Volunteer Opportunities to Involve Your Major Donors

Guest post by Blake Groves

Engage Your Major Donors as VolunteersLike many aspects of nonprofit life, we’re seeing all sorts of fascinating opportunities pop up in the volunteering world. You can now text your ZIP code to a phone number and receive a list of volunteer opportunities in your area. To be blunt, that’s really cool!

The volunteering arena is an exciting environment to be in.

Why are you leaving your major donors, and really any donors, out of the loop?

Have you ever thought to yourself — I can’t ask someone who just gave a large contribution to volunteer their time as well. If you have, you’re not alone.

Sure, a university probably wouldn’t want to ask someone who just funded most of their new library to also pour cement for the whole building, but there are plenty of great volunteer opportunities for major donors that can have a major impact on how those donors engage with your organization.

Don’t undervalue the relationship that can be built when someone gets to support an organization they care about in a non-fiscal way!

Get creative and start offering your major donors unique volunteering opportunities like the two below.

1. Ask them to help out during an advocacy event.

Participating in an advocacy event has the potential to be a really special volunteering opportunity.

These events get your major donors involved at the ground level, showing them firsthand the work you’re doing and how their donations have factored into your service. It calls to mind a common tip given to creative writers — show, don’t tell!

To provide some context, here’s a sample scenario.

Imagine you’ve gathered all the signatures you need using an online petition, but you’ve chosen to take your online petition offline in the final stage by hand delivering it to the appropriate party.

It’s a grand gesture that sticks in people’s minds and, at the very least, draws attention to the worthwhile cause at hand. You could ask a major donor to join in on the delivery. They’d leave with a memory of a once-in-a-lifetime volunteering experience.

If your organization participates in advocacy, think through the ways you can creatively engage your major donors and help them forge lasting bonds with your cause and your mission.

2. Ask them to participate in a feasibility study.

Feasibility studies aren’t exactly the first thing one thinks of when they hear the word volunteering, but they do provide a unique opportunity to learn more about your major donors while they learn more about you.

If you’re organizing a capital campaign, you’re probably also orchestrating a feasibility study to survey members of the community to gauge the viability of the project you’re fundraising for.

Ask some of your major donors to participate in the feasibility study. Their involvement gives them a window into a current project you’re working on and your present goals while your team gathers invaluable insight into your major donors’ thought processes. All involved benefit.

Note: Two rather obscure options were chosen here to demonstrate how creative you can get with major donor volunteerism. Think outside the box and find unique avenues to let your major donors into your organization’s day-to-day work!

About the author: Blake Groves is the Vice President, Strategy and Business Development with Salsa. With more than 20 years in technology solutions and consulting, Blake’s expertise lies in hands-on knowledge of sales, consulting, product management and marketing. For the last 10 years, he has narrowed his focus to how Internet technologies can help nonprofit organizations.

What to Expect When You Are Expecting (From Volunteers, That Is)

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Managing Expectations of VolunteersYou can measure some pretty high expectations from volunteers – IF you market to the ones who will deliver.

I hear a lot about how the paradigm is shifting within volunteerism: volunteers are busier than ever, and many organizations are looking to engage volunteers differently. The trend is towards micro-volunteerism and short term assignments.

Does this trend mean that we need to expect less from volunteers overall?

Absolutely not.

Opening up to new volunteer positions does not mean we need to expect less from volunteers. It means we need to reframe the discussion and ask ourselves what is most needed to meet the mission of the organization.

Take my former program, Fairfax CASA. CASA volunteers are appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interests of an abused or neglected child. Volunteers must make an extensive commitment because to do any less means that an abused or neglected child goes unserved. To advocate properly, every volunteer must remain on a case until it is closed by the court – and many cases last two years or longer.

That’s a huge commitment. And yet, there are people out there who are willing to take on the responsibility.  I think about what’s required of volunteers at Fairfax CASA and it’s astounding.

  • Remain on a case until it’s closed by the court
  • Contact all the case professionals on a monthly basis
  • Visit the child twice a month
  • Write court reports whenever there is a hearing
  • Complete 12 hours or continuing education each year
  • Cover all court hearings on the case
  • Submit monthly reports to their supervisor

Why do they do this? Because they are believers in the program’s mission and invested as much in the outcome as the staff. If they are stepping up, that means we have done a great job of communicating the program’s mission and shown them how they will be rewarded for their efforts. As one of my former volunteers used to say, the “psychic income” received from being a CASA volunteer outweighed the extensive commitment.

