Nonprofit Tip of the Month: Build Capacity by Bringing in Back Up

Stressed out? Bring in some back up!

Struggling to find the volunteers you need? No time to engage the volunteers you have? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This month I’ll tell you how to use VolunteerMatch as a capacity building tool by recruiting volunteers to help run your programs.

Let’s get started.

Recruit a Volunteer to Manage Your VolunteerMatch Account

If you don’t have the time to actively maintain your organization’s profile on VolunteerMatch, recruit a volunteer to manage it for you. This is a great way to engage the technically savvy volunteer. As you write the description, be sure to include web related skills and strategic keywords to help your opportunity show up in relevant search results.

Recruit a Volunteer to Train New Volunteers

When creating your opportunity include skills and keywords surrounding human relations and education. Not only will this save you a great deal of time, it will help keep your current volunteer staff motivated and engaged. You could also promote a more seasoned volunteer to trainer and put them in charge of on-boarding new recruits. Who better to train volunteers than the individuals already doing the work?

Recruit a Volunteer to Promote Volunteer Engagement

If you find yourself without the time to engage volunteer staff, recruit someone to help you. This is another great time saver and a sure-fire way to ensure your volunteer staff is happy and motivated. This is also a great way to develop new volunteer roles and expand your program’s impact within your organization.

Do you recruit volunteers to help run your programs? We want to hear from you! Share your opportunity in the comments below.

Back in the States and Ready to Intern! Greetings from the Newest VolunteerMatch Communications Team Member

Stephanie Rosenburg, Spring 2013 Intern

Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie Rosenburg and I am thrilled to be joining VolunteerMatch as one of the new Communications & Social Media Interns for Spring 2013. I am excited to be part of such a passionate and engaged organization, and I look forward to helping take their online community further by using social media to connect with people who care about volunteering.

I just finished my Master’s Degree in the United Kingdom about four months ago and am so happy to be back in the San Francisco Bay Area—where I studied my Bachelor’s Degree at Pacific Union College and first got involved with volunteering and nonprofit work.

I have a background in both Public Relations and Design, and was involved in managing and promoting the Cheers! St. Helena events in Napa Valley for about three years. Most recently however, I decided to switch my focus to online social engagement. So this past year, I went abroad to study the Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation from the University of Sussex. I loved doing research in online culture and exploring the use of new media in social movements, and I’m very excited to be applying this knowledge and expertise for a worthy cause.

I first met some of the VolunteerMatch team while volunteering for an event by Social Media for Nonprofits in November and instantly fell in love with their mission. Since then I have been following what they are doing and learning more about their work. Once the Spring internship position was announced, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it all. And now here I am!

Ready to Work, Ready to Learn

During the next few months, I will pour my skills, experience, and passion into reaching VolunteerMatch’s online communications and social media goals. I will develop my writing skills while writing lots of blogs and articles, and I will learn a lot more about social media strategy through contributing to Twitter and Facebook.

Additionally, I’m hoping to get involved in new and developing social media campaigns. I want to help in creating new ways to engage our public and spread the word about our awesome services—for people who want to volunteer and nonprofits who need help and also for companies interested in developing CSR programs. Most importantly however, I will be helping out a great cause.

Thanks so much for reading my short bio (I just couldn’t write it all in a 140-character tweet!) Stay tuned to see some great things coming from the Spring 2013 intern team! Also, make sure to follow my personal blog for a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a VolunteerMatch intern.

Finally, don’t forget to check out VolunteerMatch for yourselves! It’s such a great resource to connect with volunteers in your area and offers so many other tools, tips and advice. Take a look!

March Webinar Preview: Build a Strong Foundation to Ensure Success

Step up your volunteer engagement game. Attend a free webinar!

It’s a new month and that means we have new webinars to share! In February we taught you how to step up your recruitment game.  This month you’ll learn everything you need to create an engaging management program. We’ll teach you how to set goals and expectations for new and existing volunteer staff. We’ll also teach you how to become an advocate for volunteer engagement within your organization.

Here are some webinars you don’t want to miss in March:

Playing by the Rules: Creating an Effective Volunteer Handbook

In this webinar, you’ll learn how to create a living document that can help both paid and volunteer staff be better informed and know what is expected of them. A good Volunteer Handbook can also help you better identify and deal with challenging volunteers. Whether you’re just starting to create a Handbook or if you’re looking for best practices on information to include, this webinar will evaluate the Handbook you have and help you create a stronger framework for your volunteer engagement program.

Making Volunteer Engagement Everyone’s Job

Too often the role of engaging volunteers falls exclusively to the volunteer program manager. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “your volunteers” used within organizations. How do you make volunteer engagement everyone’s job? This webinar will provide you with the tools to become an advocate for volunteer engagement. Learn how to create a step by step communication plan to reinforce the importance of volunteer engagement to key stakeholders within your organization.

Fighting Hunger Together: Put Volunteer Groups to Work

So many volunteer managers at hunger relief organizations depend on groups of volunteers to meet the needs of their programs. Using various hunger relief organizations as examples, we’ll discuss ideas for working with corporate groups, youth groups and many more. You’ll learn effective practices for engagement and the importance of creating opportunities with measurable impacts. We’ll also share ideas for diversifying the work load and commitment level of volunteer groups. Though geared towards hunger relief, volunteer managers from all types of organizations are encouraged to attend this webinar.

Writing Accurate and Useful Volunteer Position Descriptions

This webinar covers the basics of what should be included in a position description. You’ll learn how to create and update position descriptions for all of your volunteer opportunities. We’ll also share how accurate and up-to-date position descriptions can help you recruit and train volunteers, and how they can help with retention and the development of leadership positions within your volunteer engagement program.

