Selections from Volunteer Engagement 2.0

From Volunteer Engagement 2.0, Wiley and VolunteerMatch, 2015

To give a flavor of the diverse content in Volunteer Engagement 2.0 -- 35 chapters by as many different authors -- here are a few random excerpts. 

Chapter 1: “Big Shifts that Will Change Volunteerism for the Better” by Tobi Johnson, p.12.

Content Creation for All

Today, virtually everyone can be both content consumer and creator. Videos, blogs, inforgraphics, and the ubiquitous “selfie”…are all created and shared…Online innovations and creativity are now admired and expected.
         As social media gains popularity, fans now trump audiences as the most important people to cultivate. Although audiences simply watch a movie and head home, fans rate it, write reviews, and share their opinions online. These acts of content creation expand the film's initial reach to new audiences, as each fan influences their personal network. Companies and nonprofits have taken notice. The opportunity for authentic, compelling information about social causes, generated and disseminated by volunteers throughout their networks, has the potential to change public awareness and perception and build the case for increasing support.          
         Content that is created and curated collaboratively is particularly powerful. Digital "memes" (popular photos and videos with common characteristics that are imitated, transformed, and shared by users) are some of the most viral content. From time to time, they have been successfully leveraged for fundraising as we saw with the hunt for an African warlord in 2012 (KONY20 12) and awareness of ALS research in 2014 (The Ice Bucket Challenge). Collaborative content and memes that champion volunteerism, however, have yet to be fully tapped, but could be effective recruitment tactics.

Chapter 12: “Microvolunteering for Big Impact” by Mike Bright, p. 166.

What's Next in Microvolunteering

It's a dizzying world we live in, and in the very near future "right-around-the corner" technologies will open up new ways to microvolunteer. Nonprofits are already experimenting with such concepts as 3D printing, wearable computers, QR codes, and drones.
         As for me, I predict nonprofits will explore new ways to integrate mterovolunteering within the following areas of society:

  • Health and well-being programs to aid convalescing patients
  • Social responsibility projects for prisoners aimed at instilling respect for fellow humans
  • Empowerment initiatives for disabled people to give back to society
  • Socially impactful activities during service club meet-ups (Rotary, Lions Clubs, etc.)

          I also see microvolunteering expanding from its current U.S. and U.K. base into more non-English speaking countries. It's possible that this will he propelled by microvolunteering's increasing visibility within employee volunteering, which is driven in part by the needs of global corporations with skilled volunteers in other countries.  Volunteering organizations will experiment with more enticing microvolunteering events. And future smartphones apps may even become the panacea to volunteer engagement, enabling people to microvolunteer on demand and on the go even more!
        Heady stuff—the future of microvolunteering is certainly looking bright.

Chapter 16: “Partnering with Workplace Volunteer Programs” by Angela Parker and Chris Jarvis, p 214.

The Basics

Although the definition of corporate volunteering—and even workplace giving—is constantly evolving, a typical definition is something like "the encouragement and facilitation of volunteering in the community through the organization by which an individual is employed."
         Some of the first examples of this can be traced to the early twentieth century. Now, almost one-third of U.S. corporations embrace some form of employee volunteering, a growth of nearly 150 percent in the past three decades.
         Let's be clear: If a company's CSR manager simply slaps their colleague on the back as they walk out the door on Friday afternoon, and says "Good luck volunteering—don't  forget to track your hours!" without offering any support (like matching the hours with corporate dollars or providing transportation to the volunteer activity), this isn't corporate volunteering. The time employees spend on their own—with no contribution from the company—should not be reported as time the company donated to the community.

Chapter 19: “Volunteering and the Future of Cause Marketing” by Joe Waters,  pp. 260-2.

