Engaging Volunteers http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers The VolunteerMatch Blog for Social Change Organizations Thu, 05 May 2016 00:02:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How the VolunteerMatch Support Team Keeps You Moving http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/04/how-the-volunteermatch-support-team-keeps-you-moving/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/04/how-the-volunteermatch-support-team-keeps-you-moving/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 17:27:26 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22216 Continue reading ]]> Have a VolunteerMatch Question? Meet the Team that Has the Answers

The VolunteerMatch Support Team

Adam, Abby, and Irina: The VolunteerMatch Support Team

They have navigated their way through thousands of customer service inquiries. Now, they’re working on making VolunteerMatch support better, easier, and more intuitive than ever.

In this Q&A, meet the all-star VolunteerMatch support team, and see what they’re up to next.

  1. What does your team do at VolunteerMatch?

When our customers find themselves lost on VolunteerMatch.org or their own branded site, we provide them with high-quality support so they can get back to posting or finding engaging volunteer opportunities in no time.

We also act as intermediaries between customers and the rest of the organization — when a customer addresses a pain point, for example, we relay that feedback to the product team who evaluate, then make updates and improvements to our site.

  1. Describe a typical day at work.

A typical day at work involves answering dozens of customer inquiries and support tickets. We also report issues, or “bugs” to our product/engineering teams, and investigate possible solutions and features to include in our site updates.

During company-wide meetings, we keep all departments at VolunteerMatch informed by representing our customer’s voice. When it comes to delivering a unique customer support experience, we think it’s important to be helpful and supportive, while having a bit of fun — it’s not uncommon for the team to hash out an idea for a site enhancement over a game of foosball.

  1. Speaking of fun, here’s a fun question: If you were a VolunteerMatch Premium feature, which feature would you be?

Our reposting privileges tool.

Volunteers are hungry for new opportunities, and without support from nonprofits, those opportunities just wouldn’t exist. Our reposting privileges tool gives nonprofits higher visibility postings with just one click!

Learn more about VolunteerMatch Premium to get started today.

  1. What are some of the biggest projects your team is working on right now?

We know you want your question(s) addressed ASAP, so we set out and did some research on how we could deliver on that expectation. We found that great customer service incorporates helpful articles into a system where customers can readily find answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

That’s why we’re structuring our Community Help Center to act as our first line of support, ensuring you find answers faster and easier than ever before. By finding a quick and effective solution to your question, you’ll have a much better experience on our site and move on to posting or finding opportunities in no time.

We’re also working on cleaning up inactive listings on VolunteerMatch.org. These two projects are a direct result of listening to our customer’s concerns and incorporating timely feedback.

  1. What should our customer’s expect when they contact support?

Here at VolunteerMatch, customer service is essential to our operating philosophy. We’re eager to hear from our customers, and help them resolve their issue(s).

That’s why we implemented a new and improved ticket form, so we can gather the right information the first time around. When follow-up is needed, we like to think of ourselves as thoughtful, yet inquisitive — asking enough questions to ensure we’re providing you with the best solution.

While we strive for same-day service — you can rest assured knowing that all inquiries are addressed within 24 to 48 business hours of us receiving them.

  1. What is one piece of advice that you would give to customers before they call you?

While we do our best to respond quickly, our Community Help Center is an invaluable resource where you can find nearly instant answers to FAQ and helpful tips. We encourage customers to check our knowledgebase help center first, as you may find an answer to your question without having to go through the support or ticketing process.

  1. How/when can I reach support?

As always, our support team is just a few clicks.

Reach us by filing a ticket through the Community Help Center 24/7, and please remember to allow for 24-48 business hours to receive a response.

  1. What are some questions you get asked the most?

What’s my password?
How long will it take for my organization to be approved?

Want to learn more about how our support team and VolunteerMatch help nonprofits recruit the right volunteers? Check out our Community Help Center!

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5 Ways to Connect with Volunteers on the Go http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/03/5-ways-to-connect-with-volunteers-on-the-go/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/03/5-ways-to-connect-with-volunteers-on-the-go/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 19:31:38 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22205 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by John Killoran

Connect with Volunteers on the GoYour volunteers are constantly on the move. When they’re not volunteering their time with your organization, they’re out and about:

  • Working 9-5.
  • Taking care of their kids.
  • Making meals.
  • Saving the world.

Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing, though, they have their mobile phones with them.

Over 90% of American adults have smartphones, and most carry them wherever they venture.

