NCVS 2015: Engagement & Impact

Given this year’s conference in Detroit on June 27-29, I wanted to share some additional thoughts from last year’s conference in Houston. In part I, I shared observations on what can be considered volunteering, faith based volunteering, and making the most out of every volunteering opportunity. A second huge component was engagement and impact. Here I’ll touch on how nonprofits engage with volunteers, why capacity building in a nonprofit is important, and what nonprofits can leverage from the for-profit space!

But First Let me Take a Selfie

Compared to prior years, there was a larger focus on how to engage high school students and millennials. One Museum volunteer manager implemented a selfie night to help bridge the generation gap between his college and senior volunteers. Volunteers used selfie sticks to take pictures with each other as they enjoyed the different exhibits. At the end of the night came a fun twist. The volunteer manager compiled all the pictures into a video he presented while playing the 2012 hit “Let me Take a Selfie”.

What I found interesting is this volunteer manager successfully linked his audience together by drawing on relatable aspects from pop culture. The connection was formed between what individuals experience in their daily life to important activities that make a difference. At its essence, engagement makes volunteering relatable. With faith based groups, volunteering is linked and made relatable to via shared religious values. At the museum, volunteering was made relatable by leveraging daily habits (selfies) and trending music.

First Capacity Then Volunteers

Across almost all sessions was the notion of creating capacity before asking for volunteers. Is your nonprofit ready to leverage 100 volunteers overnight? In many cases, what makes for a good volunteering is advanced planning, clearly defined roles, access to the right tools, and an understanding of what needs to be accomplished. The truth is that as a nonprofit you will be dependent on volunteers to help you achieve your social mission. However, if you are not ready for their time, you will fall short of creating meaningful impact. Build capacity, and then invite others to help you.

For Profit + Non Profit = Impact!

Within the Points of Light umbrella there are a plethora of organizations implementing new models to leverage volunteers and help more people give back. Jared Chung, founder of, gave a wonderful talk on 8 models from Silicon Valley to Inspire Your Next Virtual Volunteer Program (link to session details). Jared spoke about the evolution of business models and paradigms within the for-profit space that one can use to implement new nonprofits. Imagine a nonprofit that operated using elements of the Uber model (on demand resource sharing), or found ways to serve their communities using a Kickstarter approach (crowdfunding), or even created a volunteer engagement strategy a la Snapchat (real time content sharing). The business world has given us models that work very successfully, which can in turn be used to create sustainable nonprofits.

Paint by numbers again…

In part I we mentioned the concept of paint by numbers. You are the color containers that help nonprofits paint their canvas; and nonprofits give you a canvas to help bring more color into your life. You can be a tremendous help to nonprofits while feeding your soul!

Volunteering is always a great activity, and can be as simple as helping your neighbor or as quick as providing some career advice to high school students via Should you want additional volunteer opportunities or are curious about how you can spotlight your community service, we invite you to log on to AltruHelp using registration code “nvcrecap”.

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