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2011 Weekly Volunteer Management News

Archive for 2011 June-January (Current News)

26 June: Volunteer Canada (www.volunteer.ca), together with Manulife Financial, has introduced a new digital tool that categorizes Canadians into six distinct volunteer types and recommends available roles suited to their volunteer profiles and specific interests. The Volunteer Quiz, or VQ, is one of a suite of free digital tools that is part of a national two-year campaign aimed at enriching the volunteer experience of Canadians and strengthening the country's voluntary sector in order to build and sustain healthy communities.

Added this month is the Skills-Plus Tool, created to facilitate "the linkage between volunteer experience and occupational core competencies," so that:

  • Nonprofits can structure volunteer opportunities to access workplace skills and competencies
  • Workplaces can strategically support employee volunteers to meet community and competency-development goals
  • Both non-profits and workplaces can use the tool as the basis to define and measure benefits, value and the return on investment (ROI) of employer-supported volunteering

According to the landmark Bridging the Gap research study, led by Volunteer Canada in partnership with Manulife, technology is creating an opportunity to address a disconnect between what Canadians look for in volunteer experiences and what organizations offer. "Today's volunteers are more goal-oriented, autonomous, tech-savvy, and mobile," said Ruth MacKenzie, President and CEO of Volunteer Canada. "It's essential that organizations recognize the changes that technology brings and adapt to meet the needs of the next generation of volunteers."

Launched on March 7, 2011, this multi-faceted effort includes a suite of digital components including: the Volunteer Quiz (VQ); a 'Get Volunteering' web portal, Facebook page and application; a volunteer matching tool, at the recently enhanced www.Getinvolved.ca; a digital ad campaign; and the new French-language site, Action Bénévole. New tools and resources will continue to roll out throughout 2011.

19 June: The Wall Street Journal article, "Stray Cat Strut: Woman Beats IRS," captured the importance of the story in its first two sentences:

When Jan Van Dusen appeared before a U.S. Tax Court judge and a team of Internal Revenue Service lawyers more than a year ago, there was more at stake than her tax deduction for taking care of 70 stray cats.

Hanging in the balance were millions of dollars in annual tax deductions by animal-rescue volunteers across the nation—and some needed clarity on the treatment of volunteers' unreimbursed expenses for 1.55 million other IRS-recognized charities.

This volunteer incurred $12,068 in expenses while taking care of stray cats in her home on behalf of the IRS-approved charity, Fix Our Ferals. This covered such things as cat "food, veterinarian bills, litter, a portion of utility bills, and other items such as paper towels and garbage bags." When she attempted to deduct these costs on her 2004 income tax return, the IRS disallowed them and she appealed. Now, years later, she has won and set important precedents.

This ruling helps all animal-rescue volunteers and has far-reaching implications for every sort of American volunteer. It clarifies how someone can legitimately claim a deduction for unreimbursed charitable expenses of $250 or more, especially if they involve use of a private home. What is required is that the taxpayer keep accurate records and that the benefitting agency provide written acknowledgement as to the value of such out-of-pocket expense contributions. While not assigning any monetary value to the time given by volunteers, this now shines a light on the enormous, formerly-invisible cost of being a volunteer.

The Humane Society says it has "tens of thousands" of members out of 11 million nationwide who do volunteer work with local shelters and rescue groups. It estimates that many of these volunteers spend up to $2,000 of their own money a year to help animals in need, with some spending up to $15,000 a year when all expenses are counted.

The ruling not only gives volunteers a critical tax benefit that they deserve, but it also forces agencies – and their accountants – to recognize the financial gifts that accompanying volunteering.

12 June: Volunteering Queensland, based in Brisbane, Australia, is doing some very innovate things. One example is their "channel" on YouTube, on which they post brief stories each week on volunteer-related news. Their latest 5-minute show highlights the workshop Susan Ellis conducted two weeks ago and gives the flavor of the event with short interviews and shots of the participants. It will all look familiar! What’s fun is that there are five different accents in the clip: only one native Australian, Susan’s American sound, and three immigrants to Australia from eastern Europe, Ireland and Scotland. Australia is very diverse. The venue is an ecological study center at a local university.

This sort of use of social media models what any organization can do with some creativity and volunteers or paid staff with the right talents. It only took the interviewer and a camera operator about two hours on site to get the raw video and then cut and paste it together into the short "show." It may still not be easy, but it clearly is feasible. The clip was posted on June 7 and almost 60 people viewed it in the first three days.

