The New Volunteers

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The first wave of baby boomers has turned 65–and it seems everybody wants their own little slice of the retirement party cake. The Economist might warn us that this could only entail (to drop the metaphor) an increasing financial strain on national programs like Medicare and Social Security. Luckily, I don’t really read The Economist, and I’m certainly not here to gripe about who gets the corner pieces with the most frosting. I’m here to talk about the unpaid work these aging boomers are undertaking: volunteer work. Even better, these retirees aren’t just any volunteers—they’re the only kind of unpaid work that could bring years of experience and technical training to the table. With passion and plenty of free time, boomer volunteers are an invaluable resource to 5k races and bake sales nation-wide.

But they aren’t the only ones. There’s another demographic that’s taken to volunteer work on the weekends: they’re fashionable twenty-somethings, living in college towns, buying local and composting. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the national rate of volunteering for 19-to 24-year-olds has increased to 19% between 2002 and 2009.

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These are the “New Volunteers”: eco-friendly, occupy-happy, and perhaps most importantly, tech-savvy. Somewhere between fact-checking local politicians on their smart phones and reading Catch-22 on their Kindles, these cats have become fluent in the language of the cybersphere. At any given moment, you might catch one simultaneously updating his or her Facebook status and importing a resume to LinkedIn—all while maintaining a steady stream of tweets to the suddenly made-cool-again vintage popstar, Madonna. They live in a digital age of instantaneous information-sharing. And guess what? They think volunteering is dank. That’s right—it’s official. Volunteers are cool again.

So, as a volunteer coordinator, how can you possibly cater to these two dramatically different populations? What is the best way to appease the demands of the “modern” volunteer without intimidating those who might find themselves less technologically plugged-in? The answer is simple: create an online registration process that is efficient, personable and easy to navigate—and that’s just what we’ve done here at VolunteerLocal. Our software is the quickest and simplest way to manage, schedule and communicate with volunteers of any age. VolunteerLocal allows you to streamline the volunteer registration process without clutter or added complication. That means no passwords, no hidden fees, and no accounts. So: the “new” volunteer demands efficiency, a personal touch, and a clean approach that doesn’t over-complicate the process? No problem. VolunteerLocal is the new software to meet your volunteers halfway there. That means happy volunteers—and, of course, happy volunteer coordinators.

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Get Us Some Mo’!

It’s so good, you’re gonna want some mo’…rub, that is.

Meet Steph Jessen, co-pilot at the grill and co-creator of Mo’Rub–a spicy, zesty, all-natural rub for anything from pork loins to hard boiled eggs. Steph and her husband, Mo, first invented Mo’Rub as a Christmas gift for family and friends. “Before every Christmas, our friends would come around and ask for more,” said Steph. “We intended for it to be a pork rub, but our friends were using it on everything!” When the duo found out that some were even sprinkling it over SpaghettiOs, they knew they had created something special.

Courtesy of Mo’Rub

SpaghettiOs, however, was just the beginning. In June of 2011, Steph and Mo quit their full-time, salaried positions and began the LLC popularly known as Mo’Rub. Today, you can find the Top 10 Uses for Mo’Rub on their website–a list that includes such tried-and-true favorites as Mo’Nuts, Mo’Dip, and Guaca-Mo’-le (ohhh yeah!). Coming soon? Mo’Mary–the Ultimate Bloody Mary. It didn’t take Steph or Mo long to realize the viability of this multifarious rub–a spice that’s got even their uses ever-evolving, thanks to recipe submissions by fans online. “You’d be amazed what people can do with our rub,” said Steph. “Grilled cheese sandwiches, hashbrowns–you name it.”

Today, the team is back in Iowa (after a short hiatus out west), traveling the state with a hot grill, quick hands, lots of wings and–you guessed it–plenty of Rub. A summer tour like this, however, takes more than just two great cooks. They need plenty of volunteers along the way.

Their “secret spice” to volunteer coordination? VolunteerLocal. “Before [VolunteerLocal], we relied mostly on friends and word-of-mouth for volunteers,” said Steph. “We tried reaching out to corporate businesses that had volunteer databases, and we even put a blurb in the Des Moines Register,” she added. “We got some pretty crazy people.”

