Bay Area Native Takes On VolunteerMatch

Nicole Villanueva, Communications & Social Media Intern

Hello VolunteerMatch Family! I’m Nicole Villanueva and I will be one of the new Communications & Social Media interns contributing my voice to VolunteerMatch for the next coming months. I will be working with the Communications department to refine online communications to help volunteers, nonprofits, and corporations connect good people with good causes. I’m very excited to work with, and learn from, the largest volunteer engagement network.

I grew up in the East Bay and working in San Francisco has always been a dream of mine. I attended University of California, San Diego where I played lacrosse (GO TRITONS!) and received my bachelor’s degree in communication.

I fell in love with marketing and communications during my senior year of high school when I participated, and won, in DECA (Distinguished Educational Clubs of America), a business club in which members compete against each other in several different categories. I found that the subject sparked a passion in me and I discovered what I wanted to pursue as a career.

Volunteering has always been a part of my life and it has impacted my worldview. I have found that among all the bad things in the world, even just a small act of kindness can have a ripple effect and touch the lives of many. I’ve been able to help out in many different ways from volunteering in a community garden to building a house in Tijuana, Mexico for a family in need.

It is important to me that I am involved in an organization where my skills contribute to something bigger than the company or myself. The Communications & Social Media internship at VolunteerMatch has given me the perfect opportunity to do so.

I’ve always found that communicating an idea is the key to unlocking its power. You can have the most innovative idea in the world but it’s worth close to nothing if you can’t communicate it effectively.

I would like to contribute my communication skills and knowledge of social media platforms to help nonprofits, volunteers and corporations reach their goals towards making the world a better place. I am looking forward to my time at VolunteerMatch to hone and apply my skills I learned in and out of the classroom while helping the greater good become even greater.

August Webinar Preview: Creating More Engagement & Measuring Success

Learn something new. Attend a free webinar.

Summer is almost over and we’re hosting webinars you don’t want to miss. This month we’ll teach you everything you need to know to create an engaging volunteer program. We’ll cover the basics of online recruitment and advanced engagement strategies. You’ll also learn how to create program metrics in order to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of your volunteer program.

Let’s take a look.

Walking the Walk: Engage Volunteers in Your Volunteer Engagement Program

Learn how to effectively delegate volunteer engagement and management work to volunteers so you have the opportunity to “think bigger.” We’ll discuss evaluating your program for volunteer engagement, determining how best to use volunteers, creating a communication plan, screening and training volunteers to be an important part of your volunteer recruiting, retention and recognition plans.

Fighting Hunger Together:  Engage Volunteers in New Ways

Using examples from food banks and pantries and meal service programs from around the country we’ll discuss creating new opportunities for volunteer engagement. Do you have volunteers conducting community outreach, gleaning fresh produce from their neighborhoods, sharing meal and recipe ideas, or participating in your social media campaigns? Sample position descriptions will be provided.

Fighting Hunger Together: Engage Volunteers Using Social Media Tools

This webinar will offer an introduction to including social media in your volunteer recruitment and retention plans. We’ll take a look at examples of hunger relief organizations who have successfully marketed their opportunities using social media. You’ll also learn about the social media tools available as part of your VolunteerMatch account that can help you promote your volunteer opportunities on other social networking sites.

Measuring Success: How to Strategically Assess Your Program

Your volunteer engagement program can be measured by more than just the hours a volunteer gives your organization. What other kinds of information should you keep track of, and how do you know if you’re doing a good job with your volunteer engagement program? This webinar will help you think through both the quantitative and qualitative information you can use to evaluate your program.

Check out more free webinar topics in the VolunteerMatch Learning Center.

Pro Bono at Conferences: Reflections of an Expert After Nonprofit Boot Camp

Public relations pro Jennifer Kern hangs out at the VolunteerMatch booth during Nonprofit Boot Camp, 6/12/13, in Silicon Valley.