Check out the other videos from Volunteering Qld TV (http://www.youtube.com/user/VolunteeringQldTV), and visit the Volunteering Qld site itself to see their various initiatives, including voluntourism and "Golden Gurus." Also, DJ Cronin, the Irishman in the YouTube clip, writes the challenging blog, "Speaking out on Volunteer Management!" at http://djcronin.blogspot.com/.

Susan also did an interview during her trip for Radio New Zealand, which has been posted at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/audio/2490957/volunteers-in-major-emergencies.

5 June: Oregon Volunteers announced their new Volunteer Management Advocacy Kit via Facebook on June 2. Developed "to better empower Oregon volunteer managers to advocate for their profession and serve as a one-stop-shop for excellent resources," this presentation (viewed via sliderocker™ or PDF) benefits volunteer resources professionals no matter where they are located. The overall concepts presented for what an individual can do to strengthen the profession of volunteer management are universal, and all viewers can easily note when Oregon specific resources are mentioned and then search the Internet for equivalent resources in their own area.

The strategies in this new tool are nicely laid out as action steps and the resources to accomplish those steps are pulled together in one convenient place. Even better, it’ free! We recommend downloading the Kit and keeping it at hand when developing your professional goals.

29 May: Idealware (www.idealware.org, tagline: "Helping Nonprofits Make Smart Software Decisions"), in partnership with well-respected TechSoup (www.techsoup.org), has just released A Consumers Guide to Volunteer Management Systems, It's available for free download with registration at http://www.idealware.org/volunteer_management.

The report summarizes information from interviews and hands-on system demos. It gives volunteer resources managers a starting point for considering their volunteer tracking software needs, which is an important contribution to the field. Unfortunately, however, the booklet falls short in a number of arenas, and is not the "all-in-one-place guide to help nonprofits understand and choose the best volunteer management system" it claims to be.

It compares only three dedicated volunteer management systems to three well-known donor management software packages that also offer a volunteer management module, The report seems to lean in the direction of not seeing much difference between the two. Its "quick reference chart" is limited to only 9 items, omitting significant features such as reporting all together. There is also no discussion of such things as maintaining records of all volunteer position descriptions, identifying the placement locations and supervisors of each volunteer, and other elements of daily volunteer office work.

Idealware explains:

Volunteers provide the strong backs that help build organizations, but volunteer-based nonprofits have to keep track of a lot of data, from contact info and schedules to time sheets and job sites. The right software can streamline that process and free up time for managing volunteers. Though there are a number of products on the market, it's surprisingly hard to find information about them—until now.

We designed this report as an introduction to volunteer management software: what's out there, what to expect, and how the different solutions compare. It covers the basic features and functions that might be desirable, and discusses the pros and cons of standalone systems vs. those that track volunteers alongside donors or other constituents. Finally, it compares the strengths and weaknesses of three standalone volunteer management systems and three consolidated constituent management systems, with contextual information about 21 additional systems.

While the other existing software packages are mentioned at the end of each section of the report, inexplicably they are not offered in a list at the end and no URLs are provided so that readers might continue the comparison of features for themselves. Nevertheless, it is a start and its free. So download the report and use what you can.

22 May: The Miami Dolphins Special Teams is a unique volunteer organization created to enlist and mobilize the ongoing volunteer services of the community with the Miami Dolphins staff, players and alumni. The mission of the Special Teams is "to offer hands-on services to communities and families in need, to partner with existing organizations on worthwhile social, civic and charitable programs, to provide assistance at Miami Dolphins Foundation events, and to support community efforts in times of emergency."

When Miami hosted Super Bowl XLIV in February, several thousand community volunteers were enlisted to help with all the activities (just as happens with all major sporting events around the world. But the Miami Dolphins football team saw an opportunity: harness the enthusiasm of these volunteers and direct it towards other needs. As one press release explains, "In 2009, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale ranked dead last in the nation in percentage of volunteers and volunteer hours per. To combat this problem, the organization created the Special Teams Program, a volunteer group that… to date, has 3,204 volunteers that have logged 43,835 of community service…." There are a range of incentives for fans who give a lot of hours, but any level of service is welcomed.

