Monday, December 21, 2009

Wanted: Meeting Room

As you may or may not know, January 7th, 2010 is going to be an eventful day here at Volunteer San Diego. Or should I say, "there" at Volunteer San Diego. After so many years in the same building, we are packing up and moving to a new office down the street. The good news is that our new office is slightly larger than our current one. The problem: It doesn't have access to a meeting space for our occasional evening trainings and meetings. We know there is a solution to this out there, that someone reading this blog has the perfect answer to this little puzzle. You might even have a a board room or other meeting space that you would love to donate. It would have to hold between 25-40 people, and be available outside of the traditional "9-5" timeframe a handful of times in 2010. Not only would you be the superhero of the new office, but your space donation will be tax deductible.
If you can help us with our space problem, know someone else who might be able to help, or have ideas on where we could turn, please email
Thanks in advance, and be on the lookout for our new contact information in early January!

Read more!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Flex Project Highlight: Therapeutic Horseback Riding

Saturday, November 28, was a stormy day across the county. Many Team Leaders had to cancel their outdoor projects due to the weather. However, Velinda Primus and her small group of volunteers persevered at the Therapeutic Horseback Riding project with the Therapeutic Equestrian Activity Center for the Handicapped (TEACH) in Lakeside, showing that rain or shine, VSD Flex Volunteers get the job done!

Here is Velinda's story:

"Although lessons were canceled, we worked in the rain and hail cleaning stalls and digging small trenches to aid with water run-off so the horse stalls would not grow into small ponds. The volunteers went beyond expectations in doing this hard, muddy work with joy. I feel all TEACH students (24) benefited from the work that was done even though we did not work with them directly. Maintaining the health of the horses by the maintenance of the stalls keeps the program running efficiently to serve the students.

The volunteers expressed interest in returning to help during a normal lesson day to enjoy working with the horses and children on a nice sunny day. "

Therapeutic Horseback Riding is one of our many flex projects. We encourage you to sign up for this or any of the flex projects on our calendar. Flexible volunteer projects are posted at the beginning of each month, one month ahead of time. We have just finished posting January's projects. Make an early New Year's resolution and sign up to volunteer!

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Friday, December 04, 2009

VSD welcomes new AmeriCorps Members

We have the pleasure of welcoming our two newest AmeriCorps VISTA members. Both have already hit the ground running here at VSD and we are so excited to have them!

Jen Buckley, AmeriCorps VISTA
Service Events Coordinator

I am the new AmeriCorps VISTA Service Events Coordinator and I am very excited to be working with such a great organization. I am originally from Richmond, VA where I lived for the past 6 years. I received my degree in Psychology (minor in Sociology) from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2008. I was a literacy coach for AmeriCorps State and National program. During this term, I put on a community service project for a lower income neighborhood in Richmond and realized how much I enjoyed setting up events so I thought that I would try out event coordination in my next job to see if this was the career path that I wanted to take. I was ready for work in the Nonprofit sector and I am delighted to have the opportunity here in sunny San Diego.

I love to build bicycles and go hiking/camping with any free time I have. I am brand new to this city so I am always looking for opportunities to join outdoor clubs or find new places to explore.

Rich Easter, AmeriCorps VISTA
Development Coordinator

I am excited to be returning to San Diego in order to help nurture and sustain a culture of volunteerism throughout “America’s Finest City.” Prior to joining the VSD team, I was a Senior Program Specialist for Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. in Washington, D.C. where I managed volunteer-run children’s literacy programs throughout the country. What really drew me to VSD was the importance of its mission and its commitment to making volunteer opportunities meaningful. Outside of the office, I am always in the kitchen coming up with new recipes or at a local venue checking out live music. I received my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of San Diego in Political Science, and look forward to serving a community that has enriched me in so many ways.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks for Volunteers

We volunteers!

'Tis the season to be grateful and all the VSD staff want to give a hearty thanks to you our volunteers! We’re fortunate to get to see community change every day at Volunteer San Diego, but this past year has really knocked our socks off.

We’ve seen more people serving in more ways than ever before. We are so grateful to get to work in partnership with you to make San Diego the best it can be.

