How Target Employee Volunteers Create a Lasting Impact Renovating School Libraries

According to Target, “One in six students who don’t read proficiently by third grade do not graduate from high school on time — a rate four times greater when compared to proficient readers.” A lack of resources plays a large role in the story those numbers tell, and students are unable to learn properly because only a fraction of their class even has books to read.

Target has decided to take this matter into their own hands. As part of Target’s corporate social responsibility program, they have chosen to put a special focus on education. Target’s goal is to renovate 175 libraries as part of the Library Makeover program that was started in 2007. By rebuilding the libraries, Target is able to provide students with new technology and books for a more useful academic resource.

Target has joined forces with The Heart of America Foundation to make this goal possible. Target has chosen schools that aim to raise their students’ reading proficiencies and have the ability to sustain a new library. These new resources will contribute to students learning to read, which helps set the foundation for future academic success.

Each library is designed and constructed pro bono. Over 3,000 Target employees all over the country are joining in to help build, design and stock these libraries. With the help of VolunteerMatch’s Employee Volunteer Solution, Target employees are able to find opportunities in their areas to be a part of a library renovation.

In addition to a brand new library, schools also receive 2,000 new books, and updated technology complete with iPads and interactive whiteboards. To top it off, Target has chosen to donate seven new books to each student and their siblings for them to take home. The schools are also offered the option to adopt the Target “Meals for Minds” program that donates healthy food to students and their families each month.

Dean Osaki, Target Community Relations Project Manager, spoke in 2013 about the renovation of a San Francisco elementary school. He said, “Target renovated Hillcrest Elementary School Library in October, and converging on the school were over 125 local Target team member volunteers. So many parents came up to see their child’s new library, and all left with smiles when each student left with 25 lbs. of healthy food, a new backpack, and seven new books!”

Over 700 volunteer hours go into each library renovation, which adds to the growing number of 107,000 total hours tracked since the Target Library Makeover Project was started. At VolunteerMatch we are impressed by this program because Target’s employee volunteers are helping to fix the root of the problem instead of slapping a bandaid on it. The new libraries are a result of volunteers getting together to grant each school and its students greater access to academic resources.

Congratulations to Target and all the schools they have helped and are planning to help, and keep up the great work!

Top 3 Things I Learned About Pro Bono from the First Twitter Talk Tuesday

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Tweet, Twitter, Bird, Blue, Twig, Branch, Green, HillsOn Tuesday, November 19, my team and I rounded up with coffee in our hands and entered the Twittersphere to begin our first Twitter Talk Tuesday. As an intern at VolunteerMatch I was able to be an integral part of the project. Our first topic was pro bono and skilled volunteering.

To be honest, I am not an expert in this field and I was a little intimidated to be a participating member of Twitter Talk Tuesday. Here are some of the things I learned throughout the hour-long chat:

Setting the foundation of a pro bono project

We started the chat off talking about how the initial conversation between a nonprofit and a company can be complicated concerning pro bono projects. Many of the responses we received said that both parties need to be clear on what the goal is, how to efficiently reach that goal and provide guidelines for how they will work together. Some even provided links with resources to additional help.

Mutually beneficial pro bono relationships

Later in the Twitter chat we discussed who benefits from a pro bono project more: a nonprofit, volunteers, or the corporation. When I was first thinking about this subject I had immediately come to the conclusion that it was a win-win-win situation. However, some of our participants shed light on a few problems involved. I learned that yes, ideally pro bono projects should benefit all parties, but sometimes the needs of the company can overpower the needs of the organization.

On the other hand, those that successfully create a pro bono project allow for nonprofits to get what they need without having to pay for it, employees get to utilize and even sharpen their skills, and corporations increase their impact for good.

Planning a pro bono project

We also discussed how organizations can plan for pro bono projects. An important realization is that there isn’t one right process; each project is unique to the particular needs of the nonprofit and company involved. The planning team must be flexible and be willing to put in the hard work that goes into pro bono projects. In addition to this, it is equally important to know what kind of skills the community and the corporate employees have to offer.

There are a lot of different aspects that go into these projects, but the outcome is definitely worth it. A running theme throughout our Twitter chat was that these projects are unique and must be treated as such. There must be plenty of flexibility, research, communication and cooperation in order to have a successful outcome.

Overall, the first Twitter Talk Tuesday was incredibly helpful and gave me some insight as to how nonprofits and corporations come together for a pro bono project to help out those in need.

Be on the look out for our next Twitter Talk Tuesday! Keep the conversation going about pro bono volunteering using the hashtag #vmtalk. Tweet you soon!

Expert Snapshots for November

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.

This month we’re highlighting LinkedIn discussions from various groups – check them out and join the groups to participate!

