How to Make the Most of MLK Day of Service at Your Nonprofit

On Monday January 18, 2016, many people in the U.S. have a day off work. Why? It’s MLK Day, the National Holiday to honor the courage and service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK Day of ServiceRather than take a day off, however, many are choosing a day on as a way to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy. They’re choosing to spend MLK Day in service to their neighbors and their communities.

As a nonprofit organization committed to community service, how can you attract these people to your mission on January 18th? We have a few suggestions.

Be Prepared

MLK Day volunteers are not necessarily looking for a long-term volunteer commitment (although some may be!). Think of a project that your organization needs help with that can be completed in a day – including any necessary training. And if you offer these types of volunteer opportunities on a regular basis, prepare the staff and other resources necessary to accommodate an influx of volunteers on January 18th.

Add Your MLK Day Opportunities to VolunteerMatch

Adding a new post to VolunteerMatch brings your listing to the top of the search results. But that’s not all. If you include phrases such as “MLK”, “MLK Day” and “Martin Luther King”, your post gets populated into a special page promoted to people looking to volunteer on MLK Day. Your post will also show up to people searching volunteer opportunities on that specific day, rather than a flexible opportunity. More visibility = more prospective volunteers.

Follow Up Immediately

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

As soon as someone reaches out to you via VolunteerMatch expressing interesting in volunteering on MLK Day, get back to them. Don’t wait until you have a group and send out a mass email. With less than two weeks until January 18th, people want to get their plans set. Time spent sitting on prospective volunteer requests can equal lost volunteers who have taken their good intentions elsewhere.

Keep in Touch

Remember – volunteers not only want to help, they want to see the impact of their actions. Show them the impact they’ve had – both day of, and by following up with them in the future. If they had a great experience with you, they’re more likely to volunteer again, or even donate to your organization in the future.

And let’s not forget the reason for the day.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.


Let the Countdown Begin! The Top 15 Engaging Volunteers Posts of ’15

Happy New Year from VolunteerMatch!In just a few short hours, many of us will be welcoming 2016 and celebrating a brand new year and a fresh start. Cheers to that!

Before the countdown to midnight begins, however, here’s another countdown. Stroll down memory lane with me as I look back on the 15 most popular Engaging Volunteers posts of 2015. So many of them are lists of their own!

May you find something useful to take with you into the new year:

15. The Future of Volunteer Engagement in 8 Quotes

14. 8 Creative Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation

13. 4 Ways to Improve Volunteer Retention

12. How to Turn Away Volunteers and Still Have an OK Day

11. What Does Volunteerism Look Like Around the World?

10. 5 Tips to Build Volunteer Loyalty

9. 4 Ways to Fail Your Volunteers

8. 4 Ways to Build an Ineffective, Disengaged Nonprofit Board

7. 3 Reasons to Give Your Time this #GivingTuesday

6. 9 Quotes to Inspire Your Volunteers (And Yourself!)

5. 5 Ways to Attract Young People to Your Nonprofit

4. 3 Ways to Recognize Volunteers That Will Appeal to (Virtually) Everyone

3. 5 Ways to Motivate Your Nonprofit’s Volunteers

2. The Real Reason 75% of Americans Don’t Volunteer

And the number one most popular post of 2015?

1. 5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lose Volunteers

Happy New Year from your friends at VolunteerMatch!

Happy Nonprofit, Happy Volunteers: How One Outside-The-Box Thinker Gets it Done

Guest post by Elisa Kosarin, Twenty Hats

This post was originally published on Twenty Hats.

Happy Nonprofit, Happy VolunteersMeet Joe Landmichl (not the fellow to the left — see below). He’s the volunteer manager for the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and one of the most impressive people that I met at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service.

What makes Joe a standout? It’s his talent for engaging volunteers of all ages within the museum. Joe places volunteers everywhere: as educators, as graphic designers. Joe even has volunteers working in the museum’s accounting department.

Joe was hired by the museum just six months ago, and in that time has already doubled the number of active volunteers. Imagine what his program will look like a year from now.

A Staff That WANTS Volunteers

I hear from a lot of volunteer managers who find it incredibly difficult to get the buy-in of staff to work with volunteers. Not so for Joe – and that’s why I wanted to interview him. I wanted to know what it is about Joe’s approach that makes it so easy for staff to embrace the use of volunteers.

Getting Strategic

Joe Landmichl talks up an exhibit with two of his volunteers

Joe Landmichl talks up an exhibit with two of his volunteers.

One reason is visionary leadership at the museum. This is an organization that understands the power of volunteers to expand capacity. The museum was growing rapidly and realized it did not possess the skill set on staff to engage more volunteers. Joe was hired for his track record of approaching volunteer engagement in innovative and creative ways.

