MLK Day Made Easy: Best-of-the-Web Resources

MLKdayEleven days to go and if you’re up to your neck in planning and preparation, this is your one-stop shop for help.

We’ve scoured the Web to find the best online resources for the upcoming day of service. Learn from the experts and and you’ll be able to make the nation’s day ON more like a relaxing day OFF — for you, at least:

  • Effective Practices Guide to Inclusive and Accessible Days of Service [PDF] -  City Cares, Youth Service America and Points of Light Institute have teamed up to write this helpful best practices manual on managing big service days.  The guide includes sections on pre-event planning, day-of logistics and post-event procedures as well as worksheets for budgets, fundraising, and recruitment. It also offers sample photo release and waiver forms, resources for accommodating people with disabilities and analysis tools to make sure your event is accessible to everyone.
  • CNSC’s Educational Resources for Kids on MLK Day – The Corporation for National and Community Service offers examples of many fun and educational activities children can do on MLK Day. If you think you’ve thought of everything, check out their ideas for freedom windsocks, unity hand wreaths, and disability obstacle courses.
  • MLKDay.gov remains the go-to source for planning every aspect of the day, whether your nonprofit is big or small, experienced or shaking in its boots. Click on the Resources for Organizations tab for toolkits, project examples, and marketing materials.
  • MLK Day at Flickr – Need inspiration? Here’s a great slide show of photos at Flickr that are tagged with “MLK Day”.

If you’re ahead of the game and ready to roll on January 18, then help others by sharing your plans here.

And as always, keep posting opportunities with MLK-related keywords on VolunteerMatch.org to ensure that your good cause connects with good people this MLK Day. Good examples are “MLK,” “King Day,” and “MLK Day of Service.”

The Limits of Celebrity Endorsement in Volunteer Engagement

fonz

Editors note: This article was first published this week at onPhilanthropy.com.

These days, when a trend is at its fever pitch, it’s trendy to say it “jumped the shark.” That’s from the 1977 Happy Days episode where Fonzie water skis over a giant great white. Since then, the scene has become synonymous with absurd developments that signal the beginning of the end. The show may have limped along for years more, but creatively speaking it was all downhill from there.

Ironically, the Happy Days show that aired the following week has become equally influential – at least to those who care about social change. That was the one where The Fonz and Co. sign up for library cards in order to meet more girls. When the caper works like a charm, Fonzie exclaims: “Libraries are cool!

To this day, Henry Winkler – the actor who played Fonzie – speaks proudly about the impact of his words on viewers. As he told an audience in 2002, when the show aired, “Library cards issued after that one liner went up 500 percent in the U.S. Who knew!”

Over time, Fonzie-at-the-library became a trope for marketers and fundraisers about the potential of celebrity campaigns to influence consumers to act in the public interest.

There was just one problem: There was no Fonzie Effect – at least not on the scale that everyone assumes. Not only has the American Library Association not been able to find any references to a surge in library cards, but there wasn’t even a national system in place to measure card registrations at the time.

Volunteering in the Spotlight

The Fonzie Effect was in full force in October as the Entertainment Industry Foundation prepared for its iParticipate campaign. The historic promotion, which featured a week-long series of PSAs and product placement for volunteering across all the major networks, featured dozens of popular stars talking about volunteering in and out of their shows.

Predictably, as the week began, experts lined up to talk about the impact it would make. While a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication invoked the Fonz, an executive at ABC went even farther: “Give a person a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Show a person fishing on TV, and you will have people fishing all over the country.”

Historic Investment, Unprecedented Promotion

As a society, we are spending more time, energy and money persuading people to volunteer than ever. Taking a cue from the promotional efforts of a celebrity President and renewed funding from the Serve America Act, enormous resources are now being invested on celebrity campaigns to get more Americans volunteering.

From sports leagues to corporate America to the White House itself, many of the biggest powerhouses in the nation are lining up behind celebrities to promote volunteering.

The good news, then, is that there is plenty being spent to support a vibrant, strong service sector. The question is whether it’s working. And here we actually have a pretty clear picture of things.

Measuring Impact

Unlike in 1977, a big part of volunteer engagement now takes place on the Web, which means we can track some of the most critical points of a person’s journey from consumer to volunteer prospect to involved volunteer.

We know why people respond to certain cause-based messages, what kinds of opportunities they’re looking for, and what their expectations are about getting involved with a nonprofit. Unfortunately, we also know how often they drop out before making a commitment.

