Engaging Volunteers http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers The VolunteerMatch Blog for Social Change Organizations Fri, 27 May 2016 17:13:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Volunteering with Sick Children Changed Sharon Reasonover’s Life http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/27/how-volunteering-with-sick-children-changed-sharon-reasonovers-life/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/27/how-volunteering-with-sick-children-changed-sharon-reasonovers-life/#comments Fri, 27 May 2016 17:10:28 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22273 Continue reading ]]> Sharon Reasonover

Sharon Reasonover, Ronald McDonald House Volunteer

Sharon Reasonover first started volunteering at the age of 16. It was the summer before her junior year of high school, and she hadn’t really understood the meaning behind doing something for others until that day.

Sharon was accompanying a church group to the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Dallas, Texas. RMH is a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost.

Sharon recalls her first time walking into RMH — nervous and afraid of messing up or saying the wrong thing. After only 5 minutes, she began connecting with families. “That day, I played with kids, laughed with the adults, and heard countless stories — you name it!” says Sharon.

Now a 20-year-old student at the University of North Texas, Sharon has volunteered with RMH ever since. “I have met so many people there that have changed my life.”

Read the rest of Sharon’s story, including the stories of three of the kids she cared for at RMH, and how volunteering has helped Sharon grow into the person she’s always wanted to be.

If you’re a nonprofit looking for ways to effectively engage with younger generations, check out this Engaging Volunteers blog post on 5 ways you could inspire teenagers to take a step toward community service.

 

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Why “Tough Love” Produces the Best Volunteers http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/25/why-tough-love-produces-the-best-volunteers/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/25/why-tough-love-produces-the-best-volunteers/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 16:04:21 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22268 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Mike Devaney

Why Tough Love Produces the Best Volunteers“Look, this has to work for you… what do you wanna get outta this experience?” she asked, squinting.

Katerina (Kat), the hospital’s volunteer coordinator, was quietly putting to bed everything I thought I knew about recruiting volunteers. For starters, she wasn’t pleading with me to join her program. Actually, quite the opposite. It felt like she was trying to dissuade me from applying!

She wasn’t, of course. But I still remember that conversation nine years later because it was so different from all my other volunteer program inquires. Based on those experiences, I had assumed coordinators were supposed to …

  • Gladly accept anyone
  • Downplay the demands of the onboarding process
  • Avoid probing questions about motives

While Kat’s program depended exclusively on volunteers, she wasn’t looking for just anybody. Why? Because visiting sick and dying patients on a weekly basis wasn’t for most people.

Motivation Drives Commitment

The first interview with applicants, Kat later told me, revealed a lot. She could predict, with a high certainty, who would follow through with the application process and who would drop out.

The program included 20 hours of classroom training, which Kat oversaw. Again, with high certainty, she could tell who would thrive as a volunteer in the hospital and who’d wash out. Discussing the big issues of life — pain, suffering, and death — reveal a lot about a person’s motivations.

Which brings me to this point: Motivation. It’s good to question an applicant bluntly, like Kat did to me, about his or her motivations. Applicants might not be fully cognizant of their driving motivation, but they should be able to articulate more than a pat answer. Why? Because it’s what’ll keep them committed and growing as volunteers.

[Grab a list of sample interview questions here.]

Now it should be said that a volunteer’s motivation may not always be altruistic. That’s fine as long as it doesn’t conflict with your organization’s mission. I stayed with Kat’s program for 4 ½ years. We became good friends and discussed a lot of things “off the record.” Some of those discussions, I’m sure, didn’t sound particularly gracious coming from a hospital volunteer, but they were authentic.

Business, Not Personal

In business, the companies who develop thoughtful, creative, even rigorous hiring processes win. The hiring process is a branding tool; word gets out quick among job applicants about the companies who do it right. From the company’s perspective, the better they screen applicants in the early stage, the more time they can devote to promising candidates in the later stages.

The same principle is true for nonprofit and charitable organizations. Put another way, cast a wide net for volunteers using vague and undefined language, and you’ll spend more time later eliminating unqualified applicants.

In my experience working with nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, I find resistance to using “callout” language when advertising for volunteers. Callout language says to the applicant “Come closer,” or “Stay Away.” It doesn’t do both. The fear is that an otherwise awesome candidate might not apply if the language is too restrictive.

That’s when I tell them about the Peace Corps. Four years after “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” slogan debuted, applicants outnumbered openings 10:1 and by 1991, 30 percent of Peace Corps volunteers were reached through this recruitment campaign.