I go to a lot of conferences and so I know it’s not always easy to get the help I’m looking for when I’m there.

For example, I may not know anyone else at an event — putting the onus on me to reach out and network just to feel a human connection.

If I attend a panel or a  workshop it might have interesting content, but the speakers don’t have the time or flexibility to make it especially relevant for my needs.

And, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just hard to feel at home in a big room full of strangers.

Last week the much-loved – and much-missed – Nonprofit Boot Camp series returned for the first time in three years. As part of the program, VolunteerMatch teamed up with the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to coordinate a series of one-on-one “Ask The Expert” consultations taking place throughout the day.

Attendees could sit for 30 minutes at a time with one of 25 experts in volunteer engagement, marketing, finance, fundraising, technology and other areas of nonprofit management. Cool, right?

I jumped at the opportunity — not only to put VolunteerMatch’s muscle behind helping the sessions be a success, but also to volunteer as an expert myself. What better way to help attendees have a terrific experience and while also putting our money where our mouth is about the value of pro bono service?

What Constitutes Pro Bono at a Conference?

These days most conferences can’t afford fees for panelists, moderators and often even keynote speakers. So in essence many of the thought leaders who appear on the program at our favorite conferences are working “for free.” But there’s usually an unspoken quid pro quo: Come talk about what you do and think, and we’ll promote you as a superstar in your field.

But volunteering as an expert in a one-on-one session setting is different. Like so much pro bono service, it involves a lot of listening. You tailor your deliverables to a specific organization. And you accept the fact that success in the engagement will be defined as much by the attendee’s involvement as by your own.

That means there’s some risk involved – it’s a collaboration. Even so, there are tons of reasons why offering free expert one-on-one consulting makes sense for pretty much any conference:

  • For attendees, getting free one-on-one consulting allows you to get custom help, create a relationship with an expert in the field, and come away from the event feeling like you got deep-dive support on the issues you face on the job.
  • For experts, volunteering with one-on-one consulting at an event is a great way to demonstrate a deep commitment to advancing the field, exercise your listening and presentation skills, potentially develop new business leads, and meet other leading consultants and practitioners.
  • For conference producers, adding a free one-on-one consulting element to your events is a terrific way to add an element of diversity and depth to the content program, widen the network of experts who are likely to help promote your event beforehand, and facilitate authentic relationship building.

Talk about win-win-win. PR guy Dan Cohen, principal of Full Court Press Communications and one of last week’s volunteer consultants, said it best from an expert’s perspective:

“Aside from the consultations, there was amazing networking among my peers.  While our firm has some very good tools in our toolbox, the expert tables were packed with a complete set of solutions provided by folks who think like we do.  We’ve already included one of the peer firms in a proposal.”

My own experience at Boot Camp was also great.The four or five folks I consulted with presented different challenges. One consultee was struggling to inspire volunteers to her wild cat conservation organization, who seemed to all want to get out in the field and count cougars even though most of the need was in the office. Another woman I met with managed volunteers for a retail store that sold second-hand items to benefit a nonprofit. How could they build a cadre of happy volunteer cashiers?

I felt this last consultation went well, but when I got an email from her the next day I knew for sure: “Your input on our volunteer program…was incredibly valuable,” she wrote.

Equally important, I was able to spend my breaks networking and making new friends with dozens of other experts, all of whom have tremendous knowledge and big hearts to share.

Hats off to all the amazingly talented folks who volunteered their time as experts at Nonprofit Boot Camp last week:

  • Hallie Baron, Hallie Baron Consulting LLC
  • Leyna Bernstein, Leyna Bernstein Consulting
  • Dan Cohen, Full Court Press Communications
  • Stephanie Demos, Alum Rock Counseling Center
  • Eric Facas, Media Cause
  • Jennifer Kern, PR & Company
  • Karen Kwan, Community School of Music and Arts
  • Jessica LaBarbera, Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • Beverly Lenihan, Reesults Consulting
  • David Livingston Styers, Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
  • Sara Morency, Sara Morency Coaching & Consulting
  • Suzanne Oehler, Yapper Girl
  • Aaron Pava, CivicActions
  • Anna Quinones, Independent Consultant
  • David Russo, American Cancer Society
  • Carla Schlemminger, Socialbrite
  • Adam Straus, Straus Events
  • Sharon Svensson, Essex & Drake Fund Raising Counsel
  • Alisa Tantraphol, Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Connie Wang, LinkedIn

What do you think? Share your thoughts and experiences about pro bono consulting at conferences and events below.

