4 Ways to Create a Positive Reputation for Your Volunteer Program

Guest post by Kristina Richards

4 ways to create a positive reputation for your volunteer program‘Tis the season of giving, but before volunteers come running to your doors and you start cashing donation checks, you may need to reassure your supporter base about your organization’s reputability. Consumers are increasingly savvy each year, and to ensure that they are willing to get involved with your organization, you need to look as reputable as possible. By understanding the importance of the following four elements, ensure your charity’s reputation looks stellar and protect your community from scams:

1. Online Reputation

Everyone from college applicants to business executives needs to pay attention to their online reputation, and charities are no exception to this rule. Rody Moore, the founder of Genbook, a small business marketing firm, advises clients to engage four simple rules when it comes to online management. In a recent Mashable.com article, Moore explains the importance of:

  • Paying attention to what your customers (or volunteers) are saying
  • Generating more reviews when possible
  • Promoting your reputation through social media sites
  • Responding quickly to any complaints that arise

Both volunteers to your program and recipients of your charity have the opportunity to sing your praises or lambast your efforts online, but only you have the power to deal with negative reports and encourage increased positive exposure. Talk to people who have received your services as well as people who have volunteered for your organization and ask them to post positive reviews online.

2. Transparency

Scam-savvy volunteers will take the time to research your organization before they are willing to donate time or money. To encourage their involvement, ensure you are running a transparent operation. Check your organization’s profile at Give.org, the Better Business Bureau’s online source for charity reports and standards. If you find any incorrect information, contact the BBB as soon as possible to make the necessary adjustments. Another great place to make sure your info is up-to-date is Guidestar.org.

3. Charity Phishing

A decade ago, charity fishing was just a kid’s game played at fundraising bazaars, but now, the phrase has taken on a new spelling and a new meaning. Charity phishing scams are one of the biggest scams to threaten consumers over the holidays. To safeguard your email list, ensure that you have a strong password and avoid accessing your list over a shared Wi-Fi system, as this makes it easy for hackers to gather the details they need for a charity phishing scam.

4. Educate Your Volunteers and Donors

The best phishing scam protection is knowledge, and because not every scam can be avoided, you need to educate your volunteers and donors about how to spot scams. If your email list is compromised, the phishing email will likely come from an address that looks similar to yours or an address that is cloaked by your organization’s name. The email will encourage people to donate to your cause, but instead of bringing them to your website, the email will direct them to a phishing website. Once they enter their information there, the scammers can take off on a credit card spending spree. The more your organization’s participants know about these scams, the easier it will be for them to avoid them.

How do you safeguard the reputation of your organization during the holidays? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Now that her kids are older, Kristina Richards has more time for charity work. She spends most of her free time volunteering at a downtown women’s shelter.

When a Volunteer Tells You “No”

Guest post by Bob D’Ambrosio, Group Publishing

Don't let a "No" response from a volunteer get you down.

Don’t let a “No” get you down.

The best way to involve someone in your organization is to ask them. But making the “big ask” means you may hear that dreaded word: No

Hearing people say “No” is part of the invitation process. They’re not saying no to you, but rather to the opportunity to serve. Try to keep this in perspective since the more people you invite, the more you’ll hear that word!

When a potential volunteer does say “No”, don’t panic.

Trying to become Joe (or Jane) salesperson to force a yes will only be seen as arm twisting and manipulation. But you do want to discern why the offer was declined.

Here’s what “No” often means:

“I don’t feel qualified.” A No may indicate the volunteer doesn’t feel qualified to serve in the position. First timers especially may feel they don’t have the background or experience to serve. This is really a training issue. Inform the person of training opportunities that will be provided to equip him or her to be successful in the position.

“This is not a good time.” Everyone has seasons in life when they may not be able to serve. Children, health, employment (or lack of) may interfere with a person’s time commitment. They may be more receptive if a different schedule is offered or when the next opportunity becomes available.

“That’s not a good fit.” Your volunteer is not saying no to serving, just to serving in this position. Explore what other options may be a better fit, and refer this person to the leader in his or her area of interest. There may even be other positions available within the same department for your referrals. Pass this information on, and make sure the person is contacted and doesn’t fall through the cracks.

So what do you do after you hear “No?”

Thank the person for considering the opportunity to serve. Be polite and appreciative for his or her consideration of this service opportunity.

Record the person’s response and follow up as needed. For example, if a person says they would be interested in helping next year…someone will need to follow-up. Many tracking programs have “tickler reminders” of when to make the next contact. A No today may be a Yes next month!

Send a personal thank-you note. In your note, include any next steps if you’ll be referring the person to another volunteer area or will be contacting him or her in the future.

Don’t let a “No” response get you down. Asking people to volunteer means sometimes people will say yes and sometimes they’ll say no. Keep focused on the main goal – helping people discover the joy of serving!

Bob D’Ambrosio is a 25-year veteran of vocational ministry and now works at Group Publishing, Loveland, CO. He’s the training director for the Equipping Institute, online editor for CVDaily, and part of the product development team. He recently edited the newly released Volunteer Leadership Series.

Advice for Nonprofits on the Google Reader Shutdown

Google Reader is being shutdown in less than a month. Here are some possible alternatives.Earlier in 2013 Google announced that as of July 1st, 2013, it will be shutting down Google Reader. Then came the public outcry, as millions of loyal feed readers became desperate at the thought of losing their favorite feed reader.

Now the impending deadline is less than one month away, and while many people are still very sad/angry/confused, most have realized that the end of Google Reader is not the end of the blog reading world. There are other options.

