Big Hopes for Volunteer Engagement Folks at the Conference on Volunteering and Service

This year's Conference on Volunteering and Service promises to be more valuable than ever before for people who engage volunteers.I’ve been attending the Conference on Volunteering and Service with VolunteerMatch since I started in 2007. (In fact my 3rd week on the job was at the conference in Philadelphia!) And while the conferences have been fun, and great for meeting new people, they haven’t had consistently great content for those of us who work to engage volunteers in meaningful work.

This year promises to be different! After years of creating a separate pre- or post-conference event specifically for volunteer program managers, this year there is a conference track dedicated to volunteer engagement.

The track sessions and the workshops have been developed and selected by a team from Points of Light with additional leaders from the field, and I think we’ve done a good job of creating opportunities to connect with others as well as providing real opportunities for learning around this year’s theme of “Breaking Boundaries and Building Bridges.”

Here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to:

I’ll be doing my own workshop on the importance of including impact when sharing the story of volunteer engagement. If you’ve attended a webinar, or seen me speak in person you know I talk a lot about how important it is to answer the question: why? I’ll be discussing this in detail, we’ll have a group discussion, and I’ll leave you with some resources. I’ll also be leading a “dine about town” on Tuesday evening.

I’m really hopeful that this year’s conference, with its focus on volunteer engagement, is an opportunity for those of us who work with volunteers to connect, engage, and feel inspired in the work we do – as well as have a few laughs and a few cocktails! (And, if registration numbers are any indication – you all are looking forward to it, too! If you haven’t selected your sessions yet, you might want to do so soon, before everything fills up.)

I hope to see you at conference! (You can find me on Twitter @JenBennettCVA if you can’t find me at the conference.)

Nonprofit Boot Camp, Reinvented

Nonprofit Boot Camp, ReinventedThis year’s Nonprofit Boot Camp conference is going to be different from what we’re used to – and that’s a good thing. As a long-time partner of the conference’s organizer, Social Media for Nonprofits, we appreciate how important (and difficult) it can be to honestly evaluate a project and make necessary changes. But we think the changes made to Boot Camp this year are all awesome.

In general, the focus will shift away from organization-specific content, to provide programming for individuals in the organization. Top speakers will share insights and tools that help social change leaders rediscover balance, gain a new perspective, and think differently about their work.

Boot Camp takes place in Silicon Valley on June 10th, and San Francisco on October 2nd. But by following the hashtag #npbc14, anyone can learn from the great discussions that will happen, no matter where you’re located. Social Media for Nonprofits and Nonprofit Boot Camp return to Silicon Valley and San Francisco in 2014.

Conference Highlights

Ask the Experts: One-On-One Coaching Presented by VolunteerMatch

We are thrilled to be organizing this year’s Ask the Experts mentoring sessions. After all, it’s our business to connect folks with great volunteer opportunities, and the experts this year are itching to give their time and knowledge to help other nonprofit leaders. Get one-on-one coaching from practitioners and consultants on your specific problems in fundraising, marketing and communications and strategy. There are limited spots available, so sign up now to secure your spot!

Massage Presented by National Holistic Institute

Take the edge off with a 20-minute chair massage by therapists from National Holistic Institute.

Mindfulness, Balance and Clarity!

There will be time and space in the programming to talk about balance, mindfulness, and gaining clarity. It has significant benefits for your health, efficacy in your work and your ability to truly meet your mission. Megan Keane, Membership Director of NTEN and an avid Yogi, will lead us all into thinking about embracing failure, collaboration, creativity and more.

Professional Headshots

Are your LinkedIn and website photos from your high school graduation? Or maybe you’re part of the selfie craze? Have our professional photographer take a portrait and give your professional presence on various social platforms a makeover! First come first served.

Don’t Forget: Social Media for Nonprofits!

Whether you attend Nonprofit Boot Camp or not (although we hope you do!), Social Media for Nonprofits will be happening one day later. This is the premier event dedicated to social media for social good. Attend Social Media for Nonprofits, and it will surely be the best one-day investment you make this year. (Plus, our very own Shari Ilsen – that’s me – will be speaking!)

Silicon Valley folks, we hope to see you at Nonprofit Boot Camp and Social Media for Nonprofits! For the rest of you, click here to let us know you’d like to be notified of upcoming events in your area.