Use this fact to your advantage with these 5 ways to connect with your volunteers on the go!

#1. Reach Out at Your Next Live Event

The next time you’re hosting a live event, whether it’s a fundraising event or a volunteer day of service, make sure you find the time to mention your mobile efforts.

You can let your volunteers know all about your:

  • Text-to-give campaign to raise awareness and donations.
  • Email newsletter that loads well on mobile devices.
  • Mobile-responsive website with all the latest volunteer opportunities.

In addition to letting your volunteers know all about these mobile-giving and volunteering opportunities, you’ll also want to gather their information.

You can pass around a sign-up sheet for your newsletter. Or you can have them text your organization to give a small amount. The information you get from that transaction can be seamlessly integrated into your CRM.

Reaching out to them in person first is sure to keep your organization on the top of your volunteers’ minds. Make an impression and follow up with them later to solidify the contact.

If you want to learn more about mobile fundraising and how it can take your organization to the next level, check out @Pay’s Text-to-Give: The Essential Guide.

#2. Use Social Media Wisely

You probably already know that Facebook is a great tool for engaging with your volunteers. But there are countless other social media sites that your nonprofit could be taking advantage of (if you’re not already).

To connect with your volunteers where they are, you’ll want to consider:

Whichever site (or sites) you choose to connect with your volunteers on, make sure you keep your message clear and consistent.

#3. Get to Know Your Volunteers Better

When you first meet someone, you don’t instantly know everything about them. As your friendship deepens, so does your understanding of what they like and dislike.

The same is true of your volunteers.

One of the best ways to connect with volunteers who are constantly on the move is to get to know them a little better.

How do you get to know them if they’re always on the go?

It’s actually pretty easy if you follow these best practices:

By collecting data, you can learn almost everything you’d ever want to know about your volunteers’ habits.

By crafting emails that attract more volunteers, you’ll have a greater chance of getting to know them organically, in person.

By investing in a charitable giving database, you can figure out what else your volunteers are interested in donating their time and money to.

#4. Let Volunteers Know About Grants

Did you know that there are companies out there that will donate money to your organization for every hour that your volunteers give of their time?

Pretty incredible, right?

Here’s a list of top companies that provide this kind of grant (and how much they’ll give.

How does this help you connect with your volunteers on the go?

Letting your volunteers know about grants is a great way to encourage them to keep volunteering with your organization. You can shoot them a quick email to inform them of the possible opportunities that exist for them.

When they feel that their time is valued, they’re more likely to spend it with the people that reminded them how valuable it really is.

#5. Thank Your Volunteers via Mobile

Believe it or not, one of the best ways to engage with your volunteers is to thank them. It seems basic, but it’s the simple things that tend to make the most difference.

But wait, how do you thank a volunteer who’s bouncing around from job to social obligation to family responsibility and beyond?

It may seem counterintuitive, but thank-you letters are still the top way to let volunteers and donors alike know that they’re appreciated.

And even though your volunteers won’t get your letters while they’re out and about, they will be pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful gesture when they finally settle down at the end of the day.

In addition to sending out letters, your nonprofit can:

  • Send out a short “Thank you” text message.
  • Highlight specific volunteers on social media to thank them.
  • Shoot them a personal “Thank you” email.
  • Feature volunteers that you’re thankful for on your website.
  • And more!

All of these options are great for all your volunteers who don’t have time to hit pause on life — but do have time to hit “Like” on Facebook!

There are a million ways to thank volunteers. They do so much for your organization. Show them some love (on the go) today!

For tips on crafting the most effective thank you letters (and more), take a look at @Pay’s guide.

—–

Hopefully this post has shined a light on at least one new way to reach your volunteers.

With mobile technologies, you can go further than ever before. You can engage with volunteers wherever they are and whenever is convenient for them.

To sum it all up, you can:

  • Reach out to volunteers at your next live event.
  • Use social media to go the extra mile.
  • Get to know your volunteers better through mobile.
  • Give your volunteers the heads-up about grants.
  • Say thanks!

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start connecting with volunteers on the go!

About the author:
John Kiloran of @PayJohn Killoran is CEO of @Pay, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web and social media sites. John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking.

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3 Ways Volunteers Can Maximize Their Impact During Disasters http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/29/3-ways-volunteers-can-maximize-their-impact-during-disasters/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/29/3-ways-volunteers-can-maximize-their-impact-during-disasters/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:35:27 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22199 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by James Chiq

Disaster VolunteerIn light of recent earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, people around the world are seeking ways to aid those affected by natural disasters, either from afar or in person. But good intentions can — and sometimes do — get in the way of actual relief efforts.

