Pro Bono Week Special: How the California State Library Engages Pro Bono Volunteers

Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2015 with VolunteerMatchStory #1:

When the California State Library began growing its volunteer program, it quickly became clear to Carla Lehn, Library Programs Consultant, that she didn’t have enough time to do everything that needed to be done.

She knew if she could find someone to take a few responsibilities off her plate, then together they could go so much further. So, she created a position description for Assistant Volunteer Coordinator and posted it on VolunteerMatch.

Kellie Dawson was looking for something to get her out of the house a bit that fit her skills, background and interests when she came across Carla’s listing. Voila! Kellie has since rolled out two majors shifts in process for the CA State Library volunteer program, and says, “I will not give this position up as long as it’s there for me.”

Story #2:

When the 30th anniversary of the CA State Library’s literacy program approached, Carla realized she didn’t have the expertise or resources to run a statewide PR campaign around this event.

Dan Dement was in the process of starting his own PR agency, and he knows that “Volunteering is good career karma.” And the issue of literacy struck a chord with him. “It was a wonderful experience all the way through,” reflects Dan on this pro bono project.

Story #3:

Carla was looking for someone to help her up her social media game for the CA State Library’s literacy program, in order to find volunteers and raise awareness for the cause.

Leila Ertel has a background in social media marketing, but when she moved to Sacramento and switched jobs, this was no longer a part of her job. So, by volunteering with CA State Library, she is still able to use those skills. A win-win!

Why are we sharing these stories today?

Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2015 with VolunteerMatch!It’s Pro Bono Week 2015! 

Pro bono a special form of volunteering where people use their professional career skills for a good cause, and Pro Bono Week is a global campaign to celebrate and encourage these volunteer activities.

Help us celebrate this week:

Does your organization engage pro bono volunteers? Share your story in the comments below!

The Change Makers of the Future: Engaging Young Volunteers Like Noah

Noah McNair

Noah McNair, avid volunteer

Noah first experienced volunteering at the age of 7, when he helped with the soccer program at his summer camp. “I realized I could make a difference, even as a kid,” says Noah. Within a few years, he began coaching preschool soccer.

He’s also served as an ambassador at his church, and he’s assisted kids with their art projects at summer camp. He’s been part of a group that beautified schools and parks with painting and landscaping. The most impressive part? He did all this before he even turned 14. And by that time, he was already hooked.

When asked his favorite part of volunteering, Noah responds, “I love the smiles, hugs and thank yous.”

Since age 14, Noah has taken on a magnitude of other volunteer projects.

Read Noah’s full story.

Should you seek out youth volunteers?

Volunteers such as Noah are filled with enthusiasm and passion. Yet, many organizations are hesitant to bring on young volunteers. When young volunteers are turned away due to their age, you risk squelching a passion for change that is just emerging. As Susan Ragsdale wrote in a recent guest post for this blog:

“We can’t afford to wait until young people are grown up before they understand or learn about society’s problems, find their voice, take action, and have an impact. We need to harness their energies, perspectives, gifts, and understandings today as actors in finding solutions for today’s challenges. We need them and they need us. Take a chance and start seeking young people out as volunteers.”

But remember, there are both pros and cons to engaging youth volunteers. Each organization must consider their unique situation to determine if engaging youth volunteers will be worthwhile or even plausible.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 8.43.14 AMAre you ready to start involving youth volunteers, but aren’t sure where to start? Check out these 6 Tips for Hosting Youth Volunteers. And when posting your volunteer opportunity on, don’t forget to check the boxes that say the opportunity can accommodate kids and/or teens. This will help your post be found by the change makers of the future. Or, if we let them be, the change makers of the present.

No More Waiting; Start Finding Volunteers Right Away

waiting-410328_1920Since VolunteerMatch started back in 1998, we’ve been inviting eligible organizations seeking volunteers to post volunteer opportunities for free.

Fast forward 17 years, and over 100,000 organizations have used our site to find the volunteers they need. AND we’ve recently facilitated 10 million connections between these nonprofits and potential volunteers.

In other words, we’ve grown to be the organization we are today because of our network of nonprofits. And we’re always working behind the scenes to improve the VolunteerMatch experience for these organizations.

