Celebrating a Day-On: An Inspiring MLK Service Day Collaboration With New Sector Alliance

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!

3 Creative Ways to Engage Volunteers during the Holiday Season

3 Creative Ways to Engage Volunteers during the Holiday SeasonThe holiday season is a popular time for volunteering – and nonprofit organizations know it. In order to stand out from the pack and attract dedicated volunteers who are a good fit for your organization, you need to get creative about how you engage all of the folks looking to help out between now and the end of the year.

By engaging volunteers in new ways, you increase your chances of finding people who will form a more authentic, lasting connection to your organization. So here are three ways to cut through all the volunteer recruitment noise this season to engage great supporters:

Everyone Loves Food

This is absolutely true – but to distinguish yourself from all the other organizations engaging volunteers to help with food-related tasks during the holidays, find volunteers who can do more than packing and serving. Appeal to Foodies to help with fundraising and cultural events, like this opportunity with Food Truck Festivals of New England, or create your own Top Chef-style challenge for amateur chefs like the African People’s Education and Defense Fund.

Appeal to Their Dramatic Sides

With all the good food, pretty lights and time off from work, volunteers want to have a little fun over the holidays. Engage the artists and performers in potential volunteers and give them a chance to shine in the spotlight. Whether it’s caroling during a holiday concert, face painting to cheer up sick children, building a holiday balloon arch, or transforming into a magical elf, tapping into volunteers’ creative energy will get them even more excited to help you during this busy time.

Give Them the Best Jobs

Too often we end up recruiting volunteers for the “leftover” tasks, while paid staff does the fun stuff, or the most directly rewarding stuff. This holiday season, engage volunteers for some of the best jobs at your organization, like calling donors just to say thanks, or attending fun concerts to raise awareness.

What are some creative ways your organization engages volunteers during the holiday season? Share in the comments below, and post your volunteer needs on Volunteermatch.org!

Earth Day Gone Virtual: Web-based Volunteering with Environmental Nonprofits

The volunteer experience on Earth Day is changing now more than ever. The Internet has become a great way for Earth Day volunteers to share stories, collaborate efforts and spread general awareness about environmental issues. Using the connectivity of the web, environmentally-focused nonprofits can engage volunteers in a multitude of creative ways on Earth Day and throughout the year.

The Earth Day Network
An excellent online Earth Day resource is the The Earth Day Network, the same group that founded Earth Day over 40 years ago. The nonprofit has developed a number of innovative web-based environmental campaigns for volunteers.

For Earth Day 2013, the group has embraced the challenge of engaging millions of volunteers from around the globe with The Face of Climate Change social campaign, which showcases user-submitted pictures and inspirational stories about people, animals and places directly affected or threatened by climate change.

Launched in 2010, The Earth Day Network’s A Billion Acts of Green is the largest environmental service campaign in the world to date. The campaign encourages volunteers to pledge, donate and commit through various virtual initiatives including Protect Our Clean Air, Recycle Your E-Waste and Restore the Canopy. The Earth Day Network uses its own platform as well as other nonprofits from around the world to spread awareness about a wide array of environmental issues.

Other Great Virtual Volunteering Resources
The Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota are promoting volunteerism this Arbor Day by creating the Volunteer Center, which allows nonprofits, businesses and civic groups around the country to engage volunteers in all 50 states. Through the online tool, volunteers can more easily learn about and share conservation projects in their communities. The interactive database is made possible by support from Toyota and a partnership with VolunteerMatch.

VolunteerMatch is a great resource for virtual volunteers. With the advanced search section, volunteers can narrow their search for virtual opportunities in a wide range of causes, including the environment.

The Environmental Community is nonprofit organization that has developed a unique environmental platform to create new waves of eco-activity. They use VolunteerMatch to find virtual volunteers with a variety of skills to help with environmental projects.

As The Earth Day Network has shown, the Internet can be an effective tool to engage volunteers. As a nonprofit, consider using the web to connect with virtual volunteers. An active volunteer can play a vital role in the health and sustainability of a community and the local environment, and millions of virtual volunteers from around the world can have global impact.

This Earth Day and beyond, use VolunteerMatch as a resource to recruit volunteers who can help you create a sustainable, more livable world – not only for us, but for generations to come.

A New Day to Build Community: Give Time on Giving Tuesday

Give Time on #GivingTuesday#GivingTuesday(yes, the hashtag is officially part of the name) began with a simple question: We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals….Wouldn’t it be great to have a day for giving back?

Then partners came together and a new day of giving was born. On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, instead of continuing the consumer mania begun on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, let’s take a breath and focus on what really matters – coming together to strengthen our communities.

#GivingTuesday and Nonprofits

#GivingTuesday is an opportunity to involve your volunteers and supporters in a new way. Get them to spread the word about the day, about your organization and the opportunities to help out. With the added attention from the media, it will be easy to grow your community.

Here are some ideas for how you can spread the word to your supporters:

This idea falls in the sweet spot for VolunteerMatch, and we think volunteering is the perfect addition to the #GivingTuesday conversation.

We see #GivingTuesday as a burgeoning movement, as a shift in mindset – but we know that if enough community members adopt it, it could become a way of life. So we’re calling on everyone to start it all on November 27, 2012, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, by pledging to Give Time on #GivingTuesday.

Does your organization have plans to engage supporters on #GivingTuesday? Tell us about it below!

My 9/11 Day Story and the Message of Volunteering

9/11 DayDo you remember where you were on 9/11?

I remember where I was…. I was on vacation with my wife, a Canadian citizen, in Victoria, British Columbia. We had just gotten married and we were still delighting at the idea of being an “international couple,” truly citizens of the world.

We were due to head back to California that morning. Instead we listened, shocked, to the news, and watched one by one how some of the Victoria businesses around us turned off their lights and closed their doors for the day.

We realized not only that we wouldn’t be able to return to the United States that day, but that when we did it wouldn’t be the same place anymore. For us, the message of 9/11 was about a world that was rapidly changing before our eyes. We weren’t quite sure which parts of that world — which values, in particular — would survive.

For the last five years VolunteerMatch has proudly supported the commemoration of September 11, 2001, by teaming up with MyGoodDeed to bring volunteer opportunities to 911day.org. The idea is simple: through positive action in the local community we can remember the events of that day — those we lost, the heroes, the team work — in a collective and meaningful way.

For volunteers, there is no right way and no wrong way to do this: there are only actions you can take to make a difference where you live. And you don’t have to volunteer *on* 9/11. A big part of the message of today is to take a moment to discover the many ways you can be involved where you live for the rest of the year. It’s OK to sign up today for a volunteer opportunity later on. Just visit www.911day.org/volunteer to get started.

For nonprofits, engaging 9/11 Day volunteers is a chance to further connect with your supporters, or else create new relationships with people who share your mission for change. It’s a window of opportunity. Just post your needs to your VolunteerMatch account at www.volunteermatch.org and we’ll do the rest.

If you’re already planning something for today, or if you have a story to share about 9/11 Day volunteering in years past, please post your thoughts below. We’d love to hear all about it.

Keep up the good work,

Robert
Twitter: @volmatchRobert

Photo from cliff1066 taken by Bill Biggart.