This is essential reading if you ever need to fire a volunteer | Posted by Rob Jackson in Volunteer Coordinators

Volunteerism consultant Rob Jackson shares a valuable blog post about how to approach “firing” a volunteer. Members of the group join the discussion with their thoughts on how best to tackle this tough job.

Probono recruiting for nonprofit is cool. Be inspired. | Posted by Bryan Breckenridge on LinkedIn Nonprofit Solutions

Recently a group of recruiters decided to start using their skills for good – to help nonprofits use LinkedIn to find the talent they need. Bryan shares details about this exciting new project with the LinkedIn Nonprofit Solutions group.

Should board members be OFF-LIMITS to the development staff? | Posted by Catherine Mokkosian-Eves in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The role of board members in nonprofit fundraising is always a hot topic, and the 65 people who have participated in this discussion each bring their own experience and opinion. Scroll through to get insight from dozens of seasoned nonprofit professionals on the best (and worst) ways to involve your board members in fundraising efforts.

What great skills and abilities to you use or think you need to be a great volunteer manager/leader? | Posted by Angela Williamson in VolunteerMatch

What does it take to be a great volunteer manager? There’s no better place to get the answer to that question (or 17 answers!) than the VolunteerMatch LinkedIn group. Some of the answers from our more than 10,000 group members may surprise you…

How Net Impact Students Offer Critical Help to Nonprofits

Guest post by Laura Diez, Environmental Sustainability Careers Associate, Net Impact

Net Impact's Projects for Good pairs organizations with students who have the will – and skills – to get work done.Projects for Good pairs organizations with students who have the will – and skills – to get work done.

For nonprofits, having capacity to complete a laundry list of projects is somewhat of a luxury. It seems like whenever one big project finishes, three more pop up in its place. Net Impact aims to solve this common capacity issue with a new online platform, Projects for Good.

Connecting organizations that need extra help completing strategic initiatives with students who want to build skills, Projects for Good (just like VolunteerMatch!) plays a key part in securing the right folks to complete meaningful work.

Net Impact's new platform Projects for Good connects skilled students with nonprofits to complete volunteer projects.

Curious how it works? I say go straight to the source – in this case, World Resources Institute (WRI), who turned to Projects for Good this past spring to help market its new sSWOT (Sustainability SWOT) tool that translates broad and complex sustainability challenges into actionable strategies.

I learned a lot about the resulting collaborations in an interview with WRI’s Eliot Metzger. See some of his excerpted thoughts below, and for the full interview visit the Net Impact blog.

Net Impact: How did your collaboration with companies lead to the sSWOT guide?

Eliot Metzger: The concept grew out of conversations we had with partner companies in 2010. The common difficulty they all seemed to face was in translating the high-level global trends – like climate change – into something that could resonate with colleagues and inform specific actions and strategies.

Net Impact: How does your Project for Good serve WRI’s mission?

Eliot Metzger: The project we posted – a marketing plan for the sSWOT – is very much about putting into mainstream practice something that was once just a concept.

Our objective was to broaden adoption and help establish the sSWOT as a common means of evaluating and acting on corporate sustainability priorities. That was when we tapped into Net Impact and Projects for Good.

With the marketing plan project, we were looking for a team that could offer ideas for how the sSWOT could be best positioned for those future business leaders who would use it. We were looking for students who had some private sector experience, as well as experience in MBA programs that were putting sustainability into mainstream practice.

Net Impact: How do you envision the sustainability SWOT analysis framework establishing itself within nonprofits and businesses?

Eliot Metzger: As we have learned, it is difficult to imagine the full spectrum of potential applications. The sSWOT has been used for far-ranging purposes, just as a traditional SWOT would be used. Ultimately, that is what we would hope to see – a flexible tool that can complement initiatives that are shaping companies’ core strategies.

The modest starting point for that is likely to be with an individual or a small team. Those that adopt the sSWOT can engage colleagues internally or externally on topics that may not otherwise be front and center for decision makers. A few “ah ha” moments and successful discussions can snowball into further integration and ownership of the sSWOT concept. Then you can imagine the sSWOT becoming part of common strategic processes like annual strategy reviews or stakeholder feedback sessions.

Net Impact: What made you decide that Projects for Good was the right venue for this?

Eliot Metzger: Net Impact really has no equal as a network of future business leaders who are working to put sustainability risks and opportunities on the business agenda. It was a no-brainer to help pilot the Projects for Good platform and tap into such a network for support.

We look forward to tapping into it again as the platform continues to develop. There is a lot of promise in the concept of connecting brilliant students with organizations who are working to create solutions for sustainability challenges.

Interested in taking part? Projects for Good is still accepting projects after its official launch on August 19. As an added bonus, projects completed by December 9 are eligible to win $10,000 in Challenge Grant prizes!

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.