4 Takeaways from Our Shark Week Campaign

Zoo Atlanta

The Zoo Atlanta team rocking their shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

For years, VolunteerMatch has supported Discovery Communications by providing employee volunteer management software. This year — and for the first time ever — VolunteerMatch partnered with Discovery to dive into unchartered waters: Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16). Shark Week is Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event, and as part of our partnership, we helped inspire volunteerism among Discovery’s passionate viewers and our own followers. Discovery even re-created this awesome PSA to help.

For us, we teamed up with 12 other organizations in our network — from nonprofits focused on marine causes to environmental organization and aquariums across the country — to help spread the word. These organizations responded and proved to their communities that #VolunteeringisFin.

In the weeks leading up to Shark Week, VolunteerMatch pondered questions like, “What do volunteers and sharks have in common?” and found some pretty surprising answers. We even quizzed San Franciscans on their knowledge of shark facts, raising awareness right from the hotspots of our hometown.

We also launched our very first Instagram Sweepstakes, garnering 40 entries, as well as fun conversations and engagement with our online community. What did we learn from this campaign? Here are four key takeaways from Shark Week:

  1. A Strong Partnership can be Creative and Fun

Earlier this year, Discovery Communications and VolunteerMatch renewed our multi-year partnership. Since then, we’ve continued to support one another’s goals and causes by building on impactful initiatives — like National Volunteer Week and Shark Week. By supporting one another, even in unexpected ways, we can play into each of our strengths and continue to work toward making our world a better place.

  1. Organizations Are Eager to Partner with Your Cause
Reef Check Foundation

Reef Check Foundation swims while wearing shark hats during Shark Week 2016.

We reached out to over a dozen organizations to help spread the word. Twelve responded with their excitement and willingness to help even before learning they’d get some pretty cool sharkfin hats to wear. These organizations showcased their volunteers across the U.S. — cleaning beaches, supporting animal causes, and teaching youth campers the importance of giving back (all while having a good time in the process).

Transparency and communication are key here. If you communicate openly and honestly, many organizations will partner with you to help amplify your message. Special thanks to: Aquarium of the Bay, Aquarium of the Pacific, California State Parks Foundation, City of Newport Beach Recreation & Senior Services Department, Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center, Georgia Aquarium, Piedmont Park Conservancy, Reef Check, Shark Stewards, Zoo Atlanta, and Zoo Miami.

  1. Hashtags Are Essential in Telling Your Story

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we encouraged followers and visitors alike to showcase their volunteer impact during Shark Week by using the hashtag “#VolunteeringisFin.” The hashtag was mentioned 27 times on Facebook, 15 on Twitter, and 14 on Instagram, allowing people to follow the story across channels — through whatever medium they prefer.

  1. Lower Barriers for Social Media Promotions

Hosting a social media contest or sweepstakes can be challenging, especially when you consider ROI — inclusive of the total cost of prizes, shipping, and legal counsel — all on a nonprofit’s shoestring budget. But it doesn’t have to be…

Our first Instagram Sweepstakes was successful, in part, due to its low barrier of entry. All our followers needed to do in order to enter was like, comment, or tag a friend on a VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentioned the Sweepstakes.

If you’re looking to plan a campaign or promotion of your own, be on the lookout for tomorrow’s tips on creating an effective nonprofit campaign on social media.

Did you enjoy our Shark Week campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

VolunteerMatch on the Street | SHARK WEEK

How many humans do sharks kill each year?

How many sharks do humans kill each year?

We took to the streets of San Francisco to find answers to questions such as these, while having a little fun along the way. Check it out — you might be surprised by the answers!


For this year’s Shark Week, Discovery is ramping up efforts to promote shark conservation while offering viewers concrete ways to get involved. Earlier this week, they partnered with Oceana to introduce congressional legislation that helps ban the trade of shark fins across America. With a ban on trading in the U.S., we can make a huge dent in the commercial and recreational overfishing of sharks around the world.

Here’s how you help:

  1. Join Discovery and Oceana in supporting the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act by sending a letter to your representative.
  2. You can also find volunteer opportunities in your area to help clean up and give back to our oceans.

Discovery even produced this awesome PSA for us — with characters donned in shark fin hats — encouraging passionate TV viewers to be matched with good causes in their communities.

Learn more and get your full dose of all-things “shark” next week: Shark Week begins this Sunday, June 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. CT, only on Discovery.

Can’t wait ‘till Sunday? Read our blog post on 4 things sharks and volunteers have in common.

Have a Volunteer Story to Share? Enter the #SharkFinbassador Instagram Sweeps

In case you missed it, we’re partnering with Discovery for Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16) — Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event in history. During this week and next, we’ll share stories of volunteers making an impact on their environments, and we want you to join the conversation.

As part of the campaign, we’re hosting our very first Instagram Sweeps! You’ll have a chance to win a cool Discovery-branded Shark Week “fin” hat. We are so excited, we had to try the hats on for ourselves!

