Nonprofit Insights: Tapping into the Power of National Days and Weeks of Service

The Nonprofit Insights webinar series brings major thought leaders and experts to you for thought-provoking presentations on a variety of issues related to technology and engaging your community members for social good.

Join VolunteerMatch and some special partners for a free webinar about how nonprofits can leverage national days and weeks of service for volunteer engagement.For many nonprofit organizations, national events like MLK Day of Service, National Volunteer Week or #GivingTuesday create not only another opportunity to build support, but also more work, more logistical challenges, and potential fatigue among donors and volunteers.

How can nonprofits balance the potential benefits of #GivingTuesday?

Tapping into the Power of National Days and Weeks of Service

Register for this free event.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter: @VolunteerMatch and #vmlearn.

Join VolunteerMatch, #GivingTuesday and the Support Center for Child Advocacy to talk about how organizations can tap into the power of national days and weeks of service. No matter the size or budget of your nonprofit, this webinar will provide insight into how you can engage volunteers to help with campaigns on days like #GivingTuesday, and, vice versa, how these national days of giving and volunteering can help grow your volunteer engagement.

Register for this free Nonprofit Insights webinar now.

People Make the Difference: The Beauty of Efficient Impact

Efficiency is important for nonprofits - and can be so beautiful.Efficiency is important for nonprofits. No matter how big or small our budgets are, we never have a ton of extra cash lying around. It’s simply a reality of life in the nonprofit sector. In order to provide the best services possible for our causes given limited resources, we learn very quickly to find all sorts of ways to stretch dollars and make the ones we have really count.

At VolunteerMatch, we are proud to be a very efficient organization. As revealed in our recently released 2013 Annual Impact Report, for every $1 we spent during 2013, $190 of social value was created in our communities. That is an insanely efficient system, if we do say so ourselves!

For every dollar invested in the VolunteerMatch network in 2013, $190 of social value was created in our communities!

The Ripple Effect

All this awesome efficiency has a ripple effect – our efficiency here are VolunteerMatch creates the opportunity for your organizations to be even more efficient, too.

As the VolunteerMatch network grows, and as we become a more efficient and sustainable organization, we’re better able to provide you with services and tools to help you easily and quickly connect with the right volunteers. And with the right volunteers, you’re able to do your work better, with more support and more capacity. Here are some of the ways VolunteerMatch’s efficiency helps your nonprofit:

Huge network – With close to 100,000 active nonprofits and millions of volunteers using the website, it’s unlikely you WON’T find the right match. In other words, the sheer size of the network helps efficiently match the right people with your opportunities.

Get exactly what you need – With tools like our Listing Wizard, custom questions, and dozens of cause categories, it’s easy to build volunteer opportunities that speak to exactly the volunteers you really need, while not attracting a lot of extra folks who aren’t the right fit.

Partnerships create even more visibility – Our strong relationships with groups like LinkedIn and everydayhero mean that posting once to VolunteerMatch.org really means visibility all over the world on multiple networks. Not to mention our extensive corporate partner network, giving you access to hundreds of thousands of skilled, dedicated professionals.

Resources and education – The VolunteerMatch Learning Center contains free webinars and downloadable resources to help you gain the skills and knowledge you need to engage and manage amazing volunteers for your organization. Trust me, this is a site you want to explore!

And it’s all free – Can’t get much more efficient than that. Oh yeah, and it takes, like, five minutes to post a listing – go try it right now!

And as you engage more volunteers, hopefully your organization is able to harness the immense, inspiring power of these passionate people to create even more impact in the communities. And the beautiful cycle of efficiency continues.

How have volunteers helped create more efficiency for your organization? Tell us about it in the comments!

How and Why to Make Volunteering a Family Affair

Guest post by Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler Group

A mother and daughter volunteer together with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

A mother and daughter volunteer together with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Whether you represent a food pantry, youth program, senior center, theater, or other organization or agency, families are likely a key constituent of yours. They may be welcomed as members, program attendees, visitors, or clients. They may be cultivated as donors or participants. Rarely, however, do families easily and readily find ways to volunteer at these organizations – to volunteer together.

