Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Volunteers Are The Worst

August 15, 2017

Imagine you are a pretty senior person in a corporate job. Someone tells you there are twenty people who are dying to volunteer for your department.

Volunteer, not intern – These folks get paid nothing in exchange for the experience and knowledge that they are helping you in getting your big job done.

And they are (I repeat!) free labor. They will do anything you ask them. Your department gets more work done and, as a result, is more profitable. And since your own year-end bonus relies on your productivity, the more you deliver, the more you make.

Sounds kinda awesome right? I’m thinking you’d sign right up.

So then why do so many nonprofit leaders have a serious love/hate relationship with volunteers? And is there anything they (and you) can do to make it actually work?

Why yes. Yes there is…

First, a recent reader, without meaning to, brought to light how valuable volunteers can really be:

“I’m the program director and run 9 different committees by myself with one support person that splits her time between me and the ED. Yet we have 4 staff members dedicated to two fundraisers. More money = more help.”

Perhaps more money equals more help. But guess what? More volunteers equals more help too! How about finding a first rate volunteer to work 15 hours a week to help with administrative support for this ridiculous amount of work?


So with all the potential upside, what’s the issue anyway? I mean seriously, who turns her back on free labor? Why don’t we all turn over every stone to try to find volunteers? Here are the top three excuses reasons I hear from nonprofit leaders.

  1. Volunteers are too much work. I have to figure out what the heck they can do that is finite, requires little supervision and keeps them occupied for long stretches of time. I am already way too busy to take on additional responsibility.
  2. Volunteers are just not reliable. I just can’t count on ‘em. I don’t pay them so who knows if they’ll even show up when I need them. I can’t take that chance.
  3. My work needs to be perfect. I can’t afford to let any balls drop – there’s too much at stake. I can’t give work to someone who doesn’t have the same amount of skin in the game as I do.


But they’re not. Here’s why.

Yes there’s a lot at stake if something gets messed up. But there’s even more at stake if you don’t get done what needs to be done. You can’t do everything yourself and have the reach and impact you need. It’s nearly impossible. If you never delegate, you’ll drown (and burn out.) And most nonprofits simply don’t have enough staff.

All three of the reasons come down to managing risk. You just need to find the right person who is committed to your mission. You need to give them specific tasks and you need to hold them accountable.

If you can’t do that, maybe the problem isn’t with the volunteers. Maybe it’s with you.


Don’t get defensive now. Of course there are great volunteers and terrible ones. A great volunteer is the same kind of person who makes a great staffer. She’s committed, understands her responsibilities (and has been sufficiently trained,) and she’s held accountable.

But there’s another critical ingredient. A great supervisor with a dose of creativity.

In other words, you.

Here’s what I mean about creativity. Think about the work you do every day. Think about the small tasks that, in aggregate, suck up your time. I’m positive you can come up with a variety of tasks for a willing and enthusiastic volunteer for at least an hour or two each day. If you plan far enough ahead, maybe even a couple days each week.

Filing. Backing up your computer. Pouring ketchup into cups for the lunch service at the soup kitchen.

It’s just not that hard to be creative about volunteers for annual galas and big dinner parties. In fact, you simply can’t execute these without dedicated volunteers. Start to think about your day-to-day job the same way.

So that’s the “creative” part. How about the “great supervisor” part?


1) Answer the phone

This one is a serious pet peeve. More than once I’ve told somebody I’m a nonprofit consultant and mention a client. The response: “Oh yeah, I tried to volunteer for them once but no one ever got back to me.”

SERIOUSLY? Just stop it! As an organization, make a decision. Either commit to working with volunteers or don’t. But if you do, pick up the phone.

2) Take interviews seriously

Just because the price is right doesn’t mean that either (a) the skill set is right or (b) the volunteer wants the gig for the right reason. Treat volunteer interviews just like you would for a full-time staffer.

3) Invest

People who drive meaning and significance from their work are more than three times as likely to stay engaged and stay put.

If you take time to share successes or a story that amplifies the need for your work, the specific task becomes unimportant. You’ll wind up with a volunteer who cares about the quality of the work as much as you do and will stay with you a long time. Don’t take your volunteers for granted. Let them know they’re appreciated and doing meaningful work.


Do my readers a favor. Head to the comments section below and share a great story about how a rockstar volunteer made your job a bit easier, came up with a great idea, or just provided strong moral support on a particularly tough day.

Let’s hear your stories. Inspire us.

