Remembering Jill Friedman Fixler: a Friend and Mentor

Remembering Jill Friedman FixlerWhen I joined VolunteerMatch in 2007 it was to help prepare organizations to better engage the time and talents of the wave of Baby Boomers who were beginning to retire. One of the people leading that conversation and creating those tools was Jill Friedman Fixler.

Based in Denver, Jill was part of a very active group working to support volunteer engagement professionals and expand the capacity of organizations to engage volunteers in meaningful work. Sarah Christian, VolunteerMatch’s then Director of Strategic Partnerships, was also part of that Denver group and introduced me to Jill, and Jill to VolunteerMatch.

During that same time, Jill was working on the book Boomer Volunteer Engagement: Collaborate Today, Thrive Tomorrow. A natural partnership emerged and we partnered with Jill and The JFFixler Group to publish both the initial book and the follow-up Facilitator’s Toolkit.

From the beginning, I found Jill to be a kindred soul. We discussed volunteer engagement and nonprofit capacity development, but we also talked about books, and family, and the challenges of traveling for work, over delicious meals and glasses of wine. (She told me about disinfecting the remote control in your hotel room, which was both revolutionary and revolting to me.)

We discussed big ideas, co-presented at conferences, and would catch up in the 20 minutes prior to the webinars she would do each month. She was an inspiration, a sounding board, a cheerleader, and a friend.

When she retired in 2013, while I knew she was taking a step back from the field, I also knew that her ideas, her love of big thinking, and her commitment to excellence in volunteer engagement would live on – through the company she started, her partner Beth Steinhorn (who continues to lead webinars on our Learning Center, and has two great sessions coming up on engaging family volunteers and leveraging volunteer talent for organizational change), and through all of those in this field, like me, for whom she led the way and inspired us to use our time and talents to engage volunteers in meaningful work.

Last November Jill passed away, surrounded by friends and family. Jill Friedman Fixler – you will be missed.

In honor of Jill’s contribution to the field, VolunteerMatch and The JFFixler Group will donate sets of the Boomer Volunteer Engagement series for your capacity building events. If you’re interested, please email education@volunteermatch.org.

Think Fun, Think Big and Think GOOD at This Year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference

Arbor Day Foundation Volunteers outside by a tree.

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers having some fun.

Close your eyes, and imagine this:

You’re outside, and you’re not cold. No snow. No biting wind. No humidity, even. Instead, the sun is warm on your face as you laugh with the person next to you. Your common interests and experiences made you fast friends, even though you only met about 30 minutes ago. And as you chat, you’re filled with a deep sense of satisfaction as you weed and plant together in the garden of the nonprofit organization Urban Roots in Austin, TX.

That’s right, you’re volunteering. And this isn’t just any volunteer gig, either – it’s part of the Days of Service program of the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (15NTC).

Throughout the conference, there will be volunteer opportunities for you to share your skills with Austin, TX area nonprofits. This includes virtual volunteering opportunities, too, so you can give back before the conference, and even from your hotel room!

Think fun: You’ll be meeting new people, you have the opportunity to be outside or interact with the locals at the Food Bank, and make a difference in a whole new place. The Days of Service is an opportunity for you to feel good about your time in Austin…by doing good.

Once you’re registered for 15NTC, sign up for an account on the Days of Service site and start exploring your opportunities!

But wait! Are you an Austin-area nonprofit organization? Your organization could be one of the places these dedicated, passionate, talented 15NTC volunteers spend their time during the conference!

These are people who understand you and your needs. They have the skills and experience to really get stuff done.

Think big: what sort of help does your nonprofit need, whether on-site or virtual? Perhaps some marketing and communications strategy advice. Or help with fundraising planning. Or board development. Or IT and tech infrastructure. Or training for programs like Excel and Photoshop…

You get the idea. The possibilities are limitless, but unfortunately time is not. So hurry up and follow these easy steps to get your nonprofit’s volunteer project up on the #15NTC Days of Service site:

  • Create an account – be sure to register as a nonprofit looking for volunteers.
  • Suggest an opportunity – use the ‘Add a Project’ form to share your organization’s volunteer opportunity with the NTC Community.