If anything, the slogan proved that qualified volunteers respond to “tough love.” The question is, are you willing to go there?

About the author:
Mike Devaney is a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant who helps nonprofits recruit and retain promising volunteers. In addition to the hospital mentioned above, he’s also served as a volunteer at a nursing home and a church-sponsored meal program. Visit him at mikedevaney.com
to schedule a consultation.

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How To Use Positivity To Attract New Volunteers http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/23/how-to-use-positivity-to-attract-new-volunteers/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/23/how-to-use-positivity-to-attract-new-volunteers/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 14:19:41 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22262 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Kayla Matthews

Finding qualified and capable volunteers for your organization isn’t always easy. Getting the word out is one challenge. Finding people willing to commit to the tasks at hand is another. Once volunteers are recruited, keeping them around and satisfied is a whole other effort.

A great way to make all of this happen is to focus on positivity. The message your organization conveys helps immensely. While these messages are often tailored for potential donors, they can be just as effective for prospective volunteers.

Here’s how to harness the power of positivity to attract new volunteers and keep effective ones around.

Highlight the Work Volunteers Do

How to Use Positivity to Attract New VolunteersTo recruit new volunteers and keep your current volunteers contented, highlight the great work they’re doing. Sharing volunteers’ unique roles, day-to-day tasks and what they like about volunteering go a long way in appealing to new volunteers. Using social media to thank long-time volunteers and welcome new ones is a good way to diversify your marketing efforts.

Highlighting this kind of work is also a great method for sharing the interesting ways volunteers have contributed. Take, for example, how Ford Mustang part dealer CJ Pony Parts teamed up with Make-A-Wish to restore a teen’s vintage Ford Mustang. That’s not an everyday occurrence, so it shows the different ways the volunteers might be able to help.

Sharing a story of a volunteer is a lot more effective than simply sharing a volunteer job description. By presenting volunteers in a positive light, you’ll appeal to both prospective volunteers and those who have no interest in volunteering. Simply posting a volunteer job description won’t get a lot of attention, but a compelling story coupled with a link to your organization’s volunteer page works on multiple levels.

Focus on the Outcomes

Volunteering is proven to be rewarding and satisfying, but maintaining positive messaging can be a challenge if your organization is dealing with grim subject matter. Organizations that oppose trafficking, domestic abuse, and other societal ills aren’t able to post the warm and happy images that other organizations might be able to.

That’s why you should focus on the positive outcomes your organization creates. People love a happy ending, and your organization can share those despite how difficult the path to that ending may have been.

It’s these positive outcomes that are especially motivating when the work is difficult, so share as many as you can.

Keep Positive Messages Simple

It’s important to highlight the varied work that your organization is doing, but be sure to focus on the key messaging. Distil all the work into a simple and compelling message that easily explains what your organization is all about. Potential volunteers are overloaded with distractions and often aren’t willing to dig through extensive messaging to see if the nonprofit is right for them.

Make Sharing Positivity Easy

Charity: Water, a nonprofit dedicated to providing access to clean water, has some of the best marketing in the nonprofit sector. They’re at the forefront of digital marketing trends, and their mission is easy to convey. What makes their marketing so effective is just how easy it is for supporters to share their personal experiences. This helps get the word out organically, as Charity: Water doesn’t have to pursue active outreach. The supporters do it for them.

Think of ways to encourage your volunteers and supporters to share their thoughts and feelings about your organization. Personal recommendations are far more useful than any form of advertising, so make it as easy as possible for existing volunteers to spread the word.

Positivity is a powerful tool, yet it’s most effective when you know exactly what your audience wants. Finding that balance between informative and positive can help you reach more potential volunteers.

To find what works best, fine-tune your messaging as needed and ask yourself important questions about demographics and communications channels. Following these steps will help you bring in new volunteers that can help fulfill your organization’s mission.

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About the author:
Kayla Matthews is a writer and blogger. Her work has appeared on Nonprofit Hub and The Caregiver Space, along with The Huffington Post.

Image credit: Kaboompics
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How to Boost Your Local Volunteers’ Motivation http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/17/how-to-boost-your-local-volunteers-motivation/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/17/how-to-boost-your-local-volunteers-motivation/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 17:43:54 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22254 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by David Grover

teamworkThe ability to motivate local volunteers is a vital but challenging task. Volunteer organizations are notoriously fluid, people come and go, and very often, those who are very enthusiastic at the start lose steam as time passes.

Here are 6 useful tips on successfully motivating local volunteers.

