What is the Best Job at VolunteerMatch?

Who has the best job at VolunteerMatch?I would argue that I have the best job at VolunteerMatch. I get to pair a great team with the joy of supporting our network.

Our Client Services team provides support for our 150 corporate partners, close to 100,000 nonprofits and millions of volunteers. We answer any question you have – from how to create an account and track hours, to how to find the perfect volunteer opportunity, to how to create the perfect organization profile.

Here’s our philosophy when it comes to supporting you: volunteering is fun, so our support should be, too.

It’s our job to make sure it’s also easy. Every person that writes or calls in is going to get a personal call or email back, and quickly. We believe that every message we get is just one step towards making the world a better place, which means we take every email seriously.

We pride ourselves on having stellar technical support that is paired with high-level resources and best practices. If you call and talk to one of our associates they can tell you how to access your account, but they can also give you an idea of what types of projects are going to be good for your team, or what skills nonprofits are looking for most often.

If you’re one of our corporate clients, you know we’ve got the best support in the business. We don’t just support your team at HQ, but we also provide 1:1 support for every employee who needs it. In fact, VolunteerMatch was ranked #1 in both employee and nonprofit support in an independent study of Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship (BCCCC) member companies.

We've got the best support in the business.Perhaps most importantly, we understand that support is all about people. And not to brag, but I work with some of the best people out there. Our team is made up of fun personalities, which will come through as you get help from VolunteerMatch. For example:

Tess Marstaller, who spends her days helping employee volunteers, was herself a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. She’s passionate about volunteering, which means she loves to be the voice of your volunteers within our organization!

David Selsky, one of our Senior Client Relations Managers, is an expert on benchmarks, but he’s also an expert on the best Vegan restaurants, and he’s a professional photographer.

Laura Ellis is a Client Relations Manager for our team. She knows everything there is to know about MobileMatch and callout boxes… as well as all things chocolate, hiking and outdoor adventuring.

Kevin Johnson, who works with many of our national nonprofit and United Way partners, can also answer any question you throw at him about Americana music (if you don’t believe me, try it!)

And me? Being at VolunteerMatch for 6+ years, I can talk to you about any of our tools, resources or organization history. But I’m also a quilter, traveler, farm girl and foodie. Feel free to get me talking about any of those subjects, as well.

So get to know us, because we want to know you! We understand that everything we do at VolunteerMatch leads to more volunteering, so it’s our goal to make that as easy and fun as possible. You inspire us with your willingness to give back; we hope our support inspires you right back!

Curious how VolunteerMatch Solutions can support your successful employee engagement program? Check us out!

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Tracking the Data: What NOT to Do in the RFP Process

This article originally appeared on CSRWire Talkback, as part of a series related to the annual Charities@Work Summit on Employee Engagement in Corporate Citizenship, happening this week in New York City. Director of VolunteerMatch Solutions Seth Thompson shares some tips drawing on his years of experience helping companies navigate the process of purchasing software to help manage their employee volunteer programs.

What not to do during an RFP processSo it’s finally time to start looking into software solutions to help manage your volunteer and giving programs.

Have you been putting it off due to how much work you think it will be to evaluate and buy a system? Think it’s easier to continue with your Excel program approach than go through a purchasing process at your company? Maybe it’s been a while since you were in the market and you remember not being impressed many years ago with the sophistication and capabilities of the solutions available.

Times have changed and today there are many viable software solutions on the market that can help make your job easier while enhancing and adding value to your program.

One common approach that many companies take toward purchasing software solutions is an RFP (Request for Proposal). RFPs are designed to help companies review what’s available in the market and make a better-informed buying decision. Typically, RFPs for software solutions are structured to ask questions that identify everything from the vendor’s company structure, services available, customer support, security policies and cost.

Making a Plan to Balance Costs and Needs

However, one size doesn’t fit all for today’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. And if you have never participated in an RFP before it can be difficult to articulate on paper the specific needs you have. You need a plan.