And spread the word to other Austin-area nonprofits – there are more than enough awesome 15NTC attendees to go around.

We hope to see you in Austin! (Maybe at your organization, volunteering our time…)

5 Ways to Motivate Your Nonprofit’s Volunteers

Guest post by Kelly Smith

Hands in the center, helping out volunteering.Volunteering has become a popular solution for people who not only have got some time on their hands, but also want to build a better community or help those who need assistance.

As a nonprofit leader, you’re probably aware that volunteers are the heart and soul of your organization – it’s their smiles and hard work that enable you to push your cause forward. That’s why it’s essential that you constantly motivate them and make them feel a part of a close community. Here are five smart ways to start motivating your nonprofit’s volunteers right now:

1. Know their reasons for volunteering.

In order to keep your volunteers engaged and motivated, you need to first understand the reasons behind their decision to volunteer. Whether they do it to feel good about themselves, acquire new skills or just to make a difference, you’re the one that needs to gather this information and apply it, creating a volunteer program that fosters long-term commitment.

2. Communicate!

This is probably the easiest and most effective way of keeping up your volunteers’ motivations. Good communication is key to managing the expectations and responsibilities of your workers, but in order for it to really work you need to be able to listen, as well.

Welcome suggestions and feedback. Show volunteers that their opinions matter – what you’ll get in return will be people willing to do their best to improve your organization.

3. Show your appreciation.

Even though their volunteering comes from a real passion and good heart, your volunteers still want to be appreciated for what they do. If their efforts are not being recognized, they’re more likely to ditch the cause and become less and less available.

How to appreciate them? Simply by saying ‘thank you!’ You could also consider giving out rewards, incentives, or organizing events that show how the success of your organization is based on the great work done by your volunteers.

4. Show them how they made a difference.

There’s no better method of keeping up the motivation of your volunteers than by letting them see the results of their hard work. Seeing a child who after months of tutoring is finally able to read a whole book out loud is a sight no volunteer will ever forget.

5. Provide social recognition.

Volunteers can have their work recognized not only internally, but externally as well. You can use social media to your advantage – for example, post a photo depicting volunteers in action on your organization’s Facebook wall. Seeing all the likes and comments will warm their hearts with joy and provide a great source of motivation.

So don’t hesitate! Start working on your motivation strategies right now – every investment in your volunteers pays back with an immeasurable passion and willingness to work for an important cause.

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She also provides career advice for students and job seekers. She is interested in volunteering opportunities in Australia.

Feeling the Winter Blues? Gain a New Perspective with a VolunteerMatch Webinar.

Kermit in snow, hearing about winter webinars.Tired of the snow and winter weather? How about adding a little professional development to your week and taking a fresh approach to volunteer engagement.

We have some interesting new topics and some old favorites cued up for the beginning of 2015:

 

If you’ve missed some of our most popular webinars in the past, I’ll be discussing the role that social media can play in recruiting and engaging volunteers on February 19th, and share ideas for engaging volunteers in new ways in Where Do I Go From Here? on March 12th.

And, Beth Steinhorn from JFFixler Group will be presenting her very popular topic Leveraging Volunteers for Organizational Change on April 22nd, and introducing the idea of engaging family volunteers in your program in Family Power on March 11th.

You can find the complete list of all of our webinars here. I hope you’ll join me at one of these always free online trainings in 2015!

The Real Reason 75% of Americans Don’t Volunteer

Raising hands to volunteer.Our country takes great pride in the role volunteering has played in our history. We believe that volunteers are virtuous, kind and essential to the health of our society. It is why the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, for instance, is celebrated as a national Day of Service. We are a country that loves volunteering.

 

We are also a country where three out of four people don’t do it.

According to the Corporation for National & Community Service 62.6 million Americans volunteered in 2013. That is about 25% of the adult population, and if you happen to be keeping score, the lowest rate in a decade. Yes, you can view this as a glass 1/4 full. But given how important volunteering is, I’m not alone in thinking, “We can do better.”

Click here to read Greg’s full article about why the majority of Americans don’t volunteer. It will probably surprise you. It will definitely inspire you.