A special thanks to….
Flex Team Leaders & Volunteers
Serve-a-thon Site Captains & Volunteers

Corporate Volunteer Teams

Disaster Cadre Members & Reservists

Social Media Team

DOVIA Council

Office Volunteers

Special Project Coaches & Partners

Board & Committee Members

AmeriCorps & AmeriCorps VISTA members

And everyone else who has contributed in official and unofficial capacities.

You inspire us with your good work, smart ideas, and selfless giving. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Warm wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

With gratitude for giving us the gift of you,
Sue Carter
Executive Director

Read more!

Thanksgiving Volunteering

Thanksgiving is one of the most popular days of the year to volunteer, which means that all meal serving volunteer opportunities are full right now.

So now what?

Perhaps use the time you were hoping to spend volunteering by researching other projects that you might like to do this holiday season. Some of our partners still have openings throughout December. Many of these projects make a great family or group effort.

Better yet, use the time to plan to serve sometime later in the year. Many of our partners are overwhelmed with people wanting to serve on Thanksgiving or Christmas yet have a hard time filling those same volunteer openings in another month. Other organizations don’t have special holiday projects but offer great volunteer experiences. Committing even one day at a later date can go a long way to meeting an important community need.

Or spend the time considering how else you might contribute to an organization. Many nonprofits are facing record demand for their services AND a cut to their funding (including VSD). Cash donations to your favorite charity are always welcome, no matter the amount. You often can make a donation in honor of someone, which makes a unique holiday gift.

If all else fails, consider making your own volunteer project. Who do you know who could use some company this weekend – an elderly neighbor, a military family far from home, a friend with no family in the area? Invite them to your Thanksgiving celebration or offer to help them with a project that needs some attention. Sometimes the smallest gestures mean the most.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Flex Project Development Team

Interested in gaining experience in project development and putting more projects on VSD’s calendar? Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes of Volunteer San Diego’s successful Flexible Volunteer Program? Join our Flex Project Development Team! As you know, Flex projects are a vital part of VSD, and we are always looking for new ideas and connections. Volunteers can attend our regular evening project development meetings or work remotely. Our next meeting will be held on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 6 p.m. at the Volunteer San Diego office. Please contact Jennie McDonald at (858) 636-4139 or for more information.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Watch golf and support VSD

Looking for a unique gift for the golf lover in your life? Can't get enough golf yourself?

Buy a ticket for the Century Club of San Diego Invitational Tournament running January 25-31 (formerly the Buick Invitational). Tickets are only $17 and are valid for any one day of the event. Proceeds benefit Volunteer San Diego.

To purchase tickets:

  • Send a check made out to "Volunteer San Diego" to 4699 Murphy Canyon Road, San Diego, CA 92123 with a self-addressed stamped envelope or
  • Pay by debit or credit card by clicking here
Tickets will be mailed within 24 hours of receipt of payment.

Questions? Contact Veronica Baker 858-636-4133 or

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Fan mail

We love to hear about great volunteer matches happening in the community. Here's what Ana at the George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Centers had to share:

I wanted to say again how much I appreciate the help of Volunteer San Diego. Through your organization I have been able to schedule volunteers for our center for the holidays. This makes it a special treat for our families, because many of the responses that we have received are of talented people that want to share their gift with us. Thank you!

To all the volunteers stepping up to help, thank you for sharing your time and talent. To Ana, thanks for sharing a success story and for taking care of your volunteers and families.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

And the winner is...

Volunteer San Diego! VSD won the first ever Classy Award for the Best Use of Technology by a Charity. Thanks to everyone who voted! And a big thanks and congrats to the staff and volunteers who invest so much time in making our technology efforts award winning.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

VSD on the move!

Volunteer San Diego is moving to a new office in early January. Our new address is 4545 Murphy Canyon Road, Suite 215, just down the road from our current place. The new location is an important cost-saving measure; we’ll have more space for less rent.

We’re finalizing details including our phone system and office furniture. If you have any leads for free or discounted equipment - or want to help with the move, please email Amy Thoe at

Thanks to the County of San Diego at the recommendation of Supervisor Cox, Fieldstone Foundation, and Mitchell International for supporting many of our move costs and equipment. (We have a proposal pending with Supervisor Roberts for the remaining items - keep your fingers crossed!).

