Think Fun, Think Big and Think GOOD at This Year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference

Arbor Day Foundation Volunteers outside by a tree.

Arbor Day Foundation volunteers having some fun.

Close your eyes, and imagine this:

You’re outside, and you’re not cold. No snow. No biting wind. No humidity, even. Instead, the sun is warm on your face as you laugh with the person next to you. Your common interests and experiences made you fast friends, even though you only met about 30 minutes ago. And as you chat, you’re filled with a deep sense of satisfaction as you weed and plant together in the garden of the nonprofit organization Urban Roots in Austin, TX.

That’s right, you’re volunteering. And this isn’t just any volunteer gig, either – it’s part of the Days of Service program of the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference (15NTC).

Throughout the conference, there will be volunteer opportunities for you to share your skills with Austin, TX area nonprofits. This includes virtual volunteering opportunities, too, so you can give back before the conference, and even from your hotel room!

Think fun: You’ll be meeting new people, you have the opportunity to be outside or interact with the locals at the Food Bank, and make a difference in a whole new place. The Days of Service is an opportunity for you to feel good about your time in Austin…by doing good.

Once you’re registered for 15NTC, sign up for an account on the Days of Service site and start exploring your opportunities!

But wait! Are you an Austin-area nonprofit organization? Your organization could be one of the places these dedicated, passionate, talented 15NTC volunteers spend their time during the conference!

These are people who understand you and your needs. They have the skills and experience to really get stuff done.

Think big: what sort of help does your nonprofit need, whether on-site or virtual? Perhaps some marketing and communications strategy advice. Or help with fundraising planning. Or board development. Or IT and tech infrastructure. Or training for programs like Excel and Photoshop…

You get the idea. The possibilities are limitless, but unfortunately time is not. So hurry up and follow these easy steps to get your nonprofit’s volunteer project up on the #15NTC Days of Service site:

  • Create an account – be sure to register as a nonprofit looking for volunteers.
  • Suggest an opportunity – use the ‘Add a Project’ form to share your organization’s volunteer opportunity with the NTC Community.

And spread the word to other Austin-area nonprofits – there are more than enough awesome 15NTC attendees to go around.

We hope to see you in Austin! (Maybe at your organization, volunteering our time…)

Make New Friends and Give Back in Austin, TX

If you haven’t heard of the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) hosted by NTEN, then you should check it out and register. A couple thousand nonprofit professionals coming together to discuss how to make the most of technology? Yes, please!

Join VolunteerMatch at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference Day of Service.

VolunteerMatch is proud to be sponsoring the Day of Service at this year’s NTC. Throughout the conference, there will be volunteer opportunities for you to share your skills with Austin, TX area nonprofits. And this year, we’ve expanded the Days of Service program at the 15NTC to include virtual volunteering opportunities, so you can give back before the conference, too!

A Call for Projects

Are you an Austin-based organization that could use some help either in person between March 3-6, 2015, or virtually in advance of the conference? We would love to hear from you! Please add your organization’s volunteer opportunity to our “Days of Service” project. All you need to do is the following:

  • Create an account – be sure to register as a nonprofit looking for volunteers.
  • Suggest an opportunity – use the ‘Add a Project’ form to share your organization’s volunteer opportunity with the NTC Community.

Please note that you can post multiple opportunities from the same organization. Kindly include a link with the project suggestion and include contact information for the person leading the volunteer opportunity. That will help us and attendees better connect with you.

In order to make these opportunities as rewarding as possible for both the organization and the 15NTC attendees, we ask that projects consider the following guidelines:

  • The volunteer time commitment between March 3-6 needs to be limited to no more than 2 hours per day and must be suitable for groups of 2 or more.
  • In-person volunteer opportunities must be easily accessible from the Austin Conference Center on foot, public transit, or using a transport mode that the organization can provide to/from the Convention Center.
  • Virtual opportunities are also welcome, with specifics on how volunteers will connect with the organization (e.g., Skype, Google Hangout, listserv).
  • Virtual opportunities can begin ahead of the conference.

So spread the word to any Austin-based nonprofits you know! And if you’re a 15NTC attendee looking to volunteer while in Austin, you can sign up for an opportunity here.

We hope to see you (volunteering!) at the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference!

A Whole New World of Volunteer Recruitment

It's a whole new world of volunteer recruitment.Last week, VolunteerMatch rolled out some really exciting new features to our free volunteer recruitment tools. Processes are now even simpler, which means less clicking and more connecting with the right volunteers for your organization! Here are the details:

Fewer Clicks

Perhaps you thought posting a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch was easy before. After all, 5-10 minutes of time, moving through a quick listing flow, doesn’t seem like a lot, right?

Who cares, we were determined to make it EVEN EASIER AND FASTER. As of last week, posting a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch happens in even fewer clicks, all on one clean, clear page. The whole process is quicker and more efficient, and comes with a sleek new look that makes navigating a breeze.

More Skills

You might remember a few years ago when we introduced a new way to post listings that included a skills taxonomy. For the first time, you could officially connect your volunteer opportunities to the skills volunteers have to give.

Now, three years later, we are thrilled to present the next generation of skilled volunteer recruitment at VolunteerMatch. We’ve upgraded from 19 main categories of skills to 32, and our skills library has increased from 132 specific skills to 354 that you can include in your volunteer listing.