Tip 1: Acknowledge and praise

Acknowledgement and praise are keystones of volunteer motivation. Volunteers get paid in acknowledgement, not money. Even paid workers are motivated by more than just money, according to behavioral economist Dan Ariely. When people are not paid for their work, “abstract” rewards become ever more important, so make sure you create an environment that fosters them. For example, never pass up an opportunity to put a figurative gold star on the forehead of a volunteer.

Tip 2: Create a happy environment filled with fun

“Happiness research”, which has become all the rage in the past few years, indicates that happy people are more productive. And good social relationships improve people’s happiness. Encourage teamwork amongst volunteers, create community, and host frequent “get-to-know-you” activities. Play games together, eat together, and most importantly, have fun. Leaders of charitable organizations very often get caught up in the overwhelming needs of those whom they have to help. Take some distance and connect in fun ways with the volunteers who help you.

Tip 3: Match individual volunteers’ strengths to your needs

Don’t give the child care job to someone in IT who’s socially reticent and not particularly fond of children, and don’t give the computer network backup job to someone who’s technophobic yet loves children. This example is extreme, of course, but it illustrates the importance of getting to know your volunteers well enough to establish their passions and interests as soon as they join.

Tip 4: Provide training

Sometimes you are not going to get the IT volunteer you need, or the shy person who loves babies may not know how to change diapers. Where necessary, provide training to volunteers. If the required skills are not available in your organization, identify and approach knowledgeable members of the community to provide one-off training to members of your volunteer corps. Learning new skills will motivate most people to engage with an activity or your organization.

Tip 5: Give feedback

Have regular feedback sessions where you share the successes of the organization with your volunteers. Encourage people who have benefited from the organization’s work to share their stories first-hand. Create colourful PowerPoint or Prezi presentations in which you detail the number of meals served, or the number of terminal patients cared for, or the number of adults who’ve been taught to read. Also share future plans with volunteers so that they become aware of the strategic goals of your organization.

Tip 6: Be flexible

Understand that volunteers are not full-time employees. A sure-fire way to chase them away and demotivate them is to treat them as such. Adapt to the schedules of your volunteers; try to allow them to volunteer at times that are convenient for them and accommodate their lives. Explain the tasks that need to be done and allow them to indicate when they will be available.

In conclusion, volunteering is a two-way street. Volunteers give of their time and efforts to others; however, they also get something back: meaningful engagement with others, a sense of worth and worthiness, new challenges, personal development, skills training and a sense of community. An organization that manages to serve the community and serve its volunteers at the same time will be a successful one.

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About the author:
David Grover is a Communications Manager at Timeo, a useful tool for business in the UK. He’s also a freelance career coach, who’s always eager to share his experience. In his free time David enjoys traveling.

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VM Summit 16 to Bring Good Companies and Causes Together in Chicago, IL http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/16/vm-summit-16-to-bring-good-companies-and-causes-together-in-chicago-il/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/16/vm-summit-16-to-bring-good-companies-and-causes-together-in-chicago-il/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 18:11:27 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22246 Continue reading ]]> Many companies encourage their employees to volunteer through pro bono volunteering, days of service, paid time off to volunteer, and more. Is your nonprofit effectively engaging these corporate volunteers?

VM Summit 16, hosted by VolunteerMatch, will bring corporate responsibility and employee engagement professionals face-to-face with local and national nonprofits to learn how to create impactful partnerships. Learn more in the below press release.

VM Summit 16

VM SUMMIT 16 TO BRING GOOD COMPANIES AND CAUSES TOGETHER IN CHICAGO, IL

Registration Now Open for Annual Volunteerism Conference Hosted by VolunteerMatch


San Francisco, CA, May 16, 2016
– VolunteerMatch, the web’s largest volunteer engagement network, announced today that it has opened registration for VM Summit 16, which will be held on October 25, 2016 in Chicago, IL.

VolunteerMatch’s annual conference, officially known as VM Summit, brings companies and nonprofits together in one place to learn and collaborate on how to create better, more impactful partnerships, and harness the power of corporate volunteering for real community impact.

Highlights of VM Summit 16 include a keynote presentation from internationally-recognized philanthropy expert and author Lisa Dietlin, opening reception and sessions from hosting company Groupon, as well as panels of volunteer engagement and corporate social responsibility (CSR) experts. VM Summit 16 will also include interactive sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities.

“Teams of corporate volunteers and nonprofits who engage volunteers have the same end goal: To improve communities,” says Bree von Faith, Senior Marketing Manager and VM Summit 16 Event Manager. “However, there are too few opportunities for these two groups to meet face-to-face and figure out how to have the greatest impact, together. That’s what VM Summit is for.”