Stay tuned for more details.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Vote for VSD!

Volunteer San Diego received three nominations for the First Annual Classy Awards. We’ve been nominated for best charity, best use of technology, and best individual fundraising effort. Vote now at

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Friday, November 06, 2009

What lurks behind the volunteer boom

Life at Volunteer San Diego sometimes feels like Dickens’ opening line…”it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So much attention on volunteerism, so many people wanting to help, so much good will in our community.

And yet, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the organizations who would transform this good will into improving the community. My colleague, Gary Bagley, at New York Cares writes about it eloquently in the Huffington Post In short, our sector is trying to overcome some pervasive volunteer myths while we work to keep up with skyrocketing demand.

-Volunteers don’t organize themselves. Someone knowledgeable about the organization needs to screen, match, orient, train, supervise and engage them. Before that happens, someone has to think of how volunteers can help and plan accordingly. Most nonprofits don’t have a dedicated staffer to do this and in cases where they do, nearly 80% of the staff have no volunteer engagement training.

-Long-term capacity building can drain short-term capacity. It’s difficult to invest in the future when it’s a struggle to survive in the present. Staff cutbacks combined with an increased workload mean little energy for this important, but initially time-consuming work.

-Many prospective volunteers never get beyond prospective status. The agencies who might engage them are so busy trying to keep up with their day-to-day activities that no one can respond to the phone calls and best intentions of volunteers. If you’ve ever thought that you could do a project faster and easier by yourself (particularly if the person you are training to do the job may not come back again), you can understand where many nonprofit staff are.

-Volunteerism isn’t free. It takes a staff member to do all the above activities, a database to keep track of people and tasks, computers and phones to respond, and training for staff who have a responsibility to work with volunteers.

Of course, at VSD, we help volunteer programs run better, but we’re not immune to environmental forces ourselves. We had a 45% increase in the number of volunteer positions we filled last year. It costs us $21 to fill a volunteer position, and that’s with significant volunteer time leveraging our staff, sometimes in a 3:1 ratio. When corporations or other groups contact us to manage a volunteer project for them or want a menu of volunteer projects from which to pick, they are sometimes surprised that we charge for this service. Many of our nonprofit partners pay a mere fraction of the cost for our support services. Volunteers pay nothing.

But without VSD, even fewer prospective volunteers could get connected with the organizations that need them, and our nonprofit partners would miss out on the increased human capital available at a time when needs are high.

In response, we’re soon launching a ‘Sponsor a Volunteer’ fundraising and education campaign to help us continue brokering our community’s human capital.

We welcome your donations as always (, and also your thoughts on how to make this campaign successful: doors you can open, feedback on what resonates about our services or messages for you, partners who can advance our efforts. Thanks for your support of volunteerism!

Read more!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Flex Project Highlight: English Speaking Club at Mira Mesa Library

Maxine Choi, departing Team Leader of the English Speaking Club at Mira Mesa Library, tells us about her experiences:

"Working with the English Speaking Club at the Mira Mesa Library is an amazing experience. The project allows you to work closely with members of the community who want to practice or improve their English. Everyone who comes to practice their speaking skills is eager and enthusiastic, and they just love having the opportunity to talk to native speakers of English. I saw how important it was to provide a friendly, non-stressful environment for ESL learners to use their language skills.

For a non-native English speaker, simple things can become frustrating and communication is often difficult. As a team leader for this project, I have seen people who come to the English Speaking Club become more confident in their English and it's a great feeling knowing that you may have helped someone's daily communication become easier, even for simple things like ordering meals or asking for directions. But, beyond that, the most rewarding thing is seeing people in the community come together -- volunteers and ESL learners meeting each other, sharing stories, talking about their experiences and learning about each other. Seeing people reach across cultures and gain an understanding about another person's life experience is both exciting and intensely inspiring."

Thank you, Maxine, for all your hard work! Interested in becoming a Team Leader for this or another flex project? Attend our next Team Leader training on November 17 from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Click here to sign up or email Debbie Krakauer at for more information.

Read more!