“Voluntourism” is a popular method of volunteering on a short-term basis while experiencing parts of the world: Providing opportunities for the well-intentioned to simultaneously assist in disaster-stricken areas and explore outside the boundaries of their own country.

In order to ensure your contributions are impactful and reach those who truly need your aid, volunteers can approach their efforts in the following ways:

1. Be Realistic About Your Goals and Capabilities

In the wake of disasters, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the extent to which you can help. Whether you’re planning to donate money, sponsor a volunteer, or offer your time and labor to help bring relief to affected areas, you should consider your contribution carefully.

Is your contribution in dire need at the site of the disaster or are you giving blindly? If conditions do not improve after a given period of time, will you continue to support those affected by the disaster? These are difficult questions to ask yourself, but giving them considerable thought before making a commitment to a charitable cause can help ensure resources are distributed effectively and in a responsible manner.

2. Do Your Research Before Giving

While some organizations tend to focus on the big picture of disaster relief efforts, smaller, less-marketed organizations provide specialized aid to those impacted by disasters and tragedy. The United Way and Red Cross are the biggest players in disaster relief efforts, yet there are plenty of organizations that provide much-needed aid in various and specific ways.

Experts say to be wary of urgent requests for aid from unknown organizations or individuals. A report in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina cites several identified scams such as phone and email campaigns requesting cash donations for emergency medical shelters.These were created to try and siphon money to private citizens or organizations. Tools like the Federal Trade Commission’s list of charity scams can help direct and guide gifts to honest, reputable organizations.

3. Keep Helping

Too often volunteer disaster relief efforts are left unfinished due to organizational issues and strict volunteer timelines for departure — especially in the immediate wake of a disaster. A year after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, the Corporation for National and Community Service reported that more than half a million American citizens volunteered their time and energy to rebuilding devastated areas in the American South. Unfortunately, some of the damage caused by Katrina remains and countless homes were left abandoned long after the storm had passed.

Tens of thousands of individuals are referred to disaster-stricken areas in times of need, but the organization and coordination challenges of utilizing that amount of manpower often complicate the entire process (as does the inexperience of volunteers in question).

Nonprofits can go beyond their central mission and provide guidance and opportunities for volunteers to help in their own way. By encouraging those not directly affiliated with their organizations to pitch in and lend a hand, relief efforts can be more organized and directed no matter the size and scale of the disaster in question. Providing detailed information about other charity organizations assisting in the area may help provide higher-quality, more engaged volunteers to those organizations and groups that are truly in need.

With any luck, they’ll reciprocate in the future and a more collaborative, mutually beneficial relationship between aid groups working in disaster-ridden areas will develop. Those collective efforts could make an even greater impact on affected communities in the future.

About the author:
James is an avid volunteer. He wants to keep volunteers and volunteer managers engaged and knowledgeable through action and informed research.

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Aligning Volunteer Engagement to the Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan of Your Organization http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/28/aligning-volunteer-engagement-to-the-vision-mission-and-strategic-plan-of-your-organization/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/28/aligning-volunteer-engagement-to-the-vision-mission-and-strategic-plan-of-your-organization/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 20:01:40 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22189 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Michael Fliess

Measuring the Impact of VolunteersMany leaders of volunteers agree that when volunteers are fully engaged, both the organization and the clients or cause they represent benefit.

Being “fully engaged” can mean different things to volunteers. However, in a 2013 recognition study conducted by Volunteer Canada, volunteers rated “wanting to know how their work has made an impact” as the most important way they could be recognized for their contribution.

How do leaders of volunteers ensure volunteers know their work has made a difference? As explained in the book, Measuring the Impact of Volunteers, co-authored by me, Christine Burych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, and Heather Hardie, an important strategy to begin with is aligning volunteer roles with the vision, mission and strategic plan of the organization. When volunteers know their work is integral to the mission, they are more apt to feel truly part of the team, which builds a stronger commitment to your organization.

Six important steps to creating alignment include:

  1. Review the vision, mission, and strategic plan of your organization

Familiarize yourself with your organization’s strategic plan, mission, and vision to have a clear understanding of the goals and objectives. This will ensure that volunteers are integrated with that effort and not working at cross-purposes.

