Archive for March, 2009

Social Media Tips for Volunteer Organizations

Monday, March 30th, 2009
Volunteers Filling Sandbags in Fargo, ND  



Volunteers Filling Sandbags in Fargo, ND

Ask your volunteers how they prefer to receive communication from your organization, and you will likely get a variety of answers. But you’ll also get some appreciation. Being flexible and putting your volunteers’ needs first is vital to keeping them around. One-sided communication definitely does not fit all these days.

With Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, as well email, instant messaging and texting, you can communicate with all of your volunteers faster than ever–and in the way they prefer. But check in often—it can change from one day to the next!  The folks who faithfully checked their home answering machines might not even have a home phone anymore. The frequent emailers have turned to Facebook or Twitter to keep up with their circles of friends, and might now consider email an inconvenience.

If you are not up to speed on all the Social Media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, your volunteers are—so ask one to help set up a page for your organization. With a sentence or two, you can communicate to everyone at once, and instantly receive their feedback, questions, and suggestions. Volunteers can interact and create a community through these websites, enhancing the bond they feel for your organization, while they spread the word about your cause. 

Social Media Tips for Volunteer Organizations:

A Facebook page is a must have for any charitable organization.

Gather cell phone numbers for all your volunteers immediately, and input them into your phone. See if your phone can save groups of numbers together.

To communicate quickly about meeting times or events, text or online messages can easily be sent to groups. Flood-fighting volunteers in Fargo, ND used Facebook extensively just last week, keeping in touch and spreading the need for help.

Twitter is the latest way for groups to communicate quickly and easily.

Remember that many of your volunteers have web-enabled mobile devices (also known as cell phones), so they don’t have to be in front of their computers to receive your communication. 

Volunteering is about community building—and so are the new Social Media sites. Become familiar with them and how they work, and you’ll become more valuable to your volunteers!

Remember that proper volunteer screening will help keep your organization and clients safe.

Featured Corporate Volunteer Program: Southwest Airlines

Friday, March 20th, 2009


Southwest Airlines Volunteer Screening Blog

Southwest Airlines employees, from the top corporate officers down to the airplane restocking crews, are known for spreading a whole lot of “luv.”  In fact, LUV is their official NYSE symbol!

To further their mission of empowering their employees and providing top quality customer service, Southwest Airlines encourages volunteerism at every level. The stories of outstanding community service by Southwest Airlines are too numerous to mention; but here are a few examples:

Gary Kelly, Southwest Airline’s Chairman and SEO, was named “Texas Public Schools Friend of the Year” last fall for his contributions to public school education in his home state.

Once per quarter, Southwest Airlines volunteers host a dinner at a local Ronald McDonald House, personally gathering food and cooking for everyone in the house. They typically feed over 100 people, and even entertain the kids with games and art projects!

Southwest Airlines’ annual Adopt-A-Pilot program reaches fifth-grade students in more than 1,000 classes across the country, helping them hone their science, math, geography, and writing skills with aviation-related activities, led by volunteer pilot mentors. This program has an environmental awareness element as well, focusing on how Southwest Airlines uses energy and fuel, and how they have worked toward becoming a more eco-friendly company.

Developed in cooperation with the US Department of Education and the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Adopt-A-Pilot started with just 50 classrooms in 1997. It has since been recognized by Gen. Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton, Former First Lady Laura Bush, and other national leaders.

Each year, Southwest Airlines honors their most outstanding volunteers by adding names to their wall of honor. Recent additions include a pilot who started the Snowball Express, which raises money to treat families who’ve lost a loved one in Iraq to a weekend at Disneyland.  Another honoree is a flight attendant who started a charity focusing on children’s cancer research after she lost her four-year-old daughter to the disease.

Corporate volunteer programs are good for the communities they serve and for the company, too. Customer good will and positive press coverage is priceless for any size company.


Remember that proper volunteer screening will help keep your organization and clients safe.

Volunteering Helps Keep Aging Brains Healthy

Friday, March 13th, 2009


It’s true that people are living longer in the US, but are their minds staying healthy, too? Yes, according to a new study published by the medical journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. The research states that brain health is improving in aging people in the US. Researchers studied people over age 69 in 1993 and compared that data with a similar study of people in 2002. They discovered that cognitive impairment dropped almost four percentage points.

That number may seem small, but it correlates to hundreds of thousands of people whose brains are healthier—and it indicates that overall risk for dementia may be dropping among older Americans.

So the question is: why? Are aging Americans exercising more, smoking less, or seeing their physicians more often? Yes, and these factors contribute to healthier brains. But keeping your mind active is the real key, according to the lead author of the study, Dr. Kenneth Langa. Formal education, reading and talking with friends are important, but so is “staying connected with the world through volunteering and social networks.”

Staying connected through volunteering is not only good for the community—it’s good for your brain, too.

Remember that thorough volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

5 Trends in Volunteering

Saturday, March 7th, 2009
Young People Want Meaningful Volunteer Opportunities

Young People Want Meaningful Volunteer Opportunities


As the general population becomes more diverse, so does the volunteer pool. This means more of your volunteers will be ethnic minorities and people for whom English is not their first language.  Sensitivity, and relating, to a wide variety of socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds will become ever more important.


Web-based tools have become an entire generation’s mode of communication. What is your organization’s web presence? Does your website make it easy for a volunteer to learn about what you do, the volunteer opportunities that exist, and how they can apply for a position? Do you use current technology—email, text, Social Media groups—to communicate with your volunteers? If not, you are likely turning off a large section of your potential volunteer pool. Sharpen up your technology offerings to remain relevant in today’s high-tech world. All the tools you need are easily accessed, and in many cases, free.

Wants and Needs

The desire to make a difference is back in a big way, but diverse demographic groups indicate different expectations. In general, there is more interest in issues and causes, along with a desire to help. Baby boomers are retiring and want to contribute their experience, while looking for meaning and purpose.  Young people need actual experience and job skills for their resumes. Increasingly, high schools, colleges and universities require community service in order to graduate. The newly-unemployed want to keep their skills sharp while job hunting. Today’s volunteers want to be challenged. They expect a high level of professionalism, with minimal bureaucracy.

Volunteerism is in the News

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that more employers are offering perks like time off to volunteer. They realize it’s an easy way to contribute to employee well-being, and to the community, while receiving positive press. Starbucks is driving volunteerism through its website and stores. Target and Trader Joe’s advertise their community involvement as part of their core values. Volunteerism is all over the news. Be prepared to handle more inquiries.

Family Dynamics

More women in the workplace. Two-income families. The “sandwich” generation, who care for their children as well as their parents. For most Americans, family time is stretched to the limit, and parents often feel guilty about less time spent with their families. Volunteer opportunities that allow flexibility, short-term, in-and-out service appeal to busy families, as do volunteer-from-home projects. These people are also attracted to family-friendly tasks so they can contribute to their communities while spending time with their families. 

Think about how each of these trends could affect your organization, and then craft creative ways to respond!

Learn more about keeping your volunteers and your clients safe with background checks. Proper volunteer screening will help you recruit and retain the best volunteers for your organization.

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