The Serve-a-thon Impact

In just three days, 800+ volunteers completed 41 projects. They gave over 3,000 hours of their time supporting 22 community organizations. These projects all focused on poverty-related issues in San Diego County.

What that really means is:

* 9,519 people were impacted by the efforts of the Serve-a-thon volunteers
* 7,565 of those people were fed and/or received food donations
* 1,025 greens were planted
* 42 renovation projects were completed
* 13 nonprofits or community centers were beautified
* 4 community gardens were maintained or created
* And so much more...

See yourself and other volunteers in action by visiting VSD’s Picasa Web Pictures.

A Special Thank You to the Serve-a-thon Sponsors, Committee Members and Site Captains who made this impactful event come together.

If you didn’t receive a Volunteer San Diego Serve-a-thon 2009 T-Shirt at your project, please email to arrange to pick-up your t-shirt. (We have mostly XLs and XXLs left.) We also have additional items with the Serve-a-thon logo available in our CafePress Shop.

Save-the-date: Serve-a-thon 2010
Friday, October 8 and Saturday, October 9, 2010
Help us shape this event for next year. What issue should we focus on in 2010? Where are volunteers most needed?
* Economy (Poverty Issues)?
* Education?
* Environment?
* Other...
Vote for the 2010 Focus Issue today!

Read more!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Make a Difference this Holiday Season!

As Christmas was on its way, everybody at school was excited about vacation that for many meant gathering in a cozy environment, family, nice dinners, presents, and enjoying the outdoors. My mother had come from work and she sat to tell me a story about a necessary splitting of a family because both mother and daughter were sick and had to be hospitalized in different hospitals. I became interested in knowing more about what a child experiences when undergoing treatment in an oncology ward, so I visited the children's hospital and spoke with local staff about Christmas in the unit. One of the things that caught my attention was that everybody seemed to coincide in that kids had to spend many hours by themselves, with no input from others their age. I wanted to bring the festive spirit that was hanging around school to them and let them know that they are not alone. The decision I took was to involve as many students in school as possible to write their wishes and deliver the sharing spirit before winter break. It took days of explaining, making others feel the project as theirs, skipping breaks, meeting with teachers, but all this had no importance when compared to the feedback I got from the staff that interacted with the kids who received the card. It’s nice to think that a small project can make such a difference for a kid.

~ Luz Gozal, Volunteer Youth Blogger

Do you want to make a difference this holiday season? There are many ways you can volunteer. Our projects range from adopting a family in need to singing at the hospital. You can download our holiday guide or search for holiday volunteer opportunities now!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

A Taste of Asia

A month ago, I volunteered for the second Taste of Asia event in Balboa Park by the International Cottages. The purpose of this event was to raise money for Lotus Outreach International and International Humanity Foundation. The representatives of various international houses from the park were involved. The event included food tasting, where it was possible to taste all types of Asian food, as well as seeing a well known Korean chef in action that would provide receipts and advice on the culinary art. For those who arrived with kids there was day-long entertainment and dancers dressed in native costumes who performed traditional dances, all in a relaxed, carefree environment suitable to everyone.

As a volunteer, I was assigned to be a Team Manager. That included supervising other volunteers and seeing that their assignments were going as planned. What I enjoyed the most was the opportunity to interact with natives from other cultures, especially from Thailand, Korea, Japan and China. Some of them had recently arrived to the United States. A few see volunteering as a natural way of sharing cultural experiences in a new country and still remain within their culture.

The event planners took very good care of their volunteers and was shown in the way they kept tracked of them before, during, and after the event. They provided free (and delicious) lunch. I was also pleasantly surprised to receive an invitation to attend a recognition event for all volunteers who donated their time and effort.

If you are thinking about donating your time for a good cause, don’t miss this opportunity next year. I’ll meet you there!