  1. Identify ways in which volunteer involvement supports your strategic plan

Start assessing whether volunteer contributions support your strategic plan by articulating all the volunteer work currently performed. You can apply a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of volunteer engagement to the directives of the organization. What work helps support immediate goals or long-term vision? Are there tasks that don’t fit into your organization’s plan?

  1. Identify where you may have gaps in programming/ service

Often, the best ideas for improvement come from the end-users of a product or service. This can include staff, clients, families of clients, and volunteers. They will often see needs that are not being met. From this input, identify ways the right volunteer or volunteer initiatives might help.

  1. Create volunteer positions that fully align with the needs of programs, clients and the core services of the organization

The identification of gaps, weaknesses, and even strengths that could be expanded is where you will find ideas for new and high impact volunteer roles. Be sure to review any changes or new volunteer roles with the end-users of that role. For example, you may see a perfect opportunity for volunteers, but ensure that the team/ program with whom you would place new volunteers agree.

  1. Ask staff, clients and stakeholders to evaluate volunteer engagement

Don’t be afraid to receive and even facilitate feedback about volunteer efforts. This can be done through several different tools such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Ensure that you model an atmosphere of openness, where feedback and suggestions are welcomed as an opportunity for improvements.

  1. Measure and report on the impact of what volunteers do

Finally, demonstrate the impact of volunteer engagement. Show volunteers, staff, and organization leaders which accomplishments directly support the goals of the organization.

These six steps will ensure that volunteers are recruited and placed in truly strategic ways. Beginning with a focus on alignment with your organization’s vision sets the stage for leaders of volunteers to support the successful engagement of volunteers.

Michael Fliess, author of Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic ApproachAbout the author:
Michael Fliess has worked in the field of volunteer management for over 18 years with a focus in the non-profit/healthcare sector. He has served in leadership roles with the Professional Association of Volunteer Leaders – Ontario (PAVRO), as a director at large, co-chair of the PAVR-O Mentor Program and Survey Lead for the Standardized Volunteer Opinion Survey. Michael is a co-author and project lead for Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic Approach, by Christine Burych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, Michael Fliess, and Heather Hardie (© 2016, Energize, Inc.)

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Retirees in Prime Position to Volunteer http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/27/retirees-in-prime-position-to-volunteer/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/27/retirees-in-prime-position-to-volunteer/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:11:38 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22180 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Carol Marak

Retirees in prime position to volunteerNot all retirees are ready to withdraw completely. Today, more than ever, seniors want to stay involved in the community because they understand that social isolation is a health risk. While at work, they could count on their full-time job for friendships, and after retirement, the individual feels disconnected from their built-in social circle. The work connections vanish. And if a retiree doesn’t fill the void with newly formed bonds, loneliness and isolation become the new companion.

The results of social isolation:

  • The psychologist Robert Bornstein, co-author of How to Age in Place, says if people become lonely and isolated in retirement, the feelings produce a “downward spiral.”
  • John Cacioppo, a social neuroscientist, says the brain senses isolation or rejection as real threats, just like pain, hunger, or thirst. The effects of such threats put the mind into “self-preservation” mode that could carry startling results, keeping the body on elevated alert, which increases cortisol and plays havoc on the sleep patterns.
  • Social isolation can be as threatening as obesity, according to new research. There are close to 60 million Americans affected by this invisible epidemic, and scientists say that chronic loneliness poses a severe health risk.

Social Disconnect Vanishes Within Mixed Generations  

Inter-generational volunteering reduces social isolation If your nonprofit helps children, consider expanding programs that include intergenerational connections. When you do, magic happens. Since our culture tends to isolate and connect with online networks, your organization holds the key to creating approaches that deal with pressing community needs.

Intergenerational strategies can forge a path of respect and reciprocity. Over time, our culture has lost the greatest resource that mixed generations offer—a give and receive arrangement across the lifespan. Each person, no matter their age, will need and require help at various stages of their lives. Mixed generational programs mandate that we identify the inherent strength of each age group and their need to connect.