Clients of YourMatch™, VolunteerMatch’s solution for companies and other groups with large-scale volunteer management needs, are invited to attend an additional day of networking, workshops and panels on October 26, 2016. To learn more about becoming a YourMatch™ client, visit solutions.volunteermatch.org/solutions/employee.

Learn more about VM Summit 16 by visiting solutions.volunteermatch.org/summit, follow #VMSummit16 on Twitter to stay in the know, and take advantage of our early-bird registration today at vmsummit16.eventbrite.com

ABOUT VOLUNTEERMATCH

VolunteerMatch believes everyone should have the chance to make a difference. As the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, serving 100,000 participating nonprofits, 150 network partners and 13 million annual visitors, VolunteerMatch offers unique, award-winning solutions for individuals, nonprofits and companies to make this vision a reality. Since its launch in 1998, VolunteerMatch has helped the social sector attract more than $6.8 billion worth of volunteer services. Learn more about VolunteerMatch at VolunteerMatch.org, and follow @VolunteerMatch.

PRESS CONTACT

Vicky Hush
+1 (240) 257-3144
VolunteerMatch
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5 Ways the Arts Can Enhance Your Volunteer Program http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/12/5-ways-the-arts-can-enhance-your-volunteer-program/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/12/5-ways-the-arts-can-enhance-your-volunteer-program/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 14:32:36 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22235 Continue reading ]]> Guest post by Jordan Shue

Enhance Your Volunteer Program with the Arts

Teams performing at the corporate singing challenge, CincySings, in Cincinnati. Photo by Matt Steffan, courtesy of ArtsWave.

The arts have a tremendous ability to change individuals in positive ways. Now, imagine if that power was applied to entire teams of volunteers — specifically groups of volunteers from for-profit organizations.

Not only does using the arts to partner with for-profit companies mean improving the economy of a local community and increasing the quality of life for its residents, it means giving a company the chance to challenge employees to be their best and feel more connected to its purpose and mission. It also allows you to leverage proposals for corporate support by providing opportunities for mutually beneficial exchanges. You don’t have to be an arts organization to use the arts; simply adding creative elements to volunteer projects or working with a local arts group is a great way to start.

If you’re looking to create arts-based projects for your organization’s volunteers, here are five easy and effective programs you can implement:

  1. Skills-Based Volunteering: If you yourself are an arts-based nonprofit organization, volunteers may have niche strengths your organization needs — such as marketing and finance skills. This can greatly increase your organization’s operating capacity.
  2. Arts-Based Training: Recruit local artists and engage their practice to teach innovation, interpersonal skills, public speaking, and more during half-day trainings with departments or teams.
  3. Corporate Arts Challenge: Encourage corporate volunteers to show their creative side and build teamwork with a friendly singing or arts-based competition. While events like this can be expensive to hold, they can also be a powerful fundraising tool for your organization.
  4. Corporate Art Shows: Provide a space for corporate volunteers to showcase their artistic talents to co-workers while embracing creativity in the workplace. This is a fantastic way to invite the community to showcase the company’s creativity while simultaneously producing a branding opportunity for the company and sponsorship opportunity for your organization.
  5. Team Volunteering: Gather a team of enthusiastic volunteers for an arts activity that beautifies and strengthens the community, such as painting a mural or assisting in installing a public art sculpture.

Want to learn more? Americans for the Arts — the nation’s largest organization devoted to ensuring all Americans have access to the transformative power of the arts — recently released three workbooks in a series dedicated to helping nonprofits start employee volunteer and engagement programs.

Check them out if you’re interested in starting an arts skills-based volunteering, arts-based training, or corporate arts challenge program.

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About the author:
As the Private Sector Initiatives Program Manager at Americans for the Arts, Jordan works to advance private sector support for local arts agencies through a number of programs and field education opportunities, as well as through the pARTnership Movement, a campaign to reach business leaders with the message that the arts can build their competitive advantage.

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8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social Media http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/10/8-tips-for-establishing-your-nonprofit-on-social-media/ http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/05/10/8-tips-for-establishing-your-nonprofit-on-social-media/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 14:33:02 +0000 http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/?p=22225 Continue reading ]]> Editor’s Note: At brand new or small nonprofits, people who run volunteer programs may be responsible for other functions within the organization, including marketing. Whether you’re taking on social media yourself, or working with a colleague to promote your volunteer program, this article can help you get started.