The Miami Dolphins have hired a full-time Manager of Volunteer Programs who reports that Special Teams will soon branch out beyond the Miami area to organize volunteer projects in cities around the United States that have a concentration of team fans. See their Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/MiamiDolphins#!/SpecialTeams.

15 May: Points of Light Institute is "thrilled to announce a new way to celebrate the points of light in your life from the palm of your hand," through its new iRecognize Volunteers app for the iPhone.

The free app allows users to share inspiring stories, photos and YouTube videos that showcase how individuals have used their time, talent, voice and money to make a difference. The app is connected to the Institute's "Tribute Wall," through which anyone may easily easily write a tribute or pledge service on behalf of family members, co-workers, neighbors or friends to highlight their contribution to volunteer service. It is also integrated with Facebook. In the Institute’s words:

Join us in creating a culture that values service and encourages, supports and rewards civic engagement. ..this application is designed to recognize those who are at the center of community problem solving and enable everyone to share their stories of service on Points of Light Institute's Tribute Wall. Through writing a tribute or pledging service on someone's behalf, users of the application are empowered to create positive change. The mobile application makes recognizing volunteers very accessible and with the integration of Facebook you can share with all your social networks as well.

Despite the secondary use of the Tribute Wall to honor George H. W. Bush, the site is meant to be available to anyone in the world. The "Post a Tribute" form asks you to select a country of choice. (Just remember to select "To a Point of Light" under "Write your tribute" to change it from the default of "to George H. W. Bush.")

Download iRecognize Volunteers or go directly to the Tribute Wall to post your message.

8 May: The Webby Awards are the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.  They were established in 1996 by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.  While most of the sites recognized are for-profit businesses, there are categories specifically for nonprofit organizations. 

Winning “best nonprofit Web site” were the American Public Broadcasting Service (http://www.pbs.org/) and Historypin (http://www.historypin.com/), an initiative in London with global plans. Historypin – a mapping project that seeks to connect different generations through old photographs – was created by We Are What We Do (http://www.wearewhatwedo.org), a nonprofit effort to designed to make “it easier for people to do small, good things everyday” (read more about their work, which might be categorized as micro-volunteering).

In the category of “activism,” the winners were Redu (http://www.letsredu.com), which:

…stands for rethinking, reforming and rebuilding US education. Powered by people and technology, REDU is a movement designed to expand and encourage the national conversation around education reform by providing information and resources to learn, a community platform to connect, and tools and initiatives to act.

and  Avaaz.org (http://www.avaaz.org/en/), which focuses on issues such as poverty, corruption, and climate change.  Avaaz, whichmeans:

…"voice" in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.

A full list of all the 2011 winners and runner-up nominees in all categories, go to http://www.webbyawards.com/webbys/current.php?season=15.

1 May: Colleague Lynn Blackadder, whose expertise in arts-related volunteerism is respected throughout the UK and beyond, has returned to online exchange. For a number of years she produced a free e-newsletter called "Cultural Volunteer." It is now available again, in a different format, from her Web site: http://lynnblackadder.com/cultural-volunteer/. "Cultural Volunteer" is a free resource for those working with volunteers in the arts and heritage sectors. Blackadder says, "You can browse through or search the site for the latest in volunteering development, access news articles and published reports, learn from case studies and read the odd bit of editorial from me."

While Blackadder’s work is mainly in the UK, her news reports and practical advice are applicable everywhere.

Already on the site is an evaluation report Blackadder produced earlier this year of a large heritage and environmental volunteering project – Volunteers, Internships, Placements (VIP) – in North West Leicestershire (for the County Council's Arts and Heritage Service). The pilot project aimed to increase the numbers of people volunteering in cultural and environmental activities in North West Leicestershire, increasing participation among all groups and particularly non-traditional volunteers. There were some great results. You can find the report on the Cultural Volunteer page.

Note that you will first be asked to register (no charge) at http://lynnblackadder.com/cultural-volunteer/. You will then receive an e-mail with a direct link, which you can use from that point on.

24 April: Last chance to advocate for FY11 volunteering and service-learning!  Let the White House and Congress know your disappointment that most anything that is not stipended service has been slashed from the Corporation for National and Community Service budget.

Enormous thanks to Paula J. Beugen, Minnesota colleague who has long served as our field’s legislative watchdog, for the following summary of what is happening on the Hill. A federal government shutdown was averted on April 8, 2011 when a seventh short-term continuing resolution was passed by Congress. Subsequently, a FY11 spending plan was passed in time for the April 15 continuing resolution end-date. FY11 ends September 30, 2011.