Finding committed volunteers takes proper screening. It also requires you to promote your program so that you are reaching out to the volunteers most likely to deliver.

So perhaps the reframe is not even about what your program needs – it’s about marketing to engage volunteerswho meet your needs. It’s a big world out there. I would argue there’s a volunteer perfect for any volunteer position – IF you know how to reach her.

Do you agree? Share your opinions below. Is it possible that meeting your program’s volunteer needs is more about marketing than anything else?

Help Your Volunteers Gain Skills They Can Use

Guest post by Amy Cowen

Help Your Volunteers Gain SkillsAccording to LinkedIn, 41% of hiring managers say volunteer work is just as valuable as paid work on a CV.

Therefore, as an organization that engages volunteers, it’s important to make sure the skills they gain through your organization are meaningful.

Many volunteers are young adults or students who are specifically looking to gain work experience while in school. Even if your volunteers are not currently furthering their education, they may still want to list their volunteer work on their CV.

So, what skills can you teach your volunteers that will help them on their career paths?

Note: It’s important to ask your volunteers what they hope to get out of their volunteer experience. These suggestions are not one size fits all!

  • Leadership and Management Skills

People learn leadership and management skills both by doing and observing. Every organization operates under some type of management structure, and your volunteers can gain experience by working within this structure. One idea is asking them if they would like to manage a team of other volunteers. The ability to lead a group, and lead by example is invaluable to future employers.

  • Time Management Skills

Whatever your volunteers have going on outside of their volunteer work, they will have to negotiate their daily schedules to fit volunteering in. Volunteers that arrive late or frequently cancel volunteer commitments might be the ones in need of extra time management mentoring. Time management is a skill that all employers look for.

  • Social Skills

Through volunteering for your organization, individuals can improve their teamwork, networking, and communication skills. Many volunteer positions inherently need a level of communication between the organization and the community or sponsors. You can also create these opportunities by inviting volunteers to organizational meetings and events.

  • Business Skills

Business skills can include simple aspects of clerical or front office duties. However, they can go as far as bookkeeping, accounting, supplying, and more. Any business skills you can impart into your volunteers will go a long way on their CV.

By helping your volunteers learn new skills, you will certainly improve upon their CV. However, the added benefit is that possessing these skills will ensure that they are also as effective as possible for your own organization. Therefore, imparting your wisdom to your volunteers will benefit everyone involved.

Amy Cowen is a passionate writer who often provides career advice for students, volunteers and job seekers. She writes for Aussiewriter and hopes to run her own team of writers someday.

People Make the Difference: Matching Volunteer Interests to Nonprofit Needs

Everyone should have the chance to make a difference - don't you think?At VolunteerMatch, we believe that everyone should have the chance to make a difference. And we REALLY believe that the best way to make sure this happens is to help connect good people with the good causes that need them. Sounds simple enough, right?

In order to create the best connections between volunteers and nonprofits, we have all sorts of fancy, auto-magical tools and technology on VolunteerMatch.org, including search filters, Volunteer Profiles, and skills-based Listing Wizards. And we’re often reminded that our work is never done.

For example, we recently, and very proudly, released the 2013 Annual VolunteerMatch Impact Report, showcasing a whole year of connecting and volunteering across the VolunteerMatch network. In the report there are two sections I want to focus on today: “Top Opportunities,” and “Most Popular Interests.”

Cause areas with the highest number of active volunteer opportunities in the VolunteerMatch network.

Top Opportunities

This section displays the cause areas that have the highest number of volunteer listings on VolunteerMatch.org. What’s interesting about this top ten list is that the top five haven’t changed in years (just check out our reports from previous years.) The next five spots, however, are in constant flux. This year, Women and Homeless & Housing were replaced by International and Disabled. This reflects the constantly shifting nature of the nonprofit sector and its needs.

Most popular cause interests of volunteers in the VolunteerMatch network.

Most Popular Interests

Here’s where we show the cause areas that are most popular among our volunteer members – meaning they produce the most connections. What I like about this section is seeing the great diversity of interests and passions that make up the VolunteerMatch network. There’s truly something for everyone who wants to make a difference, and boy, do they show up!