And if you volunteer, thank you! And please share your experiences as well.


Joan Garry

Widely known as the “Dear Abby” of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.

Successful Campaigns Empower Volunteers—Then Let Them Lead

July 6, 2017

Abby Monkarsh had always cared about animals. She grew up in Jericho, New York, a small Long Island town. When she turned 11, her family adopted their first dog from a nearby animal shelter. She eventually became a vegetarian, and soon after college she was hired to work at an animal hospital in Brookline, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.

Despite her deep love for animals, she had never joined a campaign to advocate on their behalf. Then, one day in September 2015, more than a decade after starting her work at the animal hospital, she heard about an upcoming event at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) just blocks from her apartment. It was her birthday weekend, and since she always liked doing something good for animals on her birthday, Monkarsh went, along with nearly 100 other animal advocates.

The MSPCA, she learned, had partnered with The Humane Society of the United States and other groups in spearheading a statewide campaign to place an animal protection issue on the November 2016 ballot. If they collected enough signatures from registered Massachusetts voters, the issue of extreme farm animal confinement could qualify for the ballot. The campaign needed to collect a staggering 95,000 signatures—about 1,500 per day over two and a half months—to provide Massachusetts voters with an opportunity to vote “yes” to ensure egg-laying hens, breeding sows, and calves raised for veal would no longer be raised in cages and crates so cramped the animals could barely move.

Monkarsh was in. She didn’t waste any time, either. She left the event and walked right across the street to a music festival to begin collecting signatures from strangers. The following week, she collected more signatures at work, and even planted herself outside grocery stores and at busy street corners. Thanks to Monkarsh’s warm, disarming demeanor, most passersby stopped and signed, so she quickly filled up the petition sheets given to her at the event.

With her petition sheets full of signatures, she delivered a thick stack to the campaign headquarters and asked what else she could do. We campaign staffers were excited but skeptical. We probed: How did she get so many signatures so quickly? Just who was she?

Despite having no experience in political campaigning or animal advocacy, Monkarsh knew what she was doing. And we knew we had found a leader.

Unwittingly, political campaigns often create bottlenecks that are unnecessary impediments to engaging volunteers, requiring that paid staff members handle every task. But, inspired by the words of a former Obama campaign staffer in the book Groundbreakers, we knew that training volunteers to lead would be key to our success: “[Volunteers] are our strength, they are part of our strategy. This is how we’ll win.”

Our campaign could’ve chosen to over-manage Monkarsh by dictating where and when she collected signatures, rewriting the spiel she gave to passersby, or creating any other number of constraints. But we didn’t. In fact, we did the opposite: We gave her more freedom and asked her to take on even more responsibility.

Over the following weeks, every time someone who lived near Monkarsh wanted to get involved, we sent them to her, and she promptly trained them. This approach of transferring some responsibility from staff to volunteers ultimately freed up staff time and gave volunteers like Monkarsh the opportunity to help lead a political campaign.

When all was said and done, Monkarsh had collected more than 5,000 signatures in her spare time while training new volunteers and inspiring many others. “Having everyone at the campaign office recognize my passion and potential was beyond flattering,” Monkarsh said.

It wasn’t just Monkarsh. There was Elizabeth Kenney in Bourne and Jessica Sosebee in Nantucket, who trained volunteers in areas difficult for campaign staff to reach. Carla and Richard Moss, a retired couple in Byfield, diligently spent one hour each day collecting signatures, sometimes bringing new volunteers along to show them the ropes. Kathy Downey in Newbury, Sheryl Becker in Agawam, and Leslie Luppino in Pittsfield activated their local animal-friendly networks to get involved.

Thanks to the leadership of volunteers and staff, the campaign collected 133,000 signatures, more than any other campaign trying to get on the Massachusetts ballot that year and the only one to do it without hiring a paid signature-gathering firm.

Once qualified for the ballot, we had to mount a campaign that would win 50.1 percent of the electorate—about 1.5 million votes. We were asking voters to cast their ballot in favor of preventing the extreme confinement of chickens, pigs and calves—animals they likely had never interacted with and knew little about. It was no small challenge.

Drawing on the strength of volunteers from the signature-collecting phase we recruited 40 of them to serve as “town captains,” leading door-knocking and other grassroots outreach in their own communities. One volunteer in Cambridge, Curt Rogers, organized other volunteers so extensively that the door of every single consistent voter was visited.