What the data tells us is that millions of interested people are going online to get involved. And yet national volunteer rates are essentially flat. Furthermore, despite the PR, it’s hard to find any campaign that has successfully persuaded, cajoled, or otherwise convinced Americans to volunteer who weren’t already willing to get involved. While some have produced spikes of interest, most of these have not been sustained.

All this suggests that celebrity and buzz alone won’t do the trick. Without a framework that can support and sustain best practices in volunteer recruitment and engagement, the interest bubble generated by celebrity always pops.

So What Does Work?

Our experience points to a number of best practices, and what they all have in common is that they put the needs and abilities of organizations front and center.

There are too many to list here, but for strategists who are considering campaigns with a volunteer component, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Retention, not recruitment, should be the goal. Hordes of new volunteer prospects won’t help if no one returns for a second or third volunteer experience. What do organizations need in order to keep volunteers coming back? How can your campaign help provide it?
  • It’s nearly impossible to convince someone to volunteer who doesn’t already want to. Despite hundreds of partner Web sites in our network, two-thirds of the traffic to VolunteerMatch.org still comes from search engines like Google and Yahoo! The easiest person to inspire is someone who is looking to be inspired.
  • People volunteer for causes they already care about. A celebrity volunteering to save the whales in Florida has almost no significance to me if I’m in Arizona. On the other hand, if I love whales, live in Florida, and Jennifer Garner asks me to join her beach clean up on Saturday morning, I’ll be there. Target your audience by cause, and with a direct request if you can.
  • Volunteers need volunteer coordinators. From orientation and training to recognition and reward, it takes real effort to effectively involve volunteers. An avalanche of volunteers can be as harmful to an organization as no volunteers.
  • Save the soft sell. Too often, volunteering is promoted merely as a way to “get involved.” That’s still important, but today’s volunteers also want to know what impact they’ll make and what takeaways they might have afterward for their resume or portfolio. A campaign that can deliver this message with clarity and authenticity is one that will resonate.
  • Reporting matters. Campaigns don’t always take off immediately; sometimes they need some tweaks. If you design your campaign with reporting and tracking capabilities, you can begin to know what adjustments to make. Foundations and business leaders who wouldn’t dream of leaving metrics out of their core operations often overlook it when it comes to volunteer engagement.

In the end, we need to spend less time, money and celebrity trying to get people to be passionate enough to volunteer. Increasing volunteering is not just a byproduct of caring, but also of having opportunities to get involved and an independent sector that is ready to welcome and nurture them. If you know what channel this program is on, let me know.

Special Report on Summer of Service at VolunteerMatch: How Did We Do?

Download a report on Summer of Service 2009 from VolunteerMatchThis summer, VolunteerMatch was one of many organizations supporting the Obama Administration’s United We Serve – Summer of Service campaign.

The stated goal of  Summer of Service was to kick off a sustained campaign to help to make volunteerism and community service a part of the daily lives of all Americans.

So how did we do? What happened?

After taking a close look at our metrics and usage patterns in search of measurable results, the VolunteerMatch team has published a report on the activity in our network. The report answers a number of key questions:

  • How many interested volunteers did we attract?
  • How many nonprofit organizations were involved?
  • What opportunities were volunteers most interested in?
  • Above all, what was it worth to the nonprofit community?

The results may surprise and encourage you. It is just one perspective, but from where we sit America is looking a lot more helpful than most of us had planned on.

Click here to download the PDF report.

Service Brief: Serve.gov Decision a Victory for Smart Government and Social Enterprise

Starting next week, the Corporation for National and Community Service will no longer invite individuals and organizations to post their volunteer opportunities to a federally operated database.
According to an email from Nicola Goren, CNSC’s acting CEO, after October 14, organizations and individuals will be referred to a list of independent organizations, both for profit and not for profit, competing to provide these services.
As Goren explains:
Over the course of the summer and in the last month, the Corporation has reviewed our role in the volunteer registry function to apply
lessons learned during its first months of operation. We have
concluded that the most appropriate role for us is to promote service and offer tools that make it easier for Americans to find volunteer opportunities, but not to be in the direct business of operating a volunteer project registry, given the fact that there are a number of existing non-governmental volunteer matching websites that already provide these services.
This is a win for the volunteer sector.
Despite VolunteerMatch’s long working relationship with CNSC, we have never been supportive of the decision to launch Serve.gov with a feature for organizations to post opportunities directly. It has been our view that this would discourage innovation and put the Corporation in the awkward position of having to compete with some of its key sector allies.
We’ve always felt that independent “registry” services — whether for-profit or not-for-profit — are better positioned to support the diverse needs of the nonprofit community, especially their training, education, and advocacy needs.
Indeed, for most visitors to Serve.gov, the biggest added value was the ability to use the site as a launching pad for exploring the listings from third-party services like VolunteerMatch, Truist, HandsOn Network and other online volunteer engagement sites — all of which support the President’s call to service by providing access to their networks through the aggregation service All For Good.
As a federally-chartered, Congressionally-funded agency, CNSC is subject to both political and budgetary pressure that independent services are not. In operating its own database the Corporation was spending federal time and dollars to duplicate services already available to the field and creating unnecessary political and legal liability.
Ultimately, the thoughtful reconsideration of its policies shows that government can listen, learn and adapt.
We applaud Ms. Goren’s decision and see it as a very positive sign for those of us committed to the pursuit of a strong and smart government.