According to an April 12, 2011 article by Suzanne Perry, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, "In addition to specific funding cuts, all non-defense programs would be trimmed across the board by 0.2 percent." Later in the article Perry wrote, "The budget for the Corporation for National and Community Service, which manages AmeriCorps, would fall to $1.08-billion, down from $1.15-billion in 2010."

While just about all the buzz focuses on the future of AmeriCorps, the Corporation for National and Community Service incorporates much more than stipended service.  And, in fact, the programs supporting volunteering and service-learning are the most at risk right now.  Following is some information about what is contained in the FY11 spending plan subject to any clarification that may be forthcoming:

  • Learn and Serve America is completely eliminated at a $39.5-million reduction in a program that involves more than one million young people. Efforts are underway to let the White House and Congress know that this is a huge loss and that a way must be found to preserve the Learn and Serve America program into the future.
  • $12.6-million is cut from RSVP, one of the Senior Corps programs, which is a Domestic Volunteer Service Act program with a very long history that "engages more than 400,000 people ages 55 and older in a diverse range of volunteer activities."
  • Zero-dollars were included in the President’s original FY11 budget request for the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program and zero-dollars were included in the President’s FY12 budget request for this program. The FY10 appropriation was one-million-dollars (20 percent of Congress’ original authorization amount of $5-million for FY10).
  • Preliminary information yet-to-be-confirmed as of this notice is that the Volunteer Generation Fund would continue at nearly $4-million for FY11 as it was in FY10.  The President’s original budget request for FY11 for the Volunteer Generation Fund was $10-million and the President’s FY 12 request was $5-million. Keep in mind that Congress authorized this program through the 2009 Serve America Act at $50-million FY10, $60-million for FY11 and $70-million for FY12. 
  • AmeriCorps is reduced by $22.5-million for FY11. (AmeriCorps State and National Grants were funded at $350 million.)

Clearly, volunteer programs, service-learning and capacity building for nonprofit organizations are not currently high priorities in the Corporation for National and Community Service budget.  Anyone who wants to express views about “implementation” of the FY11 budget must do so right away (the numbers already are set.)  Tell your local impact stories about how volunteering is key to the social safety net and the quality of life in communities.

And, it is time to get moving on communication about the FY12 budget. Congress has started to discuss FY12 budget plans. Word is that the Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs are on the table again!

If you want to check references, here you are:

Notes: The $1.08-billion figure quoted in the Chronicle article is rounded. The actual number according to the Corporation for National and Community Service is $1.077 – Also, see the above links where information can be verified for accuracy. It is always important to double-check information with official sources.

The authorization numbers are from the text of the 2009 Serve America Act. Search THOMAS and 111th Congress and Serve America Act. The information is on pages 114-118 and page 121. The authorizations are on page 121 and not in the earlier text for the Volunteer Generation Fund.

17 April: Colleague Thomas McKee of Volunteer Power (www.volunteerpower.com) writes the free "Volunteer Power News" e-zine which is always interesting. The newest issue, #95, is particularly provocative, with two articles, "Speed – A Tectonic Shift That Is Changing Volunteerism" and "Welcome to the Age of the New Normal," that are worth your time. Here’s the opening:

How quickly do you respond to a shift in culture? Are you even aware of the changes in culture? How quickly do you make decisions? How long does it take for you to respond to your volunteers' requests? These are huge questions because one of the most significant tectonic shifts that have changed volunteerism in the first ten years of the 21st century is "speed."

Tom also asks us what Lady Gaga can teach us about speed and introduces Marc Prensky’s concept of "twitch speed." He also points out that resistance to the new way of doing things is less about age than about losing control.

You can sign up for this e-zine on the Volunteer Power site and Tom gives you permission to redistribute his articles for further discussion with your own network.

And while we’re giving credit to the work of colleagues we like a lot, it seems pertinent to welcome Rob Jackson to the consulting trade and blogosphere. Rob has moved on from his position at Volunteering England to found Rob Jackson Consulting, Ltd. (www.robjacksonconsulting.com), through which he will continue to strengthen the volunteer management field by “engaging and inspiring people to bring about change." He has also started his own blog, where his most recent post, "Are we a cult now?" examines organizational values.