One of the main challenges in the RFPs I have participated in is that often CSR professionals let someone from the procurement department take ownership over and write the RFP questions. That person typically has very little knowledge about what your department’s needs or goals are when it comes to buying a software solution. Their primary concern is making sure a certain number of vendors are reviewed and finding the lowest cost solution.

However, just like hiring someone to do work on your home, the lowest quote you receive is not always the best person to hire. Finding a balance between your budget and feature needs is critical, which is why you must play an active role in the RFP process from start to finish.

Eight Tips to Ensure a Successful RFP Process

  1. Make sure that you and your team are involved in every detail of developing the RFP questions, format and criteria. Don’t be afraid to push back internally and assert yourself in the process.
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  3. Spend some time speaking with your peers at other companies to find out about their experiences with different vendors. This will help to decide whom to invite to participate by understanding how they work with other companies. You may be able to eliminate some vendors based on the feedback you receive right off the bat.
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  5. Before you begin writing the RFP questions, sit down with your team and identify the top five or 10 must-haves (the non-negotiables) when it comes to a software solution. No one provider will be able to meet every specific need so you have to make sure you understand what is most important to your program. I also recommend speaking with your IT team to learn about any specific requirements they have related to integrating a software solution within your company.
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  7. Once you begin the RFP process, focus on finding the best solution to meet your team’s needs and not be swayed by internal pressures that may arise. Selecting vendors who are best in class for your different CSR programs is vital to your long term success.
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  9. Invite the service providers participating in the RFP to a short introductory call so that they can learn more about your CSR program before they begin their reply. Giving them the courtesy of being able to understand and ask questions about your program will better inform their RFP responses.
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  11. When reviewing the RFP responses, make sure you are making an apples-to-apples comparison of the different providers. Each service provider offers different features and strengths. For example, some vendors charge additional set-up and support fees, while some offer exclusive features and content. All of these can contribute to different price points and value. Create a comparison spreadsheet to make sure you understand what you are getting from each vendor.
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  13. After reviewing the RFP responses and narrowing it down to your top two or three finalists, call some companies you know work with each vendor that they didn’t list as references. These conversations will give you a realistic picture about what to expect and make you more confident in your decision making process.
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  15. Lastly, before making your final decision, take some time to get to know the finalists and their products and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. A flashy product demonstration is not a good way to evaluate whether or not a product is right for you. Look to find a sales representative who listens to your needs, shares ideas and best practices, provides input, and helps support your buying decision. It’s their job to not only help you understand their product, but to be your guide to making an informed buying decision.

An RFP process can be time consuming and challenging. However, if you put the time into the process you will be rewarded with a vendor that fulfills your service needs and helps achieve your company’s CSR goals.

What are challenges and successes you can share when it comes to the RFP process for volunteering and giving program software solutions?

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Meet MobileMatch™, and Engage Your Employees Anytime, Anywhere

Meet MobileMatch, the new tool from VolunteerMatch Solutions to give you the ability to engage your employee volunteers anytime, anywhere.Add one more item to the list of things your smartphone can do: Now you can engage employees from the palm of your hand.

VolunteerMatch is thrilled to announce the launch of MobileMatch™, a new mobile extension for our award-winning corporate volunteer engagement platform. It’s the most robust tool of its kind, making it easier for employees and other corporate volunteers to participate in volunteer initiatives that strengthen and transform local communities.

MobileMatch™ has an an intuitive mobile interface that provides your corporate volunteers with “anywhere, anytime” access to volunteer opportunities and program-related news – enabling you to engage more volunteers and enhance your company’s community involvement and social good.

Here are some of MobileMatch’s features, which are unique among corporate community involvement software solutions:

  • Support for all major employee volunteering actions, including Opportunity Search, Sign Up, Hours Tracking, and employee volunteer history through the Your Activities tab.
  • Mobile access to volunteer opportunities at VolunteerMatch’s network of more than 96,000 participating nonprofit organizations.
  • An easy-to-use graphical interface and user experience based on mobile standards with clearly organized content and map-based directions.
  • Full support for corporate branding needs.
  • An implementation process that leverages your company’s existing security configuration to make authentication and program setup a breeze.
  • Additional training and support on mobile engagement strategies for corporate social responsibility executives, program managers and volunteer champions.

