[WEBINAR] Making Big Bets: How Changes in Volunteer Engagement Strategies Pay Off!


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.

What volunteers want to do with their time, how they want to get involved and how they make to make a difference is changing.

For many organizations this means that leaders of volunteer engagement are scrambling to rethink volunteer work and what it means to be a volunteer in their organizations. Creating new opportunities for volunteers can be challenging – how do you create these new opportunities, how do gain buy-in from paid staff and existing volunteers, how do you know it’s working?

Join Carla Lehn, Library Programs Consultant for the California State Library and Beth Steinhorn, President of JFFIxler Group as they talk about what they’ve learned about transforming volunteer engagement programs. Beth will share lessons she’s learned from engaging Boomers as volunteers and the importance of creating impact-driven opportunities, and Carla will share how she’s transformed what it means to be a library volunteer and how she worked with paid staff to make this happen.

Both Carla and Beth have written chapters in VolunteerMatch’s new book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World. This book explores the innovative volunteer engagement approaches that are reshaping nonprofits and their communities, and shows how you can bring these approaches to your own organization.

Who Should Attend:

  • Leaders of Volunteer Engagement
  • Volunteer Program Managers

Reserve your spot today!
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
11am – 12pm PT (2-3pm ET)
Cost: Free!

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

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Joe Waters, SelfishGiving.com

Joe Waters, contributor to VolunteerMatch's new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Joe Waters Founder, SelfishGiving.com.

The following post, written by Joe Waters, originally appeared on the Selfish Giving blog.

I’m excited to be one of the 35 experts in VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World.

I was surprised when VolunteerMatch asked me to contribute a chapter. I just didn’t view cause marketing as connected to volunteering – and I thought the book’s editor, Robert Rosenthal, and I agreed on this point!

You see, Robert was the guy who dissuaded me from including volunteering in my last book on nonprofit fundraising, Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New & Improved Strategies for Nonprofits.

I had considered several volunteer-related strategies for the book, but in the end I only included one: volunteer grants, also known as dollars for doers programs, which match a corporate volunteer’s time with a small grant from the company to the nonprofit.

So, why would I now write a chapter on cause marketing for a book on volunteering? Because Robert actually had a much better grasp of what volunteering is and where it’s headed than I did. Although he was right to nix volunteering from a book on fundraising tactics, he was also right that volunteering would have a major impact on cause marketing. Robert challenged me to adjust my perspective on the connection between volunteering and cause marketing.

A major hurdle for me was realizing that volunteering was more than just those little old ladies who used to stuff envelopes at my last nonprofit job.

No, volunteering is so much more.

Volunteering is when a person freely chooses to spend his or her time – unpaid – supporting a needy group or individual. A volunteer’s goal is to have a meaningful, measurable impact.

Using my new lens on volunteering, I peered out and discovered something incredible: Volunteering isn’t just connected to cause marketing; it’s the future of cause marketing. As focused as I was on defining cause marketing as a partnership between a nonprofit and for profit, I neglected the spark that makes these pacts ignite: individuals. These motivated and empowered do-gooders will be the key drivers of growth over the next generation.

You can read all about it in Volunteer Engagement 2.0!

Along with my chapter, you can read the contributions of 34 other volunteering experts.

  • Beth Kanter explains Measuring the Volunteer Program.
  • Aria Finger talks about Engaging Millennials and other Younger Volunteers.
  • Amy Sample Ward writes about Volunteer Engagement on the Social Web.
  • Scott Henderson talks about Getting the Most Out of Hackathons for Social Good.
  • Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis write on Partnering with Workplace Volunteer Programs.

This book has everything. An awesome, relevant topic, a great editor, a wonderful group of contributors and a chapter from yours truly!

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldTo read Joe’s full chapter, Volunteering and Future of Cause Marketing, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.




Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Beth Kanter

Beth Kanter, contributor to VolunteerMatch's book Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Beth Kanter, Author and Master Trainer.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
My chapter is about how to measure your volunteer program outcomes and engagement. When my first book, The Networked Nonprofit, came out in 2010, a lot of people in the nonprofit world wondered how its ideas could ever be applied to volunteer engagement. Facebook and Twitter may make sense for fundraising campaigns and awareness building, I heard, but they don’t quite fit with the needs of volunteer programs. Now, four years later, many of those naysayers use those exact tools to strengthen volunteer relationships and leverage connections for greater impact.

