Are You One of the 3,000?

No, we’re not talking about the much-desired second sequel to the movie “300.” Even we aren’t that ambitious. Instead, we’re referring to the 3,000 connections made every single day on VolunteerMatch.org between nonprofits and volunteers.

Every day on VolunteerMatch.org, about 3,000 connections are made between nonprofits and volunteers.

As the Web’s largest volunteer engagement network, this is just what we DO. We make it easier for your nonprofit organization to find the volunteers you actually need. We’ve got all sorts of awesome free tools.

So are you one of the 3,000? If not, get right on it. It takes about 5 minutes – another happy number – and your organization’s needs will be seen by millions of skilled, dedicated volunteers. So all-in-all, it’s kind of a no-brainer.

Start recruiting volunteers with VolunteerMatch now.

How (and Why) to Design Traveler-Friendly Volunteer Opportunities

How (and Why) to design traveler-friendly volunteer opportunities.We’ve all experienced it before – the call of the wild, that insatiable wanderlust that has us staring dreamily out of our windows imagining a completely different place. And we all envy those who turn our fantasy into reality with their own travels.

Why, though, would we want to engage these travelers as volunteers? Sure, they may be transient, but traveling folk can contribute quite a bit to your organization:

  • If someone on vacation wants to give their time to your cause, you know they must be really passionate about what you’re doing.
  • Travelers may be itching to do something for others, after spending their vacation focused on themselves.
  • It takes a lot of energy to pack up and travel around – imagine all of that energy working for your organization.
  • You should always be encouraging diversity among your volunteers. Folks who have been traveling will infuse new life into your existing volunteers with their refreshing uniqueness.

These savvy wanderers may not be swayed by the usual listings you post up to recruit volunteers, however. Here are some tips for designing volunteer opportunities to attract travelers:

Eye-Catching Title

Your title should be witty and eye-catching, yet also descriptive. Travelers on the move won’t have a lot of time to browse through volunteer search results, so make sure your title stands out.

Focus on the Experience

Highlight the unique nature of the volunteer opportunity – will they get a taste of local culture? Meet interesting people? These are both great ways to attract folks who are looking to explore.

Be Specific About the Time Commitment

If you want a traveler to fit you into his or her busy schedule, make sure the time commitment is clearly stated in the opportunity. This will ensure a good fit between you and a potential volunteer.

Design a Training-Free Opportunity

As mentioned above, travelers are not going to have a lot of extra time. Expecting them to go through hours of volunteer training is simply not realistic. So think of ways for savvy, energetic people to help your organization that doesn’t require more than 30 minutes of training.

Say It Straight: We Welcome Newcomers!

Here’s an idea: Engage travelers as volunteers by specifically welcoming them in your volunteer opportunity! Many people search sites like VolunteerMatch looking for ways to help in the areas they will be traveling. So speak directly to them.

Have you engaged travelers as volunteers for your organization? Tell us about it below!

What’s Your Organization’s Critical Mass? The Simple Genius of Good Deeds Day

Increase visibility and support by posting on VolunteerMatch.org and recruiting volunteers who want to get involved on Good Deeds Day.Here’s something you might not realize: When you post your nonprofit’s volunteer needs on VolunteerMatch.org, they’re not just seen by the people who type www.volunteermatch.org into their browsers.

Your opportunities are also seen by 3.5 million employees who volunteer through companies that work with VolunteerMatch Solutions. Your volunteer opportunities are also found via our partner websites – and this gets your organization added exposure to millions more people.

For example, on March 9, 2014 the world will celebrate Good Deeds Day. This is quite simply an annual celebration of good deeds – and a way to inspire and incite action to create even more impact. You can watch this video to get an idea of how big this movement has become:

This idea is so simple, yet so inspirational. And that’s why it’s so successful. Focusing on thinking, speaking, and doing good is something everyone can do in some way. Good Deeds Day founder Shari Arison believes that if we mobilize enough people to act, we can reach a critical mass, and change the world.

So what is your organization’s critical mass? What support do you need in order to make a real difference for your community and fulfill your mission?

Good Deeds Day is helping its millions of participants to get involved using VolunteerMatch’s network. You can harness the energy created on Good Deeds Day by making sure your volunteer opportunities are posted and updated on VolunteerMatch.org. And get your existing community of supporters excited to join in on March 9 to change the world.

What’s your critical mass? Make the most of Good Deeds Day by posting and updating your volunteer opportunities on VolunteerMatch.org.

Webinar Recap: 4 New Volunteer Trends to Watch

Our recent Nonprofit Insights webinar with Tobi Johnson, “Future Forecast: Four Big Shifts that Will Change Volunteerism…for the Better,” was a big success. We’re hearing from many volunteer managers and nonprofit folks how it’s inspired them to think about changes they can make to improve their volunteer programs.