The VolunteerMatch team tries #SharkWeek hats on for size

How to Enter the #SharkFinbassador Instagram Sweeps:

Here’s how to enter for your chance to win a shark “fin” hat of your own. After you’ve followed @VolunteerMatch on Instagram, you may enter using one of the methods listed below:

  1. Like, comment, or tag a friend on a @VolunteerMatch Instagram post that mentions this Sweepstakes.
  2. Share your volunteer story on Instagram with the hashtags #SharkFinbassador AND #Sweeps.

Please note: by entering, you agree to our rules.

And this Sunday, VolunteerMatch.org, as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are getting “sharkified.” Look out for changes to our logos and stay tuned for more upcoming Shark Week-themed content!

Discovery and VolunteerMatch Team Up for Shark Week

Earlier this year, VolunteerMatch extended our partnership with Discovery Communications to inspire volunteerism among their passionate viewers. Discovery even created this incredible PSA to help.

Beginning next week, our relationship will get a little more dangerous: VolunteerMatch is daring to enter the waters of Shark Week (6/26/16 – 7/2/16) — Discovery’s longest-running cable television programming event in history. This Sunday, VolunteerMatch.org, as well as our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are getting “sharkified.” Look out for changes to our logos and upcoming Shark Week-themed content.

Our live map won’t be spared from the grips of jaws either. We’re swapping our iconic “hands” pins with fun shark-themed icons. Here’s a sneak peek:

Sharkified VolunteerMatch Live Map

Wait, wait … what do volunteers and sharks have in common?

We asked ourselves that same question. After a bit of research, it turns out we’re a lot more similar than you’d think! This Thursday, we’ll share 4 reasons volunteers are like sharks here on Engaging Volunteers. And tomorrow — we’re announcing our very first Instagram Sweeps, where you can win cool Shark Week swag.

Follow @VolunteerMatch on Instagram for more information.

Throughout the week, we’re highlighting 12 organizations — from Atlanta to Los Angeles — that focus on marine or environmental causes. We’ll share stories of volunteers and their impact on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Just follow the hashtags: #SaveSharks and #VolunteeringisFin, to participate in the conversation.

And starting today, you’ll be able to visit Discovery and register for a volunteer opportunity of your own. Are you scared … I mean, excited yet? So are we!

Mark your calendar: Shark Week begins this Sunday, June 26. Stay tuned for more details.

Thinking…Bigger about Skilled Volunteering for Nonprofits

Our recent announcement of a new partnership to automatically post all skilled volunteer listings from the VolunteerMatch network to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace has shed a serious spotlight on the importance and potential of skilled volunteering. Check out this special series of posts exploring skilled volunteering as a category, a strategy, and, of course, an inspiration for greater impact.

Thinking bigger about skilled volunteering, now with LinkedIn and VolunteerMatch.

When I first got wind late in 2013 that LinkedIn was launching a Volunteer Marketplace in the New Year, I sighed. Out loud. VolunteerMatch is a volunteer marketplace.

We’ve seen this before. In fact, there are new websites, apps, services, etc. popping up all the time. Some are awesome. Some are not.

And despite my audible sighs, I actually love hearing about them all. It pushes us to think differently and to challenge our own assumptions about the VolunteerMatch approach.

There’s more to it, though: a big part of our future takes place outside the walls of VolunteerMatch, and our ability to work with other systems will continue to be very important to our growth. Read more about the past and future development of VolunteerMatch here.

And LinkedIn is big. 300+million-members-big.

So, I paid close attention to the reasons LinkedIn was creating this marketplace. I listened as they shared their partnership plan – and how they were looking to partners to help them build out their vision of connecting their members to skilled opportunities in communities around the country (to start).

This is big for VolunteerMatch. Big because it showcases how amazing our nonprofits are. Big because it illustrates how the right partnerships can create a new game.

So, we got to work.

People haven’t traditionally thought of VolunteerMatch as a place where skilled volunteering is taking place. And now they do. The reality is that, every day, people are finding projects that tap their skills and nonprofits are learning how to think creatively about their volunteers.

Today we have over 6,000 skilled listings and an array of resources that has helped to continually grow that number.

We are the most powerful volunteer engagement network on the Web and are only getting stronger. Tactically, we’ve got the most skilled listings, sure. But strategically, we can shape the future of skilled volunteering together with partners like LinkedIn. And that’s a big idea.

Already we’re seeing increases in the connections because of this partnership—VolunteerMatch lisings shared on LinkedIn are likely to see 2-3x the sign-ups as those not shared. And with the announcement of our partnership, we expect the number of skilled listings to continue to grow.

We’re also ramping up our trainings for nonprofits to make sure they have the resources to easily take advantage of this opportunity. And our corporate partners are thrilled to have even more skilled opportunities to share with their employees.

So thanks, LinkedIn. Personally, for helping me think…even bigger. And also for being our partner in building an amazing future for skilled volunteering and the causes that benefit from it.

Read more about how engaging skilled volunteers can help your nonprofit organization – and how to do it successfully.

Post on VolunteerMatch.org right now to engage skilled volunteers for your organization!