Meanwhile, families are as busy as they have ever been and finding time together is a priority. Parents are seeking to spend meaningful family time together, to live out the values they want to instill in their children, and to make a positive difference in their community. In response, many organizations are beginning to actively engage families as volunteers, whether for a one-time event or in an ongoing relationship. Many different factors have inspired that new commitment to engaging families.

Last year, our firm shared a case study about one family volunteering program at the Aquarium of the Pacific. That institution was inspired, in part, by the powerful connection between young visitors and young volunteers. Sean Devereaux, the Manager of Volunteer Services, described the interaction between an 8-year old volunteer and a visitor of similar age:

“The interaction was truly magical. The young visitor was able to get so much more depth of knowledge than if he had interacted with an adult because the kids spoke to each other in a common language. It was remarkable. I wasn’t the only one who was noticing that magic. The Aquarium as a whole recognized the value of peer-to-peer learning. So we began marketing family volunteering as a valuable and integral program for our volunteer corps.”

Organizations can harness the energy of families working together, and, as seen in the “magic” observed at that aquarium, the benefits add up to far more than just the hours contributed by the family volunteers. Everyone benefits – the volunteers, the organization, the visitors or clients, and even the community-at-large.

When organizational leaders are strategic and careful about the roles they create for family volunteers, they can expect tangible contributions from family members of all ages. Creating meaningful and appropriate roles takes time, but is possible. In their book, Doing Good Together, Jenny Friedman and Jolene Roehlkepartain share seven “keys” to a successful family service project. They are:

  1. Purpose; impact on a real need
  2. Simplicity
  3. Creativity
  4. Intergenerational appeal
  5. Relationship building
  6. Reflection
  7. A next step

This list is a great starting point to discuss what makes family volunteering effective for all involved. Discuss what each of those seven key elements means to you and your constituents and what they might “look like” at your organization.

There are meaningful roles for families at most organizations. The challenge is to surface them. Here are a few suggestions to get the ideas flowing:

Social Service Agencies: Families can organize food drives, unload and shelve donations to a pantry, raise funds by organizing family-friendly events, and host information sessions at their homes or schools to educate others about the pressing needs in their own communities.

Community Centers: Families can help with facilities projects like building or painting playground meals to seniors, tutor children, or brainstorm, plan, and run events to bring new members to the Center.

Farms and Community Supported Agriculture: Families can tend crops and harvest food to be donated to a local food pantry, thus helping the environment, learning new skills, learning about issues related to hunger, and feeding the hungry all at the same time.

Museums and Cultural Organizations: Families can serve as tour guides, interpreters, greeters, or program ushers.

These are just a few examples of successful family-friendly volunteer roles. What can families do for your organization?

To learn more about family volunteering, join guest blogger Beth Steinhorn, JFFixler Group President, for a free webinar at September 3. Click here to register!

Beth Steinhorn is a nationally recognized leader, writer, and innovator in volunteer engagement and nonprofit management. As President of JFFixler Group, she leads consultations, facilitates workshops, directs research, presents keynote addresses, and publishes blogs and articles. Throughout her 25+ year career with nonprofit organizations, Beth has worked to help organizations and their leadership to achieve their missions through strategic and innovative engagement.

The Responsive Tech that Powers Your Volunteer Recruitment

Responsive Design on the VolunteerMatch HomepageHere’s a fun activity: Take out your smartphone, open a Web browser, and go to www.volunteermatch.org. Looks nice, right?

We just released a fully responsive version of our website. This means that when volunteers come to VolunteerMatch.org to search and sign up for your volunteer opportunities, it’s even easier and prettier. Special thanks to our mobile Innovation Sponsor, UnitedHealth Group, for making this exciting upgrade possible!

Why Does Responsive Design Matter for Volunteer Engagement?