On election night, the hard work of Monkarsh, Rogers, and more than a thousand other volunteers paid off when Massachusetts voters ushered in the nation’s strongest farm animal protection law with an overwhelming 78 percent of the vote. “Looking around the room at all those amazing people who worked so hard and cared so much about these animals,” Monkarsh said, “is a feeling I will never forget.” The commanding win confirmed the humane values we all share—that all animals, in addition to the dogs and cats with which we share our homes, deserve to be protected from cruelty. But it also confirmed that when campaigns empower volunteers, rather than simply manage them, everyone succeeds.



Upsides of workplace volunteer programs revealed in Deloitte survey

July 6, 2017

Deloitte’s 2017 Volunteerism Survey conducted in May interviewed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+, employed full- or part-time, who have volunteered in the past 12 months. Its objective was to explore how employed Americans view volunteerism in the workplace and their understanding of the impact and benefits to communities, self and business.

A number of interesting findings were revealed in the survey, including:

  • 89% of respondents believe companies that sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those who do not
  • 70% say that volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours
  • 77% say volunteering is essential to employee well-being

However, just 38% of respondents indicated that their employers provide access to company-sponsored or coordinated volunteer programs.

“It appears that many employees understand the value of volunteering and have the desire to do more, but they aren’t reaping the full benefits,” said Doug Marshall, managing director of corporate citizenship at Deloitte LLP. “Employers have an opportunity to build on their volunteerism programs by creating a culture that celebrates volunteering and empowers volunteers to be more active.”

Understanding the impact
One way businesses can encourage more volunteering is by explaining how employees efforts benefit the community, Deloitte suggests. For example, 75% of millennials said they would volunteer more if they had a better understanding of the impact they could make. That compares to 61% of all respondents who felt that way.

Businesses can also let employees know how volunteering benefits them – beyond the “halo effect” that comes with active volunteering.

In a Deloitte Impact Survey last year, 80% of hiring influencers indicated they believe active volunteers move into leadership roles more easily. Yet in this year’s volunteerism survey, just 18% of respondents said they believe volunteerism can enhance their career opportunities, although 36% indicated it can help them develop new skills.

A purpose-driven workforce
“As businesses continue to find new ways to retain and attract new talent, and establish a more purpose-driven and engaged workforce, they should consider how they can better incorporate volunteerism into their culture,” Marshall said. “It’s a potential solution from which businesses, professionals and communities can benefit, while supporting employees’ personal and career development, and boosting their sense of well-being.”


This article is from the Council’s Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

20 Volunteer Ideas for Teens & Families

September 15, 2016


As our children are moving into the high school years we are encouraging them to seek opportunities to get involved in the community through volunteering.

Volunteering provides many benefits for teens. By participating in community service activities teens can meet new people, learn the value of serving others, build life skills,explore potential career options, and more.

If your teen is college bound there may be another good reason for volunteering — colleges often look for work and volunteer experience on the college application.

You might even want to consider helping your family (including your teen) find volunteering activities you can all participate in together. Working on projects together as a family is a special way to build ties to your community and unforgettable family memories.

Together with our friends we would like to share 20 of our favorite volunteer ideas for teens and families:

How to Find Volunteer Opportunities for Teens & Families

There are many places for teens and families to volunteer. Non—profit organizations, churches, and community groups are often looking for people to help with activities and events.

Teens can find volunteer opportunities by visiting sites like  or HandsOn Network. While looking at these sites teens can search for activities that match their interests and/or help them build skills.

Here are a few examples from our family:

  • Because we are big animal lovers our family has been working with a local dog rescue group as a foster family.
  • My oldest son wanted to learn more about law enforcement so he volunteers with the Explorers program.
  • My younger son wanted to strengthen his public speaking skills so he volunteers with our county’s Teen Court program.

Here are a few more ideas from our friends:

Help your teen discover opportunities to use his passions to serve others. – Kris

The Importance of Giving & Serving Others

It is important to help kids and teens understand the needs and concerns of others. We believe hands-on, in-person service activities in the community are the best way to build understanding.