~ Luz Gozal, Youth Volunteer Blogger

Do you have great story of a volunteer experience to share? Be a Blogger for Volunteer San Diego! Want to lead a team of volunteers? Become a Flex Team Leader!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Watch Out for the Entertainment Industry

If you have a TV and an interest in volunteerism, you've surely noticed recent advertisements and programming tie-ins to something called Iparticipate. The Entertainment Industry Foundation was created 67 years ago and has raised millions of dollars of money for a number of societal causes, including this big campaign to promote volunteering. All week long you'll see TV shows and celebrities shining a light on the importance of community service. The Iparticipate website will direct people to volunteer opportunities and Volunteer San Diego. You may already be a VSD volunteer, or perhaps you are new to community service, either way you should answer the call that the entertainment industry is putting out and sign up for a volunteer project today!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009's Successful Serve-a-thon!

We at VSD have had a busy autumn so far! October began with our annual event Serve-a-thon that focused on poverty in San Diego County. With 42 projects over the weekend at a variety of different organizations on October 2-4, volunteers made a significant impact at organizations throughout San Diego County.

Connie Castro, Serve-a-thon Site Captain, tells us about her project:

“The Brighten a Bag for the Hungry project at Feeding America San Diego on Friday, October 2, gathered dozens of volunteers to help alleviate hunger in San Diego. Teams from Hewlett Packard, as well as individuals and families, all volunteered their time and effort for this worthy cause. Because of their efforts, in about two hours, 1650 pounds of rice were made available to the public, thirteen giant totes were washed and cleaned, overhead signs were made and lastly, 350 bags were decorated. Volunteers opted to bring their own decorating supplies to the event and everyone who decorated took pride in their work in decorating the bags. These bags will brighten a hungry child's day!”

Check out the rest of our photo album. We would like to take this moment to thank everyone who made this spectacular event possible!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

VSD Referral Program

Working at Volunteer San Diego (VSD) to aid people in finding satisfying volunteer opportunities has opened my eyes to the simple ways one person can help another to have a meaningful experience. The Referral Program that our organization offers has been incredibly satisfying. Often an eager prospective volunteer will call with a specific cause in mind that speaks to them individually. Homelessness, tutoring or a myriad of other issues that effect humanity and more immediately San Diego County, attracts attention from many caring people from all walks of life. Often a person who wants to volunteer but who is unsure of what kind of venue will suit them will call needing assistance with their philanthropic investigations. In this capacity, I offer direction and instruction on searching our website, a website that has a page to conduct detailed searches according to zip code, topic and other criteria.

In addition, the court system connects us with many people who need to complete mandatory hours of service in accordance with the kind of violation committed. Prospective volunteers generally feel relieved when they realize I am here to assist them in finding options and opening doors. Often, the mandatory hours people serve help them to develop and deepen their interests in things that touch many lives. Who knew that a situation ordered by a legal entity could develop into something that heals the spirit and enriches the lives of so many?

Adrianne Burleigh, former Citizen Action AmeriCorps Volunteer Outreach Coordinator
Volunteer San Diego

If you want to help connect people to volunteer opportunities, please click here to read more about being a Volunteer Referral Specialist.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Volunteer San Diego Welcomes New Staff and AmeriCorps members!

First of all, please extend a warm welcome to Veronica Baker, VSD’s new Development Director! Veronica has been involved with nonprofit organizations her entire life, primarily in a fundraising capacity. Her previous affiliations include Mainly Mozart, Kids Korps USA, Cygnet Theatre, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego, and North Coast Repertory Theatre. Veronica is passionate about helping nonprofits succeed, and is excited to be involved with an organization that plays such a vital role in helping build a stronger community.

The end of summer often signifies the beginning of new AmeriCorps terms. We also said bittersweet goodbyes to our former AmeriCorps members, Adrianne Burleigh and Brandi Love, as well as staff member Seth Connolly. We wish them the best of luck in their next adventures! Please welcome our newest AmeriCorps members!

Sharon Lynn, Volunteer Relations Coordinator
Citizen Action AmeriCorps

I have been a volunteer in the Volunteer San Diego office as a special projects assistant for the last two years. I love the work Volunteer San Diego does for the San Diego community at large and how they support both sides of the volunteer equation – the individuals who volunteer and the agencies that benefit from the services provided by the volunteers.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I am starting a year of AmeriCorps service here. I now get to dive further into projects that I am already excited about.