With the newly expanded VolunteerMatch skills library, it's even easier to connect with the right volunteers for your nonprofit organization.

That’s a lot of skills! They include a blend of general, more common skills, and industry- and product-specific skills. (For example, you can recruit a Drupal expert, or a music teacher…) The new skills library covers a huge range, so you can be specific and strategic about recruiting skilled volunteers for exactly what you need.

And remember, every time you include skills from the new library in your volunteer listing on VolunteerMatch, the opportunity will automatically appear on LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace, in front of more than 300 million skilled professionals! (Click here for more information about this partnership and how to connect your VolunteerMatch account to your LinkedIn Company page.)

The whole point of these changes is to make it even easier for your nonprofit to connect with the volunteers you really need. And this is just the beginning – stay tuned for even more great enhancements in early 2015…

Let us know how we’re doing in the comments below, and try out the new features today by posting a volunteer opportunity on VolunteerMatch!

Tell Us: How Has Technology Changed Volunteering?

We want to hear from you: How has technology changed volunteering?For many of us, technology has become such an integrated part of our daily lives, we barely even notice it. Can you remember life before cell phones? Before DVDs? And both of those things are already on their way out!

It’s hard to deny the impact technology has had on us, but what about on volunteering? How has it changed the way we volunteer, and the way we engage volunteers? Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? How can we, as modern-day, with-it nonprofit professionals make sure we’re leveraging technology in the right way to see the maximum benefit for our cause and community?

What, we have to give you ALL the answers?

We want to hear from YOU! Let us know what you think – you can add your thoughts here in the blog comments, or on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Then we’ll aggregate everything so we can all share the knowledge.

Below are some initial ideas to get the juices flowing:

  • The Internet – and especially social media – have made us all easily able to see what each of us are doing and share with others. What people like and share online becomes a part of their identities, and how they want others to view them. How does volunteering fit into this?
  • Are we busier now because of technology? How does this impact volunteering and volunteer engagement?
  • Technology has enabled the growth of virtual volunteering as a way to engage, and the rise of microvolunteering. Has this been a good thing overall, or a bad thing?
  • In today’s super-connected, globalized world, geographic boundaries don’t mean so much anymore. How does this apply to volunteering?
  • With new technology comes to new skills to use that technology, and new skills that can then be volunteered. What are the most valuable new technology-based skills that have arisen for your organization?
  • More of our technology is becoming small and…mobile. What does this mean for volunteer engagement?
  • How has technology impacted – for better or for worse – your ability to measure and track the impact of volunteering on your organization?
  • Finally, what does the future hold for volunteering, given all of this crazy technology that keeps popping up? What can we do now to make sure we’re prepared?

Answer one question or them all, but we want your two cents! Post them now in the comments below, or on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. Can’t wait to see what you have to say!

Engaging Talent in Best Work

Guest post by Stephen Ristau

Engaging Talent in Best WorkToo often I hear from highly skilled and motivated people, “I just can’t seem to find a nonprofit organization that uses my professional talent well.” And despite the great strides that nonprofits have made in recent years to design volunteer or pro bono work experiences that require advanced expertise or training, I still see a disconnect between the available talent pool and the engagement opportunities nonprofits offer.

Do you find this to be true also? Has your organization stepped up the caliber of short-term, project-oriented work that taps into the motivations and expertise of volunteers? How can we assure effective volunteer matches that meet the mutual goal of “best work?”

I am interested in hearing about your experiences, cool ideas and best practices.

Here are some of mine:

  1. Do your homework - Engaging talent (paid or pro bono) is expensive but is well worth the time and effort to do it well. Done right, you are providing a pathway for the contribution of skills and expertise you otherwise may not be able to afford- you can ill afford to not prepare for this potential infusion of talent.
  2. Define what you need - Most of today’s volunteers want to know what impact they will have. Ask yourself “what will happen as a result of this project?” to get at the expected outcomes and deliverables, and then describe the resources and support you will make available to your volunteer to get the job done.
  3. Tailor opportunities to fit your volunteers - While many of us have used volunteers in the same roles for years, today’s volunteers (from Millennials to Boomers) want to use their skills to make a difference. Be prepared to customize short-term, high-yield engagements that may result in “repeat business” from volunteers who discover that your organization knows how to involve them best.
  4. Engage volunteers’ “eyes and ears” to determine new ways they can contribute - Be a progressive talent manager and engage volunteers in identifying organizational issues, challenges, and solutions they see. Collaborate on project plans, assess the strengths and interests of your volunteers, and support volunteers in the customizing of positions that meet your most pressing organizational gaps.
  5. Lead, follow, AND get out of the way - The best leaders and managers know how and when to do all of these: know how to provide direction, enable leadership and initiative, and clear the way for those with the talent and drive to get things done right the first time. Understand the capabilities and experience of your human resources, including volunteers, and allocate your time and supervision accordingly.

“Best work” organizations, nonprofit and for-profit, are those with human resources that champion innovation and learning, are accountable for outcomes, and are able to work in a coordinated team environment.

How are you maximizing opportunities for your nonprofit to achieve this “best work” standard? Let us know.

Stephen Ristau has been a nonprofit executive and social entrepreneur.  An innovator in the national encore movement, he has led Transforming Life After 50 and the SVP Portland Encore Fellows program.Contact Stephen at stephenristau@gmail.com and www.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-ristau/4/75/b28.