People Make the Difference: The Joys of Discovery

Each day, people discover ways they can make a difference. And as the VolunteerMatch network grows, so does our impact.You may have noticed lately that we’ve been highlighting the data and stats in our 2013 Annual Impact Report. And these numbers are exciting, don’t get me wrong. We’re data nerds with the best of them.

But data isn’t the whole picture, especially when we’re talking about social impact. The truth is, there’s no substitute for the stories behind those numbers. These are what show us that each one of us – staff member, employee, volunteer, company, nonprofit – can make a difference. Hearing about real-life stuff going on in the network is what inspires us to take action.

So as you browse the Impact Report, take a look at some of these great micro stories that showcase the amazing work happening in the VolunteerMatch network. You’ll see how technology, and your organization’s use of it, creates real change in the community.

Each day, people discover ways they can make a difference. And as our network grows, so does our impact.

Keep up the great work!

Has VolunteerMatch made a difference for your nonprofit organization? Share it on social media using #vmstory, or submit the full story here!

Has VolunteerMatch made a difference for your company and employees? Share it on social media using #vmstory, or submit the full story here!

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.