Meet Hannah, Volunteer Yoga Instructor

Hannah Moran, volunteer with Mercy Housing

Hannah Moran, volunteer with Mercy Housing

Meet Hannah.

Hannah grew up with volunteering. However, it wasn’t until she started volunteering with Mercy Housing that she realized how truly enjoyable it could be.

Using VolunteerMatch, she found an opportunity that perfectly fits her skills and passions – teaching a weekly chair yoga class to low-income seniors.

At VolunteerMatch, we make it easy for good people and good causes to connect. However, since these initial connections happen online, we don’t always get to see firsthand the impact of these numerous connections – the impact on the volunteers themselves, the organizations they volunteer with, and the communities they serve.

That’s why we went out into our community to see what volunteers who found their connections through VolunteerMatch (such as Hannah) were up to.

In this short video, get to know the amazing work Hannah and Mercy Housing are doing together:

Volunteer Program Improvement Tool: What We’ve Learned So Far!

The tool specifically for hunger-related organizations We launched our Volunteer Program Improvement Tool for hunger-related organizations with the hope of creating something that volunteer program mangers could use to take their programs to the next level.

But we also wanted all of that sweet, sweet data.

Since its launch a few months ago, over 300 people have used the tool to get personalized information and resources for increasing the effectiveness of their volunteer engagement program. We’ve aggregated the data and calculated benchmarks, and now we want to share what we’ve learned.

Why is this data important to you?

By knowing where your program falls in relation to other similar programs, you’ll be equipped with knowledge to effectively advocate for your program’s growth. One of the main goals I had for this tool was for leaders of volunteer engagement to be able to use these benchmarks and aggregate data to advocate for additional resources – time and money – to build and support their volunteer program.

Join me on Tuesday August 18th at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern for an informal, interactive webinar. I’ll walk through the information we’ve gathered about how hunger-related organizations are currently engaging volunteers, and what’s in store for the tool in the future. Register today.

I want to make sure that the information we’re sharing is the information you need! So be prepared to participate in polls and share your priorities for information and resources.

And if you haven’t done so yet, check out the tool, or learn more about it and our partnership with ConAgra Foods Foundation.

August Food for Thought: What Are the Experts Saying?

Food for ThoughtAt VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the fields of volunteer engagement and nonprofit management, and we want to help you stay up to date on the latest news and trends. Here’s some food for thought to get your August going.

4 Reasons Volunteer Coordinators Should Care About Corporate Citizenship
From Tobi Johnson:
For many reasons, the corporate world wants to partner with nonprofits. In this post, Tobi answers the question, “What’s in it for volunteer orgs?”

Volunteer Hounded to Death by Fundraisers? Lessons to Learn
From e-Volunteerism:
While not as scary as the title may imply, this article is an in-depth look at why volunteers who give time and donors who give money should not exist in silos at your organization.

Want more? We recently touched on this topic as well.

In the Middle: The Leader of Volunteers as Intermediary
From Energize, Inc:
In her latest Hot Topic, Susan Ellis discusses how those who lead volunteers at an organization are often stuck in the middle, and how they can overcome the challenges this brings.

The Millennial Impact Report: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann
From The Nonprofit Marketing Blog:
Does your organization work with millennials, either as paid staff or volunteers? Based on research, Derreck advises how to best engage this young generation with your cause.

For more tips from experts, check out the VolunteerMatch book that brings together 35 experts.

3 Ways to Recognize Volunteers That Will Appeal to (Virtually) Everyone

How to Recognize Your VolunteersAn animal shelter. An art museum. A digital library. A food bank.

These are just a few of the types of organizations I’ve volunteered for. Sometimes, I’ve felt valued and important. Other times, I’ve felt like a ghost, passing through without being seen.

I know volunteer appreciation is tough, because not all volunteers like to be thanked in the same way. For example, one organization I volunteered for asked its volunteers to individually stand up to receive a huge round of applause from staff. I felt like a genuine rockstar, but I have a feeling this was not a pleasant experience for my spotlight-shy volunteer counterparts.