Lori Halley of Wild Apricot enjoyed the session so much, she wrote up this great recap on the Wild Apricot blog. We’ve re-posted it here, but check out the original article, too.

By Lori Halley, Wild Apricot

Recap of recent Nonprofit Insights webinar hosted by VolunteerMatch about future trends in volunteer engagement, written by Lori Halley of Wild Apricot.Most nonprofits and membership organizations depend on volunteers in order to meet their mission. So at this time of year, many of you are either in the midst of orienting a new wave of volunteers or realizing that you need to recruit additional support. If that’s the case, there are a few shifts and trends impacting volunteerism that you might want to consider.

Last week VolunteerMatch presented a Nonprofit Insights webinar called: “Future Forecast: Four Big Shifts That Will Change Volunteerism…for the Better.” While I was unable to attend the live session, I watched the video and wanted to offer a recap of some of the highlights.

The webinar was led by Tobi Johnson, a nonprofit consultant who helps organizations attract, inspire and mobilize volunteers. Tobi started by reminding us that today’s world of volunteer management is very different than it used to be. It is more public due to social media, which offers challenges as well as new opportunities for engagement. In addition, technological advances and societal changes are forcing volunteer managers to become more sophisticated to keep up. To help, Tobi outlined the impact these changes will have on volunteering and identified four shifts and trends to consider as you plan for the coming year.

Trend #1: Advances in brain science & neuroleadership

While these terms sound very scientific and academic, the key points Tobi made here were that if we develop an understand of how brains function, we can better understand and empathize with our volunteers in order to offer an optimal volunteer experience. In her words, we can develop “volunteer administration practices that work with human nature not against it.”

Tobi offered a number of insights, but one that was key for me was that…

“work productivity does not generate happiness. In fact it is the other way around – happiness generates results in the workplace”

Apparently, there is research that indicates that “happiness is something we can promote and cultivate”. So, for example, when volunteer leaders or staff get stressed out, instead of forcing volunteers to share in this stress, we can find ways of encouraging happiness and developing “gratitude rituals” to “inoculate against negativity.”

What does this mean for volunteer managers?

Tobi’s suggestions for shifting to “using brain science” with volunteers include:

  • Moving away from “legacy volunteer program policies and procedures” and toward “use of human motivational triggers to develop leaders”
  • Instead of relying on “charismatic (and rare) volunteer leaders… focus on minimizing threat and maximizing reward in organizational cultures”
  • Substituting “traditional volunteer reward and recognition activities” with practices that cultivate team happiness “through evidence-based practices and team traditions.”

Trend #2: Discoveries in human performance & talent development

Join the free Nonprofit Insights webinar about the future of volunteer engagement.Since, as Tobi noted, “nonprofits are all about collaboration”, she suggested we should look to research on “talent development” to help us “better understand what motivates and inspires human performance to develop volunteer training and onboarding that is inspiring, fulfilling and makes the most of volunteer skills and talent.”

For example, in terms of insight into motivation, Tobi noted that researchers have discovered that rather than being concerned about efficiency, today workers (and volunteers) are focused on finding meaning in the workplace. We all know that the key reason most people volunteer is to “make a difference.” We’ve blogged about research into volunteer motivation that also confirms that what folks want most from their volunteer experience is to understand how their efforts have made a difference.

For insight into trends on “talent development”, Tobi noted that new research suggests that people learn better with informal versus formal, classroom-style training. Peer-to peer training is especially effective.

Challenges for volunteer managers:

Tobi’s suggestions in terms of human performance and talent development included:

  • Informal volunteer-led learning networks [e.g., peer-to-peer]
  • Use of best practices in talent development, directly aligned with program goals
  • The deeper meaning of work [should be] reflected in volunteer recognition [and allowing volunteers to be more empowered and "have a say in their work" – rather than "plaques and pins"]

Trend #3: Migration from solely virtual to virtual and mobile

Tobi noted that many organizations are already engaging virtual volunteers and allowing volunteers to work remotely. But with the ever increasing Smartphone usage for web access, and the growing numbers of telecommuters and virtual teams, Tobi suggested that organizations need to start thinking about how they can better enable volunteering via mobile. This, she suggests, means “aligning organization and volunteer and communication media and methods”. For example,

  • [Rather than over-reliance on a single communications method] Volunteer communication strategies [should] align with mobile lifestyles
  • [Instead of one-way volunteer information blasts, organizations should work towards] two-way, social communication that fosters a greater sense of community
  • Deliberate strategies to reduce perceived virtual distance [e.g., having information on a wiki that volunteers can access via mobile; websites that offer responsive design; video training that can be viewed on a Smartphone, etc.]