We are thankful to our many friends who are sharing their experiences on this topic (click on the link within each quote to learn more):

Because of our homeschool service projects my children have more compassion for others, notice needs, willingly give up time and resources, joyfully take part in each and every opportunity, and specifically look for ways to help others.- Cindy

The Martin Luther King Day of Service is a moment to work together to fulfill King’s vision for a better America. Eva

Teaching children to serve is such an important thing. If children learn while they are young the value of giving of themselves, not for praise but just because, their lives will be so much better. – Karyn

Helping Kids Help Others – Raising our children to be givers not takers is important. Raising our children to think of others and care for others in need is important too. By Jen

Do you want your kids to learn kindness and service like I do?  I want my kids to naturally desire to show love and kindness to others around them. Here are some fun Acts of Kindness Kids Can do. – Karyn

Every activity on our family’s schedule is carefully considered. Recently, we made acommitment to a new activity that has really blessed our family – serving others. Crystal

Building Life Skills & Character

Volunteering can also help teens build important life skills and positive character traits. For example, by helping to foster homeless dogs my children are learning patience, compassion, and (more practically) how to help dogs learn basic obedience skills so they can find their forever homes. Through his experience with the Explorers program my son is also learning leadership skills that will service him well regardless of what career path he chooses in the future.

Here are some more thoughts on the importance of building these skills from other families:

Character building doesn’t have to be another subject that you tack onto the end of your day. In fact, I would argue that helping your children to develop positive character traits is actually more effective if you use hands-on, real world methods. One way you can do this is by volunteering with your children. – Michelle

Service and Leadership – In our home, learning to serve plays a major role in values training.  Of course, we train our children to serve one another in our home, but we’re also intentional in finding service opportunities outside the home. – Cindy

It’s Our Turn to Lead – Here are a few activities and ideas to teach your students about preserving our earth, while learning about our beautiful planet. – Eva

Additional Volunteering Resources and Ideas

Article found at:


7 Ways to Get Millennials Involved with Your Cause

August 19, 2016


How many times a day
 do you hear the term “Millennial”? Likely, you hear it often because they are one of the most talked about generations. This generation is in constant search of the next best thing and how it will benefit them personally.

Many nonprofits are in search of how to involve this generation with their cause.

Millennials look at the world from a different perspective than the generations before them. They are innovative, creative, and can add value and originality to any organization. Here are a few ways you can attract Millennials to become involved with your nonprofit:


This generation tends to follow nonprofits they admire and trust. Being authentic in the public eye builds trust and compassion for your mission. Authenticity within your brand can inspire Millennials to join your cause.

Consider holding quarterly Impact Calls to share topics such as your financial results and scheduling methodology with key stakeholders. Join GuideStar’s Impact Call August 9th to see how they work, or download a free Impact Call PowerPoint template to get you started on hosting a call of your own.


Think about the last video or commercial you saw regarding a nonprofit organization. If it touched you personally, you would be likely to get involved with the organization and learn more about their story. Human interest stories can evoke responses that bring us amusement, joy, or sorrow.

Using case studies, testimonials, or employee profiles can also be great marketing tools totell your story. Communicating your story using creativity and emotion may appeal to Millennials in your community and maybe even around the world.


If you want to engage Millennials, social media is a great outlet to tell your story and share your mission. Start conversations and ask questions to involve the younger generation. This is how they communicate with their friends and family, read the news, and interact with their community.

Does your nonprofit have a social media strategy? There are great tools to help you get started such as HubSpot’s Social Media Strategy Kit. Engagement on social media is key to standing out to Millennials online.


Baby boomers grew up in a time where they worked for one company until they retired. They wanted upward mobility and the focus was on progressing with the same company throughout their career. Today, the landscape is a little different; the focus has shifted to gaining experience and building valuable skills. Millennials want opportunities for self-improvement by learning different skill sets they can apply to their careers.

Understanding the benefits of volunteering can be a perfect start for creating a strong marketing strategy. Promoting the value of volunteerism can be a great way to appeal to Millennials. They don’t know what you have to offer unless you show them.


In The 2015 Millennial Impact Report, 77% of Millennials said they would be more likely to volunteer if they could leverage a specific skill or expertise to benefit a cause. Promoting different opportunities based on skills could be another way to attract Millennials to your organization. Millennials want to make a difference and if they can use their expertise to do so, they will feel as though their skills are being put to good use.

Fulfilling the right skill sets and expertise your organization needs can be challenging. Focusing your marketing efforts toward Millennials with certain skill sets is a great way to acquire lasting supporters.


Knowing what piques your audience’s interest is key in recruiting a younger set of volunteers. They communicate with each other using a special language unique to their generation. Do some research and see how they interact on social media and in person.

This short video may help you learn how to direct your communication efforts to your target audience. Knowing how they communicate can help you revamp your marketing strategy to appeal to Generation Y.