Guest post by Brad Wayland

8 Tips For Establishing Your Nonprofit On Social MediaSocial media is one of the most powerful marketing and engagement tools in your arsenal, but only if you use it effectively. Let’s talk about how your nonprofit can do that.

The birth of the social network did a strange thing to the field of marketing. Suddenly, it became possible to effortlessly spread the word about a brand or event to a positively massive audience — provided you knew how to do so. Nonprofits are in a unique position to benefit from social marketing, but they’re also faced with a unique set of challenges.

That’s what I’m here to talk about today — I’m going to go over a few tips for how you can get your nonprofit established through social and use social media as a way to engage volunteers.

  1. Ask Yourself: What’s Your Purpose?

To start, your first step should be to work out what your nonprofit aims to accomplish. What cause are you raising awareness for? Is it important that you generate donations, or is your aim to get people to attend events or volunteer for your cause? The answers to these questions will inform your entire social campaign, so be sure you have a clear understanding of your goals.

  1. Figure Out Who You’re Marketing To

Once you know the goals your nonprofit is aiming to achieve, the next step is to determine your target audience. Again, this is something that will inform every step you take moving forward. Different messages resonate with different people, after all.

“Try to pin down your average supporters’ socio-economic background,” reads a piece on Technology-Trust.org. “It might seem like a superficial thing to do, but actually it’s really good practice for working out the kinds of things you should post and the type of messaging you should use. Try to be as specific as possible — think about their age, location, economic background, what they likely think of your nonprofit, and what you’d like them to think about it.” You should also consider what types of people would like to volunteer for your cause and tailor your messaging towards them.

  1. Choose Your Social Network Wisely

The next question you need to answer is which social network (or social networks) you’ll be marketing on. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that, according to a 2014 Hubspot survey, Facebook is the #1 social network used by nonprofits at 98%, with Twitter coming in second at 70%. YouTube is an effective network to use for volunteer training videos and videos of past events to recruit more volunteers. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be on all these networks — only that they’re typically a safe bet for social media investments.

  1. Figure Out What To Track

How will you determine your success? What metrics should you track in order to work out whether or not your campaign worked out the way you needed it to? Since you’re running a nonprofit, you’ve got something of an advantage in this regard — according to Buffer, almost half of nonprofits find that a donation is the pinnacle of engagement. That might be a good place to start if you’re strapped for ideas. You can also track the number of new volunteers after a social media campaign.

  1. Create a Killer Hashtag

Especially if you have plans to market on Twitter, the creation of a suitable hashtag is essential. Make it short, memorable, and unique — but most importantly, make sure it’s one that’s easy to associate with your organization. Do note that hashtags carry an element of risk if you don’t carefully monitor your hashtag and curate it, there’s a good chance someone might hijack it (and trust me, that’s not something you want to have happen). Encourage your volunteers to use your hashtags and participate in the conversation on social media. As a result, you will have plenty of user-generated content to repurpose and tell your nonprofit’s story. These personal anecdotes and images will help engage current volunteers and recruit new volunteers.

  1. Account For Your Limitations

How much time and money do you realistically have to devote to social media? How skilled are you at creating content, and what does your writing look like? In order to successfully assess your strengths and abilities, you must first account for your weaknesses and limitations, and mitigate those limitations.

  1. Display Integrity and Transparency

As noted by a post on the Smart Insights blog, nonprofits are faced with a unique landscape where social media is concerned. On the one hand, they’re automatically considered to be a trustworthy source of information, and people experience a genuine need to connect with them and their causes. They’re also well-positioned to provide rich, emotive content.

On the other hand, if they send their messages poorly or ineffectively, the backlash is far worse than for other organizations. You need to be certain that you’re transparent and responsive, or things will very likely blow up in your face.

  1. Look At What Other Nonprofits Have Done Right

Last, but certainly not least, take a look at how other nonprofits have driven their causes to success on social media. Movember, for example, went from a small event run between friends into one of the largest annual men’s health fundraising campaigns in the world. Take a close, careful look at Movember and successful nonprofit organizations like Movember — ask yourself what they’ve done right, and what you can do to emulate their success. Another strategy nonprofits use successfully is asking their audience questions. For example, if you are trying to recruit volunteers for an event, you can ask what the volunteers from last year’s event what they enjoyed the most.

Closing Thoughts

There’s a more to bringing success to your nonprofit on social than we’ve laid out here. These are just a few tips to get you started. Bear them in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to learn more.

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About the author:
Brad Wayland is the VP of Business Development at BlueCotton.

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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 away.

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.

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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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