Putting Them Together…

When we view these two sections together, however, a small but nagging inconsistency emerges. They don’t match up completely. You’ll notice some of the popular interests of our volunteers (Animals, Advocacy & Human Rights, Homeless & Housing…) don’t show up on the list of causes with the most opportunities. And vice versa.

This is a problem because it means that nonprofits are not necessarily getting all of the help they need, and volunteers are not always finding enough opportunities to help in the areas they care about. So what do we do about this?

For volunteers, we recommend taking a look at where the greatest needs are – consider a volunteer opportunity in one of the top 10 causes as a way to help the most.

For nonprofits, however, we all need to take a good hard look at these most popular interests, and tailor our volunteer listings to them. Perhaps we can create volunteer opportunities that attract folks who are passionate about human rights, or women? Be creative and strategic, and you’ll engage more volunteers and better volunteers.

In order for EVERYONE to have the chance to make a difference, we need to start listening and noticing what each of us truly needs – both nonprofits and volunteers. And then, the connections made on networks like VolunteerMatch will be strong, long-lasting, and will really change the world.

What do you think? How can we make sure the needs of nonprofits and the interests of volunteers are aligned? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Nonprofit Tip of the Month: What You Can (and Should!) Post on VolunteerMatch

What you can (and should!) post on VolunteerMatchHere at VolunteerMatch, we want to help people find ways to put their skills and energy to good use – to help nonprofits like yours.

We want volunteers to visit VolunteerMatch confident that they’ll have some legitimate, meaningful options to choose from when deciding where to get involved. We want volunteers to have the information they need about each and every opportunity to really assess whether it would make sense for them.

That experience is what keeps people coming back to find more opportunities and connect with more organizations. It’s what makes people want to tell their friends about all the great stuff they’ll find on VolunteerMatch. It’s what ultimately gets YOU the volunteers you need for your organization!

When you post your volunteer needs, you can help us make sure VolunteerMatch remains the respected, viable network of volunteer and community service opportunities that people know and love. Here are some things to think about when posting your new opportunities (or editing your existing ones!):

1. A VolunteerMatch opportunity IS aimed at helping volunteers find activities at your organization, so make sure to list specific active tasks that you need help with.

2. A VolunteerMatch opportunity ISN’T a place for you to advertise your website. No phishing allowed. We do have some great sponsorship opportunities, though, if you’re looking to direct traffic to your own website.

3. A VolunteerMatch opportunity IS an unpaid position. We know some volunteer opportunities involve compensation, which is fine! If you’re offering a stipend or any financial compensation to your volunteers, just make sure it’s no more than the federal minimum wage.

4. A VolunteerMatch opportunity ISN’T a direct fundraising solicitation. However, we realize how integral volunteers are for your fundraising efforts! A VolunteerMatch Opportunity IS a great place to recruit fundraisers, NOT funds.

5. A VolunteerMatch opportunity IS a place to set expectations with your volunteers, including whether you’d like them to help provide materials for an active task. For example, providing yarn for knitting blankets is okay.

6. A VolunteerMatch opportunity IS a place be upfront about volunteer costs. No bait and switch. We realize there are costs involved with some volunteer opportunities (VolunTourism, Disaster Relief, etc).  If volunteers need to “pay to play”, let them know in your VolunteerMatch opportunity.

7. A VolunteerMatch opportunity IS a way to engage folks from all over the world. If the opportunity is marked “virtual” it must be equally accessible and equally relevant to volunteers located anywhere in the world. Writing newsletter articles, researching and writing grant proposals, or providing phone support are all examples of virtual opportunities.

8. A VolunteerMatch opportunity ISN’T something to duplicate in every zip code! Don’t spoil volunteer opportunity search results for volunteers. Your opportunities are visible for a 20-mile radius around the zip code they are listed within. Don’t create multiple identical opportunities in zip code after zip code. Nobody likes spam. If you need to cover a larger geographic area, use our Multi-ZIP feature, available when you publish your opportunity.

Making sure your opportunities fall within these guidelines will ultimately serve both your organization and the network of volunteers we all rely on to move our missions forward.

Do you have tips for fellow nonprofits about posting great VolunteerMatch opportunity listings? Share them below!