Governor and all the people I met on Friday, clearly have their sights set even higher, but they are off to a strong start and I see no reason why Nevada’s remarkable progress in 2012 should have to remain a secret to anyone. Go Nevada!

The CVA Credential: Excellence in Volunteer Administration

Do you lead volunteer engagement in your organization? Have you considered professional certification?  Did you know registration for the 2012 CVA (Certified in Volunteer Administration) exam ends March 1st?

As the President of VolunteerMatch and former Board Chair of the CCVA it is my pleasure to congratulate the CVA class of 2011 and welcome our 2012 candidates.

The CVA is not for everyone, but if you have a minimum of of three years experience and are ready to demonstrate your knowledge, skill and competence in the field of volunteer engagement, I invite you to learn more about earning this mark of excellence.

The CCVA is dedicated to promoting and certifying excellence in volunteer engagement to advance the capacity of communities to effectively engage volunteers. The CVA itself is awarded to candidates who are able to demonstrate successfully their knowledge and ability to apply skills required for competent volunteer management through a process of testing and peer portfolio review.

More than 1,100 talented leaders have already earned their CVA and the numbers are growing every year.

If you’d like to learn more about enrolling this year please visit www.cvacert.org and review the 2012 CVA Candidate Handbook.

Registration is $265, but if you are a registered VolunteerMatch member it is only $225 if you hurry. Registration ends Thursday, March 1st, 2012.

I am proud to support the CVA, recognize the distinguished individuals it attracts and wish the class of 2012 the best of luck.

 

What Happened to All for Good?

Last week The Chronicle of Philanthropy called and asked me whatever happened to All for Good.

It’s a good question and one that I’ve noticed has been getting some more attention recently.

Mark Bernstein, the new President of All for Good, published a guest post at Fast Company CoExist with his reflections on the lessons to be learned from the project.

Given the interest and our direct experience, I thought I’d join the conversation and offer my own perspective on All for Good.

First a little background. All for Good was initially conceived as “Project Footprint” in 2009 by then President-Elect Obama’s transition team. The idea, amplified by the excitement of an electoral victory, was to advance the campaign’s service and volunteering agenda and replace former President Bush’s USAFreedomCorp.gov, by building what was billed as a revolutionary new “Craigslist for Service.”

Over the next few months, with the encouragement of Sonal Shah (a former deputy at Google.org and, until recently, head of the Administration’s new Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation) and leadership from fellow Presidential Transition Team member Jonathan Greenblatt, the project was rebranded AllforGood.org – and recast as a grassroots coalition of nonprofit, government and corporate leaders inspired by the President’s call to service.

By summer of 2009 the group had used its connections to persuade some talented folks from Google and the Craigslist Foundation to get involved. The new team deftly worked around the early critique that All for Good was an unnecessary reinvention of Network for Good, the nonprofit service that had been President Bush’s database of choice. All for Good was able to deflect the criticism with a vision that emphasized the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to liberate volunteer data from the well meaning, but unsophisticated, stewardship of the existing players in the space like Idealist.org, Truist, 1-800volunteer.org and VolunteerMatch.

The promise was that in developing new API technologies, All for Good would eliminate information barriers and usher in a new era of explosive growth and civic participation.

But to get there, the All for Good team would need not just the support and cooperation of the existing players in the space, they also would need the rights to republish, reproduce and relicense the work of those partners.

And they got it. In a political triumph (spiced with some good old-fashioned peer pressure), All for Good managed to persuade even the most reluctant among us that their political might and technological genius would push the volunteering world past a transformative tipping point.

Of course, things didn’t work out exactly as planned.

At launch the technology was buggy, the traffic was disappointing and All for Good didn’t have the staff or resources to respond. And the explosive growth never came. At its peak, All for Good accounted for about only 2.5% of VolunteerMatch’s overall daily network traffic.

In an effort to defend its vision, All for Good championed the adoption of its APIs to all comers, including VC and private-equity backed for-profit companies who were intent on turning this great new source of free data into bigger fees. Obviously, this was not always consistent with the values or interests of its partners, and when in November of 2010 a 3rd party for-profit was found to be using the open-source feed for its own commercial gain, VolunteerMatch formally withdrew from the collaboration.

After a period of financial uncertainly the Points of Light Institute announced its intention to acquire All for Good and, as they say, put it under “new management.”

But the bloom is off the rose. On the one hand, APIs have become commonplace in the sector — VolunteerMatch’s Public Use API has been available since 2010. On the other, information aggregation as a web strategy has fallen on hard times as search engines like Google have cracked down on data farming by tuning its algorithms to favor networks that produce original sources of content.

We think that bodes well for the nonprofit members we serve. Since 1998 we’ve been applying emerging technology — not to mention free trainings for nonprofits, live customer support, useful content, and original research —  to make it easier for everyone to find a great place to volunteer. And despite our political dalliances with All for Good, we are proud of our status as an independent nonprofit organization that has managed to become the web’s largest volunteer engagement network serving 80,000 nonprofits, 150 business leaders and 8.5 million users a year.

There are many lessons to learn from All for Good and many reasons why it failed to live up to expectations. It is fair to point out that many of us were skeptical and reluctant partners, but for more than a year we all pitched in to give it a try. Whatever kept All for Good from having the transformative impact on the field it envisioned must have run deeper than an unwillingness to cooperate.

Mr. Bernstein argues that his partners’ inability to let go of their competitive desire to “win” poisoned its hopes for collaborative success, but there is another point of view. Perhaps the problem wasn’t simply the competitive spirit of its partners, but that the political pressure on All for Good forced it to put its own survival in front of the interests and concerns of its partners and the nonprofits they serve.

What do you think? Let us know and join the conversation.

Greg Baldwin is the President of VolunteerMatch.

(Photo by Paul Farning/Flickr)

Reflection from Independent Sector: Increasing Our Community’s Clout with Elected Officials

Early this week, the 2010 Independent Sector Annual Conference brought together more than 900 attendees from America’s most energized nonprofits, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs. The item below by VolunteerMatch president Greg Baldwin originally appeared in the Independent Sector blog.

For a sector dedicated to advancing the common good, we often  criticize ourselves for our own inability to organize to advance our common interests.

But there is hope. At the Public Policy Action Institute at this week’s 2010  Independent Sector conference in Atlanta we discussed why our voice is so often overlooked by government and what can be done to strengthen our influence with elected officials.

Audrey Tayse Haynes the Chief Government Affairs Officer of the YMCA moderated a panel on Tuesday with three nonprofit leaders working to challenge the status quo: Kyle Caldwell, President and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association; Daniel Fuller, Vice President of Legislative Relations, Communities in Schools; and Jon Pratt, Executive Director, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

To influence the state legislative agenda, the Michigan Nonprofit Association has established a permanent institutional link between the nonprofit sector and state government with a a bi-partisan caucus in the legislature to discuss and address issues impacting the state’s nonprofits.

To influence the national educational agenda, Communities in Schools has joined a coalition of 40 organizations supporting the Keeping PACE Act (S. 1411/H.R. 3343) to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to encourage greater community engagement in schools.

To influence the national legislative agenda, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is supporting Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act (H.R. 5533) which is designed to strengthen the federal government’s partnership with the nonprofit sector.

We had the opportunity to discuss the challenges and successes of  these initiatives and to be reminded of the importance of organizing our shared interests — because when it comes to government, if you don’t have a seat at the table you’ll probably end up on the menu.

To learn more and get involved please visit:

Michigan Nonprofit Association

Communities in Schools
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

About the Author

Greg Baldwin is the president of VolunteerMatch.