Influential Figures Fighting Hunger

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick donating his time at a local food bank.

During the cold Winter season, food insecurity becomes an issue for those who have difficulty providing for themselves.

Alongside the food banks and food drives that work yearlong to feed those in need, there are a number of public figures that are contributing to the efforts against hunger.

Not only do these well-known individuals draw attention to your cause during a very noisy time of year, but their projects can provide inspiration for engaging local figures in your own community.

Political Action

In his State of the State for 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed his concern for families going hungry in New York. In this address, Gov. Cuomo informed the public that “Statewide, 1 in 6 children live in homes without enough food on the table”, a startling and unfortunate fact that needs to be changed. Senator Kristen Gillibrand added to these concerns by stating,” The hunger crisis that exists for children, seniors and veterans throughout our communities is alarming. . . this is not a short-term problem and it is critical that we develop long-term solutions to effectively combat hunger.”

New York’s plan for helping families with their hunger and food insecurities included removing the stigma and barriers of the food stamp program, improving food access in food deserts, and reducing the income tax burden on low income families.

Major changes take time in order to show results. Recently, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger took a step in the right direction by releasing a new guide to provide those who are food insecure information about how and where to access the federal food stamp program in their neighborhood.

Chances are, hunger is affecting your community during these winter months, and gaining political support can help bring to light your cause to a larger audience. Starting a letter writing campaign, scheduling an appointment with the mayor, or speaking at a town hall meeting can all be effective ways of informing your government about how hunger is affecting your community.

Celebrities Making a Difference

From movie stars to musicians, many of Hollywood’s elite are coming forth to show their support in the effort to end hunger. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney created foundations that aim to put local and global hunger in the public view.

Musician John Bon Jovi’s founded his restaurant JBJ Soul Foundation on good intentions. There are no prices to any of the food, so patrons either donate money or volunteer for an hour, earning them a food voucher.

The mass appeal of celebrity figures can attract volunteers to your nonprofit.  It’s highly likely that there is a celebrity who would like to align with your nonprofit to support your cause. Although a request like this can take planning and time, having a celebrity as a representative of your organization can bring great publicity and volunteers to your nonprofit.

Athletes in the Community

The city of Oakland, California has traditionally had a Thanksgiving dinner for those who are unable to hold one of their own. This year, Oakland was lacking the funds to hold this event, but Golden State Warrior forward David Lee donated $25,000 to help continue the city-wide tradition.

His contribution helped provide 2,000 meals for low-income families, seniors, and the homeless. Lee, when speaking about his reasoning behind the donation, said, “I have always been lucky enough to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family. . . and to allow other people to have that same joy is something that is really special.”

In addition to David Lee’s act of kindness, the Warriors organization is participating in a “15 Plays for the Holidays” program, where the players and personnel of the Golden State Warriors participate in community outreach initiatives throughout the Bay Area. It’s great to see the reciprocation of The Golden State Warriors, supporting the community that has supported them.

Athletes, both professional and amateur, tend to foster the support of their community when they participate in local activities. As a nonprofit, you should think about contacting a team, be it the Golden State Warriors or your local high school, and ask them to volunteer their time for civic service. This can act as a great opportunity for your community to view your nonprofit in action and will entice more people to volunteer for your organization.

Does your organization work with local public figures to spread awareness and action? Tell us about it below!

Online Resources to Help Your Organization Fight Hunger

VolunteerMatch is putting a special focus on hunger this holiday season, and we want you and your organization to join in. To help out with that, we’ve put together a great list of tools and resources that will help your nonprofit mobilize your community to fight hunger.

Donations Through Pinterest

Pinterest is actually a great way your nonprofit can help fight hunger. When creating a pin, you have the ability to put a recommended amount for your followers to donate. In the description, provide a link to the foundation you want to highlight, a description of their cause, and an amount that the foundation is asking for with a ‘$‘in front of the number. This puts a ribbon with the amount onto the thumbnail, indicating that there is a donation component if they click through.

Also, creating a board specifically for fighting hunger can contribute to the exposure of the food insecurity in our country. VolunteerMatch’s Pinterest page has a board concerning hunger and links to organizations who work specifically towards ending hunger. Create your own board and get the word out!

Blogging for Hunger

If your nonprofit has a blog, dedicate a few articles to fighting hunger. You can also add a banner or graphic that links to an organization you are passionate about. This allows for your readers to volunteer online in the effort to combat hunger. No Kid Hungry provides even more tips about how you can encourage others to lend a hand.

