Happy National Volunteer Week from Team VolunteerSpot!
Whether you're getting in the spirit by giving back this week, or taking time to thank the volunteers in your life, have an awesome National Volunteer Week - here's to you!
Whether you're getting in the spirit by giving back this week, or taking time to thank the volunteers in your life, have an awesome National Volunteer Week - here's to you!
Say thanks this National Volunteer Week with these 30 fun ideas!
Planning a special event for National Volunteer Week? Whether for a party or luncheon, free online sign-ups will save you (and your volunteers) time in getting coordinated for delicious fun!
Use VolunteerSpot's intuitive scheduling and communication tools to quickly set up what needs to be brought for the lunch and where you need participants; invite them to sign up 24/7 from their computer or smartphone, and rely on eCalendar syncing and automated reminders to keep everyone on track! Get started
See how easy it is to set-up your Appreciation Luncheon sign-up in this quick video:
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And don't miss these great Appreciation Potluck ideas:
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By: Jessie Lynn Olien, Co-Director of the Volunteer Program Assessment Service at UNC-Charlotte
Volunteers amplify the work your organization does – they can share the workload, raise awareness, and help your organization meet its mission. While volunteer programs are an essential part of many non-profit organizations, it takes time and effort to ensure these programs run effectively.
1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The first step in maintaining a successful volunteer program is understanding the health of your program. Knowing where you can, and should, improve allows you to access key resources and allocate them effectively. The Volunteer Program Assessment (VPA) uses a comprehensive and validated volunteer attitudes and engagement survey to assist organizational leaders in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their volunteer program. With the help of grants, VPA offers scholarships for free assessment services. To learn more about VPA and apply for a free scholarship, visit http://www.vpa.uncc.edu
2. Get Organized
Great organization is key to a smooth-running volunteer program. VolunteerSpot's free online signups and volunteer calendars provide organizations with tools and software designed to optimize your volunteer program. Their free services include, but are not limited to, scheduling tools and wizards to plan shifts, donations, tasks and volunteer jobs, the ability to collect contributions from members and donors, automated reminders, mobile access, eCalendary syncing of volunteer jobs and streamlined communication tools. Take a free tour
3. Understand Your “Fit”
Who’s going to be effective in your organization? Before bringing volunteers into your program, you need to know what you value in your volunteers and then accordingly, communicate these desires to your potential volunteers. The Humane Society of the United States has great resources for helping you screen volunteer applicants and make decisions regarding who will be the best fit for your organization, click here.
4. Show You Care
Lastly, never forget to show your volunteers how much they mean to you! Create a culture of appreciation within your organization, where volunteers feel valued and informed. This goes beyond recognition events, awards, and gifts – it filters down to day-to-day efforts such as making sure volunteers are thanked for their work, in the loop regarding key issues, and treated with respect by paid staff. You can find great ideas for showing your appreciation at VolunteerMatch.org, click here.
About the Author:
Originally from Portland Oregon, Jessie Lynn Olien received her BA in Psychology from Michigan State University. She is currently a fourth-year doctoral student in the Organizational Science program at University of North Carolina Charlotte. In addition to her work as co-director and consultant with the Volunteer Program Assessment, Jessie also conducts research on non-profit management.
If you don't have a standing service project or volunteer opportunity already planned today, there are still ways to honor MLK's legacy with your family. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that love and kindness will always triumph and always bring light to others - practice kindness and generosity today in helping others and giving back:
1. Donate to a cause your family cares about: If your family has a local non-profit or national cause that is close to your hearts, make a donation and talk with your kids about why it's important to support things we care about. Or send the kids on a mission to find all the loose change in the house and car to start a "Make Change" piggy bank (decorate a shoe box or coffee can). Plan on continuing to fill your Make Change bank over the months to then make a big donation at the end of the year.
2. Help out a neighbor: Is there an elderly neighbor down the street whom your kids could help? How about a new mom? Join your kids in baking a special treat, shoveling snow, raking leaves, cooking a meal or even delivering flowers to a neighbor who could use a hand or a pick-me-up. Let the kids brainstorm more random acts of kindness and write them down for doing the rest of the year.
3. Collect and contribute: Scour the house for gently used clothes, coats, blankets, toys, and books. Neatly box and bag them up and take your whole family to a donation center or local charity story to donate them. House cleaned out? Head to the grocery store with a list of items your local food bank is asking for (canned meats and vegetables, peanut butter, pasta, diapers, toiletries, etc) > shop with the kids and head straight to the food bank to donate the goods.