I was raised in Los Angeles, lived in Northern California for 13 years and have resided in San Diego since 2005. I am very involved in my congregational life and I lead one of our ministries. I also minister to inmates at Donovan State Prison. I love it in San Diego and have no intention of ever leaving!

Gypsy Walukones, Disaster Outreach Coordinator
Citizen Action AmeriCorps

I am thrilled to be working with Volunteer San Diego as the AmeriCorps Disaster Outreach Coordinator. I moved to San Diego a year ago after 5 years in Seattle. Originally from the fishing town of Petersburg in Southeast Alaska, I have always considered survival skills and emergency preparedness to be significant in my life. I began volunteering with Volunteer San Diego’s Disaster Cadre earlier this year and also completed the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Academy this past spring, learning light search and rescue, basic fire suppression, emergency management and medical triage.

I have a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Oregon and am working on a Master of Forensic Science from National University. My previous work experience includes seasonal work processing salmon roe, collecting biological samples and statistical data for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, years as a barista in small, locally owned coffee shops, selling artisan cheeses in the Pike Place Market, and writing web content and search engine ad copy for small businesses.

Nathan Kieso, AmeriCorps VISTA
Community Organization Liaison

I came to VSD through AmeriCorps VISTA to see the world, meet interesting people and provide meaningful volunteer opportunities for them. Before coming to San Diego, I worked with AmeriCorps*VISTA in the recovery efforts after the 2008 Iowa flood, immediately after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Iowa. I was a lifelong resident of Iowa City, Iowa until I came to San Diego and I am thrilled to be here!

Jennie McDonald, AmeriCorps VISTA
Community Organization Liaison

I recently moved to San Diego from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and am glad to live closer to the ocean. For the past two years, I have worked as an intake coordinator for VSA arts of New Mexico, a non-profit arts organization that primarily serves people with disabilities. In 2006, I was an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) member, and worked in several projects throughout the Northeast and Gulf Coast, including Hurricane Katrina recovery work in Mississippi and Louisiana. I graduated from Colorado College in 2005 with a Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies. I am passionate about helping others, and look forward to this year of service and getting to know San Diego!

Read more!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Volunteer San Diego Executive Director Sue Carter Honored as One of San Diego's "40 Under 40"

Our own executive director, Sue Carter, was announced today as one of San Diego Metropolitan Magazine’s “40 Under 40”. It’s the magazine’s 10th year honoring San Diegans under 40 years old who have had significant impact on their community.

From the magazine’s own write-up:

Recognizing the achievements of these young business and civic leaders in whose hands lie our region’s future is a task we do not take lightly here at San Diego Metropolitan. And it’s one we can’t do alone. We want to thank this year’s judges who made the hard cuts from a number of excellent candidates down to the “Final 40.”
Nobody involved with Volunteer San Diego needed to be told of Sue’s vision, leadership (at the local, state, and national levels), hands-on approach, and passion for what she does. That was obvious.

But we’re thrilled to see her recognized on this level.

The recognition luncheon for this year’s honorees is Sept. 18 at the San Diego Convention Center. Tickets are $75 (benefiting the YWCA) and can be purchased by reaching Cyndi, Rebeca, or Lisa at 619.906.4104.

Read more!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Welcome Our New Blogger Luz

Here I am, writing my first blog for Volunteer San Diego. I've been a volunteer for awhile, and I've volunteered in different countries. I have done research on volunteering and have found hundreds of web pages about volunteering examined from different perspectives. There is so much to be said about volunteering that I find it difficult to decide what to write about. A volunteer act is highly individual, and, therefore, it yields unique results. It is one-of-a-kind. No act is equal to another. Genuine philanthropy and volunteering creates endless situations, all with different results. I can speak about volunteering from my current experience and perspective as a teenager. From now on, I will be sharing my writing about volunteering with you. I hope that you find a uniqueness in my stories that you may be craving.

Luz Gozal is a volunteer youth blogger for Volunteer San Diego. Luz is 15 years old and has experience researching volunteerism and creating volunteer projects from the ground up!