Recently, Seniorcare.com published a volunteer guide that promotes helping older adults and the elderly. Facts that you may not know about the senior population:

  • 45% of women age 75+ live alone
  • 28% (12.1 million) of noninstitutionalized older persons live alone (8.4 million women, 3.7 million men)
  • 21% of Americans age 65+ no longer drive. The non-drivers have little ability to participate in local events
  • Hunger threatens over 9 million seniors
  • 1 million homebound older people are malnourished

Since isolation is a significant issue, in particular for older seniors living in suburbia and rural areas, let’s think of ways to support them through local volunteer opportunities. I asked the Seniorcare.com Aging Council, “What opportunities can help enhance social connection for all ages?”  Here’s what they said:

“We need more person-to-person volunteer programs like the “adopt a grandparent.” But more importantly, we need to help the elderly to engage and to volunteer. If an agency/program could coordinate the transportation, people living in rural areas could be involved.” – Shannon Martin and AgingWisely.

“A great way for rural or homebound seniors to feel connected is using technology to attend virtually the local senior center! A deeper friendship can grow via telephone, email, social media or video chat, even with children. Participating with peers will relieve loneliness and give a sense of purpose.” – Kathy Birkett, SeniorCareCorner.

“We need a diverse transportation option to meet the needs of older adults who require a safe, affordable and convenient transport. Tapping into the growing cohort of retirees could be a way to increase volunteer driving programs and provide a local solution for rides.” – Harsh Wanigaratne, Spedsta.

“One of my clients obtained help from the local church. The volunteers from the church made visitations to her home, offered rides, lawn care, minor home repairs, power washing, etc.” – David Mordehi, Advise & Protect.

What is your nonprofit’s experience? Do you offer intergenerational programs that solve social issues for both children and adults? If so, please share what you and the participants learned.

Carol, author of "Retirees in Prime Position to Volunteer"About the author:
Carol Marak is an Aging Advocate, Columnist, and Editor at SeniorCare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis. Contact Carol at Carol@SeniorCare.com.

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How to Engage the Right Volunteers for Your Organization http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/26/how-to-engage-the-right-volunteers-for-your-organization/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/26/how-to-engage-the-right-volunteers-for-your-organization/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:06:44 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22171 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Rebecca Jee

How to Engage the Right Volunteers for Your OrganizationA first year University student, a stay at home parent, and a 68-year-old retiree walk into your office.

No, it’s not the beginning of a bad joke. These are the people who could be your next volunteers. But which one of them will be the right volunteer for your organization?

As a volunteer manager, you have many job responsibilities, and likely limited time. So it’s important to engage the right people and get the most out of the volunteering experience both for you and the volunteer. If you can retain these key volunteers, it will mean you spend less time on training and recruiting, and more time working with them to achieve your important goals.

Get to know them

Although you might want to accept the offer of every person who is willing to get involved, taking some time to interview them — whether formally, informally, alone or in a group — will help you engage those who are the best fit for your organisation, and help flag any people who might be unsuitable before they get too far into the process.

Ask yourself things like:

  • What mix of skills do they bring to the table?
  • How much time do they have available?
  • Why do they want to volunteer for you?
  • Do their values align with your organization’s values?
  • What do they hope to get out of the experience?

Make sure you clearly spell out what the expectations are in terms of work, the culture of your organization, and the commitment you require from your volunteers so that everyone knows where they stand from the outset. You may require your volunteers to sign an agreement that sets out these expectations and standards; be sure to give your volunteers a copy of this to keep. Also, remember to inform your volunteers if they are required to undergo police checks or the necessary working with children checks for your area.

Engage them well

Every volunteering situation will be different. You might be recruiting someone to help out in the office, getting people working together on a project, or deploying individuals to engage with the community on your organization’s behalf.

You will learn fairly quickly who your most reliable and enthusiastic volunteers are. Depending on the type of work you have for them to do, you may be able to put your key volunteers in more of a leadership role within a team, or give them greater responsibility. These are the people you can train and trust to get the job done without as much management. They can also help you develop the skills of other volunteers who are less confident or capable.

Keep in touch

Encourage feedback and communication from your volunteers. You can gain valuable knowledge from them about their experience volunteering for you and how your organization is perceived by the community. They will also feel valued and part of your organization as a whole.

72% of people who volunteer only volunteer for one organization, so if you can effectively engage someone, it’s likely they will stay loyal. If the volunteering experience is a positive one, your volunteers will become your champions, and will return to volunteer again. Not only will they help you achieve your goals, they will promote your organization because they are passionate about what you do and their part in it.

So don’t just gather a group of random people with free time. Build an amazing team of the right volunteers and understanding their needs will help you achieve your organization’s goals.