4. Write and Draw: Kindness in appreciation and saying thanks goes a long way. Whip out the construction paper, cards and markers and have the kids spend a couple hours writing thank you notes for local civil servants and non-profits; or have them draw pictures and cards for kids and elderly people in local hospitals and nursing homes.
5. Plan a service project: Perhaps the timing didn't work out for your family to serve together on MLK Day, but take the time today to plan a service project for the coming months. Whether it's an afternoon outing to volunteer at the food bank, connecting with a local no-kill animal shelter to schedule volunteer time, or simply planning your own neighborhood clean-up
Looking to pump up your volunteer base this year? It's easy with these ideas for volunteer managers and coordinators:
1. Recruit more volunteers. The key to finding more volunteers this year is meeting them where they're at - online! Try some of these recruitment trends changing the face of volunteerism:
Related: 10 Ideas for Volunteer Recruitment
2. Don't lose the personal touch. Saving time communicating and coordinating online does not mean that the personal touch of joining together to help others goes out the window. Still find ways to commune and bond with volunteers offline:
3. Engage more volunteers. Keeping the volunteers you find can be a real roadblock for many volunteer managers. Find creative and new ways to involve and engage volunteers so they bond with your group's mission and remain active and loyal for years to come:
4. Practice better volunteer appreciation. This year might be the year to put a bit more effort into thanking your volunteers for the time, talents and commitment they offer to their schools and communities. It's easy:
5. Be more social: As mentioned above, active social communities are key for staying visible in the feeds and lives of potential and current volunteers. Facebook, twitter and instagram are great for:
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The holidays boast a range of volunteer needs > from bell ringers to service project doers, from class party helpers to fundraiser volunteers, the list goes on. Boost turnout and participation with these go-to tips & ideas:
1. Use free online sign-ups: Set up an online schedule or volunteer calendar so the opportunity to sign-up and offer to help is more available to everyone during the hectic holiday season. 24/7 access from a computer or mobile device makes it easy for everyone to get involved, and automated reminders keep everyone on track. Try it for free now
2. Socialize your need: Spread the word about your organization's special holiday service needs - tweet about it, post on facebook, even Instagram and pin it! Don't have active social communities, connect with organization members who do and make them ambassadors of your message and opportunities.
Related: Tweeting for Help, 8 Best Practices
3. Don't forget about your website: Those volunteers looking to serve this season will seek you out - and they'll do it online! These are the folks you really want to capture and bring on board. Don't forget to put links to your online sign-ups right from your website. Display upcoming volunteer opportunities very visibly too along with contact info and links to social channels for new-comers to learn more.
4. Invite volunteers to invite others: The holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, and what better way to boost turnout for your holiday service project then to encourage volunteers to bring others with them! This warm introduction to your organization will encourage new-comers to return again on their own.
5. Be specific about what you need: The holidays can be chaotic so help your volunteers out by being specific about what is needed, i.e. exact dates and shift times, tasks to be completed, donations to be collected. People serve because they want to feel like they are helping others - giving them real jobs and goals helps them acheive satisfaction in making a difference.
Studies show time and time again how volunteering as a family not only benefits one's health, but helps teach compassion, empathy, communication and relationship-building skills. Kickstart your family's holiday season with a new tradition of joining others in service this National Family Volunteer Day!
1) Keep it close to home > find a service project or volunteer opportunity that means something and interests your family - get creative and find a way to volunteer your family hobby.
2) Ask others to join > invite neighbors, friends, classmates, and extended family to join in on the Family Volunteer Day fun.
3) Save time getting organized > Use VolunteerSpot's free online signups to save time coordinating and communicating a service project this season. Count on mobile access and auto-reminders to keep everyone on track.
4) Look online > Check out VolunteerSpot's Family Volunteer Ideas eBook for inspiration, and find ways to serve in your neighborhood, school, community, you name it! Also visit HandsonNetwork or GenerationOn for local NFVD opporutnities too.
5) Put thought into it > if your family decides to clean house and donate old items or canned goods, make sure they are worthy of donation, wash, dry and fold them - even contact your local food bank to find out what they are most in need of.
6) Try something you haven't done > Volunteering is often about stepping out of our comfort zones. Consider doing this as a family when selecting your holiday service project and encourage the kids to take the lead
7) Take something away > Follow up your family volunteer day with a time to set together and talk about the experience and what each of you learned and enjoyed
8) Don't keep up with the Jones' > How and when your family is able to give back is all your family needs to worry about. Your service project or holiday volunteer opportunity is unique to you, as is the experience. Put energy into making the most of serving others with your own children.
