Microvolunteering – Evolution of the One-Time Volunteer Project

Community Service Blitz - Adopt a Senior Project Volunteers

Community Service Blitz – Adopt a Senior Project Volunteers

When I started my first full-time job after college, I managed a neighborhood based volunteer program for a local government entity.  The purpose of the program was to help neighbors organize in groups to offer assistance to elderly neighbors.  Early on, this program required an ongoing time commitment by neighborhood volunteers.

Although I had experience recruiting and coordinating volunteers on political campaigns, the nature of the service was short-term.  Not to mention, I was not an ongoing volunteer, because my sister and I enjoyed volunteering in a variety of one-time volunteer projects for multiple organizations.  In spite of this, I did not understand the needs, interests, and time commitments of my potential volunteers.  I was asking others to do what I was not committed to do myself.  As a result, I probably lost the opportunity for several months to utilize available human capital in making a difference in our community.

When a colleague and I decided to launch a joint project between our programs, this changed everything.  We launched the “Adopt-A-Senior” program in 2002, featuring one-time projects for at-risk teens to serve seniors.  For the first project, we painted the home of a grandmother who was raising three young grandchildren alone.  This was the first of many to follow.

As soon as my newsletter featuring the project was distributed, I received an influx of phone calls and emails from individuals and service groups interested in getting involved.  So, I offered two types of volunteer opportunities, the ongoing effort and the one-time projects.  By far, the one-time project was the most popular and successful.  Thousands of volunteers each year participated in these events, and many returned for our seasonal projects or for events designed for a specific volunteer group.  I lead one of the most successful, awarded, reported, and popular programs in the entire organization.

This one-time project idea was not welcome by all.  I had one hell of a time trying to convince my supervisor of its merits.  Although it was clear, by volunteer participation numbers, that the one-time project was in demand, I was criticized for the exposure of the one-time project and not the ongoing effort.  This is a classic case in the industry to consider what you THINK is best rather than what IS best.  People are extremely busy with work, family, and other commitments, so rewarding their desire to volunteer is important.  Making it fun and rewarding is even better, it is a win-win.

Listening and responding to the needs and interests of volunteers and how THEIR time and skills fits into the need of your organization will maximize the use of human capital for your organization. Doing so will increase volunteer retention and recruitment.  Your volunteer pool will expand and diversify.  Service hours will increase.  Even if your program DEPENDS on ongoing volunteers, find needs that can be fulfilled on a one-time basis.  If you are a nonprofit, I guarantee you will find a need.

If you are seeking volunteer opportunities, join those organizations who are interested in YOUR volunteer objectives.  There are many opportunities available with great organizations that will value your service and maximize your objectives.

What one-time projects are you participating in?  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Volunteermatch – 101 Volunteer Recruitment Secrets

Points of Light Foundation – Volunteering 20 Minutes at a Time

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Faith-Based Volunteering – With a Spiritual Purpose

There is an abundance of good work that takes place in our communities, and it might not be obvious or well-known.  It is the work of volunteers through faith-based organizations of every denomination.  The religious purpose of volunteering adheres to a higher purpose, and many in the faith-based community aspire to this principle.  Faith-based organizations, such as the Salvation Army, are also typically organized in their service capacity, have a unique connection to or understanding of a certain need, enjoy access to a lot of human capital, and provide an excellent opportunity to serve those in need.

When I was a new volunteer coordinator for a public agency, I was discouraged from recruiting faith-based groups to my program.  Having been a member of a church for my entire life, it seemed plausible because of the existing service component in the faith-based community.  Besides, it seemed a little sketchy to me working on the public sector side of things.  However, as my program expanded and earned media, volunteers from all over town joined the team.  Faith-based groups from every population were interested in my volunteer program.  I could not turn them down.

South Natomas Caring Neighborhood - Max and Virgie Villavert (2)

Max and Virgie Villavert

One of my favorite groups included a Filipino American Church.  The two amazing service leaders were Max and Virgie Villavert.  They were the most sincere, heart-felt, volunteers who really wanted to make a difference.  Max and Virgie spent Friday nights hosting a teen program for neighborhood youth as an alternative for fun, and at some activities had around 100 kids in attendance.  As volunteers for my program, they were constantly seeking out elderly neighbors in need and going the extra distance to help out.  Max and Virgie did not expect anything in return except the opportunity to offer a helping hand.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of faith-based teams on one-time volunteer projects as well as ongoing endeavors.  These groups provide a unique opportunity to volunteer, as members include all backgrounds.  Some of these groups have the ability to reach individuals in their communities that will not respond to offers of assistance from outsiders.  Others have a sheer volume of human capital through their numbers. They certainly make the difference.

If you are a member of a faith-based organization, or if you live near a faith-based organization, contact leaders and find out what work they are doing in the community.  Faith-based organizations in my community do anything from operate a food closet and homeless shelter for women and children, to collecting in-kind donations of needed materials for a cancer center and provide free employment services.  Through my church, my family contributes monthly donations to three local nonprofit organizations, and we have worked with youth in building life skills and personal development among other things.  At the end of the day it does not matter what you believe, but what you do to help others that counts.