About the author:

Rebecca Jee, Guest Author for Engaging Volunteers by VolunteerMatchRebecca Jee is a writer for Open Colleges, one of Australia’s leading online education providers. As a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer, photographer, musician, crafter, food consultant, massage therapist – you name it, she’s done it all. She loves a creative challenge and has a rock-solid background in working for not-for-profit organizations. She created a website and diary called Everyday Gratitude to encourage others to reflect on what they’re thankful for. Follow her company on Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook.

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Twitter Chat Recap: Why is the U.S. Volunteer Rate Dropping? http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/20/twitter-chat-recap-why-is-the-u-s-volunteer-rate-dropping/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/20/twitter-chat-recap-why-is-the-u-s-volunteer-rate-dropping/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:15:14 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22162 Continue reading ]]> Last week, we took to Twitter to discuss potential causes of the declining volunteer rate in the U.S., and possible solutions. Thought leaders, nonprofit representatives, philanthropists and volunteers all weighed in.

They answered questions such as “How can individuals, nonprofits, and/or corporations in the U.S. do their part to reverse this trend,” and discussed how technological advances — like VolunteerMatch’s API Integration — could help counter this problem.

Missed the chat? No worries! We’ve compiled some of the tweets from the chat. Check out what everyone had to say.

VolunteerMatch Twitter Chat Recap Storify Preview

View the full compilation here.

You can also tweet to us @VolunteerMatch to share your thoughts!

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How Doing What Comes Naturally Leads to Amazing Volunteer Retention http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/18/how-doing-what-comes-naturally-leads-to-amazing-volunteer-retention/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/18/how-doing-what-comes-naturally-leads-to-amazing-volunteer-retention/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 17:57:41 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22157 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

When a heart-centered approach becomes part of your program’s routine, your volunteers stick around

Heart-centered volunteer management - Twenty HatsDoes it surprise you that many − and perhaps most of the people who gravitate to volunteer engagement have studied things like psychology, sociology, or social work?

I know this because I once threw out a pop survey on my Facebook page asking what followers studied in college.

Just about everyone who responded majored in these people-oriented subjects, with a few nonprofit studies majors thrown in for good measure.

The results of my very non-scientific survey make sense, since volunteer engagement is such a people-oriented profession.

What we may not appreciate is that our gift for working with people is the very thing that help us create great outcomes in our programs.

I think of a program I talked with last summer when I was creating a webinar on volunteer retention for Girls on the Run (GOTR) International.

As part of my webinar prep I was asked to interview one particular program, the GOTR New Jersey North Council, because of their amazing outcomes − 80% of their coaches return from one season to the next. That’s like the holy grail of volunteer retention!

I wanted to know their secret.

As I spoke with the council’s program coordinator, Melissa Fagersten, it became clear that their success grew out of a heart-centered approach to managing volunteers. Melissa and her team focus on creating a culture of belonging within their program so that every volunteer feels that they are part of a community that values them.

Here’s the Important Part

The council does more than stress a personal touch with its volunteers– they incorporate their heart-centered approach into the program’s systems and practices.

Some examples:

  • When a coach burns out, they are not shown the door. Instead, they are transitioned into another volunteer position until they feel ready to coach again.
  • When new coaches are brought in for orientation, everyone is given time to explain who they are and why they chose to volunteer – even if that means the orientation takes longer. Volunteers report feeling inspired and safer because they have this space to become known to one another.
  • Melissa and her team stay on top of what’s going on for the volunteers in their work and family lives. If, say, a volunteer is scheduled for surgery, the surgery is entered as a task on the shared calendar so that someone is certain to reach out with sympathy and an offer of help.
  • The council runs a private Facebook forum where coaches share ideas and resources and strengthen their bonds with one another. When a coach was diagnosed with breast cancer, the forum users showed their solidarity by wearing orange – the ailing coach’s favorite color.

Leading a high quality volunteer program requires us to develop some skills that we may find challenging, like mastering strategic planning or tracking metrics. But those skills are most effective when they complement our natural ability to create meaningful connections and a sense of community.

To engage volunteers, it may just be that leadership means taking that what you know intuitively and ensuring that it becomes part of your program’s practices – and its culture.

Tweet this post! If you agree with my POV, feel free to share the following message:

When we create systems around our people skills, volunteer retention follows, http://twentyhats.com/?p=2420

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8 Actions You Can Take to Continue the Energy of National Volunteer Week http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/15/8-actions-you-can-take-to-continue-the-energy-of-national-volunteer-week/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/15/8-actions-you-can-take-to-continue-the-energy-of-national-volunteer-week/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 17:40:14 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22146 Continue reading ]]> Happy National Volunteer Week! Throughout the week, we’ve been celebrating the amazing people who volunteer and make volunteerism possible by sharing easy ways to listen, learn, inspire, and act!

