April 27 - May 3, 2008 is National Volunteer Week in both Canada and the United States. The heightened awareness of volunteerism that goes along with such a campaign offers a golden opportunity to celebrate your existing volunteers — and to recruit new volunteers to your organization. Here are a few ideas of how your nonprofit might use the internet to take full advantage of Volunteer Week — and we'd love to hear your ideas, too!
Celebrate Your Volunteers
Check with local media outlets for Public Service Announcement opportunities and other special programming related to Volunteer Week. Write up a few press releases to tell the stories of interesting individual volunteers who have made a significant contribution to your organization — and don't forget to tell those stories on your website!
Many organizations will be holding some sort of volunteer recognition event during Volunteer Week — be sure to take photographs! Upload the pictures to Flickr, share them with links in your newsletter and email notes, even create a slideshow to show on your website for another way to publicly acknowledge the vital role of your volunteers.
If you're planning to start using video and audio to promote your nonprofit's cause, there's probably no better time or subject to launch that project. Take your video camera to the scene of the volunteer action and make your own mini-documentary. Record the testimonials and human-interest stories of people whose lives are improved through the work of your volunteers. Share the productions through social media sites like YouTube, and post them on your own blog — with an AddThis bookmarking button or Email-a-Friend link, to make it as easy as possible for viewers to share with others.
Recruit New Volunteers Online
A group that actively and publicly acknowledges its volunteers will have a good chance to attract new ones, especially during Volunteer Week, and the internet makes it possible to reach out to more potential volunteers than ever before.
Have you considered the possibilities of Virtual Volunteers?
Many tasks that are essential to a nonprofit organization can be carried out from anywhere in the world — writing, website management, graphic design, marketing, research, database management, strategy planning — almost anything short of physically knocking on doors! This can be a real boon to smaller community organizations with a limited population base to draw on for skilled volunteers.
The United Nations' Online Volunteering website offers tips and guidelines for organizations that want to explore the option of virtual volunteers, as well as information for people interested in volunteering their time and talents online.
Websites to Match Nonprofits with Volunteers
Perhaps the easiest way to recruit volunteers online is through a growing number of websites that actively work to match up nonprofits with online volunteers. If there's a need, it seems there's a volunteer-matching site to meet it — anywhere in the world.
The Virtual Volunteers section of VolunteerMatch.org, for example, aims to match up nonprofits with internet users who have the skills to help them achieve specific goals. Idealist.org (Action Without Borders) lists international and virtual volunteering opportunities, as well as jobs openings in the nonprofit sector; Christian Volunteering is an American organization that matches faith-based volunteers with local, virtual, or US and international volunteering opportunities; and HealthCare Volunteer helps nonprofits to connect with health professionals worldwide.
Here are a few other "match-making services" that could help your nonprofit organization to find new volunteers in your own geographic area:
Australian Volunteer Search is an Australian government website that matches volunteers with volunteer opportunities, searchable by location.
Pro Bono Australia's Volunteer Match service is focused on matching professional volunteers such as lawyers, accountants, IT and marketing professionals" with nonprofit organizations that need their services; Go Volunteer has a broader scope, for non-professional volunteer positions, and the Ampersand Network is recommended for student volunteers.
Charity Village is a major news and information portal for the nonprofit sector, including a searchable database of volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer Bénévoles Canada provides links to more than 200 Volunteer Centres in all regions of Canada.
The Interchange links Christian volunteers and organizations in Canada and abroad.
Volunteering England — The National Centre for Volunteering — "works to support and increase the quality, quantity, impact and accessibility of volunteering throughout England." It operates in partnership with the Youthnet UK Do It program, which also includes overseas opportunities for UK volunteers.
See also Volunteer Network Scotland and Volunteering Wales.
Points of Light Foundation provides a directory of volunteer centers throughout the country.
Volunteer Match links up nonprofits and volunteers based on interest and location, as well as listing opportunities for virtual volunteers. A special section for Disaster Relief, operated in partnership with Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, offers a clickable map of current volunteer opportunities within the United States.
Help in Disaster registers and affiliates volunteers with an organization before a disaster occurs, so that responding groups in a disaster area can quickly reach out to appropriate volunteers when help is urgently needed.
Do you know of a volunteer-recruitment website that should be on the list? What advice can you offer other nonprofits for finding and working with virtual volunteers? How might your group take advantage of web technology in celebrating Volunteer Week 2008 and promoting the volunteer spirit in your community?
Please leave a comment to share your ideas!