9) Take pictures > Where appropriate, take photos and capture those special moments of giving back as a family so it feels just as important as vacation.
10) Go volunteer > Don't plan on it but then get swept up in the busy holiday season! Make serving together as a family a priority - put it on the calendar, involve everyone and start a new tradition!
We are so excited to celebrate World Kindness Day with you! As a free online signup tool people and groups use all over the world to coordinate do-gooders and volunteers, we want to share our favorite 'kind' acts anyone can do today!
1. Give someone a hug . . . like now!
2. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line
3. Leave a nice card on a stranger's windshield
4. Wish someone a great day
5. Hold the door for a series of people
6. Smile at someone
7. Be nice on the road and let people by
8. Donate to your favorite charity
9. Rake a neighbor's leaves
10. Write a thank you letter to a civil servant
11. Do a quick park cleanup with the kids
12. Call your grandparents
13. Donate canned goods to your local food bank
14. Give gently used clothes and coats to your local re-store
15. Hand out water bottles, granola bars & socks to homeless people you see
16. Mail a card to a friend you haven't connected with in a long time
17. Help a homebound neighbor with groceries or an errand
18. Give a stranger a gift card
19. Say THANK YOU to the folks in your life you often forget
20. Facebook or tweet a compliment to five people you know
21. Compliment your favorite server to their manager
22. Leave a big tip on your check
23. Pay the toll for the person behind you
24. Send flowers to an unsuspecting friend or family member
25. Give someone chocolate . . . because, well, chocolate
26. Recycle your old electronics
27. Fill up a bunch of parking meters for the next resident
28. Hold the elevator
29. Donate dog or cat food to a local animal shelter
30. Encourage someone, anyone
31. Call your mom
32. Ding dong ditch a new mom a delicious dinner
33. Bring your child's teacher a latte
More "kind" resources:
The success of your nonprofit or community organization is based largely of the good work and contribution of it's loyal members - but how do you retain a loyal base that both donates to your cause but also pitches in? Kirsten Bullock of TheNonProfitAcademy is sharing her expert advice with you in her June 5th, 2014 post & video (full article here).
To be able to start engaging people in the work we do, it’s important to be able to identify some areas that volunteers can help with. It could be as support during events, or to help with thank you calls to donors, become a donor, subscribe to your e-newsletter or become involved in program areas. Not everyone will be interested in the same things, so it’s important to be able to offer some variety. Be creative!
Next is to have some systems in place to support volunteers once they become involved. How will you continue to keep them involved? Do you have a volunteer coordinator? How often will you stay in touch with them? How will you track their interests? If you only have 200 people you’re trying to stay connected with you can probably do that with minimal systems – however if that number increases to 500 – or 5,000 – you’ll have a much more difficult time keeping track of details. Systems that are kept up-to-date will make your life much easier (and your volunteers and donors much happier).
Most importantly though are the interests of your volunteers and potential donors. What do they want to be involved in? If they want to advocate for a particular cause, and you ask them to file paperwork, will they be satisfied? . . .
And join Kirsten for an online workshop around this topic and that of raising more money for your organization - this Friday, June 20th, 2014 at 11a ET, CLICK HERE TO REGISTER
Volunteer programs serve vital roles in the GOOD work of nonprofits, arts groups, theatres, schools, faith communities, you name it, around the world. Building a strong foundation of a volunteer program takes more than just finding a bunch of helping hands though. As Susan J. Ellis of Energize Inc. points out in this Theatre Communications Group piece, reflection on your group's mission in conjuction with knowing why before you know who, are just the ingredients you need for a recipe for success . . .
Tip #1: Know WHY you want volunteers in the first place.
Be careful that you are not seeking volunteers simply because you do not have enough money. If lack of funds is the major reason for wanting volunteers, you will always view them as a pooralternative to the paid staff you really want. Instead, focus on the unique things that volunteers can offer that are different from what employees contribute: credibility with the public because they do not personally profit from the funds raised; expanded spheres of influence; diversity of experiences and skills; the luxury to focus on one project while the paid staff must divide their time among all the work to be done; and, most especially, outreach to new potential audiences.
Tip #2: Develop the broadest VISION of volunteer involvement.
Working with volunteers is true community-resource development. The process of reaching out to a wide range of people will have the ripple effect of making friends for your theatre — not only the people who actually contribute their time, but also those who learn about your performances, your need for donations of cash and goods, and your work in general. Don't limit your outreach to those with a proven interest in the arts or in drama. Prospective volunteers can represent enormous diversity in demographic profile, occupation and talents — if you genuinely
welcome such contributions.