Yet, there are some things that can be almost universally appreciated. From my perspective as a volunteer, these are the three most important things to remember when you want to make your volunteers feel valued.

  1. Pay attention.

Take a little bit of time to actually get to know your volunteers. Ask them questions, and pay attention to what they say. What are their interests and hobbies? Do they have pets at home? What’s their favorite local spot? Show them that you’re interested in who they are, and that they’re not just a pair of hands to get the job done.

Many organizations like to give small tokens of appreciation, such as a candy bar. Think about how much better these gifts would be if they were tailored to the volunteers’ interests. Instead of a candy bar, a bag of potato chips for that volunteer who’s always opting for a salty snack. Paying attention to these small, personal preferences only takes a small amount of effort, and will go a long way.

Note: If you have a lot of volunteers, or don’t have the best memory, write it down!

  1. Include them.

Don’t let your volunteers feel like a stranger at your organization. Yes, they know you, and they know the staff they work with directly. But what about other staff members? Walking around in a place where you belong, but no one knows who you are, can be awkward and intimidating.

A quick introduction to staff can alleviate this anxiety. In fact, at one organization I volunteered for, I was encouraged to attend weekly staff meetings. This was optional, of course. But whenever I did attend, I felt like part of the team, and I got a heck of a lot of “thank yous”!

Furthermore, include your volunteers in your organization’s triumphs. One of the biggest motivations for volunteering, and one of the best ways to feel appreciated, is to see the impact your volunteer work is having on the organization’s mission. Don’t limit those big announcements to staff meetings. Make sure your volunteers are in the loop. Because your volunteers are not a separate entity. They’re an instrumental part of your organization’s success.

  1. It’s the Little Things

How to Appreciate Your VolunteersSo, your organization has a huge volunteer party, and maybe some perks, such as guest passes to your museum. Don’t get me wrong, those things are great. But they don’t mean anything if there’s not a “thank you” said as you’re leaving for the day, or a handwritten card to celebrate a service anniversary. A survey of Multnomah County Library volunteers found that their volunteers preferred a simple thank you card over any other form of recognition.

For volunteer recognition, there is no one-size-fits-all. Yet, while you may need to adapt these suggestions based on the size and format of your own volunteer program, the message remains the same. If you pay attention to your volunteers, make them feel included, and don’t forget the simple thanks (and make all of these things part of your day-to-day culture), you’ll find yourself with some pretty happy volunteers.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Marketing for Volunteer ManagersMarketing isn’t rocket science if you know where to start.

I used to have a boss with a favorite expression. She liked to say “It’s not rocket science,” meaning that any time her nonprofit job required some new skill or challenge, she knew she could pull it off. She knew she was smart, and she figured there was very little under the sun that a smart person could not master with practice and persistence.

My boss’s approach worked. She took on all sorts of projects with great success, just knowing that she had the chops to do it.

Marketing is like that. It’s not rocket science. It is masterable – and it’s often an essential part of our jobs.

Do you think of yourself as a marketer? If you are responsible for engaging volunteers in your program, you most certainly are.

Last month I wrote about how there is a volunteer out there for every position – IF we know how to find them. And the finding, of course, requires that we learn how to reach the volunteers who will thrive in our programs.

If you are wondering how in the world to move beyond your program’s Volunteer page and really target your marketing efforts, start with these basics:

  1. Know your Ideal Volunteer. Get clear on who is most successful in your program – those are the volunteers you want to target.
  2. Get strategic. The pros don’t fly by the seat of their pants, they plan. You will need to learn how to develop a marketing plan and implement it.
  3. Target your message. Learn how to reach out to the volunteers you need with a message intended especially for them.

Learning how to market you program is really about getting into the head and the heart of the person you want to reach. It takes some practice and some education, and once you start seeing results, it even gets to be fun.

What’s not in your wheelhouse now may become the most interesting part of your job.

How about face to face marketing?

If you want to refine your in-person powers of persuasion, email me for a copy of my Elevator Pitch Planner. I will send you a step-by-step guide to crafting a great volunteer recruitment elevator pitch – and add you to my mailing list for more practical skill-builders.