Smartphone Apps for Food Banks

The smartphone application FlashFood makes it simple for restaurants to inform food banks when they have left over food. Restaurants with leftover meals notify community food banks how many meals they have left from the day. Trucks from these food banks go and pick up the meals and bring them to families in need. FlashFood can be a call to action for your volunteers, employees, and community in the fight against hunger.

A Gift that Gives

The Feed Foundation has created holiday cards for a cause. With each pack of cards that is purchased, a school meal is donated to a child. You can suggest to the volunteers of your nonprofit to give these cards as a gift, as they are both beautifully crafted and support those children in need of a meal.

Twitter List

We put together this great Twitter list of organizations and projects whose goal is to end hunger. We invite you to scroll through the list and follow whomever you want (you can even subscribe to the list to follow everyone!) so your nonprofit can support, and possibly even partner with, organizations that provide meals for those in need.

Games with a Cause

Social media gaming has taken a philanthropic turn. Free Rice is a website where you can test your vocabulary while donating rice to those in famine-stricken countries. Suggest to your employees to play this game while on their lunch break, so they can feed the world while improving their diction.

(Photo Credit to Lynnwood Rotary via Flickr)

Nonprofits Engaging Millennials: DoSomething.org’s Study and Its Real-Life Parallels

In my previous blog post about nonprofits and economic downturns, one recommendation for volunteer engagement was to look outside of the typical generations to which your nonprofit appeals.

DoSomething.org created a study that supplements the idea of integrating Millennials into your nonprofit by showing the who, what, when, where, why and how of Millennials and their volunteering tendencies.

When I read this study, I was amazed by how their findings paralleled my experience of volunteering during my teen years.

The Social Volunteer

When I was in high school, I participated in Key Club, an organization based on introducing young people to volunteering. I heard about this club through my friends, telling me about how “cool” and “fun” it was and how all of my friends were participating.

For nonprofits, this word of mouth method of communication is incredibly influential for Millennials. DoSomething reports that “75.9% of those whose friends volunteer also volunteer.”

Let this statistic be your guide when appealing to Millennials. Create a welcoming environment, encourage your volunteers to tell their friends, and let the social nature of volunteering be the invisible hand that brings in more Millennials.

The Social Nonprofit

My most memorable volunteer opportunity was when I created a martial arts performance with an amazing guy with developmental disabilities. The greatest enjoyment I experienced was when the theater audience roared in applause as he stood above me after defeating me in a choreographed fight. I helped him achieve pride in something he loves doing, while he helped me find pride in something I had done.

DoSomething.org’s main reasons for creating this study was because Millennials are social creatures that learn of volunteering opportunities through friends, and also find satisfaction in donating their time for the benefit of others. If you want to engage this social generation, design your volunteer opportunities to have Millennials interact with others. Humanize their experience in order for them to feel like they’re changing lives, so they can say,“I believe I made a difference in my community.”

Busy-Bodies

Millennials have a lot on their plate: friends, homework, extracurriculars, applying to colleges or jobs. This means that for nonprofits, flexibility is key.

DoSomething.org recommends that nonprofits should “Allow for different levels of engagement (5 min vs. an hour vs. a half day)” so their volunteers can come and go according to their schedules.

When I was applying to colleges and also needing to make time to study and attend basketball practice, volunteering became more and more difficult. The opportunities that allowed me to walk through the door, help however I could, and leave when I needed to were the nonprofits I contributed to regularly. So when I had an entire free day to volunteer, those were the nonprofits I wanted to volunteer for. Be accommodating to your volunteers and they will reward you accordingly.

Tangible Benefits

Many of us want to believe that all volunteers are purely altruistic in nature. The reality is that many people want some sort of benefit to come from the time they invest in a volunteer opportunity. This is especially true for Millennials, as they are either currently concerned about college or in the midst of job hunting. As a nonprofit, this can be to your benefit for engaging volunteers.

Attaching a non-monetary incentive to your opportunity, such as a resume booster or some type of scholarship opportunity, can greatly increase your nonprofit’s appeal to Millennials. From each volunteer opportunity I have participated in, I have gained skills and found advocates that support me in my journey towards a career. Recognize your volunteers by rewarding them for their effort, time, and dedication.

DoSomething.org’s report provided detailed insights on Millennials and their participation in civic engagement. When I read the study, I was constantly saying “That sounds exactly like what I experienced.” So think about how your nonprofit can tailor its practices to incorporate a generation full of volunteer potential.

(Photo Cred. to Middlesex School via Flickr)

How Nonprofits Can Be Dynamic in Economic Downturns

Thinking creatively can help your nonprofit succeed in difficult economic times.

Thinking creatively can help your nonprofit succeed in difficult economic times.