What Nonprofits Need to Do Now

If you're a nonprofit professional who has been carefully reading this chapter, you should he worried. Very worried. Here's why.
          Businesses are acting like nonprofits.  
          Companies are evolving into quasi-nonprofits with their own social missions and infrastructure. Take the example of Panera Bread, a chain of casual restaurants. In 2009, the company's nonprofit foundation created Pancra Cares, a nonprofit "pay what you can” restaurant in its home market of St. Louis. Meant to fight hunger by giving the poor a low- or no-cost option, the program has expanded to six other cities.
         Another challenge is businesses that are raising money for the company's foundation, and not for a specific nonprofit. For example, in September 2014, Boston-based Dunkin Donuts launched a national campaign in its stores to raise money for its own foundation. Companies like Dunkin are focused on building their own philanthropic brands, and not the brands of their nonprofit partners.
         Donors are like businesses.
         A lot of people think that the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over $100 million in the summer of 2014, started with the ALS Association. But it didn’t. It actually started with one individual supporter. There are many things that contributed to the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge. But two things it couldn't have succeeded without were social media sites—especially Facebook—and mobile technology…
          Supporters can communicate their cause messages like never before, and without the aid of advertising or traditional media. This is powerful stuff, and businesses—as demonstrated by the number of CEOs who participated in the [ALS] Ice Bucket Challenge—are eager to align themselves and serve the efforts of do-gooders. In short, businesses can bypass nonprofits and go right to the people that nonprofits used to give them access to.
          Nonprofits don't have their act together.
         With the Goodpocalypse looming, most nonprofits are short on just about everything they need to thrive:

  • They're limited on how much they can invest in themselves because donors and watchdogs are carefully tracking their expenses.
  • They lack the staff and technology needed to engage on social-media sites and build publishing platforms.
  • They're not adept at targeting younger donors, like millennials. Their communication and outreach efforts reflect their preference for baby boomers—despite the fact that, in 15 years, baby boomers will comprise just 30 percent of the workforce.

         To review: Businesses don't necessarily need nonprofits to achieve their social missions. They can bypass nonprofits and work directly with do-gooders. And supporters don't need nonprofits to organize fundraisers. On top of this, nonprofits don't have the money, time, resources, or talent to change any of this.
         Businesses and Halopreneurs might be the only survivors of the Goodpocalypse.
         I'm not saying that nonprofits are going out of business—although some certainly will. We'll always need and have nonprofits. But the competition will be stiff from purpose-driven businesses that are acting like nonprofits and from Halopreneurs who can raise money independently of nonprofits.
         The challenge for nonprofits is to build a powerful brand that attracts support from businesses and Halopreneurs. As comedian Steve Martin has said, "Be so good they can't ignore you."

Chapter 24: “Leading Big Volunteer Operations” by Carla Lehn, pp.330-1.

Your Role as the Volunteer-Engagement Project Leader

Whether you lead a big volunteer operation like our statewide Get Involved initiative, or a smaller volunteer engagement effort just in your office, there are a number of key roles I've learned the leader must play in order to sustain success. Although it seems like a long list, you can actually just instinctively add them into your daily routine. And some of them are strategies that recruit help for you with the sustainability process so that success doesn't rest solely on your shoulders.

Cheerleader—Be enthusiastic. Give recognition. Showcase success stories. And, practice what you preach ... If you don't walk the talk by having skilled volunteers assigned to help you, how will you ever convince others that it's a good idea?

Engager of Additional Leaders—Like many of you, designing and managing this project is only a portion of my job. I couldn't possibly have the "reach" I need alone to make this statewide effort successful. So, I've identified region leaders—successful library staff in various parts of the state who are willing to lead and feel great about being asked. They organize regional meetings, attend conference calls, assist with future planning, and represent the program where necessary.

Training Champion—Understand the importance of training and exposure to success, and create opportunities for it at all levels. There will probably be a training event to kick off your effort…but more must be done to sustain change over time. We've held and archived a number of webinars…

Communicator-in-Chief—Regular communication is a key element of success—it helps to keep the volunteerism strategy in the forefront for those who have additional distracting work assignments, and it also minimizes the effect of staff turnover. We've maintained a listserv for five years, which now includes over 500 people. We schedule periodic conference calls and online meetings to address particular topics or innovation. I also hold periodic online coaching sessions on how to get the most from VolunteerMatch—not everyone learns everything by just reading or listening.

Resource Provider—When it became clear that libraries were developing great stuff that others could benefit from—volunteer job descriptions, policies, procedures, training materials, and handbooks—we gathered them onto a website with a searchable database. This serves the dual purpose of sharing resources and giving recognition to those who developed the materials.

Reporter-in-Chief—Another key resource development role of the volunteer-engagement leader is reporting. We produce a colorful one-page annual report detailing key successes, and we volunteer to offer programs at regional, statewide, and national conferences to reach new audiences and increase our credibility factor.

Investment Manager—We've had a source of funds from supportive state librarians that allowed this to be done on a fairly large scale. But you can scale it to your organization—even if you don't have a large budget, acting on many of these ideas won't cost much.

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