What is your experience with faith-based volunteering?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Salvation Army 

Mormon.org – Values and Helping Others

Mary House

Sacramento Loaves and Fishes

Catholic Charities

 

 

Never Underestimate the Power of Gratitude

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” William James

Being grateful for a kind word, an act of kindness, or a recipient of service is one thing.  Expressing gratitude to the messenger, Samaritan, or volunteer is certainly another.  While volunteers make a difference in the lives of others, recipients can make a difference in the lives of the volunteer simply by saying “Thank You.”  I have learned to never underestimate the power of gratitude.

In “7 Ways to Appreciate Your Volunteers,” Christopher Bautista of Volunteer Match shares how investing your time to recognize volunteers has great benefits in retention and recruitment.

One of the most powerful volunteer retention tools is gratitude.  While the intrinsic value of impacting the lives of others is important, this benefit is only maximized by the sincere, expressed, demonstration of gratitude.  Expressions of gratitude might include saying “Thank you,” during the volunteer activity, providing lunch or snacks, sending a handwritten note after the activity, recognizing volunteers at a special event, or other similar action.

However, showing gratitude begins with providing a rewarding volunteer activity.  Appreciating a volunteer includes recognizing that their time is valuable and could just as easily been spent with another organization or relaxing with a daiquiri on the beach.  Ensuring that eager hands are not idle is imperative. You never want your volunteers to be without a value-added task.  All volunteer work should be of great value directly related to the project or organizational mission.  If this is not clear, the value should be expressed to the volunteer so that he/she knows how they are making a difference.

While working for a government agency, I did not have a significant budget for volunteer recognition.  I had thousands of volunteers, so, I had to be creative.  My volunteer projects always included some type of food, often donated, whether it was breakfast burritos, pizza, hot chocolate, or snacks.  Project introductions included thanking volunteers for coming and a detailed description of how their service specifically made a difference to those we were assisting.  I continuously checked in with volunteers, thanked them for their service, and asked if there was anything they needed.  At the end of the project, I again thanked volunteers and reiterated what value their service added to our recipients and to the organization overall.  Post project, I sent thank you letters to each individual volunteer and group, including a memento specific to their group, and detailed their work in our newsletter.  Several of my volunteers were later recipients of awards from the Mayor of our city and the Governor of California.

Saying “Thank You,” is not enough.  Demonstrating gratitude through the volunteer activity and understanding of value added through the work, as well as our words and actions is invaluable.  When you do this effectively, many volunteers will thank YOU for the opportunity to make a difference through your organization and return again to join in the work.

How do you show gratitude to your volunteers?  Leave a comment. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Volunteer Match Engaging Volunteers Blog

Points of Light Foundation – Recognition

California Volunteers

Skills Based Volunteering- Using Your Personalized Skill Set to Make a Difference

Volunteer RNs at St. Andrew's AME Church Provide Blood Pressure Checks at Community Center

Volunteer RNs at St. Andrew’s AME Church Provide Blood Pressure Checks at Community Center

What are you looking for in a volunteer opportunity?  Are you maximizing your personal value in volunteerism?  Is your organization maximizing its impact on the community and return on investment in an employee volunteer program? YOU have the opportunity to personalize your volunteer efforts, provide a specialized needed service to those in need, and realize a return on your employee volunteer program through skills based volunteering.

Skills based volunteerism is a great opportunity to provide a specialized service to individuals or organizations.  Leveraging your expertise to provide value to others can be incredibly rewarding in a variety of ways.  Many non-profit organizations simply lack the budget to hire professionals to maximize their operations that provide much needed services in the community.  Skills based volunteers fill that gap by sharing their expertise and increasing the value organizations provide to those in need.

However, there is a fine-line in determining what services will be provided without charge, and those that will not.  International freelance writer and volunteer, Sue White, in The Art of Giving Away Your Expertise (Or Not)   recommends that volunteers identify what and understand why your services will be provided for free or charge.  Skills based volunteering does not require you to give away in part or entirety, your economic value.  In fact, there are a variety of ways that you can make a difference by sharing a small piece of your expertise with those who cannot afford to pay for your offering, or providing a service that is not available.

Once you start looking, skills based volunteer opportunities are widely available and in demand.  An earlier post, Find YOUR Passion and volunteer suggests how to search for a local cause that you or your organization is interested in.  Oftentimes, the organization lists in-kind services or volunteer opportunities on its website that it is in need of.

Skills based volunteers are making a difference in a variety of ways.  Employees of a local bank provide personal financial management presentations to a team of at-risk high school students.  Based on high risk for hypertension, a group of RNs from a local African American church provide regular blood pressure checks for fellow parishioners and at neighborhood events.  A colleague and I provided marketing and community outreach plans to a grassroots campaign.  A local CPA provides monthly tax preparation services to low income elderly at the Senior Center.  A retired attorney provides legal advice to the public library.  A talented retired Army veteran, who enjoys crafts, leads activities for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.  Band musicians provide free entertainment at a children’s fundraising event.  And the list goes on.

Do you have a skillset that could make a difference?  Are you leveraging your personal or organizational resources to maximize your efforts and employee volunteer program?  Engaging in skills based volunteerism is a great opportunity to make a difference and demonstrate how your organization is impacting your community.

How are you making a difference through skills based volunteerism?  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!