My second book, Measuring The Networked Nonprofit, which was awarded the Terry McAdam Nonprofit Book Award in 2013, focused on what nonprofits can do to measure and assess their social networking. Again, I heard from many nonprofit professionals in volunteering that these ideas didn’t really apply to them. Yes, they were tracking and measuring key metrics such as volunteer hours worked, but those metrics were far removed from the insightful, social media-oriented data points I was talking about.

In this case, while I see some changes happening, more remains to be done to help the volunteer engagement field adopt a culture of data-informed decision-making. Collecting data to measure success is essential—but often, we only see part of the equation done well. Sometimes they’re not even collecting the right data!

Why is this topic important?
Are you struggling to listen and engage with your volunteer community? Measurement helps you understand how your community perceives you, what they do with the information you send out to them, and where to direct your volunteers’ efforts.

Photo Credit: Batara

Photo Credit: Batara

In addition, boards and senior management increasingly expect results expressed in the language of measurement—and funders require data to evaluate impact (and not just any data; they want to see standardized measurement criteria, because data without insight is just trivia). Communicating the actual value of volunteer engagement is one of the more difficult challenges that nonprofits face.  Hours donated is an important metric, but other important metrics, like the amount of trees planted, meals served, or young minds opened, need to be quantified in a way that demonstrates the value of the work and impact on the community. Measurement offers that.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I’ll be honest with you. I don’t consider myself to be a “volunteer engagement expert.” I am an expert at training and capacity building, especially related to technology, networks, leadership, and using data effectively. I think measurement is really about learning and using that feedback to get more impact–and that’s what I know how to do really well.

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
Even though I’m known as a prolific blogger and writer, I struggle with writing all the time, especially the first draft. The reason is that the first draft is always going to suck no matter what and you have to learn accept writing as a continuous improvement process. You write a draft, you get feedback “data” from your editor, in this case, Robert Rosenthal, who was fantastic! So, writing is a lot of a good measurement process, you learn from feedback and iterate and improve.

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Just remember that measurement is not a one-time add-on to your planning process. Much like those ideas that are successful in small steps, so too is measurement—and it’s an effort that builds your organization’s capacity and helps make your results get better with time. And be sure to have time set aside to reflect and do something meaningful with what you discover.

Make measurement your first measurable goal, in fact—and get ready to chart your success!

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World

Beth Kanter is a master trainer, author, and blogger. Her book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, was awarded the Terry McAdam Nonprofit Book Award. She facilitates training and capacity building programs, and her clients include The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Knight Foundation, and others. You can connect with Beth on her blog, Beth’s Blog.


To read Beth’s full chapter, Measuring the Volunteer Program, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc.

Susan Ellis, contributor to VolunteerMatch's new book Volunteer Engagement 2.0VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

Why is your chapter topic important?
I was very happy to be given the chapter that links the past with the future, because I believe we can learn a lot from history. It’s rare to find the word volunteer in historical accounts, even though the formation of new legislation, institutions, and cultural attitudes are mainly the outcome of the collective, unpaid actions of individuals willing to roll up their sleeves and put themselves into action – or, by any other name, volunteers.

Whether in government, nonprofits, or businesses, volunteers are the mavericks, protestors, and activists who recognize the need for action before it’s someone’s job or there’s profit to be made. Just think about the recent evolution of hospice services, disability rights, open source Internet software sharing, the outcry against drunk drivers, or the protests over police misuse of power. As I ask at the start of my chapter: Who dumped the tea into Boston Harbor? No one is ever paid to start a revolution.

Of course, while some people love the challenge of starting something brand new, other volunteers make it their mission to support organizations proven to matter. We understand that money donors write checks to causes they want to see succeed. In a more personally committed way, volunteers are time donors putting themselves where their beliefs are. Let’s start calling volunteers skill-anthropists, expressing an emphasis on their talents, not just their time.

History teaches that where there is change, there will be volunteers. Whether reactive to societal trends or proactive in urging solutions to problems, we can safely predict that volunteers will find whole new causes in the years to come.

What advice would you give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Most organizations do not have a vision for volunteer involvement and so do not approach it strategically. Without respect for the proven power of volunteers, they tend to focus on finding and deploying ”unpaid helpers” efficiently. The great thing is that leaders of volunteer engagement can take initiative. What do we want our purpose to be? Are we about volunteers or solutions? We create most of the roles volunteers fill. Are volunteers always assisting employees, or do we open opportunities for them to lead, be creative, experiment, and dream – since that potential is always there?