Lessons Learned and Good Times Had at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference

The VolunteerMatch team having a great time at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology ConferenceAlmost two weeks later, the VolunteerMatch team is still processing our experience at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in Washington, D.C. VolunteerMatch was involved as an exhibitor and partner for the Day of Service event, and VolunteerMatch team members spent as much time as possible meeting other nonprofits, schmoozing, and geeking out.

Here are reflections from two attendees about what was most valuable about this year’s NTC conference:

Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Lauren WagnerThis year was my first time at the NTC and I was definitely impressed. From the smooth logistics to the networking events and learning sessions, it was overall a great conference. In between shifts manning the VolunteerMatch booth, I was able to attend a few sessions and was able to come back to San Francisco with tangible ideas to put into action in my own work – which is, in my opinion, the sign of great speakers and sessions.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

Delicious branded cupcakes courtesy of Network for Good.

My favorite two sessions were the session on rethinking online engagement with Ash Shepherd of Minds On Design Lab and Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, and a self-help session for nonprofit marketers led by Sarah Durham of Big Duck, strategist, speaker and blogger, Nancy Schwartz, and marketing specialist Stephanie Bowen.

In the engagement session, Ash and Farra shared a new model for growing and developing your online engagement strategies to help you self-identify where your current online engagement lives and how to get it to the next level. This can seem like a large and daunting task, but luckily in the second session I mentioned above, we discussed tips and tricks for keeping yourself productive based on the three keys from Todd Henry’s book “Die Empty.” These three keys are: define your battles; be fiercely curious; and step out of your comfort zone.

Shari Ilsen, Director of Engagement, VolunteerMatch

Shari IlsenThis was my fourth year at NTC, and it really felt like coming home. I caught up with old friends, made some great new ones, and reinforced my feeling that all of us who deal with nonprofit technology are in a great big, exciting, growing community together. The themes that emerged for me from the conference follow along those lines:

We’re not alone! If you have an idea or a problem, reach out to others. Not only are others dealing with the same challenges, but others are probably finding great solutions! This became clear in the session I led with nonprofit consultant Lauren Girardin on impact measurement. This is a tough topic for many, but it doesn’t have to be if you grab models and examples of what others are already doing to achieve success. Tip: to find some of these great models and examples, join LinkedIn groups and local Meetups to connect directly with folks dealing with similar issues.

Technology is just a tool! Your organization doesn’t have to be a pioneer or early adopter in order to make the most of technology. Be strategic about how technology can help your mission – because that, after all, is the whole point. Here’s a tweet I sent that ended up becoming famous during the conference:

It’s important to have fun with what we do, no matter what challenges we face. Put some effort into making yourself and others laugh, and you’ll see the impact of your work skyrocket. At NTC we saw this in action not just after-hours during the parties, but during the sessions as we appreciated the humor embedded into every speaker’s agenda. It kept us alert, engaged and excited.

After all, in the end the main goal of our jobs is provide joy. So even if you work in a tough, emotionally charged field, find a reason to smile, and spread it.

Did you attend the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference? If so, what did you learn? Share it with us below!

Social Media for Nonprofits: It Just Makes Sense

Join your peers for a day focused on how to best use social media for your nonprofit organization.As winter winds down (hopefully) and the polar vortex fades away (hopefully), it’s almost time for the start of another season of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference series.

Each year we make a big deal out of these events, and there’s a good reason: They just make sense. One day dedicated to helping you learn practical, real-life strategies for making social media work for your organization, located conveniently in your own community. These conferences are designed to help you leverage social media for your volunteering program, fundraising and general outreach.

VolunteerMatch is a global partner of the Social Media for Nonprofits series – because we think this is the premier conference series dedicated to social media for social good. Each event features an impressive lineup of local and national experts and practitioners that present best practices for you to use social media in your work. Not to mention all the great networking!

Discounts for VolunteerMatch Members

Attend Social Media for Nonprofits in your area to hear from an impressive lineup of speakers.As part of our partnership, we’re offering special discounts to VolunteerMatch members for Social Media for Nonprofits conferences. Just use the code “VMatch” when registering.

(Note: this discount is for the middle and high-level registration – it unfortunately does not apply to the lowest price level.)