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Hand Up Youth Food Pantry

I recently volunteered with the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, at the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry. Hand Up Youth Food Pantry is a youth-based volunteer project that helps out food pantries all around San Diego, such as in Hillcrest and Kearny Mesa. The youth volunteers help out by sorting cans of food and non-perishable items in the pantry and making cooking and non-cooking bags for the hungry to eat. They also just started monthly distributions of those cooking or non-cooking bags, at Camp Pendleton and Murphy Canyon. At those sites, they work with low income military families in need of food. Hand Up serves all ages throughout the county by combining forces with other small organizations to attempt to diminish the growing rate of hunger not just in San Diego but worldwide. My first experience working with Hand Up Youth Pantry was fun! I figured that it would be just sorting cans into cabinets or shelves of a pantry but on my first day I was put to work!

Shelly Hahne, the Food Pantry Coordinator, was nice and easy to talk to. She encouraged hard work and gave a presentation about the organization. This weekend I arrived to an assembly line of 8 people packing canned vegetables, fruit, peanut butter, popcorn, and granola bars into bags that would be shipped off to the monthly distributions. I helped by securing the food bags and placing them into large buckets filled to the brim. Overall, it was a lot of fun and it encouraged me to take part in a monthly distribution. It gives me satisfaction to know that the military families appreciate the food bags I helped put together.

The Hand Up Youth Food Pantry takes place every Sunday of the month at the Jewish Family Service Center. The "regulars" welcome anyone and are very friendly. Come volunteer now while the food is hot! Sign up for the Hand Up Youth Food Pantry! To find other youth friendly projects, visit Volunteer San Diego.

Camille Carrillo is a volunteer youth blogger for Volunteer San Diego. Camille is 15 years old and is currently a junior at a local charter school where she participates in field hockey and track and field.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tapping the Community for Non-cash Resources: The AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program

With the recent economic downturn, families and businesses alike are feeling the strain of limited resources. Nonprofits are no exception to this trend. While demand for the services provided by these organizations is increasing, donations are slowing down, and traditional sources of funding are becoming more and more scarce.

Luckily, not all resources are drying up; volunteerism is at an all-time high! In a strategic effort to address this increase in service, Volunteer San Diego is participating in a new California Volunteers AmeriCorps state program called the Volunteer Infrastructure Program (VIP). The VIP has placed 10 AmeriCorps members in 17 local organizations throughout San Diego County that specifically serve youth and families affected by the economic crisis. The 10 AmeriCorps members are working to help develop each organization’s capacity to recruit, train and place new volunteers. With sustainability in mind, the program intends to create a greater capacity throughout the community to tap into specific skill sets that will help the organizations provide service to the increased clientele base.

In times like these, we have to turn to collaboration and creative solutions to get by day to day. Developing a greater capacity to engage community members in meaningful volunteer service throughout the community will help us create and maintain a positive culture of volunteerism and service in our community and set a standard for creative cooperative solutions nationwide.

-Jared McCannell, Americorps Program Coordinator
Volunteer San Diego

Read what the VIP members have to say:

“I had been wanting to volunteer full-time, but I did not have the resources to do so. AmeriCorps provided me with that opportunity, and now I can do what I love, have my needs met, gain valuable experience, and benefit humanity--all at the same time.”

-Zaira Rodriguez

“Originally, my intention for becoming an AmeriCorps VIP with Volunteer San Diego was to test my skills and challenge myself in a proactive way in the community. Then, I realized that I would be 'getting things done for America.' Because of my desire to serve, I moved across the country from Indiana. My enthusiasm for volunteering continues to be nurtured by my involvement at my site agency eXcel Youth Zone.”

-Allie Chi

“I am excited to join the AmeriCorps VIP program at Volunteer San Diego because I believe in people coming together as a community to address their challenges, and I want to be a part of that by facilitating volunteerism in these challenging times.”

-Michael Kolbas

“I've been volunteering for almost 10 years and was looking for a way to inspire others to also volunteer. The AmeriCorps VIP program allows me to establish volunteer programs at nonprofit organizations in San Diego. Through these programs I, and future volunteer coordinators, will be able to reach out to hundreds of new volunteers and share our passions with them.”