We all need to support colleagues who write because they are the thought leaders of our field and have the courage to say publicly what they believe.

10 April: Volunteering Ireland has partnered with abstract artist Máiréad de Bláca to exhibit a series of paintings based around the concept of volunteerism. The exhibition, “Volunteering Is” opened on April 7th at European Union House in Dublin. Proceeds from the exhibition will go to Volunteering Ireland, the national coordinating body for the European Year of Volunteering (EYV 2011).  This is only one of the creative events being held in Ireland during EYV2011.  See more at http://eyv2011.ie/whats-happening-during-eyv/

For information on all EYV events in participating countries across the continent, start at http://europa.eu/volunteering/.   Follow the European Year of Volunteering 2011 on Facebook, too.

3 April: The Global Corporate Volunteer Council (GCVC) established its GCVC Global Corporate Volunteer Research Project to create new knowledge that will "help global companies extend and strengthen their employee volunteer programs; and help companies and their nonprofit partners strengthen employee volunteering worldwide."

The research project draws on the experience, perspective and insights of leaders in corporate volunteering worldwide. There are two components – the Global Companies Study and the State of Health Study - and results were reported at the IAVE World Volunteer Conference in Singapore in January 2011.

Available now is the 19-page Executive Report, titled "The State of Health of Corporate Volunteering," which can be downloaded for free in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. It highlights the major learning of the studies to "disseminate them quickly and efficiently to a broad audience. Additional products will be released throughout 2011 – a full research report, online resources and a book."

27 March:The Johns Hopkins University Center for Civil Society Studies (CCSS) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have announced the release of a new manual to help statistical agencies around the world track the amount, type, and value of volunteer work in their respective countries.

The Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work (68 pages, PDF) – available free of charge – is a unique, internationally sanctioned guide to generating reliable, official data on volunteer work using a common definition and approach. Previous research by CCSS has found that even conservative estimates of the value of volunteering is roughly double the value of donations of cash and other contributions by individuals, foundations, and corporations. Their press release on the release of the Manual is titled “Counting the Volunteers the World Counts On.”

Supported in part by the United Nations Volunteers, the manual includes a definition of volunteer work as well as a cost-effective means of measuring its scale and economic value using existing statistical systems.

CCSS director Lester M. Salamon said:

Volunteer work is an enormous renewable resource for social, economic, and environmental problem-solving throughout the world, as we are sure to discover again in the wake of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. But the lack of solid data on volunteering has left it under-valued and its full potentials unrealized. This manual promises to change this fundamentally. The challenge now is to secure government commitments to implement it.

Click here to find links to the Manual and a variety of free “Annexes” supporting the work. The site also provides information on the European Volunteer Measurement Project that has adopted the Manual to implement during this European Year of Volunteering.

20 March: Energize normally posts news related only to volunteering, but the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is of such magnitude that the immediate need is for money. As with all such disasters, the affected area first needs people skilled in search and rescue and emergency relief. Mounting that effort is costly and donations now will help keep the necessary supplies and equipment coming. Later, when rebuilding starts and continues for years, volunteers of all sorts will be most welcome.

GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), the organization that gathers and publicizes information on American nonprofit organizations in order to inform prospective donors, has just posted a special Web page for Giving to Disaster Relief and Recovery in Japan. They list legitimate relief organizations committed to helping Japan in the current crisis – with links to enable online donations.

The page also provides sensible “Tips for Giving to Disaster Relief and Recovery” that are worth considering whenever disaster strikes. GuideStar explains how to be an effective donor in these five ways:

  1. Be pro-active, not re-active.
  2. Determine what kind of programs you want to support.
  3. Do a little research.
  4. Ask questions.
  5. Consider making another gift in a few weeks or months, or giving an unrestricted gift to an experienced organization's general disaster-relief fund.
See http://www2.guidestar.org/rxg/give-to-charity/nonprofits-working-in-the-pacific.aspx for details on each tip.

13 March: On Thursday, March 24, 2011, at 2:30 p.m. EST, the YEF Institute and the National League of Cities (NLC, www.nlc.org) will host a free, hour-long, audio conference on "Community Attachment and Civic Engagement: Key Lessons and Opportunities for Municipal Leaders." Speakers on this call will highlight effective civic engagement strategies, with particular attention to innovative technology approaches, youth involvement, and promoting inclusion and civility. Register online.