The most recent improvements? We’ve rolled out updates to our registration process to make it easier than ever for new eligible organizations to come on board, join the VolunteerMatch network, and start finding volunteers quickly.

1st Registration ScreenHow? We’ve automated the approval process for 501(c)3 nonprofits registered with the IRS. These organizations can skip the wait and immediately start posting volunteer opportunities and linking to their donation pages.

Registration Screen 2

We’ve also completely changed the look and feel to make the registration process smoother and more intuitive. And not to mention a lot prettier – see the screenshot to the right!

A new search algorithm lets you easily see if someone you never met that worked for your organization 12 years ago had already set up a VolunteerMatch account, saving you from registering your organization all over again.

Finally, we’ve consolidated steps, such as adding a photo and your social media URLs right when you sign up.

Basically, if your organization isn’t registered on VolunteerMatch yet, it’s the perfect time! Sign up today.

When People Say “I Want to Help!” 10 Million Times

For the past few weeks, everyone here at the VolunteerMatch office has been paying close attention to our live connection map. This map lets us see, in real time, every time someone clicks the “I want to help!” button on a VolunteerMatch listing.

So, why have we been watching this map so closely?

We’ve been counting down to a huge milestone: 10 million connections created between nonprofits and potential volunteers. And at around 7 a.m. on Monday October 5, 2015, the 10,000,000th prospective volunteer clicked “I want to help!”

You may be saying, “So what?” Well, we all celebrated with cake, so that was something to look forward to:

VolunteerMatch celebrate 10,000,000 connections with cake!

But besides that, it actually says a lot about the world of volunteering.

When a volunteer clicks, “I want to help!”, that’s just the beginning. The initial click is a good intention. It’s an opportunity for nonprofits to reach out and build a relationship with a new prospective volunteer. It’s a mutual hope to take action and make the world a better place.

What happens next? Well, according to our research, only about half of “I want to help!” clicks turn into actual volunteers. Why? Maybe the nonprofit never responded to the volunteer’s offer. Maybe it turned out it wasn’t a good fit once the volunteer and the nonprofit learned more about each other’s skills, schedule, and wants. Maybe the volunteer simply changed their mind.

So, out of 10 million online connections, about 5 million actually volunteered. 5 million. That’s not an inconsequential number. That’s 5 million opportunities for nonprofits to grow their capacity. That’s 5 million ways for volunteers give back, become a part of something, and/ or build their skills. 5 million chances to make our communities, and the world, just a little bit better.

Let’s break it down even more. On average, a volunteer will stay with an organization for 2.5 years. During those 2.5 years, they will volunteer 28 days at an average of 3 hours per day. Add all that together, and you have 150 hours per volunteer. What does that equal when multiplied by 5 million?

750,000,000 volunteer hours.

Let’s just step back and think about all that can be, and has been, accomplished with 750 million hours. To put it in perspective, that’s 1,205 entire lifetimes. Here are just a few examples of some of the volunteers and nonprofits making a big difference with their time. Oh, and a few more.

It’s amazing to think about everything that’s already been done, and what we all can accomplish, together, in the next 750,000,000 hours.

Meet Sandra, Volunteer ESL Tutor

Sandra, Mariana and Ernesto

Sandra teaching English to Mariana and Ernesto at Hamilton Family Center.

Meet Sandra.

Sandra always thought about volunteering. But she also thought she didn’t have the time.

After she found Hamilton Family Center through a search on VolunteerMatch, she realized just how easy it could be.

Now, she looks forward to her weekly tutoring sessions, in which she teaches kids ESL (English as a second language). “When I started, I was like, okay I have to drive more and I’m tired from work,” says Sandra. “But now, frankly I look forward to it, and sometimes, if I can come another day, I’ll make time to come, because I think when you give, you receive more.”

In particular, Sandra works with Mariana and Ernesto, two children from Guatemala. “Even though I’m just helping them a few hours,” says Sandra, “I feel like they’re going to have better lives because of Hamilton. And that makes me feel part of something important.”

In the short video below, get to know the amazing work Sandra and Hamilton Family Center are doing together.

To find your own perfect volunteer match, visit