Success story: Highly effective nonprofits value and engage their VolunTEAM

Chicago youth at Lawrence Hall Youth Services paint a mural

Youth paint during an activity with Lawrence Hall Youth Services.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Lawrence Hall Youth Services is one of Illinois’ oldest child welfare agencies, established in 1865 to assist at-risk youth and their families with services that develop the self-worth, knowledge, and skills they need to lead independent and productive lives.  One Good Deed Chicago connected Lawrence Hall with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the One Good Deed VolunTEAM project. Their objective: By the end of May 2012, to evaluate and structure the organization’s volunteer management to meet diverse needs while ensuring a positive and fulfilling experience for more than 200 volunteers.

The ESC consultant assigned to the project, Thomas White, has more than 20 years of corporate leadership and project management experience.  He works closely with Nathan Rosato, Lawrence Hall’s Director of Community Relations. Together, they began with a systematic study of current volunteer utilization patterns and needs assessment from a cross-section of program areas to identify required functions, estimated volunteer hours, responsibilities and needed skills. 

Armed with this data, White and Rosato began building a matrixed volunteer management program that that views volunteers through multiple lenses, all interconnected and each with different benefits.  To ensure the most capable and committed volunteers and balance the needs and objectives of both the volunteers and Lawrence Hall, the team is reviewing volunteer position descriptions and considering a more comprehensive use of existing volunteer management software to ensure the best match between talent and function and accurate tracking of hours for improved planning. They are updating a handbook that will help to standardize volunteer management policies and procedures throughout the organization and establish a targeted recruitment plan to ensure an ongoing source of the varied skills and talents needed throughout the year.

“We are taking a tactical program and giving it the depth and integration that will optimize the organization’s investment in its volunteers and their investment in the organization,” says White, “challenging, but not impossible, with the type of buy-in that we are receiving from all program areas and from Lawrence Hall leadership.”

Volunteer Wesley Tibbs describes his role as a member of Lawrence Hall’s Junior Board.

“I volunteer because I want to give back and Lawrence Hall gives me that opportunity,” he says. “An orientation prepares us and training helps us determine situations where we can be helpful.  There is opportunity for fundraising and developing leadership skills for future service.”

“”We want our volunteers to know they are valued and give them opportunities to be truly connected to our programs and invested in the work we do together, beyond a one-day volunteer experience,” notes Rosato.  “By the end of this project, we will be better equipped to help our volunteers with training and program-matching, build our volunteer program with an efficient recruitment effort and establish lasting relationship with our volunteers for the benefit of the people served by Lawrence Hall for years to come.”

Kim Luckey, Lawrence Hall’s Director of External Affairs, calls the project with ESC and One Good Deed Chicago an opportunity to re-evaluate their needs and review what’s working well and where extra help is needed.

 “Our volunteers are important to us; we not only benefit from their contributions of time and talent, they are our strong connection to the community,” she says.

As nonprofits struggle in an environment of unusually deep and lingering economic stress, facing diminished resources even as the demand for service increases, the need for a an effective volunteer program, streamlined, efficient operation, strong leadership teams and diverse sources of revenue become mission-critical. As a nonprofit with a proud reputation for service and results, ESC is the premiere consulting resource for nonprofits in these areas, ready to help with practical and affordable solutions for lasting impact.

To learn more about Lawrence Hall Youth services and its positive impact on youth and families, please visit www.lawrencehall.org.  To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago and its services in leadership development and coaching, strategic planning, fund development, urgent action, executive transition and interim executive director placement, visit www.esc-chicago.org or email Jo.Posselt[at]esc-chicago.org.

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Register for the National Conference on Volunteering and Service June 18-20

Thousands of leaders will descend on Chicago for the 2012 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in a little more than three months.

The annual event convened by the Points of Lights Institute is the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. Featured speakers include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Craig Newmark (yes, that Craig), former first lady Barbara Bush, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Co-Founder of Groupon Brad Keywell and many, many more.