To learn more about our March webinars please visit our Learning Center.

Tip of The Month: 5 Easy Ways to Create Better Hunger Opportunities

Well folks, it’s that time of year again: the holidays are upon us. ‘Tis the season to celebrate friends, family and philanthropy.  For the entire month of December, VolunteerMatch has pledged to spread awareness for hunger related causes. For this month’s tip we’ll look at a successful hunger related opportunity from St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ll tell you what works and how you can use similar strategies when creating your own hunger related opportunities.

Let’s get started!

What makes for an engaging hunger related opportunity?

The title is simple & straightforward.

Instead of a vague phrase like ‘volunteers needed’, there is a specific position title.  Before the volunteer has even read the description they already know what to expect. The title is also an opportunity to include key words or phrases that speak to your organization’s cause. Here it might be helpful to include words like ‘hunger’ or ‘food’.

The description clearly identifies volunteer duties & expectations.

While the title grabs the attention, the description conveys the specifics.  Create short sentences using casual language, avoiding overly professional jargon. Know your audience, make them aware of the impact their service will have within your organization.

Photos & reviews are included.

Reviews show up near the top of the page for a reason: they are important. Having reviews makes your opportunity more enticing and thus, more likely to generate referrals. Take the time to send out review requests to past volunteers. You’ll be happy you did.

Adding a photo to your opportunity is a great way to engage prospective volunteers. Instead of your organization’s logo—which is impersonal and unfamiliar—use images of volunteers in action. A photo is an excellent way to visually communicate the task at hand. An image can even depict the volunteer’s impact within your organization.

The requirements are clearly visible.

Notice the short list included near the bottom of the page. Including requirements ensures that you attract more informed volunteers who are more likely to follow through on their commitment. VolunteerMatch has built out an extensive requirements tool, for instructions click here.

There are multiple opportunities available.

Avoid the mistake of including multiple positions within a single opportunity. If you must fill multiple positions for the same event, create separate opportunities. If you have varying time slots to fill, create an opportunity for each. The more opportunities you create, the more volunteers you will attract.

Did you find these tips helpful? Want to know more?

For more information visit our Learning Center to register for a free webinar. Through our partnership with Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together program we’ve created an entire webinar series intended to educate hunger related organizations. To learn more about our partnership, click here.

Volunteering Annals: Helping Our Community Use Linkedin at the Public Library

Volunteering with skills at san francisco public library

Greg Baldwin teaches the class.

The incredible thing about giving is just how much you get in return – even when you’re not expecting it.

That was one of the takeaways from an afternoon of training a few of us from VolunteerMatch recently conducted at San Francisco Public Library’s main branch, when what was originally a fun challenge for our readers became an important lesson in the power of skilled volunteering.

This story begins earlier this year. As VolunteerMatch prepared to pass a key milestone in our work to make it easier for good people and good causes to connect – our 6 millionth volunteer connection – we bet readers of Engaging Volunteers that they couldn’t guess when we’d hit the mark. To put our money where our mouth is, we promised to let the closest guesser do something special: they could tell the VolunteerMatch team where to do our next employee volunteer outing.

Two weeks later, we hit 6,000,000… a mere 30 minutes after Carla Lehn, a consultant for the California State Library, said we would. Carla, bless her heart, asked us to do our volunteer service in a California library close to us. But what would we – what could we? – do to help?

Moving from Service to Skills

What we came up with was VolunteerMatch’s first ever skilled group employee volunteer outing. Working closely with volunteer program coordinator Kai Forsley and the Volunteer Program at the San Francisco Public Library, myself, Shari Ilsen and Greg Baldwin put together a free hour-long training on using Linkedin to find a job.

The event took place at the city’s popular main branch and was attended by around 15 members of our San Francisco community. We covered how to create an account, set up a profile, network with other professionals, and take a strategic approach to your job search.

Don’t get me wrong: All three of us have presented in the past to much larger audiences. But this was on a topic that had nothing to do with VolunteerMatch and everything to do with the unique needs of the audience served by SF’s library. In short: it was skilled volunteering to support the mission of a local organization.

The hour flew by and we stayed late with the audience to answer questions. Afterwards, as Greg, Shari and I headed back to our office, we talked about how much we enjoyed being able to do what we love — helping people — using the skills we already had. And how great it felt knowing that we were also learning how to talk and present on something we’d never shared with an audience before.

One thing that kept coming up in our discussions was that this was how many other members of the VolunteerMatch team could benefit from getting involved in delivering trainings like this. We all have the ability to put ideas into play for a willing audience. And we can all stand to get better at how we deliver that information.

Laughing, we talked about how great it would be to move beyond the types of unskilled but beneficial volunteering we’d done as groups before (think: fun park clean ups, social service facility rehabs, environmental restorations, etc.). What if VolunteerMatch made it a point to help our team to find skilled roles we could use to give back and also augment our own professional abilities?

Fast forward to today. Shari has stepped forward and has worked with Kai and the Volunteer Program set up monthly training sessions on a variety of topics through the next year. Different members of the team will be invited to take part, meaning we can rotate more people through this exciting opportunity. And of course more of us will be able to help the library fulfill its mission while also strengthening our own presentation skills.

Today we just passed 6.5 million volunteer connections — and we’re moving to the next big landmark faster than ever. What’s that, you ask: Will we have another contest to let the crowd determine where we’ll volunteer? Sounds like a great idea to me!

How about you? Do you volunteer your skills through a program set up by your employer? What have you learned? Share your experiences here.