Tip #3: Never assume people know how to work with volunteers (even
if they are volunteers themselves).
Very few people receive formal training in how to work with volunteers, certainly not in academic course programs. And it is important to realize that being a volunteer does not automatically make someone into a great leader of other volunteers! It takes knowledge and skill to be a good volunteer supervisor. Diagnose and deal with possible staff resistance to volunteers and provide training in the best ways to support volunteers. Be aware of the fact that resistance to volunteers has a special history in the arts community. All too often in the past, actors and other performing artists were approached by organizations to volunteer their talents, usually for fundraising events. To establish the valid point that such artists need to be paid to earn a living, some people grew to resent the concept of volunteerism. In some ways, the theatre community's response to the AIDS crisis has broadened their understanding of volunteerism, but it is important to stress that you are seeking volunteers with skills beyond the theatre world.
Tip #4: Create the infrastructure to support volunteer involvement.
Consider what resources you will budget/allocate to support volunteers: money, staff time, space and supplies. Volunteers are definitely . . .
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Susan J. Ellis is President of Energize, Inc., a Philadelphia-based international consulting, training and publishing firm specializing in volunteerism. Since 1977, the company has assisted a wide range of clients throughout North America and Europe, including many cultural arts organizations. For more in-depth information about volunteer program development and management, call for your free copy of the "Volunteer Energy Resource Catalog" at 1-800-395-9800 or visit the
Energize Website at http://www.energizeinc.com.
1. Tweet a thank you! It's easy, start with this sample >> Huge THANKS to all our awesome #volunteers! We celebrate YOU this week especially for all the amazing GOOD you do. #NVW
2. SAY thank you! When you run into volunteers on site or parents helping out in school, stop, smile and say 'thank you for all you do!'
4. Thank you cake - yum! Or cookies, or brownies, or any other delicious treat - say thank you with a homemade baked good that shows how much you care.
5. Facebook thank you shout! Post a quick thank you shout, a picture or link back to a special thank you section of your group/school's website.
6. Hand-written thank you note. Simple but thoughtful, a handwritten thank you note gives your stellar volunteers something to hold on to. Tips HERE
7. Thank you video. Make a quick 30 second thank-you shout out on your smartphone that you can share on your social channels with Tout or Viddy; or put together a quick (free) slideshow with music, text and pictures using Animoto.
8. Special thank you mention in newspaper. Contact your local paper or e-publications and see if there is free space available to dedicate to thanking your volunteers.
9. Thank you gift! Don't go crazy, but small meaningful tokens never hurt when saying thanks - goodie bags, photo placemats, personalized mugs, etc. More ideas on Pinterest
10. Pin a thank you. Are your volunteers or school parents pinning? Pin a special thank you image and link to it on all your other social channels.
11. Thank you email! Make it short, sweet, to the point and full of love!
12. Send a VolunteerSpot thank you note. It's easy to send a quick thank you message from your VolunteerSpot signup to all the wonderful volunteers who helped with your activity. More info here
14. Thank you latte! You got that right, a "latte" love to go around! Hit up the local coffee shop and get a delicious sweet latte to surprise your star volunteer on their day to help out!
15. Appreciation party. Rock out a serious appreciation party with fun games, good food, photo booths and a special time to recognize volunteers in person.
16. Thank you brunch or potluck. Delicious food and good drink is a great way to spend time and recognize your star volunteers. Coordinate people to bring food and setup/clean up with VolunteerSpot's free online sign up sheets.
17. Certificate of appreciation. Free, colorful printables can do no wrong; print off these certificates and awards for your appreciation party or meal to show special recognition to your volunteers. Free printables here
18. Thank you gift card! Small or large, it's hard to go wrong with a gift card! Unless you know a specific store your star volunteers would prefer go general with a gas gift card, Amazon, Walmart or Target.
19. Thank you graffiti wall. Paper one wall at your school or in your organization's building and leaving markers and sharpies for volunteers and staff to write down their thoughts of appreciation.
20. Thank you with chocolate! Go gourmet or bake it in, you simply can't go wrong in spreading the love and appreciation than with chocolate. Great ideas here
21. Thank you photo album. Online or off, a picture is worth a thousand words! Create photo albums with Facebook, Flikr or Shutterfly; or go old school with a scrapbook theme and binder.
22. Thank you flowers! Whether it's one big bouquet, or a flower a day from class students or organization staff, flowers are always a beautiful way to show volunteers how they help their community "bloom."