Bay Area Boot Camps are Back

At Nonprofit Boot Camp meet experts on multiple aspects of nonprofit operations, development and leadership.For the second year, the Social Media for Nonprofits team is adding a second day to its events in the San Francisco Bay Area, for Nonprofit Boot Camp. Boot Camp is a highly practical conference designed to connect nonprofit leaders to the resources, best practices and contacts needed to create a better world.

In other words, get ready to meet a lot of inspiring people and learn a lot of practical things. If you’re within driving distance of San Francisco and/or Silicon Valley, we highly recommend attending.

So check out upcoming dates and locations for the Social Media for Nonprofits series, and don’t forget to use your discount code when registering!

Upcoming Dates

New York City
March 17
New York, NY

April 10
Chicago, IL

May 19
Cambridge, MA

Silicon Valley
June 10-11
Mountain View, CA

Washington, D.C.
July 14
Washington, D.C.

August 13
Austin, TX

San Francisco
October 2-3
San Francisco, CA

Where We Hope to Find You at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference

Here are some great places and events at the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference - will VolunteerMatch see you there?This year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) hosted by NTEN is approaching – and I don’t know about you, but the VolunteerMatch team is fervently hoping Washington, D.C. will get it together and get rid of that snow before the event kicks off on March 13.

That’s not all that’s on our wish list for this year’s NTC, though. Here are some of the places and spaces we hope to see you this year during the conference. Can’t be there in person? Don’t worry – there are some virtual opportunities on our list, too…

Day of Service

The #14NTC Day of Service on Wednesday, March 12, is our chance to give back to the NTC’s host community of Washington, D.C. This year VolunteerMatch is sponsoring (how appropriate!) to help everyone find a volunteer opportunity that fits with your interests and time. You can join a volunteer group, or recruit a group of your own for a rewarding day of giving back.

If your nonprofit is based in D.C. and you’re interested in hosting NTC volunteers for the day, check out this page for instructions to suggest a project.

See Shari Talk in Public

VolunteerMatch’s Director of Engagement, Shari Ilsen, will be speaking at a session about designing and measuring engagement in a strategic, mission-driven way. Join Shari and expert nonprofit consultant Lauren Girardin for “You CAN capture lightening in a bottle: Motivating and measuring engagement.” For a practical, fun session that every nonprofit communications person will find valuable.

Also, be sure to see Lauren again as she speaks at “Digital Marketing That Gets Results: 30 Ideas You Can Use Monday Morning” for a thorough look at the latest strategies for ramping up digital marketing at your organization.

Some Volunteering-Related Sessions

“Handing over the keys: empowering and supporting volunteer leaders”

This session is for people with big ambitions for their volunteer programs. It will show you how to empower volunteers to take on leadership roles, and the challenges, rewards and systems that make it possible.

“The Power of Technology and the Millennial Generation”

Join new generation experts, including some of our friends from Network for Good, as they explore big ideas around how to leverage, engage, and collaborate with the Millennial Generation (13-35). Talk through big ideas around volunteer engagement, strategic fundraising practices with a new generation, and technology to build your own youth/millennial network.

“What’s Your Board’s IT IQ? Does it Matter?”

With only 1% of board members having any technology background, IT is rarely discussed at board meetings. Yet, these are the very stakeholders who have influence on whether or not technology is viewed as a strategic advantage or simply operational overhead. This talk provides tips and ideas for increasing your board’s IT IQ in order to view technology as a strategic tool to enhance your organization’s capacity. (This is a great tie-in with our upcoming webinar on “Building a Future-Friendly Nonprofit Board!”)

Pick Up Some Swag

We’ll also be manning a booth at this year’s Science Fair – so stop by Booth #617 to say hi and score some of the awesome VolunteerMatch swag we’ll have with us. (No, I won’t tell you what it is, but we’ll ALSO have candy…)

Connect Online

Can’t make it to NTC in person this year? No worries! NTEN has an Online NTC that is lower cost and commitment. This is a great way to catch the highlights of the conference from anywhere.

If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow #14NTC to join in the conversation – you certainly don’t have to be at the conference to tweet with attendees. Connect with the VolunteerMatch folks @silsen, @lauren_lynn2 and @heyshannondavid.

Are you going to the Nonprofit Technology Conference this year? Share your must-do’s with us below!