Fighting Hunger at NCVS – In More Ways Than One

The Fighting Hunger Together booth at NCVSThis 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.

Fighting Hunger Together Hunger Map at VolunteerMatch.org

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.

Learn more about Fighting Hunger Together: Sign up for a free webinar, and post hunger volunteer opportunities.

We’re Holding a Hunger Meet Up at NCVS

Fighting Hunger TogetherAre you at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) this week in Chicago? We’re holding a meet up for hunger-related nonprofit organizations to talk about effectively engaging volunteers in the fight against hunger. Read below for more details!

Did you know there are more than 5,000 nonprofit organizations using VolunteerMatch right now to engage volunteers in the fight against hunger? With a number like that, it’s easy to be optimistic about the impact we can make on this critical issue.

But it’s still not enough. That’s why, with support from the Walmart Foundation, we’re trying to increase that number with the Fighting Hunger Together Initiative.

The more hunger-fighting organizations that use VolunteerMatch to engage the volunteers they need to accomplish their missions, the closer we get to a world where no child goes to bed hungry, and no elderly person wonders where their next meal will come from.

This week at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, we’ll be in the Exhibit Hall talking with nonprofits that work to end hunger about how they can be a part of this great initiative. From free volunteer engagement trainings tailored specifically to the challenges facing hunger-related organizations, to complimentary access to premium volunteer recruiting tools at VolunteerMatch, we are making sure nonprofits working to end hunger have what you need to effectively engage volunteers.

And what about all of the great knowledge and experience you have to share with each other? Wouldn’t it be great if you could meet all of the other hunger-fighting nonprofits at the NCVS conference this year and share best practices?

Let’s make it happen. We’re holding a meet up for hunger-related organizations at our booth in the Exhibit Hall on Tuesday, June 19 at 1:30pm. Come by Booth 221 for a description of the Fighting Hunger Together initiative, live demonstrations and to meet all the other people at the conference who focus on hunger issues. Also, we have candy and stickers.

Fighting Hunger Together Meet Up
NCVS Exhibit Hall, Booth 221
Tuesday, June 19, 1:30pm

If your organization fights hunger, we hope to see you there!

Everything I Need to Know about Social Media I’ll Learn at the NCVS Preconference

Get a serious social media knowledge dropDo you know what is making us most excited about the Social Media for Social Good Preconference workshop before the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this year?

It’s not that it will include a half-day of pure social media strategy.

It’s not that there will be a mix of presentations, panels and small group break-outs, facilitating true collaboration and peer learning.

It’s not that it will tie in well with other social media sessions and topics being presented at the main conference.

It’s not that the content and focus will be so concrete that attendees will walk away with the tools to design and implement the best social media strategy for their organizations.

No, these are all great reasons to be excited for the Social Media for Social Good Preconference, which is happening on Sunday, June 17 from 1-5pm. But what has us most excited is that this workshop is bringing together top social media experts from all over the field.

The session is challenging people like Holly Ross and Amy Sample Ward of NTEN, or Robert Rosenthal (who happens to be VP of Communications & Marketing here at VolunteerMatch) to apply their knowledge and experience directly to issues unique to volunteer engagement and management.

Whether you consider yourself to be a social media novice or an intermediate level practitioner, you will most certainly learn something new at this workshop.

Click here for more information about the Social Media for Social Good Preconference and to register.

Are You Volunteer Manager Enough?

Are you serious about volunteer engagement?Are you serious about volunteer engagement? Are you looking for ways to advance your professional career and further develop your organization’s volunteer program?

Then SAVE is for you.

The Summit on Advanced Volunteer Engagement, a preconference event occurring before the National Conference on Volunteering and Service, is a premier professional development opportunity for people who are serious about volunteer engagement and management.

From Saturday, June 16th to Monday, June 18th the sessions will be focused and intimate. Experts will come together from all over the country, even the world, to meet each other and share knowledge and best practices.

This year’s SAVE theme is “Leading at the Crossroads 2012.” Attendees can expect to learn about cutting edge trends in volunteer engagement, and how to position their volunteer programs strategically within both their organizations and their communities. The emphasis will be on peer-to-peer networking and connecting in small groups to creatively address issues and challenges.

SAVE is designed specifically for individuals who have at least three years of experience in engaging volunteers in nonprofit, government and community organizations. The impressive speaker list includes experts and thought leaders from some of our favorite organizations and companies.

We’ll be there as well, with two staff members speaking. Our President, Greg Baldwin, will be giving a plenary on Sunday, June 17th about “Re-Thinking Leadership in a High Tech Age.” Jennifer Bennett, Senior Manager of Education and Training, will be leading a session on Monday, June 18th about using social media in your volunteer engagement plan.

If you’re an experienced volunteer engagement professional, we highly recommend SAVE. Click here for more information and to register.

Why the National Conference on Volunteering and Service is More Relevant than Ever

National Conference on Volunteering and ServiceLast year it was in New Orleans, and it was a great time. From swag bags to days of service to inspirational local connections, the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) put on a good show in 2011. We’re expecting this year’s event in Chicago June 18-20 to be even better.

What

Presented by Points of Light, NCVS is annually the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. Anyone who is “ready to pave the way for a fresh approach to civic engagement” is invited, and as you can imagine this includes everyone from Americorps and Senior Corps members to Kevin Bacon.

The speaker list for the conference is impressive, and seeing these accomplished people talk in person about their work would be reason enough to go. Some highlights include former First Lady Barbara Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Craig Newmark, founder of both craigslist and craigconnects.

There are simply too many sessions to pull any out here, but the NCVS site allows us to browse sessions by track, point of interest, date and more without registering first.

Why

So why do we think it’s especially important to go to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this year? There are several critical issues impacting the nonprofit and volunteering sectors that could potentially come to a head in 2012, and being educated and connected about how we can play a part in the outcome could make all the difference. For example:

  • 2012 is an election year, and not surprisingly, the economy is a key campaign issue. With each candidate feeling the pressure to cut spending, the budgets of national service agencies like the Corporation for National and Community Service will be in more danger. Additionally, funding for nonprofit programs at the federal, state and local levels will be revisited and reworked.
  • Edelman just released its latest goodpurpose study, which reveals a dramatic increase in consumers’ expectations of companies to be active in social causes. This is leading to more companies investing more money and more employee time in community engagement, including volunteering.
  • With over 75,000 active volunteer opportunities listed on the VolunteerMatch site, we’re seeing our highest number of listings in more than 5 years. Add to that the fact that we recently surpassed 6,000,000 volunteer referrals, and it’s clear that volunteers are becoming more and more key to nonprofit operations, and there are plenty of people out there willing to step up and help out when asked.

Can you think of other reasons why this year, especially, is important for volunteering and service? Leave your comments below and check out the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.