Google Reader is shutting down. Here's some advice for and possible alternatives.

Unless you are one of those people described above, you may think that this issue isn’t relevant for you – but that’s not true. If your organization has a blog, whether it’s for volunteers, donors, clients or staff, then you need to guide your readers during this transition time. Make sure they know how to easily follow your blog after Google Reader goes away, otherwise these readers could very likely disappear, as well.

Below are some Google Reader alternatives for you to explore, so your readers won’t miss any great posts from your blog (and, of course, so you won’t miss any great Engaging Volunteers content.) Check them out and share your favorites with your community:

Feedly

As the most recommended Google Reader alternative, Feedly has been getting a lot of buzz lately. It provides an easy way to migrate your feeds over from Google Reader, and its interface is simple and elegant.

Drawback: As far as I can tell, it does not support multiple users/accounts within the same deployment. (So if you had different sets of feeds for different Google accounts, you’re out of luck.)

Newsblur

One cool feature of Newsblur is a Pandora-type element that lets you “train” the reader based on the stories you like and dislike, creating a truly personalized experience.

Drawback: Limited to 64 feeds and 10 stories at a time unless you pay for the premium account. If your feed list is anything like mine, this won’t be nearly enough.

Pulse.me

Pulse is touted as the most beautiful of the Google Reader alternatives. Its interface is overwhelmingly visual, with a focus on mobile usability.

Drawback: You can only import your Google Reader feeds via mobile, not on the web. Also, Pulse is probably the most different from the text-based Google Reader, so it could take some more adjustment than these other tools.

Flipboard

Describing itself as a “personal magazine,” Flipboard makes it easy to organize your feeds (and those you discover) into different types and topics according to your interests.

Drawback: Flipboard is for mobile and tablet users only at this point.

The Old Reader

This tool is probably the most like Google Reader – in fact it was built to be a replacement. The site is fast and free, with a very simple interface.

Drawback: The tool is still in beta, and there is no mobile app.

Are you preparing your blog readers for the Google Reader shutdown? Share your alternative recommendations below!

Making a Choice to Change Your World

We love videos. Who doesn’t? Videos are a great way to spread your message and create genuine, emotional connections with your community members. Here’s a video about volunteering that one of our wonderful interns created. Doesn’t her passion just ooze from this and make you want to get involved?

Here is a word from the filmmaker, Lauren Pattugalan:

“I made this video because I want to inspire individuals to take the initiative in volunteering. My intent for is to give an example of how one can help make the world a better community.

“Helping those who live in hunger is just one example of the many ways someone could help. I also want to show that volunteering is enjoyable and lifts the spirit of oneself and the spirits of those we are helping.

“Everyone has the power to volunteer. I wanted to make something that inspires people to use that power, and that is why I made this video.”

Has a video helped your organization spread your message and engage your community? Share it below!

Lauren Pattugalan is a sophomore at Immaculate Conception Academy, a Cristo Rey School. She is a student in the class of 2015 and takes part in the corporate work study program at ICA, which is how VolunteerMatch was lucky enough to get to know her.

How to Overcome Volunteer Reluctance

Guest post by Dean Vella

Overcoming volunteer reluctanceSome nonprofits seem to have a golden touch when it comes to recruiting volunteers. For others, it’s a never-ending task. Which begs the question: Why are some people reluctant to volunteer? And, more importantly, how can your organization surmount that hesitancy?

Why People Don’t Volunteer

  • “I don’t have time.” The best prospects are busy people. They fear adding to a full schedule and may think that if they volunteer for one event, you’ll never let them go.
  • “I don’t know what I can do.” People don’t know what opportunities are available or what contributions they can make.
  • “I can’t afford to give.” Many prospective volunteers think you’ll ask them for their money, as well as their time.
  • “I don’t know who needs my help.” Even your best-fit prospects might not be aware of what your organization does – or that you need help.

Why People Should Volunteer

Studies show volunteering offers a bevy of benefits, from improved interpersonal and communication skills to increased knowledge about topics related to the experience.

Plus, volunteering can reduce stress, improve mental health and increase life satisfaction. Volunteer service also looks good on a resume and can help you land a job. After all, meeting the right people and learning new skills can go a long way to opening doors in the marketplace.

That’s a pretty impressive list of upsides in return for doing something that doesn’t cost a dime.

Why People Volunteer

We’ve reviewed why people don’t volunteer and why they should volunteer. But how about those who do volunteer? What makes them step up to the plate?

  • Giving back is part of life – Volunteering is something they’ve always done or is an integral part of their religious practice.
  • They care about the cause – Some people are compelled to help a cause they relate to or an organization that has assisted them in the past.
  • Trying something new – Volunteering is an opportunity to learn new work or life skills.
  • Personal satisfaction – People like knowing that they have done a good thing or helped someone else.
  • Being recognized – It feels good to be recognized and appreciated. Volunteering can provide that boost, even when a paying job doesn’t.

Recruiting loyal volunteers can be made easier by first understanding why people volunteer and, especially, why they don’t. For nonprofit organizations, it’s vital to develop a strategy that can overcome the objections of potential volunteers and answer the big question: “What’s in it for me?”

Try offering shorter-time commitments, flexible schedules and opportunities to volunteer from home. Finally, don’t hesitate to communicate at every opportunity that volunteering can make you feel good, reduces stress and expand your horizons.

Dean Vella writes about nonprofits and negotiations on behalf of University Alliance, a facilitator of online nonprofit leadership, and conflict resolution training.