One Good Deed Chicago’s fearless leader Jenné Myers serves as a Host Committee co-chair, so I’ve been able to see the planning of this event behind the scenes! I’m excited to take part in important conversations about service, learn from others’ expertise, and see Chicago showcased as a bright spot in the world of service and philanthropy.

To learn more about the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in Chicago June 18-20, visit volunteeringandservice.org. There are discounted registration fees available for students and National Service volunteers, such as AmeriCorps members.

See you then!

-Alex

Volunteers make a difference at Bookamania

Volunteer Chicago Public School Bookamania

Volunteers work with Chicago Public School children at Bookamania 2011.

by Ruchi Ray, Intern, Leap Learning Systems 

I cannot wait to tell you about a successful volunteer event Leap Learning Systems has had in the past! Each year, Leap Learning Systems partners with After School Matters and Chicago Public Schools to implement a career and college readiness program in the Austin community.  Participating students volunteered at the Harold Washington Library’s Bookamania event on November 19, 2011. This event was a free celebration of children’s books for children ages 3 to 10 and their families. Our students had the opportunity to help and interact with the younger children and their parents. 

I can say that for some of these teens, this was their first trip to the main library.  Not only were the ASM teens thankful for the opportunity to work with the children, socialize with other teens from around the city, and give back to their community, they also felt very accomplished after the overall experience. Leap is always curious to know feedback on the turnout of volunteer events like these; here is one from Ms. Robin Willard from Harold Washington:

 “Last year our Events staff estimated that there were approximately 7,000 guests on Saturday – the largest crowd we have hosted in Bookamania history – and we know we could not have made it as successful as it was without the help of volunteers, such as those from Leap Learning Systems.  It was a pleasure to work with the many teens who came from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to represent Leap with their mentors and program facilitators”. 

–      Robin Willard, Young Adult Specialist, Chicago Public Library 

This semester, the students in the Beverage Industry: Products and Profits After School Matters program will be involved with a service event for young children.  We focused this session of ASM on Dairy.  The teens will provide literacy support and activities based on their knowledge of the Dairy industry to students at Goldblatt Elementary School.  The students will also participate in a fundraiser on April 1 at the Oberweis Dairy Store in Oak Park.  They will be marketing, advertising and working the all day event.  Come out and support the students of ASM! 

Leap Learning Systems is committed to delivering cutting-edge language and literacy development programs to educators, students, and their families across Chicago and beyond, particularly those in underserved communities. We look forward to future endeavors in similar After School Matters programs.

Interested in helping further Leap Learning’s mission? Visit OneGoodDeedChicago.org for more information and search volunteer opportunities.

Changing Worlds: A Success Story

A student works with a volunteer at Changing Worlds. Changing Worlds is one of One Good Deed Chicago's VolunTEAM partners.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Changing Worlds is an educational art nonprofit whose mission is “to foster inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding.”

One Good Deed Chicago connected Changing Worlds with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the VolunTEAM program. ESC is a volunteer corps of nearly 300 men and women who use their skills and knowledge from long and successful careers to help other non-profits thrive.

The project is scheduled for completion in May, but the results to date are already a noticeable and satisfying success story on many levels for everyone involved, including the volunteers, the program staff and of course the children who benefit from these programs. 

Identifying needs

Changing Worlds Executive Director Mark Rodriguez points out that it was critical to the project’s success to create a clear direction at the beginning.

“We needed to be able to create an infrastructure for our volunteer program as well as a system and a process that would be sustainable when the project is over,” he said.

Patti Pangborn, Changing Worlds manager of office operations, finance and program support, said “we had a database we weren’t using, a wonderful core group of volunteers and no system or anyone on staff who could coordinate the volunteer experience or make it truly satisfying for the volunteer.  We weren’t fully utilizing our volunteer strength”

The ESC project management team, David Marienthal and Estelle Holzer, worked with Patti and Mark to evaluate specific needs. They then began identifying lasting solutions and immediate changes that could be readily implemented without additional workload burden or cost.  Both David and Estelle brought more than 20 years of experience in project and program management to the assignment and were able to make recommendations that produced immediate results.

