Monday, January 20th, the National Day of Service commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was a day of innovation for VolunteerMatch. Unlike past Days of Service where the VolunteerMatch team served at outside organizations, we switched things up by bringing volunteering to us. Twenty New Sector fellows were invited to brainstorm and discuss ideas for VolunteerMatch to creatively engage volunteers, nonprofits, and business leaders in 2014.
So what is New Sector?
At the heart of New Sector Alliance’s mission is empowering young leaders while strengthening the social sector. Partnered with Americorps, New Sector’s Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellowship program allows 25 talented individuals to hold full-time positions at nonprofits of their interest. The fellows also meet as a group to learn how to professionally apply their unique skills to address social dilemmas. This Day of Service at VolunteerMatch was an example of the diverse activities that the young leaders get to experience for the duration of their fellowships.
We will recap the event and talk about how you can implement the key points from this informative discussion into your own volunteering initiative.
1. Let your values guide you to skilled volunteers
Ideally, your organization gathers people who share your values to engage in a meaningful volunteer activity. In order to best reach that ideal, you need to first be able to find those individuals.
Use videos that clearly outline your mission while demonstrating the social benefits of your work to attract volunteers to your organization, as well as testimonials to speak for your credibility. Social media is another great way to engage skilled volunteers, where live updates and photos will get people excited to come out to your next opportunity. And, of course, VolunteerMatch’s network of volunteers and nonprofits is another useful resource.
2. Build genuine relationships with your volunteers
Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships was one of the most important and recurring concepts of the discussion. Whether you are holding a one-time event or an on-going opportunity, it is very important to establish a relationship with your volunteers and engage with them to make their experience special.
One great idea that arose from the discussion was the concept of VolunteerMatch ambassadors. Volunteers with a strong passion for their work would be selected for these positions, serving as spokespersons and champions for VolunteerMatch’s mission and resources in their local communities.
You can similarly empower your volunteers and add color to your organization: give your stand-out volunteers special titles, and encourage them to build their own unique identities while feeling like they are part of an impactful network of leaders.
3. Show your appreciation for your volunteers
One of the New Sector fellows mentioned newsletters and in-person meetings as ways to make the organizations who provide service and learning experiences for the fellows feel appreciated and involved. When an organization hosts a fellow, being able to see tangible evidence of their impact on that fellow’s career is a great way to encourage the organization to continue its sponsorship.
Similarly, by letting your volunteers know that you appreciate them, they will have much more of an incentive to continue lending their time. Here are a few ideas of how to show your volunteers how much you care:
- Showcase inspirational volunteer experiences on blogs, newsletters, and social media
- Assign leadership roles and give responsibility to passionate volunteers
- Send volunteers thank you notes, holiday and birthday cards, and small gifts of appreciation
Our Next Steps
The concept of ambassadors, passionate champions of VolunteerMatch’s work, resonated well with the VolunteerMatch team. As our staff holds subsequent follow-up meetings, we will keep the three points listed above in mind while continuing to brainstorm ways of implementing an ambassador program. For as important as our own expansion and improvement is, creating meaningful experiences for volunteers and organizations remains the number one goal.
Your Next Steps
While thinking about how to apply the three points listed above, ask yourself some questions throughout the new year:
- Are our volunteers providing positive feedback from their experiences with our organization?
- What are the qualities we value in a volunteer, and are we clearly expressing that criteria?
- Are we using our existing resources and social media platforms in the most efficient manner?
Thank you New Sector!
Finally, we would like to thank the New Sector fellows for donating their time and thoughts for our discussion. It was a very fun and productive way to truly bring “service” into an MLK Service Day. Thank you.
Have other creative ideas for engaging volunteers in 2014? Share your thoughts below!