Another reason is Joe’s strategic approach. One of the first things Joe did was meet with staff from all departments to brainstorm needs and new ways to use volunteers. He asked, “If you could have more volunteers, where would you want them?” He created a detailed list of opportunities throughout the museum to complement the traditional roles. The list includes plenty of short-term opportunities for younger volunteers who have less time to give.

Then, Joe set the goal of engaging those younger volunteers. He started out by giving tours of the museum to representatives from surrounding colleges. That process allowed him to establish relationships at the colleges and opened the door for Joe to make presentations on the campuses.

Thinking Outside the Box

Perhaps the third and most powerful reason for Joe’s success is his thought process when engaging volunteers. When he talks with in interested person, he does not limit the possibilities to professional skills or interests. He asks each person “What is a day in your life like?” and unearths even more possibilities for engagement.

Take these examples:

  • A mother who volunteers with her twelve-year-old son, knowing that the teen years will soon affect the time they spend together.
  • An exchange student from Turkmenistan who is giving talks about his culture and why he chose to study in Grand Rapids.
  • A graphic designer with very limited time, who is assisting the marketing department with small projects as-needed, like designing infographics and retail merchandise.

The bottom line is that Joe does more than manage the volunteer program at the museum. He leads it. Rather than settle for the status quo, he remains on the lookout for new ways to engage volunteers. As a result, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is more than institution: it’s a community that encourages the public to live by its motto, “Be Curious.”


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One volunteer manager placed volunteers in just about every department – and doubled his capacity!

Volunteer Opportunities are Now Just a Text Away!

Volunteering is now just a text away, thanks to Twilio!At VolunteerMatch, our mission is to make it easy for good people and good causes to connect.

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve teamed up with cloud communications platform Twilio to advance that mission even further this holiday season.

Using VolunteerMatch’s API, Twilio has built a feature that allows people interested in volunteering to receive local volunteer opportunities straight to their phones via text message.

Give it a try!

Simply text your zip code to (314) 282-8630, and you’ll instantly receive a text back with volunteer opportunities in your area. You can also include keywords based on your volunteering interests, such as “Holiday”, “Cats”, or “Hunger”.

twilio screenshot

Nonprofits, this means it’s easier than ever for prospective volunteers to find and respond to your VolunteerMatch listings. And volunteers, it’s easier than ever to give back to your community in a way that’s meaningful to you.

A huge thank you to Twilio for making this possible and spreading the holiday spirit of giving. To read more about this project, specifically the technology behind it, check out Twilio’s blog.

The Top Engaging Volunteers Posts from the Past Five Years

Time for a little reflection

Time for a little reflection.

At VolunteerMatch, we’ve been talking about volunteer engagement for quite some time. This particular blog, Engaging Volunteers, dates back to 2009. As we passed the 5 year milestone, we started thinking. What topics were people most interested in throughout the years? Which blog posts did people read the most? Since volunteer engagement has changed so much over the past five years, would these popular articles still be relevant today?

For the most part, the answer is yes. While some of the specifics may be outdated, the underlying messages – the reasons these posts were so widely received – are not. Without further ado, a countdown to the most popular posts on this blog over the last 5 years!

Ten Great Movies About Volunteering and Giving Back
Who doesn’t love a good movie? This post looks back at decades of films that tie volunteerism and community involvement into their plots and themes.

5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lose Volunteers
A cautionary tale that shows just how easy – and how preventable – volunteer turnover can be.

10 Tips For Keeping Your Volunteers Motivated and Happy
A happy volunteer equals a productive volunteer. Happy volunteers are also likely to stay around longer and donate more to your organization. So, what can you do to keep your volunteers happy?

[INFOGRAPHIC] 2011 VolunteerMatch Annual Report
Raise your hand if you like 10+ page, wordy annual reports? Didn’t think so. We’ve never been fans of the traditional annual report format, but in 2011, we turned to the power of the infographic (and have been ever since).

A Volunteer Communications Strategy: 13 Steps to Driving Recruitment, Engagement and Leadership
A real-life case study about overcoming volunteer engagement challenges, written by nonprofit communications expert Nancy Schwartz, and packed with practical advice. Of course this post made the list.

Here’s What You Can Do to Help with Hurricane Sandy
When disaster strikes, it’s human nature to want to help. While this post is specific to 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, it also includes some timeless advice for you and your nonprofit regarding disaster relief.

And the number one most popular post over the past 5 years?

7 Ways to Appreciate Your Volunteers
No surprise here. Advice for volunteer appreciation is one of the most frequent requests we get at VolunteerMatch. Why? It’s something that can make or break your program, but because there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, it’s hard to master.

Keep an eye out in the next few weeks as we count down the 15 most popular posts of 2015!

Photo credit: Paul Reynolds