Our client and partner UnitedHealth Group, a diversified health and well-being company based in Minnetonka, Minn., supported the development of MobileMatch™. (Last year, the company released a report – Doing Good is Good for You – that found that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental and emotional health. The report is available online at www.unitedhealthgroup.com/SR.)

If you’re already a client of VolunteerMatch, talk to your Client Relations Manager about how MobileMatch™ can make your employee volunteer program even better!

If you’re not yet a client of VolunteerMatch, this is a great time to check us out – click here to register for a quick, free demo!

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Some Advice for the Impending Google Reader Shutdown

Google Reader is being shutdown in less than a month. Here are some possible alternatives.Earlier in 2013 Google announced that as of July 1st, 2013, it will be shutting down Google Reader. Then came the public outcry, as millions of loyal feed readers became desperate at the thought of losing their favorite feed reader.

Now the impending deadline is less than one month away, and while many people are still very sad/angry/confused, most have realized that the end of Google Reader is not the end of the blog reading world. There are other options.

Google Reader is shutting down. Here's some advice for and possible alternatives.

Unless you are one of those people described above, you may think that this issue isn’t relevant for you – but that’s not true. If your company has a blog, then you need to guide your readers during this transition time. Additionally, many of your employees are probably using Google Reader to stay up to date on issues they care about. Make sure they know how to easily follow your blog and others after Google Reader goes away, otherwise your engagement levels could take a hit, as well.

Below are some Google Reader alternatives for you to explore, so your readers won’t miss any great posts from your blog (and, of course, so you won’t miss any great Volunteering is CSR content.) Check them out and share your favorites with your employees and readers:

Feedly

As the most recommended Google Reader alternative, Feedly has been getting a lot of buzz lately. It provides an easy way to migrate your feeds over from Google Reader, and its interface is simple and elegant.

Drawback: As far as I can tell, it does not support multiple users/accounts within the same deployment. (So if you had different sets of feeds for different Google accounts, you’re out of luck.)

Newsblur

One cool feature of Newsblur is a Pandora-type element that lets you “train” the reader based on the stories you like and dislike, creating a truly personalized experience.

Drawback: Limited to 64 feeds and 10 stories at a time unless you pay for the premium account. If your feed list is anything like mine, this won’t be nearly enough.

Pulse.me

Pulse is touted as the most beautiful of the Google Reader alternatives. Its interface is overwhelmingly visual, with a focus on mobile usability.

Drawback: You can only import your Google Reader feeds via mobile, not on the web. Also, Pulse is probably the most different from the text-based Google Reader, so it could take some more adjustment than these other tools.

Flipboard

Describing itself as a “personal magazine,” Flipboard makes it easy to organize your feeds (and those you discover) into different types and topics according to your interests.

Drawback: Flipboard is for mobile and tablet users only at this point.

The Old Reader

This tool is probably the most like Google Reader – in fact it was built to be a replacement. The site is fast and free, with a very simple interface.

Drawback: The tool is still in beta, and there is no mobile app.

Are you preparing your employees and blog readers for the Google Reader shutdown? Share your alternative recommendations below!

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CSR Resources in the VolunteerMatch Network

CSR resources in the VolunteerMatch NetworkVolunteerMatch is not just a website, or a technology solution your company uses to manage its volunteer program. In fact, we are both of these things and more. We are an entire network of individuals, companies and nonprofits focused on creating social impact through volunteering.

One of our commitments is to provide our network members with the materials you need to be the best you can be. To that end, we maintain a whole host of resources for anyone who is interested in the world of CSR and employee and consumer engagement.

Volunteering is CSR Blog

How can your employee volunteer program inspire your team to make a difference? Can volunteer engagement be a prominent part of what your brand stands for? The answer is YES. Learn more by following the leading blog on the Web about volunteer engagement at companies. (Click the orange RSS icon in the right sidebar.)