23. Love bomb their door or desk. Have staff handwrite thank you post-its and stick them all over your volunteer's car! Ideas here
24. Flash Mob/Dance Party. Coordinate a synchronized flash mob dance routine to surprise volunteers, or simply show up with some sweet jams and a boom box for an impromptu dance party to say thanks!
25. Mini Carnival. Host a day of outdoor carnival fun with games, activities, food and free prizes for volunteers! Game ideas here
Check out more FAB ideas in our free eBook:
As a volunteer manager or school volunteer coordinator, clear communication is key to getting more helping hands involved and sticking around. Make sure these 6 phrases are part of your vocabulary when it comes to recruiting and retaining volunteers:
1. "Can you help with . . .?" Having specific tasks and jobs for volunteers is a proven way to bring them on board quicker and more definitively. Instead of asking folks to show up at a vague time to do "something," request volunteers show up at a set time to help set up for the fundraiser, weed the community garden flower beds, sort and pack food bags, etc. This also keeps you, the volunteer coordinators, more organized and prepared for an efficient and productive volunteer experience.
2. "Bring your friends." Encouraging volunteers and school parents to come with friends, families and other groups not only increases the number of helping hands your organization has to do GOOD work, but makes the volunteer experience an even more joyous and social one. Memories are made when folks are making a difference together and what better way to have your organization remembered by potential volunteers?
3. "Sign up online, it's easy!" Making it easier for a wider pool of potential volunteers to get involved is what VolunteerSpot's free online signup sheets are all about. Easy scheduling, mobile access and being able to post signups on social media and via email are the solution to coordinating volunteers in the modern day. Plus automated reminders? Doesn't get better than that! Check out Online Volunteer Calendars today
4. "Thank you for your time." Recognize a volunteer's time and commitment with a simple in-person thank you, handwritten card, or email. This simple act of appreciation helps volunteers know that their good work is noticed and encourages them to return in the future.
5. "Join us on social media!" In the digital age, it is vital for volunteer-based organizations to stamp out a social footprint that encourages volunteers and members to get involved in their social conversation. When you ask potential volunteers to follow you online (put social handles on your website and marketing materials), you ensure that you become part of their social feeds, staying in their "world" and reminding them time and again that your group is around and needs their help.
6. "See what we've done together?" Illustrating your organization's community impact is a great way to bring volunteers onboard. Find examples, stories and pictures to share with your volunteers and donors that show how and where their time and talents are affecting the community in a positive way. Keep volunteers updated on your website, via social media and in eNewsletters; and when possible, let them know individually how their contribution is making a difference.
Did you know the concept of "volunteering" dates all the way back to 17th century? Almost 400 years later, serving others and our communities is still the norm - times have changed though! Check out how volunteers are operating and getting involved in 2014:
1. They're on the hunt: The modern volunteer is using online resources at their disposal to scout out available opportunities - from online volunteer databases like those of HandsOnNetwork and VolunteerMatch to more field-specific search sites like those for FeedAmerica's Food Bank Finder.
2. They're social: Tweeting, pinning, posting - the modern volunteer is doing it all! What better way to bring publicity to your school fundraiser or nonprofit gala than having volunteers 'check in,' post pictures and share their experiences with their social network? They're up for it so make sure to encourage it at your next volunteer event!
3. They're signing up online: The modern volunteer is on their computer and smartphone, leaving those illegible paper sign up sheets and overloaded spreadsheets in the dust. Free online signup sheets and online volunteer calendars - with automated reminders - are revamping the way modern volunteers get involved and stay connected to the schools and organizations they care about. Try a free demo today!
4. They're in more than one place: If you're a parent and an active volunteer, you know that you're not just helping out with the class party, but likely volunteering with the school play, coordinating the team snack schedule or helping with the Spring fundraiser too. Volunteers and school parents are relied on more than ever in 2014 and boy do they show up!
5. They're corporate: Corporate volunteer programs and corporate citizenship are ingrained in the modern working volunteer. By empowering employee leadership and forming partnerships with community organizations, corporate volunteer programs are important for the modern volunteer that is seeking ways to do good with support from all aspects of their life.
Hosting a volunteer appreciation party? Or simply looking to recognize the hardworking parent volunteers at your school? We've collected 5 of our favorite free printable volunteer appreciation certificates & gift tags!
FreePrintableCertificates.net, click HERE
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KidPointz.com, click HERE
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Squidoo.com, click HERE
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Sugarfreshdesigns.blogspot.com, click HERE
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ColwellsinCarolina.blogspot.com, click HERE