Serve.gov will no longer allow visitors to post volunteer opportunities

Starting next week, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) will no longer invite individuals and organizations to post their volunteer opportunities directly through Serve.gov, a federally operated Web site.

According to an email from Nicola Goren, CNCS’s acting CEO, after October 14, organizations and individuals will be referred to a list of independent organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, competing to provide these services.

As Goren explains:

Over the course of the summer and in the last month, the Corporation has reviewed our role in the volunteer registry function to apply lessons learned during its first months of operation. We have concluded that the most appropriate role for us is to promote service and offer tools that make it easier for Americans to find volunteer opportunities, but not to be in the direct business of operating a volunteer project registry, given the fact that there are a number of existing non-governmental volunteer matching websites that already provide these services.

This decision is a win for the volunteer sector.

VolunteerMatch has had a long working relationship with CNCS. Earlier this year we shared that we didn’t support the decision to launch Serve.gov with a feature for organizations to post opportunities directly. It was our view that this would discourage innovation and put the Corporation in the awkward position of having to compete with some of its key sector allies.

We’ve always felt that independent “registry” services — whether for-profit or not — are better positioned to support the diverse needs of the nonprofit community, especially their training, education, and advocacy needs.

Indeed, for most visitors to Serve.gov, the biggest added value was the ability to use the site as a launching pad for exploring the listings from third-party services like VolunteerMatch, Idealist, Truist, HandsOn Network and other online volunteer engagement sites — all of which support the President’s call to service by providing access to their networks through the aggregation service All For Good.

As a federally-chartered, Congressionally-funded agency, CNCS is subject to both political and budgetary pressure that independent services are not. In operating its own database, CNCS was spending federal time and dollars to duplicate services already available to the field while creating unnecessary political and legal liability for itself.

Ultimately, the thoughtful reconsideration of its policies shows that government can listen, learn and adapt. We applaud Ms. Goren’s decision and see it as a very positive sign for those of us committed to the pursuit of smart government and social enterprise.

9/11 Day of Service Recap: Where Did The Traffic Come From?

The new 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance has been a big story this year, with dozens of Web partners getting involved to inspire audiences to give back on September 11. Over the next few weeks we’ll take a look at this new service day and share our findings from the VolunteerMatch network so our member nonprofits can plan effectively for next year.

Where Did They Come From?

In our first post, we’ll look at overall traffic to www.volunteermatch.org on September 11, 2009. The following were the top traffic sources by visits and percentage.

pie

Traffic Source Visits % Total
google.com (search) 12280 47.91%
Direct Traffic 3378 13.18%
bing.com 1333 5.20%
yahoo.com 1331 5.19%
Google Ads 1154 4.50%
Allforgood.org (Serve.gov) 799 3.12%
Google Gadgets 507 1.98%
AOL.com 325 1.27%
911dayofservice.org 271 1.06%
iparticipate.org 214 0.83%
americantowns.com 180 0.70%
Other Search 163 0.64%
stumbleupon.com 127 0.50%
facebook.com 124 0.48%

A Few Key Findings

  • Web users are still using mainstream search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to get involved on 9/11.
  • New partner sites such as 911dayofservice.org and iparticipate.org brought several hundred visitors to VolunteerMatch.
  • Allforgood.org (and by extension Serve.gov) have cracked our list of top traffic sources in less than a year.
  • Social sharing of volunteer opportunities on sites like Facebook remains at low levels, despite the buzz around “sharing” of volunteer opportunities.

Share Your 9/11 Story

Did your organization find and recruit new volunteers on 9/11? Let us know.