What is the best way to involve Millennials with your cause? How about hiring them to work for you? Not only will this make your nonprofit more marketable, but it will encourage more Millennials to volunteer for your organization.

There are many ways to recruit Millennials to work for your organization. GuideStar’s Junior Board Series can help you create the most effective ways to recruit Millennials for your nonprofit. Having someone internally who knows how to market to Millennials can help spread your mission.

Having Millennials involved in your organization will help convey your message to a broader audience. Using different tools to tell your story will inspire them to join your cause. They want to be a part of something that will change their lives and the lives of others.

Make sure you are telling a powerful story that has an impact on those who hear it. Be true to your brand and bring passion and purpose to the Millennials in your community.

The preceding is guest post by Ashley Chorpenning, Marketing Communications Specialist for VolunteerHuba cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more.

20 Family Volunteering Ideas

June 10, 2016

20 Ideas to Celebrate National Family Month By Volunteering with Your Family

National Family Month is celebrated from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day. National Family Month and the upcoming Father’s Day weekend provide an opportunity for families to share special time together, to develop or renew relationships, and to remind everyone of the importance of family involvement in raising healthy, confident kids. Service is a great way to spend time together and turn volunteering into a lifetime habit. Looking for ways to serve with your family? Here are 20 ideas:


  • Make cards/care packages for kids in the hospital.
  • Make first aid kits and donate them to a homeless shelter.
  • Organize a day of play for neighborhood kids/families to promote healthy lifestyles.
  • Clean up a neighborhood park/playground.


  • Clean up a local river or stream.
  • Maintain local hiking and walking trails.
  • Do an energy audit of your home and make an effort to reduce energy consumption.

Poverty & Hunger 

  • Grow extra fruits and vegetables to donate to a food pantry.
  • Give out food and water to homeless people.
  • Serve meals at a soup kitchen.
  • Help restock the shelves of a food pantry.


  • Donate old books.
  • Practice reading skills by reading to young children together.
  • Read a book with your child that will teach them skills they can use to better the community.

Human Rights 

  • Make posters educating people about the negative effects of bullying.
  • Write letters to local elected officials advocating for protection against bullying for LGBTQ youth.
  • Host a workshop for youth and their parents about cyber bullying and effective ways to use social media and the internet.

Community Building  

  • Visit a local senior center.
  • Mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor.
  • Donate unused sports equipment to an after school center.

Source: YSA (Youth Service America)

Volunteering is for Everyone

November 1, 2015
  • Youth: Volunteering at an early age teaches responsibility and establishes a strong work ethic and a willingness to serve others.
  • Students: Students gain unmatched real-world experience, are better prepared for a career of service, and may even meet many educational requirements.
  • Adults: 1 in 4 adults volunteered in 2013. From working professionals to stay-at-home parents, adults can contribute their valuable knowledge and skills to the community.
  • Seniors: The lifetime of experience senior adults bring to volunteer opportunities can be one of the most valuable contributions they make to the community.
  • Families: The benefits of volunteering together bring family members closer and teaches good values that are passed on from one generation to the next.
  • Groups: All kinds of teams, clubs, religious and civic organizations can achieve so much when they work together as a group.

For more information go to

5 Surprising Benefits Of Volunteering

August 18, 2015

“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” – Gordon Hinckle

Here are five surprising benefits of volunteering:

Why do you want to volunteer?

June 15, 2015
  • I want to make a difference: In 2013 volunteers made an unprecedented difference in South Dakota! Nearly 21.5 million hours were volunteered, and the estimated value of this service is close to $483.5 million.
  • I want to meet new friends: 219,290 South Dakotans, including youth, students, adults and seniors volunteered in 2013. So you’re in good company with 219,289 potential new friends when you volunteer!
  • I want to learn new skills: Volunteering is the perfect way to learn new skills, or even hone the ones you already have. There are many different volunteer opportunities for every kind and every level of skill. What will you learn?
  • I want to grow my career: Volunteering connects you to an incredible network of other professionals who volunteer. You can work side-by-side with a leader in your field or a hiring manager at the company where you’d really like to be. In fact, volunteers have a 27% higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than those who don’t volunteer.

Volunteer, Make A Difference –

7 Traits of Amazing Volunteers

May 18, 2015

If you and your organization want to take on the biggest challenges facing humanity you will need an amazing tribe of volunteers. The key word here is amazing.