Marienthal describes the process.

“We met every three weeks or so and tracked our progress together to ensure we had the solutions we needed,” he said. “First, we recommended the addition of a volunteer ‘volunteer coordinator’ position!  This focused more dedicated attention to an area of need and removed the additional workload burden from staff while we set up a process and procedures to get a structured volunteer management program set up.”

Seeing results

“Claire Gilbertsen is our new volunteer coordinator, a volunteer herself with lots of experience, who comes in two days a week to concentrate on this program,” Pangborn said. “We added a volunteer management module to our database to better track volunteer experiences, and we have begun putting together a handbook of policies and procedures and an orientation and recognition program for our volunteers.”

Rodriguez says “we value our volunteers and hope, through this project with ESC and One Good Deed, to advance our three primary goals toward 1) greater public awareness of our programs, 2) recruitment and retention of volunteers and, 3) fundraising to support our programs.”

As the economy struggles, as money from state and local governments dries up, and as donations and foundation monies shrink, non-profits are facing the perfect storm. Demand for their services is increasing dramatically, just as revenue sources are dwindling. The need for non-profits to improve their organizational performance is as important as it ever was. It’s ESC’s mission to help them.

To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago or apply to be an consultant, visit the ESC Website at www.esc-chicago.org.  For a list of all 19 nonprofits currently in the One Good Deed Chicago’s VolunTEAM program, go to www.onegooddeedchicago.org/priorities.

This February, Step Up to LOVE and ignite girls to fulfill their potential

By Kristen Field, Program Manager, Step Up Women’s Network

The New Year brought many resolutions that often have fizzled by now. Reflecting on my direction for the New Year, I challenged myself to take a different approach. Establish a theme for your year that inspires you. For me, it’s doing “everything from a place of love.” This theme is fitting for the month of February, where we often see hearts everywhere, celebrations of love, and cheers to Valentine’s Day.

Working for Step Up Women’s Network allows me to take my passion to give back and use this theme of love to make a difference. Step Up Women’s Network creates and implements impactful after-school and weekend programs that empower teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound, and career-ready. As a nonprofit membership organization of dynamic women coming together for this mission, Step Up is also able to propel professional women through connections, collaborations and continuous development.

I LOVE what I do! The main focus of my job is inspiring others to join Step Up’s mission to connect you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you. How could I ask for more in a job?

On January 27th, our Teen Programs Manager, Whitney Capps, asked me to chaperone one of our Pathways to Professions field trips with our Step Up teens to The Big Ten Network. I of course was thrilled! Pathways to Professions is a Step Up program that inspires Step Up juniors to explore new careers through field trips to Step Up member companies. During our time at The Big Ten Network, Step Up teens toured the facility, met with individuals who had positions in advertising, sales, on-air, human resources, executive leadership, and so on. The women at The Big Ten Network gave their time to mentor for an hour or two, coming from a place of love, to impact a girl’s life. That’s all it takes.

While we were all in the studio, I paused to look around and take this day in. These young, eager minds wanting to learn as much as they possibly can about what career they may have in the future and women who have “made it” sharing their stories with the next generation of young women. Truly inspired to be part of something so amazing, something so necessary.

What inspires me even more, is that every week, throughout the year, Step Up Women’s Network provides opportunities for women to mentor girls in our dynamic afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs. Do you want to be a mentor for Step Up teens and a member of Step Up Women’s Network? For more information and calendar, go to www.suwn.org and contact me at kristenf@suwn.org

Do something “from a place of love” this February and invest in the future success of girls through mentorship and financial support. YOU are the match that will ignite a girls dream

And They Told Two Friends and So On…

Five tips for nonprofits to turn your constituents into your biggest advocates

By Suzy Whitfield and Rhett Del Campo, SocialRaise

You may already know that your best advocates are your most vocal and passionate constituents. They are the people who tell your story often and with enthusiasm. They are the folks who work the room, sell the tickets and ask people to show up on a Saturday morning to lend a helping hand. They personally thank their friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues for their financial support. Without some of these people, your fundraising and programs would be struggling.  You want to hand those folks an engraved, gold plated, supercharged megaphone, right?

