This year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) was not a typical conference for me. Normally, I’m out there with the hordes, rushing from session to session while trying to meet as many people as possible and have meaningful conversations without cutting anyone short, writing notes on the back of business cards as I wolf down some food if the line isn’t too long.
It’s always a good time.
This year, however, I was at NCVS for a different purpose: To spread the word about our Fighting Hunger Together initiative with the Walmart Foundation. Thus I spent most of my time at our well-placed booth in the exhibit hall, having more leisurely, focused conversations with whoever happened to pass by, and fighting their hunger with our never-ending candy bowls.
And yet in the end, I feel like I met even more people than usual, and got a unique and valuable perspective about how our project and others like Fighting Hunger Together could impact the sector.
About Fighting Hunger Together
Fighting Hunger Together is a partnership between VolunteerMatch and the Walmart Foundation to build capacity for hunger-related organizations by helping them engage the volunteers they need to do their important work. Nonprofits all over the country that do any sort of hunger or food-related work have free access to VolunteerMatch’s premium tools, as well as specialized training and resources.
We’ve built this hunger map to increase the visibility of your hunger-related volunteer opportunities, and encourage potential volunteers across the United States to sign up to fight hunger in their communities.
We have also designed a series of free webinars that tackle volunteer engagement through the lens of unique challenges facing hunger-related organizations. Check out the webinar lineup here.
In the Booth
While I didn’t count heads at the conference, it seemed like hundreds of people stopped by our booth to hear about Fighting Hunger Together and how they could get involved. (They also loved the free candy, as there wasn’t much other free food at the conference.)
The large majority of the people I met (and in truth, the large majority of the people at the conference), were from volunteer centers and state commissions. Fighting Hunger Together is a great free resource for them to offer the nonprofits in their networks that work on hunger issues.
I also met a bunch of people from companies that are interested in stepping up their work in their communities. Fighting Hunger Together is an example of the types of partnerships we have at VolunteerMatch with our corporate clients, working with them to identify key issue areas relevant to their consumer base and company mission, and helping them achieve real impact through volunteer engagement.
You know who I didn’t meet? I didn’t meet a lot of people actually working at nonprofits fighting hunger. This is probably because this particular conference is simply too expensive for small, local organizations to afford. Fortunately, everyone I spoke to knew someone in their town that works to end hunger, and they promised to spread the word.
What I Learned
First of all, considering the number of convening and capacity building organizations like volunteer centers and state commissions, and given how willing and excited people are to share resources, there is incredible potential power in Networked Nonprofits (and in creating a true network of nonprofits). If we all focus on working together, sharing best practices and measuring impact together, I believe the large-scale impact we would have across multiple issues would increase exponentially.
Second, partnering with corporations is a good idea. (Nothing explosively new there, I know. But it was significantly reinforced for me at this conference.) Working with companies helps you increase the visibility and scale of your project and cause, and helps the companies achieve true impact in the community. It’s a win-win for all.
Finally, hunger is an issue that is relevant to everyone, no matter where they work. All we have to do is give people a concrete way to fight it, like signing up to volunteer. That’s what we’re trying to do with Fighting Hunger Together, supported by the Walmart Foundation – helping nonprofits get as many people involved as possible, because the more people that are engaged to fight hunger, the faster we will succeed in wiping it out.