Are You One of the 3,000?

No, we’re not talking about the much-desired second sequel to the movie “300.” Even we aren’t that ambitious. Instead, we’re referring to the 3,000 connections made every single day on VolunteerMatch.org between nonprofits and volunteers.

Every day on VolunteerMatch.org, about 3,000 connections are made between nonprofits and volunteers.

As the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, this is just what we DO. We make it easier for your nonprofit organization to find the volunteers you actually need. We’ve got all sorts of awesome free tools.

So are you one of the 3,000? If not, get right on it. It takes about 5 minutes – another happy number – and your organization’s needs will be seen by millions of skilled, dedicated volunteers. So all-in-all, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Start recruiting volunteers with VolunteerMatch now.

How (and Why) to Design Traveler-Friendly Volunteer Opportunities

How (and Why) to design traveler-friendly volunteer opportunities.We’ve all experienced it before – the call of the wild, that insatiable wanderlust that has us staring dreamily out of our windows imagining a completely different place. And we all envy those who turn our fantasy into reality with their own travels.

Why, though, would we want to engage these travelers as volunteers? Sure, they may be transient, but traveling folk can contribute quite a bit to your organization:

  • If someone on vacation wants to give their time to your cause, you know they must be really passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Travelers may be itching to do something for others, after spending their vacation focused on themselves.
  • It takes a lot of energy to pack up and travel around – imagine all of that energy working for your organization.
  • You should always be encouraging diversity among your volunteers. Folks who have been traveling will infuse new life into your existing volunteers with their refreshing uniqueness.

These savvy wanderers may not be swayed by the usual listings you post up to recruit volunteers, however. Here are some tips for designing volunteer opportunities to attract travelers:

Eye-Catching Title

Your title should be witty and eye-catching, yet also descriptive. Travelers on the move won’t have a lot of time to browse through volunteer search results, so make sure your title stands out.

Focus on the Experience

Highlight the unique nature of the volunteer opportunity – will they get a taste of local culture? Meet interesting people? These are both great ways to attract folks who are looking to explore.

Be Specific About the Time Commitment

If you want a traveler to fit you into his or her busy schedule, make sure the time commitment is clearly stated in the opportunity. This will ensure a good fit between you and a potential volunteer.

Design a Training-Free Opportunity

As mentioned above, travelers are not going to have a lot of extra time. Expecting them to go through hours of volunteer training is simply not realistic. So think of ways for savvy, energetic people to help your organization that doesn’t require more than 30 minutes of training.

Say It Straight: We Welcome Newcomers!

Here’s an idea: Engage travelers as volunteers by specifically welcoming them in your volunteer opportunity! Many people search sites like VolunteerMatch looking for ways to help in the areas they will be traveling. So speak directly to them.

Have you engaged travelers as volunteers for your organization? Tell us about it below!

Volunteers are a Critical Resource

Be mindful with your volunteer engagement.

Be mindful with your volunteer engagement.

Last night I, along with a few dozen of my online community and nonprofit peers, was inspired to think about volunteers in a whole new way.

At TechSoup’s Online Community Meetup here in San Francisco, Jayne Cravens shared her expertise about engaging online volunteers in an online community. But during the session, important issues surfaced that reminded me how universal this topic of volunteer engagement really is.

Questions about staff buy-in, volunteer recognition, “firing” volunteers, risk management and reporting made it clear to the entire group that volunteers can and should impact everything that goes on in the organization. This leads to one inevitable (and familiar) conclusion:

Volunteers are a critical resource.

Sometimes it’s easy to see the footprint of volunteers at your organization – they run events, work in the office, serve on your Board. But sometimes their influence is not as obvious. Maybe they share your social media messages, participate in your forums, or donate their birthdays. How do you keep these folks engaged? How do you track and report on their impact?

Mindful Volunteer Engagement

Many of us approach our volunteer programs in a reactive way – oh, we need volunteers for something in a week or a month? Okay, let’s recruit some. Instead, volunteer engagement should be a key strategic element of your nonprofit’s operations. We should all be practicing what I like to call “Mindful Volunteer Engagement.”

Start by asking yourself and your fellow staff members these questions:

  • What are the goals of your organization for the next year? How can volunteers contribute to this?
  • What are some projects you wish you could afford? How could skilled or pro bono volunteers help fill in this gap?
  • How strong is your organization’s online presence? Who are the passionate influencers you can engage as volunteers to help build your online communities?