That’s a fair question. Let’s start with the numbers: Over 25% of people coming to our website these days are doing so via a mobile phone (this doesn’t even count tablet users!) To give you an idea of magnitude, that’s been about 2 million people so far in 2014. That number is up about 60% since last year. So the mobile market is growing for volunteer engagement, too.

Now let’s get into the fuzzier stuff. We want to make sure everyone has the chance to make a difference. Mobile phones are a big way many people – including lower-income, and physically-challenged folks – are able to access the Internet. Now the experience on VolunteerMatch will be as seamless, beautiful, fun and easy for them as it is for someone on a desktop computer.

So the switch to responsive design makes it more likely that anyone on a mobile phone, whether they are on their couch, at work, at a bus stop, waiting during their kid’s violin lesson, or weaving along the sidewalk, will find and sign up for your volunteer opportunities.

Should Nonprofits Do Anything Different?

Responsive volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.org.You certainly don’t have to. You volunteer opportunities will automatically be optimized to look beautiful no matter what device someone is using. However, we do have a few simple tips to make the content of your listings stand out for people while on the go:

  • Keep it short and simple. Make it easy for someone to quickly read about the opportunity while scrolling through with their fingers. Otherwise, chances are they won’t take the time, and they’ll miss important details or they’ll give up and not sign up at all. Bullet points, simple lists and short sentences all work great.
  • Make your title extra-special. While on-the-go, many people won’t click through to view an opportunity unless it looks especially fun and inviting, or exactly what they’re looking for. So make sure your opportunity title is very descriptive, and make it witty or even funny so it stands out from the rest of the search results.
  • Include skills. Busy folks on their mobile phones will be more attracted to volunteer opportunities that seem tailor-made for them, and this means their specific skills. Fortunately, VolunteerMatch has a Listing Wizard that helps you choose the right skills for your opportunity. (And don’t forget, these listings are then automatically sent to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace, for even more exposure!)

So what are you waiting for? Post some mobile-friendly volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch now, and let us know what you think about the new, responsive version of the website!

People Make the Difference: Our Economics are a Win-Win-Win for Social Good

The economics of the VolunteerMatch network prove how special our volunteers really are.There’s something special about VolunteerMatch – and yes, I’m biased. But it’s true, and I’ll prove it.

It’s not just that we’re a free service that helps everyone – volunteers, causes and businesses – find a way to make a difference. It’s not just that we create a unique ecosystem of people and organizations that support each other and make the world a better place. You see, it turns out that the volunteers in the VolunteerMatch network are special in their own rights. A cut above, you might say.

Here’s Proof that We’re Special

In the recently released 2013 Annual VolunteerMatch Impact Report, there’s a fun little section called “Economics of the VolunteerMatch Network.” I’m pretty geeky, and I like that this section features some fun stats about what goes on in the VolunteerMatch network on a regular basis, and the value that’s created by this activity. For example, how can you NOT get excited that 1.7 connections are made EVERY MINUTE between a nonprofit and a volunteer?

Check out the economics of the VolunteerMatch network.

But the two numbers I want to focus on right now are in the orange and red boxes: Volunteers in the network serve on average 12 hours per month, and have an estimated value to nonprofits of $3,209 per volunteer.

According to the latest Volunteering & Civic Life in America data, folks in the U.S. volunteer an average of 32.4 hours per year – which is about 2.7 hours per month. So people who use VolunteerMatch volunteer 10X as much as your average person!

All of this dedication pays off – literally. Based on the Independent Sector calculation of the value of a volunteer hour, as well as a bunch of our own data about average time spent volunteering and length of commitment, we have calculated the average “lifetime” value of a volunteer recruited by a nonprofit via VolunteerMatch. And remember, it’s free and really easy to post a volunteer listing.

Talk about a win-win-win: Nonprofits like yours post your listings for free and connect with great volunteers, and this helps dedicated people contribute to their passions in a fulfilling way, and it all makes the VolunteerMatch network an even richer place for everyone to make a difference.

What are you waiting for? Post and update your listings now.