Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Mike Bright, Help from Home

Mike Bright, contributor to VolunteerMatch's new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Mike Bright, founder of Help from Home.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
Microvolunteering: Its history and background, how it’s defined, the impact that it’s creating, information for nonprofits on how they can develop and market their own microvolunteering campaign, and the future potential of the microvolunteering arena.

Why is this topic important?
Although microvolunteering occupies a niche corner of the overall volunteering sector, it has growing momentum behind it. Increasingly, it’s playing an important part in reshaping how people and organisations benefit worthy causes.

Byte-Sized Benevolence, MicrovolunteeringExplain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I was initially engaged as a participant in micro-actions back in 2005, but I developed my initiative Help From Home in 2008 when I became aware that the voluntary sector was not promoting this type of volunteering, even though there seemed to be a demand for it. I collate micro-actions to encourage individuals to benefit worthy causes in their spare time, as well as act as a resource for the nonprofit sector on all things microvolunteering. Basically, I try to connect the dots so that organisations are not working in isolation of each other when looking at microvolunteering.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
I struggled with condensing my knowledge succinctly enough to convey all the areas of the microvolunteering arena that I’m familiar with, whilst impressing on people that microvolunteering is seemingly playing an important part in the overall volunteering sector. I’m also indebted to the editor Robert Rosenthal who converted my attempt at writing (which I don’t consider I’m good at!) into a more eloquent piece that my English teacher would hopefully be proud of.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Keep an open mind of what is possible with smartphones and emerging technologies like smartwear and augmented realities, because the current young generation are and will embrace this technology to volunteer.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldMike Bright is the founder of Help From Home, an initiative that promotes and encourages people to participate in easy, no-commitment, microvolunteering opportunities. Mike has been involved in the microvolunteering arena since 2005, initially as a participant and then more fully from December 2008 with his Help From Home initiative. He is also the organizer behind Microvolunteering Day that occurs every April 15th.

To read Mike’s full chapter, Microvolunteering for Big Impactorder your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Jayne Cravens

Jayne Craves, contributor to the VolunteerMatch book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Jayne Cravens, consultant and researcher.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
It’s about what I think is “what’s next” regarding virtual volunteering: An expansion of high-responsibility and high-impact roles, such as online mentoring.

Why is this topic important?
While a lot of people want volunteer micro-tasks, a lot also want more meaningful, deeper relationships and greater commitment. Virtual volunteering allows for a lot of people to engage in these higher-responsibility, high-impact roles. However, there currently aren’t enough assignments for these people. Everyone is on the microvolunteering bandwagon, which is great, but nonprofits are ignoring an incredible resource if they aren’t also creating these higher-impact virtual volunteering opportunities.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I have been working with nonprofits since I was a teenager. I work primarily in communications, and I’ve been on the Internet since 1994. I had one of the first web sites to help nonprofits and NGOs use the Internet. That got the attention of Impact Online, which later became VolunteerMatch – so I’ve been associated with the organization for 20 years!

I directed the Virtual Volunteering Project at the University of Texas, and then directed the United Nations’ Online Volunteering service in Germany. I also recently did a research project for the European Union on virtual volunteering in Europe. While I’ve been more focused on communications projects for humanitarian projects abroad recently, I still research and consult about volunteering whenever I get the chance.

What did you learn and/or struggle with when writing your chapter?
My main struggle was with the initial proposal, which was for me to write a chapter about virtual volunteering. I refused, as Susan Ellis and I note in The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, virtual volunteering should not be a separate topic amid discussions about volunteer engagement and management.

Instead, virtual volunteering needs to be fully integrated into all such discussions and trainings. If a book talks about recruiting volunteers, for instance, that chapter needs to include how the Internet plays a role in this. If a workshop explores ways to recognize volunteers, that workshop needs to include how to leverage online tools for this. So, instead, I focused on what I think is being largely ignored among books and trainings regarding volunteering: Online volunteers providing direct service to clients, such as mentoring or counseling.

Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Quit thinking of yourself as a person that finds people to do work. Start thinking of yourself as the person that creates connections with the community.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldTo read Jayne’s full chapter, Virtual Volunteering: Are We Finally Ready to Talk about Direct Service?order your copy ofVolunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

Jayne also wrote about her chapter on her own blog, which you can read here.


Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Angela Parker & Chris Jarvis, Realized Worth

Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, contributors to Volunteer Engagement 2.0, VolunteerMatch's new bookVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Up first: Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, co-founders of Realized Worth.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
It’s about how corporations and nonprofits can more effectively work together to create employee volunteer programs that produce value for everyone involved. From trends and challenges in workplace giving and volunteering to practical steps for effective volunteering events, our chapter covers the basics of corporate/ nonprofit partnerships and how to do it better.

Why is this topic important?
In recent years, the phrase corporate social responsibility (CSR) has taken on increasing weight. In most corporate circles, the term now carries with it important implications. At the same time, many nonprofit organizations are becoming increasingly savvy corporate partners. It is essential that the two learn to work together and create value that benefits society in a way that makes this increased effort by both parties worth the resources that are being invested.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you “volunteer engagement experts?”)
Angela co-founded Realized Worth with Chris Jarvis in 2008 to help corporations around the world develop workplace volunteer programs. Today, the company’s clients include Estée Lauder, Microsoft, AT&T, Abbott Labs, Ball Corporation, AstraZeneca, and others. Angela holds a Global MBA from IE Business School located in Madrid, Spain.

Chris spent more than two decades working with nonprofits ranging from urban centers in North America to informal settlements in Africa. Widely known for his thought leadership, Chris was asked by the United Nations Office of Partnerships to design and launch Impact2030, the first private sector-led initiative to achieve the post-millennial Sustainable Development Goals through corporate volunteering.

What did you learn and/or struggle with when writing your chapter?
It’s difficult to communicate years of research and experience into a short chapter so that people will understand the importance of applying it in daily practice. This is a game-changing field all of us are in, and it carries enormous potential to solve social and environmental problems through the collective power of individual men and women. We hope this book will take hold of people, and they will follow-up with authors to glean even more value.

Finally, what one piece of advice would you give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
We would advise them to do what is necessary to maintain their own belief in what they’re doing. This is a high calling. Volunteering and giving is never just about stacking boxes, raising money, and collecting cans. These aren’t transactional moments where someone gives in order to get something. These are moments where individuals can become involved in their communities and real transformation can occur.

When we volunteer, we transform into better versions of ourselves. If companies and nonprofit organizations can work together to enable more people in the workplace to realize better versions of themselves, the world will, over time, become a better place, too.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldTo read Angela and Chris’ full chapter, Partnering with Workplace Volunteer Programsorder your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.



How Young Folks are Learning to Repair the World through Volunteer Engagement

Editor’s note: This post is about a program run by our friends at Repair the World. It’s a very cool example of how we can begin early to get the next generation involved in the important work of volunteer engagement. We hope you’re inspired by it, like we are!

Apply for the Repair the World FellowshipThe Repair the World Fellowship is a 10-month opportunity for young adults ages 21 to 26 who are committed to mobilizing the Jewish community toward meaningful volunteer projects. Fellows will recruit, train, and serve alongside volunteers to bring about real community change around a range of issues, including education, poverty, sustainability, and more. The Fellowship provides training, a living stipend, health insurance, housing, and other perks. Also, Repair the World is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Fellowship, so spread the word!

Want to hear about this innovative program from someone who actually experienced it? Here’s an interview with Repair the World Fellow Leah Silver:

1. What inspired you to apply as a Repair the World Fellow?

Interview with Leah Silver, Repair the World fellow in PhiladelphiaIn my freshman year of college, I felt largely disconnected from the community I had just entered on the campus of Dickinson College. It wasn’t until I became active in my campus Hillel and started volunteering through the Office of Community Service that I found my true niche and desired community. During my winter break, I participated in a service trip to northern Guatemala to help build a school in an impoverished area. Aside from the incredible work we were doing, the people that participated with me made the opportunity the life-changing experience that it was.

I spent the remainder of my undergraduate career creating service opportunities for other students to spend their breaks helping communities in need, both domestically and abroad. This experience helped me understand what I truly valued and needed in my life–Judaism and community service.

As a senior, I received an email from my Hillel Director about the Repair the World Fellowship. I saw it as an incredible opportunity to fuse my love of Judaism and tikkun olam together in one program. Today, I am so grateful to be a founding member of the Repair the World Fellowship…the launchepreneurs!

2. Can you share a great moment from your work that exemplifies the change you’re looking to make?

One of the organizations I am working with is the Germantown Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia. I’ve been working closely with 6 and 7 year old girls to prepare myself to develop programming that helps young girls build self-esteem, learn conflict resolution and build community. These girls are incredibly sweet and resilient individuals.