This sort of approach to our work requires a certain tolerance of risk. Are we willing to rock the boat? Are we afraid of controversy, even conflict? Do fears about safety and liability limit our innovation? I think we have to see our role as facilitating volunteer accomplishment. Consider these questions:

  • How do we react to new ideas posed by volunteers? Do we advocate for them to agency decision makers?
  • How often do we intentionally recruit new volunteers for their different backgrounds, skills, or opinions?
  • Do we recruit to fill vacancies on a roster or do we invite people with creativity and drive to join the fight for our cause?

How often do we review volunteer position descriptions and ask: Is this still the most important and effective thing volunteers could be doing? And what do we do when the answer is no?

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the WorldSusan J. Ellis is president of Energize, Inc., an international training, consulting, and publishing firm that specializes in volunteerism. Since founding Energize in 1977, Susan has assisted clients throughout the world to create or strengthen their volunteer corps. The Energize website is widely recognized as a premier resource in the field. Susan is the author of 14 books, including From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement, By the People: A History of Americans as Volunteers, and The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. She has written for dozens of publications and writes the national column, On Volunteers, for The NonProfit Times. Since 2000, she has been publishing editor of e-Volunteerism: The Electronic Journal of the Volunteer Community.

To read Susan’s full chapter, A History of Change in Volunteer Engagement, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

Nonprofit Spotlight: SAFE Haven for Cats

Gina Jennings had been saying she was going to volunteer for a while. For four years, actually. She thought about it, put it off, thought about it some more… until 2008, when she finally took the action to get involved.

With its proximity to her home, and Gina’s passion for cats, the nonprofit SAFE Haven for Cats was an obvious choice. SAFE Haven for Cats is a no-kill cat shelter with a mission to help stray cats through adoption, low cost spaying and neutering, and community outreach.

Upon starting to volunteer, Gina found herself surrounded by people with the same passion: Cats! “Volunteering at an animal shelter means that you’ll be surrounded by those that share at least one thing in common,” says Gina.

Cat at SAFE Have for CatsShe loved the experience, and the feeling that she was doing something worthwhile. She began to look forward to early weekend mornings, when she got to wake up and go to the shelter. She dreamed about leaving her long-time sales career to work for SAFE Haven for Cats full time, but saw the dream as just that – a dream.

However, the stars aligned in 2011 and her dream became a reality when she was asked to start working for SAFE Haven for Cats as paid staff. “I was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing!” says Gina. “Had I not followed through with my desire to volunteer who knows if my dream would have come true.”

Gina currently serves as the organization’s volunteer manager, where she uses VolunteerMatch to let potential volunteers know about SAFE Haven for Cats and how they can help.  “It’s an easy way to advertise in a concise way to target the right people,” says Gina.

Girl Volunteering at SAFE Haven for CatsAt SAFE Haven for Cats, volunteers help in every aspect of the organization.  The obvious needs are working directly with the cats to ensure that they have fresh water and clean.  But volunteers also socialize the cats, drive them to veterinarian specialists, adopt them into “furever” homes, and more. “Without our volunteers we would cease to exist,” says Gina. “They are the lifeblood of our organization.”

One volunteer that stands out to Gina is Janet Hensel. Janet has been with SAFE Haven for Cats since 1998, and according to Gina, she does the work of six volunteers. “Even though we have many younger volunteers, nobody can outwork Janet,” says Gina.

For Janet, no job is too big, too small too messy, or too smelly. She has been cleaning every litter box in the shelter for 17 years. Janet also leads the organization’s Pet Food Pantry and Fill A Truck events, loads and unloads thousands of pounds of cat litter, drives to rescue cats from other shelters (no matter what time of night!), fosters cats in her own home, and more. This is all in addition to a full time job.

At one point, Janet was hospitalized and wasn’t expected to live. But by some miracle she recovered, and two weeks out of the hospital was back washing 100 litter boxes. “Janet is a blessing to this world and everyone she meets,” says Gina.

In addition to Janet, Gina works with (and loves working with!) all kinds of exceptional people. “They are the ones that make the difference,” says Gina. “Many of these volunteers are my friends, teachers, and inspiration.  I have tremendous respect for our volunteers.”

“After almost 4 years of working at SAFE Haven for Cats, I am just as passionate as the day I started,” reflects Gina. I’m where I was meant to be. Where are you meant to be?”

Your story can help inspire others to get involved! VolunteerMatch keeps a database of stories about volunteering to help illustrate the challenges and successes of nonprofits. How have volunteers helped you? What role has VolunteerMatch played? Share your story!