Nonprofit Tip of the Month: Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!

Don’t drop the ball. Follow up.

You use VolunteerMatch to connect with the volunteers you need, but what happens next? Following up is an important part of the recruitment process. It’s the first opportunity for your organization to engage new volunteers. For this month’s tip I’ll teach you how to use the tools in your VolunteerMatch account to follow up with everyone who expresses interest in your opportunities.

Following up does not have to be a long, involved process. Most of the time a simple ‘Thank You’ note will work. You can also use follow up messaging to inform volunteers of next steps in your on-boarding process. If your organization has a Community Leader subscription you can even create customized questions that are sent out automatically.

When you post an opportunity on our site it will be visible to thousands of individuals within our network. Each time an interested volunteer clicks the ‘I Want to Help!’ button we will automatically save their contact information into your VolunteerMatch account. You can use this information in your follow up process by accessing your Referral Report.

To learn how to access the Referral Report watch this short Tools Training Video.

Use the information stored in your Referral Report to send out follow up messaging to prospective volunteers. Let them know you received their inquiry and inform them about next steps. Schedule a phone interview, send them additional paperwork or invite them to register on your website. Taking the time to follow up promotes engagement and retention, so make sure your organization doesn’t drop the ball.

Do you have any tips for following up with volunteers? Share them in the comments below! 

May Webinar Preview: New Dates, New Titles

Have you registered for one of our free webinars yet?

This May we have exciting news to share: We’re adding two new sessions to our webinar schedule, both focused on volunteer engagement. We’ve also rolled out the remainder of our 2013 webinar calendar. New dates are now available in our Learning Center.

Read more about our two all-new webinars below. Each one focuses on an important aspect of volunteer engagement.

Build Staff Buy-In for Volunteer Engagement

Is your organization open to engaging volunteers in new ways? Often one of the biggest challenges to a new model of volunteer engagement is the resistance of paid staff. Often attitudes and fears of our co-workers prevent us from expanding the work that volunteers do. In this webinar we’ll discuss strategies for working with paid staff to engage volunteers. We’ll cover how you can train and support your coworkers as they become responsible for managing volunteers.

Developing a Strategic Plan for Volunteer Engagement

In this webinar you’ll learn how to create a strategic plan for volunteer engagement for your organization. We’ll tell you which components need to be included in your plan. And we’ll share ideas for working with organization leaders to include strategic goals for volunteer engagement in your organization’s overall strategic plan.

If you missed one of our webinars earlier this year, not to worry. We host each title multiple times throughout the year, including the following:

Fighting Hunger Together: Create Compelling Opportunities on VolunteerMatch

Using common volunteer opportunities from hunger relief organizations we’ll discuss best practices for creating listings on VolunteerMatch that will appeal to the volunteers you’re looking for to run your programs. We’ll look at before and after listings, and we’ll discuss how to use our Premium Account tools to pre-screen and get to know prospective volunteers before you talk to them. Sample descriptions, custom questions, and useful examples will be provided.

Measuring Success: How to Strategically Assess Your Program

Your volunteer engagement program can be measured by more than just the hours a volunteer gives your organization. What other kinds of information should you keep track of, and how do you know if you’re doing a good job with your volunteer engagement program? This webinar will help you think through both the quantitative and qualitative information you can use to evaluate your program.

To view our full webinar calendar, visit our Learning Center.