The call will draw upon ideas from two of NLC's new action guides, "Beyond Civility: From Public Engagement to Problem Solving" and "Authentic Youth Civic Engagement: A Guide for Municipal Leaders." Both free documents offer practical information on how to implement “civic engagement,” with many real-life examples. The youth guide is especially interesting in its advocacy for genuine, meaningful roles for teenagers in community decision making and activity.

NLC has produced other thoughtful and helpful documents in past years – such as “Building Effective Youth Councils” – all still available at no cost on their Youth Participation Tools and Resources page.

6 March: VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org) produces a “blog for social change organizations” called, Engaging Volunteers. Last week, frequent blogger Robert Rosenthal, contributed a post entitled “5 Things to Know About Wael Ghonim, The Egyptian Volunteer Who Helped Bring Down a Regime.”

Rosenthal recounts how Wael Ghonim, a computer programmer and marketing executive employed by Google in Dubai, asked for a leave of absence to return to his home in Egypt and became instrumental in deploying social networking to push forward the successful protests against Hosni Mubarak.  Rosenthal notes:

Ghonim has also become a symbol of the volunteers at the heart of social change in the Arab world. From online protests sparked by younger Egyptians…with experience using the internet, to the crowd of more than 2 million that packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 10, the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 has been like all revolutions – a volunteer-led effort to make the world a better place. Messy and sometimes even violent, these upheavals are the punctuation in history’s textbook that the work of volunteers can be deathly serious, abundantly social and wildly victorious.

Then he details how, beyond the events in Egypt, “Wael Ghonim’s story tells us a few interesting things about the changing nature of volunteer engagement in our times.”  Specifically, Ghonim

  1. Was an unaffiliated volunteer.
  2.  Is a Millennial volunteer.
  3. Moved up the ladder of engagement.
  4. Was a skilled volunteer.
  5. Benefited from a corporate culture of involvement.

Read the blog entry for the full story.

27 February: The Directory of Social Change, which has provided essential information and training to the voluntary sector in the UK since 1974, conducts a variety of monthly “Quick Surveys” on many nonprofit subjects. Their February 2011 question was:

Which would most benefit your organisation, a £10,000 cash donation or an equivalent value in volunteers (or volunteer hours)?

They received 1,004 responses, including 604 written comments – with 91% choosing the cash.  See their February 2011 Quick Survey Analysis for a summary of the main themes. Very interesting reading! For example:

Many people commented that they had plenty of volunteers – even too many to properly make use of – and they needed resources to train, manage and accommodate them properly.

This often required cash, which is in short supply...The 9% who opted for the volunteers had some excellent comments we all can quote.

20 February: The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) has released its 2011 survey report, “The Status of Minnesota’s Volunteer Programs in a Shifting Environment.” As Minnesota is gradually coming out of the recession, MAVA conducted a follow-up study to its 2009 report on the status of volunteerism and volunteer programs during challenging economic times. In late 2010, 350 leaders of volunteers and nonprofit managers across the state responded to a survey. Six themes emerged in the findings:

  1. Volunteers have a real impact in tough times.
    • 30% reported volunteers helped preserve organizational services.
    • 54% reported increased reliance on volunteers compared to two years ago.
  2. Volunteering plays an important role for the unemployed.
    • 66% of those organizations experiencing increased inquires about volunteering indicated the increase was primarily driven by unemployed people.
    • Job seekers are reportedly gaining references, skills, contacts and other benefits through volunteering.
  3. Volunteer interest is still high.
    • 50% of organizations reported that volunteer hours have increased compared to a year ago.
    • 33% experienced increased numbers of inquires from potential new volunteers.
  4. Volunteerism practices are being updated to meet interests of today’s volunteers.
    • 58% involved volunteers in new roles and positions in the organization.
    • 48% increased flexibility of when volunteers can volunteer.
    • 42% asked volunteers to use their professional or workplace skills.
    • 35% involved volunteers in leadership positions or managing projects.
  5. Few have experienced benefits from the start of the economic recovery.
    • 81% reported the economic downturn has affected the volunteer program in one or more ways.
  6. There is less concern over volunteers replacing staff than expected.
    • Only 6% reported that program staff indicated they perceive volunteers as a threat to their jobs.

This MAVA initiative, “A Time to Be Bold,” offers colleagues everywhere ideas for “transforming to engage volunteer capitol in new ways.” The report also shares the creative strategies organizations have developed to respond to the shifting environment.