Well how about giving a megaphone to other people who are also great supporters, but maybe a little less vocal, and make it easy for them to communicate their enthusiasm for your organization’s goals, programs and events. Give them the tools to become your biggest advocates by providing the ability to share your message to their friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues – easily.

Are you old enough to remember the shampoo ad with “And they told two friends and so on and so on” until the screen was full of faces? If not, stick with me here.

Enter Social Media tools. The beauty is in the math. Say you have 300 loyal supporters and they each share your message with 10 people. Now you have increased awareness of your organization by 3,000 (use your own numbers). Think of what it would mean if only a small percentage would get to know your organization and become donors, board members or volunteers. OK, not everyone is on Facebook or Twitter, but most have email, right? So make it easy for them to share – any way they might choose.

How do you get this done without hiring an IT staff (or a teenager)?

1)    Make it easy for people to “share” – attach social media links to everything on your website (articles, announcements, events, donation opportunities, contests, volunteer needs etc.) to allow your constituents to forward, post, send, or share your message on their preferred social media networks.

2)    Make the message tell your story (and then ask for something specific). Illustrate your successes and highlight how the donors, volunteers and board members made a difference and how they can too.

3)    Ask your constituents to tell your story, engage their friends etc. Tell them they can help by spreading the word about your story or event.

4)    Thank or acknowledge the message sharing and tell or show them it makes a difference. Make sure that their efforts are noticed and appreciated by talking about growth and new constituents.

5)    When new visitors come to your site, make it easy for them to engage or get involved (e.g. make a donation, buy a ticket, volunteer, get more information, join a support group, attend a meeting etc.). In exchange they will leave their contact information and become part of your growing list of “leads,” people who are likely to become loyal constituents.

Think of your own experience. When a friend passes along a short article about the wonderful impact their favorite nonprofit organization has made in your community and asks you to get involved, you are much more likely to read it and, if asked, to act. Give your constituents the tools (great stories, links, offers, events and the means to share) and then encourage them to email, post, and tweet your organization’s successes with their friends, neighbors and colleagues. Include simple requests to join, sign up, donate, and volunteer. While this is not simple and requires a plan, it is no more complex than writing your end-of-year appeal, printing, addressing and mailing. But the potential reach is much bigger than a single letter. End-of-year appeals are great, but imagine if your mailing list were four times bigger this year.

In short, social media is much more than something teenagers use to plan a weekend. They are tools for success. Give lots of little “megaphones” to your volunteers, beneficiaries, donors and board members and ask for help in spreading the word.  With the right message in the right hands, Social Media can become a powerful communication vehicle for your organization.

Suzy is the Vice President and Rhett is the Director of Arts Initiatives at the Chicago-based company, SocialRaise. To learn more, please visit www.socialraise.com

Three ways to see can’t-miss doc ‘The Interrupters’ for free

 “The Interrupters” is a can’t-miss documentary about the struggle to stop the cycle of violence and poverty in America. The One Good Deed Chicago team was lucky enough to attend a screening at DePaul University earlier this month, and we can’t help but be moved to spread the word.

This incredible documentary from Kartemquin Films tells the moving and surprising stories of three violence interrupters, working with Cease Fire, who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. This film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our city. Filmed over the course of a year, it captures a period in Chicago when the city became a national symbol for youth violence. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago high school student, whose death was caught on videotape.

This documentary is a must-see for anyone living in Chicago or working in public service. You can see the film by attending a free screening or catching it on PBS.

– Tuesday, Feb 7 at 7 p.m. – Screening at Francis Parker School

– Thursday, Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. – Screening at UIC, followed by a panel discussion with interrupters from the film

– Tuesday, February 14 on PBS’ Frontline (check local listings)

To see screenings in other locations, click here.