Technology is changing all aspects of our lives. Yes, we know that’s not “breaking news.” But, when technology facilitates volunteering – removing barriers to engagement – that is news we need to share. Here’s the headline: check out Volunteer Odyssey, a local nonprofit that uses technology to connect volunteers with opportunities offered by nonprofits.
More and more of us live a “mobile” lifestyle, using our “devices” for everything from grocery shopping to bill paying. Yet there is often a disconnect between mobile life and nonprofit life. In the nonprofit world there is still a lot of paper, spreadsheets, and even –here and there – a fax machine. The gap between volunteers and the systems in place at nonprofits can make it difficult, time-consuming and frustrating for people to volunteer. That means good intentions go unfulfilled!
But there is a solution. Meet Dr. Sarah Petschonek, the founder and director of Volunteer Odyssey. She’s been volunteering since childhood, and as a grownup she brings her experience in the field of industrial and organizational psychology to the business of volunteering. Her goal: make it easy and meaningful for people to volunteer. And make it easy and impactful for nonprofits to engage volunteers.
No more calling and waiting for someone who doesn’t answer the phone; no more faxing in forms. Volunteer Odyssey “vets” volunteer opportunities, making sure the experience will be a high value, positive experience for the volunteer, and one that is of value for the nonprofit and the community.
We know from firsthand experience that the work of a nonprofit volunteer manager is often undervalued and underappreciated. We also know that engaging volunteers in a meaningful and well thought out way is the gold standard in nonprofit leverage and impact. But it is work. Volunteer Odyssey automates some of that work, and provides a way for participating nonprofits to track volunteer engagement and makes it easier for volunteers to “sign up.”
We had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Petschonek last week at a luncheon meeting of the Memphis Association of Fundraising Professionals held at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. Here are some of the questions she shared in her presentation: Are your volunteers having a good experience? Do you know why they volunteer? Do you thank your volunteers? Does your strategic plan include strategies for turning donors into volunteers, and for turning volunteers into donors? Do you ask your volunteers to make a financial gift? Do you ask your donors to volunteer their time?
She also reminded us that there is an “official” value for volunteer time. In Tennessee that is $22.16/hour, per the Independent Sector. Keep track of that time and share it with your donors and funders.
We were exposed to some new fun words too. Volanthropist – a volunteer who also donates money; and dolunteer – a donor who volunteers at the nonprofits they give to.
Check out Volunteer Odyssey online. We hope you will find yourself suffering from volunesia – “that moment when you forget that you are volunteering to help change lives because it is changing yours…”
Copyright 2017 – Mel and Pearl Shaw
Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on Amazon.com. For help growing your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.