During my second week, a little girl came up to me and handed me a brightly colored bracelet. She said, “Thank you Miss Leah for helping me with my math homework. I learned something new today and want you to have this bracelet!” Even though this was a tiny gesture, it meant more to me than I think that little girl will ever know. To hear that what I am doing is in fact making a difference in someone’s life is so important and meaningful to me. I keep that green bracelet on my nightstand to remind myself why I am doing this and why I’m here.

3. What has been the greatest challenge in this position?

The greatest challenge so far has been coming into a community that isn’t my own with the purpose of empowering its members to create positive change. At first, I struggled with the concept of “who am I to come into Philadelphia, a community that I am unfamiliar with, to address the many challenges the city is currently facing? How can I relate to community members as an outsider?”

As time passes, I am starting to feel part of this community and I recognize that these challenges affect not only the city of Philadelphia, but the well-being of the world, and I am a part of that world.

As a young Jewish leader in the field of service, the power to create positive change and social equality starts with the people who are passionate about those issues and who are interested in making a difference. I am surrounded by a class of my peers, my fellow Fellows, who are just that – people who care about making a difference and about doing something meaningful with their lives.

4. How has Repair supported your personal and professional growth?

Repair the World is helping me to foster my leadership skills and, at the same time, to appreciate the leadership styles and skills of others. We’re all movers and shakers. And we each have different skills and abilities that are making this an environment in which we can all be successful. My fellow Fellows are teaching me an incredible amount about myself and I am so grateful to have them by my side throughout this experience.

In speaking with fellows placed in our other cities (Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Detroit), it is clear that the Repair the World Fellowship is in fact fostering the next generation of leaders in the Jewish nonprofit world. I’ve learned so much so far, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for my fellow Fellows and me!

Hailing from Durham, NC, Leah Silver is a recent graduate of Dickinson College with a B.A. in American Studies. Throughout her time at Dickinson, Leah was very active in Jewish Life as well as worked closely with the Office of Community Service on campus to organize and lead service trip opportunities for students. In her junior year, Leah spent a semester abroad in Hyderabad, India focusing on poverty studies and volunteering at an orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS. She loves to travel, be outdoors, cook, meet new people and do service!

Love Leah’s story? Want to get involved? The Repair the World Fellowship is now accepting applications! Check it out, share with family, friends, colleagues and volunteers, and apply today.

Brief Interviews with Volunteer Coordinators: St. James Food Pantry Edition

Volunteers at St. James Food Pantry

A group of volunteers from Cars.com helps out at St. James Food Pantry.

Editor’s Note: Adam Alley, our amazing Senior Associate of Community Support, has taken the opportunity of December’s special focus on fighting hunger to get up close and personal with some of the hunger-related organizations that have recruited the most volunteers using VolunteerMatch.

Read the interviews in this series to be inspired and to learn from some of the most successful nonprofits in the network.

Interview with Ted Kain, Social Care Volunteer Coordinator at the St. James Food Pantry.

Adam: Why is fighting hunger important to you?

Ted: There is such a great need in our community, let alone our world, for people to be fed. There are so many myths about hunger that it’s been incredibly educational for me to learn how many people are hungry in our neighborhood. St. James Food Pantry is blessed to provide this service in order to try to help our community.

Adam: How has VolunteerMatch helped you engage volunteers to fight hunger?

Ted: VolunteerMatch has been very helpful in promoting our service. We’ve been fortunate to meet individuals and groups who want to contribute to our mission. VolunteerMatch has provided another outlet for St. James Food Pantry to invite our neighbors to give back and help those in need. The work of volunteers helps us exponentially – we’re extremely grateful and inspired by the volunteers who donate their time and talent with us.

Adam: What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? What’s the most rewarding?

Ted: It can be difficult to hear stories of difficult circumstances and situations our clients may be facing. There’s only so much we can provide to our clients, but it’s hard not to be able to do even more after meeting clients each day who struggle to get by.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is receiving a genuine thank you or smile after providing our service. Our clients understand the effort put forth by our volunteers and staff to make our food pantry a success. To bring happiness, comfort and respect through simple acts of kindness brightens my day tremendously.

Adam: What do you love about your work?

Ted: I love working with staff and volunteers who care passionately and seriously about the service we provide. I’m exposed to great generosity every day. The contributions people make through time, talent, donations and respect is humbling to lay witness to. I’m thankful to work with those who give in any way they can. Some people may not have a lot to give, but they give what they’re able to. I find that to be an inspiration for how to live life daily. One doesn’t have to possess the most resources to make an incredible impact on a community.