Connect to Who Your Volunteers REALLY Are

A volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village mission trip.

A volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity Global Village mission trip.

How well do you know your volunteers? How well do you NEED to know them? After all, we’re very busy people working at nonprofits, and isn’t it more important to run our events without a hitch and come in under budget than to be buddy-buddy with volunteers?

No.

Think about it this way: Your volunteers are the people who care so much about what you do, they have actively sought you out so they can spend their free time, skills and sweat to do work for you – for free. What can be more important than that?

How Does It Help?

Getting to know your volunteers on a deeper level can have a number of benefits for your volunteer program and organization as a whole: when you speak to aspects of your volunteers’ personality and their real lives, you’ll see an increase in engagement and excitement. People will stick around longer and be more willing to take on leadership roles.

Also, when you have a stronger relationship with your volunteers, that connection becomes more valuable and meaningful for YOU, as well, and for your staff members who join you. When your volunteers become special, individual people, you’ll have even more fun, and be even more passionate about supporting them.

When Does It Help?

Knowing more about what makes your volunteers tick will be useful in a whole bunch of situations, such as designing new opportunities to appeal to other great volunteers, or coming up with fun, affordable appreciation events and gifts that your volunteers will actually like.

When you have a real relationship with a volunteer, you’ll be able to determine the best path forward to move them into a leadership role, or to expand how they support the organization by asking them for donations of money and goods, in addition to time.
And the more you’re connected to your volunteers, the easier it is to get connected to their friends and family, thus expanding your community of supporters!

What Do You Do Now?

So if you’re convinced, how do you actually go about getting to know your volunteers on a deeper level? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Ask them to fill out a survey (keep it simple and not too invasive!)
  • Ask them for feedback after an event, whether over email or via VolunteerMatch’s reviews feature.
  • Spend time with them! Have actual conversations with them! Ask them questions about their lives! Smile at them!
  • Talk to your fellow staff members, and foster a culture in your organization of sharing experiences and notes about volunteers, so everyone can learn from each other how best to relate to your supporters.

How do you get to know your volunteers better? Share your ideas and strategies below!

VolunteerMatch Now Connects Nonprofits Directly to 300 Million Skilled Volunteers

As of this week, every skilled volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch.org gets automatically posted to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace.
VolunteerMatch and LinkedIn have partnered to build a technology bridge to the future of skilled volunteering.

Here’s some big news for your nonprofit: VolunteerMatch has created a game-changing partnership with LinkedIn to help you recruit the right skilled volunteers. Together, we’re changing the way people connect with your organization to volunteer their time and expertise.

A joint team of product managers and engineers worked together to build a “technology bridge,” so that all skilled volunteer opportunities posted to VolunteerMatch.org will now automatically be posted to LinkedIn, as well. And now it will be dramatically easier for your organization to successfully recruit skilled volunteers and board members.

So far, skilled opportunities also posted to LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace have seen 2-3 times as many sign-ups from interested volunteers – and we expect this trend to continue growing!

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • When you create a listing in VolunteerMatch and specify a skill, we will “auto-magically” share it on your Company page on LinkedIn. Simply enter your LinkedIn Company URL after you’ve posted your listing. (Don’t worry, if we don’t know your Company page or you don’t have one, your listing will display as part of VolunteerMatch on LinkedIn.)
  • Volunteers will still sign up for your listing on VolunteerMatch, so you’ll still find out about interested volunteers the same way you always have.

Want to learn more about engaging skilled volunteers? Join us for a free webinar about how best to integrate skilled volunteers into your existing program!

As always, please share your thoughts about how this opportunity can be helpful to you by emailing support@volunteermatch.org.

And now, head to VolunteerMatch.org, post your skilled volunteer opportunities, and get ready for some great skilled volunteers!

Summer + Teens + Volunteering = A Combination Not to Be Ignored

Teen volunteers with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Teen volunteers with the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

Summer is here! For many of us this means sun, smiles, and…teenagers with nothing to do. Fortunately, as nonprofit organizations, we’re always in need of more help!

And lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of buzz about how great it is to get teens involved in volunteering. So don’t miss this chance to engage teen volunteers! They are energetic, passionate about what they care about, and they also have a lot of time on their hands right now…

Here’s a round-up of some news articles about teens and volunteering:

Post teen-friendly opportunities on VolunteerMatch.org right now!

Big Hopes for Volunteer Engagement Folks at the Conference on Volunteering and Service

This year's Conference on Volunteering and Service promises to be more valuable than ever before for people who engage volunteers.I’ve been attending the Conference on Volunteering and Service with VolunteerMatch since I started in 2007. (In fact my 3rd week on the job was at the conference in Philadelphia!) And while the conferences have been fun, and great for meeting new people, they haven’t had consistently great content for those of us who work to engage volunteers in meaningful work.

This year promises to be different! After years of creating a separate pre- or post-conference event specifically for volunteer program managers, this year there is a conference track dedicated to volunteer engagement.

The track sessions and the workshops have been developed and selected by a team from Points of Light with additional leaders from the field, and I think we’ve done a good job of creating opportunities to connect with others as well as providing real opportunities for learning around this year’s theme of “Breaking Boundaries and Building Bridges.”

Here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to:

I’ll be doing my own workshop on the importance of including impact when sharing the story of volunteer engagement. If you’ve attended a webinar, or seen me speak in person you know I talk a lot about how important it is to answer the question: why? I’ll be discussing this in detail, we’ll have a group discussion, and I’ll leave you with some resources. I’ll also be leading a “dine about town” on Tuesday evening.

I’m really hopeful that this year’s conference, with its focus on volunteer engagement, is an opportunity for those of us who work with volunteers to connect, engage, and feel inspired in the work we do – as well as have a few laughs and a few cocktails! (And, if registration numbers are any indication – you all are looking forward to it, too! If you haven’t selected your sessions yet, you might want to do so soon, before everything fills up.)

I hope to see you at conference! (You can find me on Twitter @JenBennettCVA if you can’t find me at the conference.)

Expert Snapshots for June

Expert SnapshotsAt VolunteerMatch we learn so much from other experts in the field of volunteer engagement and management, and we want to help you stay up to date on the latest news and trends. Check back every month for snapshots of what experts in the field are talking about.

Volunteers and the Quest for Innovation

Our society today seems somewhat fixated on the idea of innovation – constantly producing something new, regardless of whether the programs already in place are successful or not. Where do volunteers fit into this quest for innovation, and what does any of this mean to volunteer resources managers? In her monthly “Hot Topic” column, Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc. proposes that volunteers are already vital in a number of ways, with great potential for even more impact.

The Difference Between One-Time and Lifelong Volunteers: A Short Case Study

Some volunteers don’t come to you wanting to fulfill a specific volunteer need. Instead, they’re just looking to find a way to help a cause about which they’re passionate. How do you respond to these folks to effectively draw them in and keep them engaged with your organization for the long haul? This article on Nonprofit Hub provides some practical insight.

The Next Generation of American Giving

Blackbaud’s latest release of its annual report “The Next Generation of American Giving” comes with this fun, meaty infographic to help you learn the multichannel preferences and charitable habits of Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, and Matures, so you can optimize your outreach and fundraising to connect with each group.

Lack of Women in Top Roles Hinders Nonprofits, Female Nonprofit Workers Say

According to a new poll commissioned by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and New York University’s George H. Heyman Jr. Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, nonprofits are missing out on donations from women and hurting their missions by not putting more females in board and leadership job. Check out this report and infographic to see some of the stats and insights gleaned from the poll.