Trend #4: The increasing importance of data

The final trend that Tobi noted in the webinar was the importance of “harnessing and analyzing data in manageable, affordable and scalable ways in order to improve individual volunteer programs and the field of volunteerism as a whole.” This means we need to establish industry benchmarks but also that each organization should think about what data you can gather on, for example, the number of volunteer hours; retention rates; level of involvement; return on investment, etc.

Tobi suggested the following examples as to how data could be used to better manage our volunteers:

  • Common performance indicators and benchmarks used for program accountability
  • Global collaborative data sharing to inform evidence-based practice
  • Experimentation and failure embraced for what it can teach us

Applying this insight to your volunteer program

Tobi finished the webinar by reminding us that “volunteering is really about self actualization”. So if and when you decide to make changes to your organization’s volunteer procedures or programs, you need to ask yourself “will the change help facilitate a deeper sense of connectedness between our volunteers, our community and our cause?” Tobi suggests that if it doesn’t tap into that deeper sense of connection, it probably shouldn’t be your top priority.

Check out the entire webinar presentation

This is just a high level overview of this great VolunteerMatch presentation by Tobi Johnson. If you’d like to watch the entire webinar video (via YouTube) – you can view it here: Nonprofit Insights Webinar: Future Forecast: Four Big Shifts That Will Change Volunteerism…For the Better.

How do you think these four trends will impact your volunteer program in 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Important Considerations When Creating a Volunteer Program Budget

5 important considerations when creating a volunteer program budget.It’s the end of another year, and for many nonprofits that means it’s BUDGET SEASON. There’s often a misconception that since volunteers are not paid, volunteer programs are also “free.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as we all know.

Here are five important considerations, based on advice from VolunteerMatch’s Preferred Partner nonprofits, to help you provide for your volunteer program’s needs in your nonprofit budget for 2014:

Making the Case for a Volunteer Program Budget

The first hurdle will be overcoming the fallacy that you don’t actually need a program budget. To do this, you need to do two things: Show the impact your volunteers have on your organization, and explain why the money is critical to its success.

Carla Lehn of California State Library suggests documenting how volunteers contribute to the mission of your organization – not just counting the number of hours, but demonstrating how their work helps the entire community.

Make Your Volunteer Budget Cross-Functional

Once you’ve built staff buy-in for your program’s budget, you can take things to the next level by integrating volunteer engagement into the budgets of other departments, as well. For example, if your organization puts on a large even each year, try to get “volunteer services” into that budget as a line item. This frees up your budget for more basic needs.

Communicating cross-functionally about your strategy for the year is critical, says Kristen Walker of Girl Scouts. As with many organizations, Kristen says their programs are so dependent on each other, creating completely separate budgets causes them all to fall short. Instead, the team determines the volunteer roles needed together, and what it would take to recruit and support them.

Recognition is a Key Line Item

One thing all of our Preferred Partners insisted: Budgeting for volunteer recognition activities is extremely important. “I like to have the flexibility to recognize volunteers and associates in creative ways for their support of our organization and the volunteer program,” says Stacey Kyser of National Church Residences.

Small items like t-shirts and other swag should not be seen as extras. “Volunteers don’t need a lot,” Mary Sweeney of Arbor Day Foundation comments, “But they certainly appreciate a fun t-shirt.” Mary also points out that small gifts like this are a great way to increase branding at an event and give love to a corporate partner who is helping to sponsor the event.

Don’t let your organization’s leadership scoff at this line item. Funding for food and small parties can mean the difference between happy, committed volunteers who keep coming back, bringing their friends and their skills with them, and people whom you never see again.

Fight for Your Right to the Right Tools

What physical supplies will you need to run your program in 2014? Make sure office supplies show up either in your budget or in your office manager’s. Additionally, do you need to renew a license for your volunteer tracking software? Perhaps you want to get some more training with Microsoft Excel? Think creatively about how better/more efficient tools can help you be more successful.

Speaking of tools, VolunteerMatch’s free one is great – but if you want to take your volunteer recruitment to the next level, consider budgeting for our Community Leader Premium Services. This package provides additional features that make it even easier for you to successfully find the right volunteers.

And if you’re a big, (BIG) nonprofit, take a look at our Preferred Partner Program – we can set you up with enterprise technology to help your entire organization streamline its recruitment and management of volunteers. As Mary Sweeney says, “Make sure to budget for the awesome work that you can do by partnering with VolunteerMatch!”

Telling Your Story Takes Time and Money

Adding space in your budget for storytelling can make it easier to increase visibility of your organization. Paying for traditional media can be time-consuming and a bit more expensive, but getting your story into the local paper is worth it.

Also, consider budgeting for social media tools and training, as well. Compared to other marketing activities, this one has a really low overhead, with the potential to cause a big splash. Plus, you can recruit a volunteer to help you run your social media accounts!

What other factors do you think are important when creating a volunteer program budget?