Recap: 2015 National Volunteer Conference

conf_2015_logo_verticalFor the thousands of volunteers, non-profit leaders and professionals that look forward to the National Volunteer Conference, this year’s conference gets underway on Monday June 27th in Detroit, Michigan! Ahead of this amazing event, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections of last year’s conference.

In 2015, Houston, Texas welcomed the National Volunteer Conference put on by Points of Light on October 19 – 21. Sure enough, it was Texas Big! As you may already know, Points of Light was created by George H. W. Bush. The 2015 conference celebrated the 25th anniversary of its inception! Few things compare to being surrounded by thousands of volunteers. And not by way of people sharing common values or the eagerness to help others, but from the shared passion of exchanging ideas and innovations to help increase volunteerism.

Volunteering is…

Although many of us consider volunteering from the very traditional stand point of lending time / skills to a nonprofit organization (or during times of crisis & recovery), the notion of volunteering can be so much broader. One presenter shared the following statistic for the audience to consider: 60+% of American’s help a neighbor. Depending on how you’ve helped, this begins to open the aperture on what we define as volunteering. Volunteering with a nonprofit is just a subset of where/how one can give back.

The phrase Pro Bono Consulting came up and I thought it was very fitting as a way to capture those way we help others through conversations, meetings, email exchanges, & brainstorming sessions. For me, this is especially true and relevant you leverage your domain knowledge or expertise – wearing your professional hat or even from your hobbies. Overall, I believe people volunteer more often than they realize.

Faith Based Volunteering

In the United States, roughly 50% of volunteering takes place within faith based organizations. Yet, many faith based groups struggle to engage their membership in service. What stood out was the shared approach to (want to) use technology and social media. Printed newsletters and bulletin boards are great in their own right…as are Facebook groups and Instagram for photo sharing. Rather than shun the tools that keep millennials glued to their phone, faith based groups have worked to embrace learning and utilizing social media as a mechanism by which to better connect with their membership. To take the 50,000 foot perspective, faith based groups are mindful that identifying & connecting with local influencers can help create more impact. These leaders also mentioned that while ego can come into play (that is all information should come from a central figure in your local clergy) the goal is to help nurture their communities and help people give back. In short: help them help everyone! Raise your hand and let your ideas be known.

Paint By Numbers

One presenter put it best: you are the color containers that help nonprofits paint their canvas. Nonprofits give you a canvas to help bring more color into your life. Whether it’s through your faith based group, employer, or personal drive, you can be a tremendous help to nonprofits while feeding your soul. For a sure fire great volunteering experience, be sure to look at any opportunity from the capacity building lens – understand what is expected of you, identify if you have access to the relevant tools, and review what “success” looks like!

What do you think? Let us know if any of these ideas and takeaways resonate with you. We would love to hear your feedback, so please leave comments below!

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