The survey Executive Summary, the Full Report, and the original 2009 Survey are available at www.MAVANetwork.org/ShiftingEnv

MAVA is using the survey results to hold symposiums and work sessions where leaders of volunteers can learn cutting edge solutions in the current climate. A Survey Release Webinar will be held on March 14, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.  Contact Mary Quirk at mquirk@mavanetwork.org or 651-255-0469 to hear survey results and discussion. 

Funding for the survey was provided in part by the F.R. Bigelow, Otto Bremer, and St. Paul Foundations.

13 February: Global Youth Service Day (www.GYSD.org) is an annual campaign that celebrates the millions of children and youth who improve their communities each day of the year through volunteering and service-learning – and mobilizes thousands of service projects during the weekend it runs each April. Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world, and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth. GYSD is celebrated each year in over 100 countries. In 2011, Global Youth Service Day will be April 15-17.

In 1988, Youth Service America (YSA, www.ysa.org) and the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL, now part of Idealist.org) organized the first National Youth Service Day, then called, “A Day in the Life of Service.” Nearly 1,000 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia participated. By 2000, YSA adapted the United States model to go international and founded Global Youth Service Day. Since then, GYSD has grown to include hundreds of partners and millions of participating young people worldwide.

During last year’s GYSD, millions of youth participated in thousands of single-day service events on 6 continents; 3,091 projects registered on GYSD.org; and 648 grants disbursed to youth, nonprofits and schools, totaling $716,000.

Learn more at www.GYSD.org.

6 February: As 2011 enters the second month, the organizations collaborating on the European Year of Volunteering (EYV 2011) are gathering momentum for a wide range of celebratory and advocacy activities. Two major Web sites are reporting on all the events and providing central places for people across Europe to get information, resources, and tools to use in their own countries:

  • The EYV 2011 Alliance Website, http://www.eyv2011.eu/, is the main portal for volunteer-involving organizations and volunteers throughout Europe to share and inform on issues relating to EYV 2011.
  • The EYV 2011 area of the official Web site of the European Union, http://europa.eu/volunteering/en, which is where to go to find the location and dates of the EYV Tour and the reports of the relay team made up of 27 European volunteers, one from each Member State and with a background in journalism, who will cover each stage of the EYV 2011 Tour.  A combination of exhibits to be shown across Europe and local activities in each host country, each stage of the tour will last for approximately ten days, and willprovide volunteers with an opportunity to exhibit their work, meet one another, engage with policy-makers and the general public, convey their energy and enthusiasm, and discuss key issues for the future of their work.”

Both sites offer toolkits in several languages and provide press releases, community forums, and other sharing opportunities, as well as Facebook and other social network site postings. The European Union offers this description of the purpose of EYV 2011:

The European Year of Volunteering is both a celebration and a challenge. It is a celebration of the commitment of millions of people in Europe who work in their communities during their free time without being paid – for example in schools, hospitals, and sports clubs, protecting the environment, providing social services and helping people in other countries. Their efforts and those of the many thousands of volunteering organisations make a huge difference to our lives in countless ways. The world would be much worse off without volunteers! The EYV is also a challenge to the three-quarters of the European population who do not do any volunteering. We would like to say to them that they can also make a difference.

30 January: As we’ve said before, volunteers are always the silver lining in the cloud of disaster.  The extraordinary flooding in several areas of Australia in the last few weeks, particularly in Queensland, re-emphasizes how a true emergency compels citizens to volunteer. You can read many stories about the flood response, but one personal blog captures the spirit really well. In “My thoughts on the Mud Army,” the female blogger (no name provided) shares her experiences on the front lines and also in instigating a t-shirt campaign that went viral. 

It being Australia – where they seem to be willing to talk openly about philosophy and principles – the volunteer effort also elicited some reflection, A report aired last week by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) opened with these words:

They are known as the "mud army". The volunteers that turned out to help clean-up the flood affected areas of Queensland have been widely lauded for their generosity of spirit.

But the demands on volunteers are taking their toll and in the Central Queensland town of Gracemere, there's a call for the development of some sort of pay scheme to reward people who help in future disasters.

It’s not a formal proposal yet, but the idea is to recognize that some emergency responders risk life and limb while being unable to earn their regular wages while volunteering for days on end. The person being interviewed wonders about how such a plan would affect the caliber of people drawn to disaster service, so both sides are represented. The discussion is worth having.