By identifying the goals for which you can engage volunteers, you’ll be able to more easily track how volunteers are contributing.

Funders Care About This, Too

The light is finally dawning, and funders are beginning to realize the importance of volunteer engagement when it comes to nonprofit effectiveness. On the Reimagining Service blog, Jane Leighty Justis of The Leighty Foundation wrote about the value of increasing an organization’s capacity to mobilize its volunteer resources. The results are seen in every single area of the organization – and what funder wouldn’t be interested in supporting that kind of improvement? (For more information about the link between successful volunteer engagement and nonprofit effectiveness, check out this research conducted by the TCC Group that highlights the impact of volunteer engagement on a nonprofit organization’s overall effectiveness.)

Bottom line: If your nonprofit is not engaging volunteers strategically to impact the most critical goals and functions of your organization, you are falling behind – and this is one train you don’t want to miss.

How do volunteers fulfill critical functions at your organization?

How to Make Holidays Your Volunteer Recruitment Ace-in-the-Hole

Holidays can be your ace in the hole when it comes to recruiting new volunteers for your nonprofit organization.The holidays are a time for family, friends, food and…volunteer recruitment? Bear with me.

For many volunteer managers at organizations like food pantries and homeless shelters, the holidays are the busiest time of the year. For others, the holidays can seem like a ghost town, as people go on vacation and your next volunteer events are scheduled for after the New Year.

Wherever you fall on this spectrum, the truth is holidays are a great opportunity to recruit new volunteers to your organization, and here’s why:

People want to volunteer. Especially during the holidays. Take it from us – VolunteerMatch traffic goes up by at least 15-20% each year during the holiday season.

So think of the holidays as volunteer training wheels – planning a holiday event will attract new volunteers who are just looking for a place to give back, and give them a reason to walk through your door.

Here are some great examples of holiday-related events you can plan to attract new volunteers. You can also just “rebrand” your existing events with some holiday flair to get those seasonal folks to sign up!

It Doesn’t End There

Once you’ve attracted new volunteers with special holiday events and opportunities, it’s important that you help them form a more lasting connection with your organization. When at the event, be sure to introduce yourself personally, get to know them, and thank them for their time. After the event, follow up via email and even phone to thank them again and let them know the impact they made in just that short period of time.

Finally, make sure to include them in any future volunteer communications – they should know how easy it is to become more involved! If you give them a great experience that they know made an impact, chances are they’ll want to do it again and again.

Don’t Limit Your Holidays

“Holidays” happen all year round! Get creative to attract volunteers for Easter, Memorial Day, Passover… and feel free to take advantage of other types of holidays and special themes, as well! For example, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Diabetes Month, Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Apple Month and Sarcasm Month. So now all you have to do is plan a “Sarcastic Apple” volunteer event…

How does your nonprofit organization take advantage of the holidays to recruit new volunteers? Share your tips below!

Create Flexible Opportunities, So You Can Engage Volunteers Like Jenna

Jenna Wittingham volunteered with American Cancer Society using her graphic design skillsLike many Millennials, Jenna Wittingham has a lot of fun at work. But she never knew she could use her graphic design skills to help others.

All of that changed when she found a virtual volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.org to help American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division to create infographic marketing materials to encourage people to sign up for a groundbreaking cancer prevention study.

Even though she was a virtual volunteer, Jenna was able to stay in communication with the volunteer coordinator at the organization, and by providing an infographic to its community, the cancer study became far more shareable via social media and other online platforms.

Read Jenna’s full story here.

Lesson Learned: Don’t Limit Your Volunteer Thinking

If American Cancer Society South Atlantic Division had never created the virtual volunteer listing, it never would have connected with Jenna, who is now committed to staying involved with the organization however her skills can be valuable.

Millennial volunteers, once engaged, can be fiercely hard workers and valuable champions for your cause. However, they like to get involved on their own terms, in their own way, on their own time. This is okay! Be creative when designing volunteer opportunities, and you’ll attract more Millennials.

Virtual volunteer opportunities tend to attract more busy Millennials, who need a more flexible schedule. Recruit for skills many Millennials possess, such as social media marketing, online fundraising, graphic design, etc. Create opportunities that encourage people to bring their friends along, since Millennials tend to prefer social situations.

These are just a few tips for designing Millennial friendly volunteer opportunities. What are some other ways your organization engages Millennial volunteers?