Good Companies Newsletter

Once per month we send this round-up of network news, industry research and inspiring stories of impact to thousands of your peers. Interested? (Sign up using the form in the right sidebar.)

VolunteerMatch Insights

As a leader in fields of employee engagement and cause marketing, we have a lot of knowledge to share. From original research, to case studies of success, to collections of articles and session recaps from important conferences, download and share VolunteerMatch Insights reports with your team to increase your industry knowledge.

Best Practice Network Webinars

What are the trends, challenges and opportunities facing businesses that are committed to volunteer engagement? The Best Practice Network Webinar Series brings together thought-leaders in employee volunteering and corporate social responsibility to explore how your company or brand can elevate your programs for social good. Check out the next free webinar on Tuesday, February 12th.

VolunteerMatch Solutions LinkedIn Group

Our special group on LinkedIn dedicated to connecting you with other professionals in corporate social responsibility and volunteer engagement to discuss trends, research and resources in the field. This is a safe place for you to learn, share and network with your peers.

VolunteerMatch Solutions on Twitter

Our @VM_Solutions account on Twitter is dedicated to providing news, resources and conversation just for our CSR audience. Connect with us today!

Explore all the different resources above and let us know – which is most useful for you?

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TEDx and Creativity: How To Transform Corporate Culture

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CSR programs should be developed with the vision of enabling creativity, innovation and out of the box thinking. This is why employee volunteering works when it comes to driving creative energy into the workplace.

In this TEDx video, Catherine Courage talks about how business leaders unconsciously inhibit creativity in the workplace. This is startling given the fact that a study conducted by IBM concluded that the number one factor that predicts business success is creativity. For this reason, Catherine is passionate about helping businesses drive innovation by embedding creativity into corporate culture.

Creativity is traditionally associated with right brain thinkers such as artists, writers and musicians. Left brain thinkers such as engineers and computer programmers are largely seen as incapable of harnessing creativity. Susan challenges this paradigm by suggesting that is simply not true. Everyone is born with the ability to be creative, and it is imperative that business leaders make use of this underused tool.

How can you increase creativity in your workplace? Here are some of her suggestions:

Change Your Environment
According to Susan, environment is the, “foundation of creativity”. Many modern business environments appear plain and simple. You want to create spaces that are conducive to imagination, ideas and original thinking. Take a cue from a child’s classroom, filled with a variety of colors, shapes and spaces. Companies like Google and Microsoft have already jumped on the bandwagon by creating work environments that are more colorful and open. How is your current corporate environment encouraging creativity?

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
Experimenting is the key to innovation. For example, Thomas Edison made a thousand failed attempts before inventing the lightbulb. Susan talks about the dangers of creating a culture where employees are afraid to fail. Instead, embrace failure by recognizing its role in success. Encourage your employees to take risks, think outside the box and of course,  fail.

Tap Into The Power Of Storytelling
The art of storytelling can be incredibly influential in the business world. Presentations filled with dull bullet points, lack of emotion and no context can decrease employee engagement. The next time you give a presentation, think about the ways that you can incorporate storytelling. Effective storytelling can increase employee engagement by encouraging conversations which can lead to new, innovative ideas.

In Susan’s own words, “ Creativity is a birthright, available to all, but used by few”. How does your company feel about creativity? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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A One Stop Tool for Measuring the Social and Business Impact of Volunteering

How do you measure your impact?

How do you measure your impact?

In our work with corporate and nonprofit partners, there is one area that’s a challenge for almost everyone: measuring impact.

What sorts of volunteer activities are your employees doing, and what impact are they having on the community? How is your employee volunteer program making a difference in the world? How is it making a difference in your company?

Answering these questions all on your own can involve time-consuming data collection and analysis, and is usually beyond the scope of a volunteer manager’s resources. Fortunately, there are some tools out there to help you track these types of metrics and obtain answers to the tough questions.

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