23 January: A new national survey released last week by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has found that 75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and Internet users are more likely than others to be active. “The Social Side of the Internet” reports that 80% of Internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-Internet users. Moreover, social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.

Breaking the stereotype of loner Web surfers, 80% of Web users surveyed volunteer, vs. 56% of those who don't go online, the report said. It said 85% of Twitter users are active volunteers. Of those respondents active in groups, 48% had a page on a social-networking site, while 30% had their own blog and 16% communicated with other group members via Twitter. Pew's research also found that Internet users are more active participants in their groups than other adults, and are more likely to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment about their group's activities.

Download the complete report at http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/The-Social-Side-of-the-Internet.aspx.

This has gotten a great deal of publicity in major and local media outlets, including CNN and NPR. Pew provides a list of media mentions on their site.

16 January: In its weekly Briefing, Youth Service America (www.ysa.org) notes:

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to the work of building a more just and equal society. While we have made great progress, we still have work to do to realize Dr. King's dream. As Americans, that is a job for all of us – not just on MLK Day but throughout the year. To mark the 25th anniversary of the King holiday, and to encourage ongoing service throughout the year, [the Corporation for National and Community Service] will be launching the MLK 25 Challenge next week. It's a call to all Americans to honor Dr. King by pledging to take at least 25 actions during 2011 to make a difference for others and strengthen our communities. Stay tuned for the launch on www.MLKDay.gov, which will include a list of 100 ways for you to get started!

Patrick Corvington, head of the Corporation, announced the MLK25 Challenge in his Serve.gov blog posting on Friday, January 14th.

MLKDay.gov provides lots of ideas for running a MLK service project.  For example,  Action Guides are available with step-by-step instructions for planning a project that will leave a lasting impact, plus Tips & Tools to get you started.  Note to non-Americans:  The volunteering ideas on this site can be adapted anywhere!

9 January: In an impressive show of government communication, the British Cabinet Office has released what is called the “Giving Green Paper” through a Web page that also offers seven accompanying essays solicited to add to the discussion. Go to http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/giving-green-paper to download all the items and see for yourself the way they are presented. It is introduced as:

The Giving Green Paper sets out the Government’s initial ideas for building a stronger culture of giving time and money to start a national debate on our society’s attitude to giving. This is not a conventional green paper. We want it to embody a collective approach to building culture change so it is written from a variety of perspectives. In addition to our own proposals and announcements, we have highlighted many ideas from outside of government. Taken together, the ideas and examples in this paper highlight the huge amount of innovative and creative activity going on across the country to stimulate social action.

Regardless of your opinion of the “Big Society” effort or of the away-from-government-and-back-to-the-people philosophy, the Giving Green Paper is thoughtful and worth some attention.

For those unfamiliar with the Cabinet Office or the concept of a “green paper”:

The Cabinet Office describes itself as sitting “at the very centre of government, with an overarching purpose of making government work better. We support the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, helping to ensure effective development, coordination and implementation of policy and operations across all government departments.”

Rob Jackson at Volunteering England explains:

A green paper allows government to set out its thinking on an issue and invite input. It’s a position paper of sorts. The input received then goes on to shape a white paper which is more like a statement of government policy. Again, these allow for input from others. A white paper would then be followed by a bill which winds its way through the legislative process, potentially becoming enacted into law.

2 January: On December 20th, the Corporation for National and Community Service released “My American Story,” a series of television public service announcements that feature ordinary Americans who are tackling problems in their communities through volunteering. From an Iraqi war veteran who serves with AmeriCorps helping fellow soldiers readjust to civilian life, to an RSVP volunteer who uses his life experience to help youth on probation; the spots show the power of people to improve lives and strengthen communities. Visit Serve.gov to watch the videos (there are also tips to help you get your local television stations to air the PSAs).

In addition to the PSAs in English and Spanish, there are also 12 short videos showcasing the value of service. The site further encourages organizations and individual volunteers to share your own stories or submit a video.   

The goal of the project is to increase volunteering – once again putting effort into a general recruitment campaign despite the poor track record of previous similar efforts (the issue is not getting Americans to volunteer; it’s getting organizations to welcome them into meaningful roles). However, these spots provide some well-done and diverse testimonials that organizations can use to celebrate volunteering in various ways.

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