Up today: Act. As #NVW2016 comes to a close, we want to leave you with a variety of actions you can take to carry the energy of National Volunteer Week with you into the future. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Surprise Your Volunteers With Unexpected Recognition

Imagine you’re a volunteer, walking into your nonprofit’s office for a normal shift, on a random day. Greeting you is this:

VolunteerMatch's Volunteer Thank You Banner

My guess is you’d feel pretty special, right? Surprising your volunteers in unexpected ways can create excitement and foster a culture of appreciation.

Do you engage virtual volunteers? Send them a picture instead!

  1. Add Skills to Your VolunteerMatch Opportunities

Add Skills to Your VolunteerMatch listingsWhat types of skills do you seek for volunteers at your organization? Tag your VolunteerMatch opportunities with skills, and they’ll automatically get pushed to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace for added visibility.

  1. Text to Volunteer

Did you know potential volunteers can now find your volunteer opportunities via text? Give it a try yourself and find new opportunities near you. Simply text your ZIP code to (314) 282-8630 – it’s free!

  1. Treat Yourself

For International Volunteer Managers Day, we put together a list of ways to treat yourself. You don’t have to save this all for one day … make yourself feel special throughout the year!

  1. Give the Gift of Knowledge

Do you have friends, family, or coworkers who are also interested in volunteering? Share your passion with them by gifting them a copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World. The book contains chapters from 35 industry experts, who highlight the latest trends in volunteerism and volunteer engagement, including shifts in strategy, technology, relationships, and more.

  1. Assess Your Program

With support from ConAgra Foods Foundation, VolunteerMatch has created a tool to help volunteer managers assess and improve their volunteer engagement programs. Unfortunately, it’s only available for hunger-fighting organizations right now, but if that’s you, you can evaluate your program today!

  1. Sign up for a Google AdWords Grant

If your nonprofit is not taking advantage of its Google AdWords Grant, it’s not too late to start! If optimized correctly, Google AdWords can be an effective, free tool for leveraging visibility for your volunteer program. Learn more.

  1. Do It Now: Say Thanks!

You can never say “Thank You” enough. To close out National Volunteer Week, do this right now: Find a pen and paper, click “compose message”, or pick up the phone, and tell a volunteer just how much their work matters.

Thanks for following along with us this National Volunteer Week. Together, let’s carry the energy of this week into the future.

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Inspire Your Volunteers With These 18 Famous Quotes http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/14/inspire-your-volunteers-with-these-18-famous-quotes/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/04/14/inspire-your-volunteers-with-these-18-famous-quotes/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 18:53:58 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22132 Continue reading ]]> We hope you’re enjoying National Volunteer Week! Here at VolunteerMatch, we’re eager to continue celebrating #NVW2016 by honoring the volunteers and people who make volunteering possible — you! Throughout the week, we’re providing fodder for your celebrations by sharing simple ways to listen, learn, inspire, and act.

Quotes to Inspire Your VolunteersIn today’s post, we’re highlighting ways to inspire your volunteers — through bite-sized, inspirational quotes you can share with your networks to encourage them to get out and volunteer. Here are some of our favorites.

(Quotes with a tweetable number of characters have a link – simply click the quote to share inspiration with your Twitter followers!)

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” — Muhammad Ali

Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.” — Elizabeth Andrew

“If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.” — Kofi Annan

What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” — Aristotle

We have to do what we can to help wherever and whenever it is possible for us to help.” — Jackie Chan

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

If compassion was the motivating factor behind all of our decisions, would our world not be a completely different place?” — Sheryl Crow

Only a life lived for others is worth living.” — Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“Whatever community organization, whether it’s a women’s organization, or fighting for racial justice … you will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way.” — Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If every American donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of twenty million full-time volunteers.” — Whoopi Goldberg

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn

Quotes to Inspire Your VolunteersI believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another.” — Thomas Jefferson

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” — Helen Keller

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Our generation has the ability and the responsibility to make our ever-more connected world a more hopeful, stable and peaceful place.” — Natalie Portman

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — William Shakespeare

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” — Unknown

Have a favorite quote about volunteering? Share it with us in the comments section below or tweeting to us @VolunteerMatch!

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