Courtesy of Mo’Rub

Now, Steph and Mo can travel to farmer’s markets and festivals all over the state, recruiting volunteers along the way–for two busy entrepreneurs, it’s a perfect fit. “It’s such an awesome tool and resource,” said Steph. “We’re in the beginning phases of our venture, and we appreciate this resource to assist us!”

VolunteerLocal: fresh-off-the-grill volunteer management with a little kick.

Click here to try Mo’Rub today!

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5 Easy Steps to Find and Recruit Volunteers

So, you need volunteers?


Here are some quick tips we learned along the way about volunteer recruitment.

Follow these easy steps to get noticed, get the help you need, and get ‘er done.


Step 1: Understand Your Appeal

Light some candles, run a bubble bath and turn on Bon Iver–it’s time for a little introspection. Believe it or not, your organization has a unique appeal. Examine your mission, the core work you do, and your existing volunteers. What makes you special? By understanding your particular appeal, you can begin to determine what kind of volunteer you need.

Step 2: Identify Your Ideal Volunteer

Go ahead, be picky. In a perfect world, what would your volunteer force look like? Do they have any specific skills? What do they care about? Once you’ve identified your “ideal volunteer,” create a life-sized mannequin as a reminder and carry it around with you everywhere you go. Just kidding…sort of.

The point is, if you know who your volunteers are, you’ll know where to find them.

Step 3: Target Promotion

If you’re fortunate enough to catch my father somewhere between the aromatic smoke of a backwoods cigar and the taut line of a fishing pole, you may learn a thing or two about the water, the fish, and–if you hang around long enough–life. “Of course there are fish in the lake,” he once said to me, puffing his cigar as he scanned the shoreline. “But that’s no reason to cast your line wherever you feel like it. A good fisherman knows where the fish hang out–and that’s where he fishes.”

Your volunteers are waiting to be found–but it’s a big lake. Ask yourself: where are your fish “hanging out”? Where are you casting your line?

Step 4: Keep it Simple, Stupid

It’s time to up your game. Use an automated sign-up like VolunteerLocal to direct volunteers to your event registration online. No excel spreadsheets, no sharpie markers, no e-mail chains. You’ll have more sign-ups, fewer headaches, and happier volunteers. Click here to start today–it’s free and takes less than ten minutes to create your event on VolunteerLocal.

Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation

The last, and perhaps most important step of this process is a simple “thank you.” Volunteers love a little kudos (don’t we all?), so make sure they know how much you appreciate their hard work. From a t-shirt to a candy bouquet, a handshake to a milkshake, there are myriad ways to show your gratitude. Try a little tenderness–it’s the key to happy volunteers.

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The Key to Happy Volunteers

“If you build it, they will come…” (but don’t forget to hug them on the way out).

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Your volunteers have arrived. They’re painting faces, pouring drinks, mediating races and checking ID’s–they’re planting flowers, setting up chairs and kissing babies. By the end of the day, the crowds have thinned, the last crew is heading home, and you, event coordinator, are standing in the glorious wreckage of a job well-done. Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back, because you built it–and they came.

But you’re not done yet. There’s one last element to keeping those volunteers happy (and coming back), and it’s the simplest step of all: saying thanks.

Step 5: Volunteer Appreciation

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It matters. If you can retain your existing volunteers, that means less recruitment in the future, and a more knowledgeable volunteer force working for your organization. Volunteer appreciation can be as simple as a t-shirt they get to take home, and as grandiose as a volunteer member reception at a fancy venue. Buy them dinner or send them a thank-you card, recognize them by first and last name in a pamphlet or on stage, find time to thank them in person for their efforts and their passion. Just a handshake and a smile can go a long way.

Remember that volunteers are people, too–and if you go that extra mile to foster a relationship between your organization and your volunteers, it certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting that person to come back. Plus, you need to maintain that stellar reputation you’ve worked so hard to cultivate in your community. So why not send your volunteers home with a warm fuzzy feeling? Give them every reason to tell others how great you are.

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