In times of economic instability, programs and efforts towards social good become more essential for the public, even as their funds become sparse and strained.

A historic example of this is the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when our economy collapsed and the level of unemployment reached unprecedented heights. Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the country and said, “This nation asks for action, and action now.” In turn, he founded programs to increase public service, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps, incorporating volunteers and the unemployed to re-fortify our infrastructure.

We are now in a similar position. Our country is stricken with unemployment and our poor economy makes money tight for everyone. For nonprofits, this means funding from donations, grants, and government provisions become increasingly limited while staff cuts, increasing employee responsibilities, and decreasing team morale are common afflictions.

Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it?

Wait, there’s an upside to all of this.

Truly successful nonprofit organizations become versatile and creative when conditions deteriorate. Charles Darwin stated, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” This is no more prevalent than when discussing the sustainability of a nonprofit organization.

Many nonprofits are so limited in terms of money and resources that they can’t invest any time into new avenues. Here are some tips that can help spur your creativity to gain volunteers and resources with simple tweaks to your procedures:

Unexplored Volunteer Demographics

Being a versatile nonprofit means that you are capable of altering your practices when the conditions call for it. If you’re short on volunteers, why not broaden your recruitment spectrum? According to the Department of Labor, the prime demographics of volunteering have been those 35-54 years old. But maybe you should consider the other generations you might be missing out on?

  • With little employment opportunities available for 20 year old’s, recent graduates are looking for opportunities to improve their resumes while also utilizing their recently developed talents in the real world.
  • Retirees have more free time to donate to a nonprofit organization and can provide skills that have been refined for a lifetime. Baby Boomers appreciate their talents and minds being engaged in a volunteer opportunity, so remember to incorporate them greatly into every project you have.

Skilled Volunteers

Every person has something they are skilled at and passionate about. So when recruiting and placing volunteers into your organization, evaluate their skill sets and desires in order to let them blossom in the best situation possible. This increases their chance for success, allowing for a sense of self-satisfaction while cultivating their own talents for future opportunities.

Pro bono services bring even more advantages, as corporations encourage their employees to volunteer their day job skills to nonprofit organizations. This allows for nonprofits to benefit even more from their expertise, as they can be more efficient and provide higher quality services than even a skilled volunteer.

Recognition

Positive reinforcement and constructive criticism are powerful tools that managers can use to retain volunteers. Reward volunteers when money and resources are low with positive feedback and recognition of the impact they’re making. Oftentimes an “I saw an amazing improvement in Jane’s reading over the past few months. Great job!” can be more fulfilling for a volunteer than any tangible reward.

Reputation

When volunteer recruitment and retention become increasingly difficult, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) allows you to publicize without costing a whole lot. One WOMM method that Chief Marketer recommends is to utilize free Twitter search, Google Blog search, and Google Alerts to get a better understanding of your company’s reputation so you can effectively interpret public opinion and make decisions accordingly.

In an era where nonprofits endure many fiscal hardships, being creative with how you recruit, manage, and retain volunteers can help keep your nonprofit functioning. If you have any ideas for how a nonprofit can persevere in a struggling economy, leave us a comment below.

(Photo by Soulality via Wikimedia Commons)

Expert Snapshots for October

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 new ways to reach potential volunteers.

 

Evolution of the Volunteer

Understanding who and what you need is essential to the success of the recruitment and retainment of volunteers for your organization. HandsOn Blog highlights the facts that communities are constantly evolving and your organization will be challenged to alter your perspective of why volunteers volunteer, and how diversity plays an ever-important role in connecting your organization to your community.

Enrichment of the Individual

Appealing to the individual is another great way to find volunteers. Show that volunteering isn’t just great for the community, but that it has many benefits to the potential volunteer. One of the preeminent nonprofit organizations, United Way, brings to light different personal advantages to community engagement. The adage “It builds character” has never been so relevant than when one volunteers.

Everyone Brings a Skill to the Proverbial Table

Still having a difficult time finding volunteers for your nonprofit? Maybe you should consider what demographic you’re targeting. VolunteerLocal recommends two generations you may have over overlooked: Baby-Boomers provide experience and understanding for your nonprofit, and “New-Generation” volunteers bring a new willingness and a tech-literacy unrivaled, both of whom can help lead you into the next frontier of community engagement.

Retaining Your Recruits

Your amazing volunteers have helped your organization and community complete a project. Why not show them how much you appreciate their help? Energize, Inc. details out the different components of recognizing those that have dedicated their time and effort to your organization. Retaining volunteers may be equally as tricky as recruiting, so try and give them a positive, long-lasting impression so they will be ready to go for your next endeavor.