-Nicole Ritchie

“Life is all about opportunities! In my life I've had many opportunities that were made available through volunteer and nonprofit agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club of America, Phoenix Valley Christian Center, Summer Youth Sports Programs and many others. Now, at this point in my life, I have a chance to give back. The AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program offers me the opportunity to make a lasting meaningful impact on the service community.”

-Eddie Trotter

“I just relocated to San Diego from Greensboro, NC for the AmeriCorps VIP position. I'm really enthusiastic about community service, and I joined AmeriCorps to share my passion with the community.”

-Amanda Mitchell

“I recently graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Psychology and Neuroscience. I am proud to be working with Casa de Amparo and Episcopal Community Services, which are two extremely valuable nonprofit organizations in San Diego County.”

-Jessica Hittelman

“I joined the AmeriCorps because I wanted to give back to the community.”

-Harmandeep Hira

"I love volunteering because of the relationships I get to develop with people.
With AmeriCorps, I am a Refugee Resettlement Volunteer Coordinator for Jewish Family Service, a nonprofit organization in San Diego responsible for resettling over 200 refugees per year, which primarily consist of Iraqi and Burmese individuals. I look forward to spring-boarding a ripple effect from my new position and contributing to the greater cause of helping one another."

-Thomas Stein

I joined AmeriCorps after graduating from UCLA. A year of service with AmeriCorps allows me to give back to the community. Working with Rolling Readers and Junior Achievement is a great way to help youth see the value in education and to give them the tools they need to succeed.

-Arthur Tovar

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fire Recovery Volunteers

The fires that swept through San Diego County were truly devastating. However, there are some brave individuals willing to toil to ensure the safety of housing communities in this dry hot region of the country. Last week, I saw this rejuvenating blend of strength and altruism send a cooling and reassuring breeze across some of the barren landscape that was left in the wake of the fire. Seth Connolly, the Fire Recovery Coordinator for Volunteer San Diego, teamed up with volunteers from CareFusion, a medical-technology company. The fire had ravaged a building but the foundation of that site remained ready for future growth. A couple who had rented in Ramona their whole lives finally had a chance at their dream of owning a house because Habitat for Humanity was going to rebuild on the site and give them a home. The volunteers worked laboriously to clear brush and flammable debris in the hopes that this worthy couple could finally achieve this vision. The volunteers had experience in this type of assistance, as many had served in regions damaged by hurricanes and other natural disasters. The few hours we spent with weed whackers and clippers brought relief for many people.

Adrianne Burleigh, Citizen Action AmeriCorps Volunteer Outreach Coordinator
Volunteer San Diego

Again, be sure to take a look at the newest video podcast which features footage from CareFusion's recent "Day of Caring" volunteer event.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Professional Volunteering for VSD

Volunteer San Diego is searching for volunteers that want to utilize or sharpen professional skills. Our Board of Directors is searching for several volunteers in a wide variety of professions to serve on our various committees. We are in immediate need of the following volunteers:

· Certified Public Accountant (Non-Profit specialization preferred)
· Tax Accountant
· Lawyer or Paralegal with experience in articles of incorporation
· Sales Specialists and Sales Executives
· Fundraising Specialists
· Public Relations Strategist
· Web Technologist/Internet Social Media Strategist
· Graphic Designer

The time commitment is variable, but it typically ranges from four to six hours per month. If you are interested in any of our open committee positions, please contact Brent Shintani (

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Can't Miss Podcasts

The VSD podcast has a couple new episodes that you can't miss.

Check out episode number 77 for information about VSD's social media strategy, including how VSD became a San Diego Twitter powerhouse with 3000 followers. Those of you with an interest in developing your own non-profit internet presence can also benefit from some helpful tips and resources from an interview with Corey Pudhorosky from the 501c3Cast and Chad Norman from the Baudcast.

Be sure to take a look at the newest video podcast which features footage from CareFusion's recent "Day of Caring" volunteer event. Hopefully you'll be inspired to get your company on the corporate volunteerism bandwagon when you see how much VSD and CareFusion were able to accomplish for our community. More information about corporate volunteer opportunities is available here.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New Facebook Page

We are pleased to announce the launch of the official Volunteer San Diego Facebook page. Click here to access the page and become a fan of our site. Our blogs, podcasts, and other special announcements will be automatically posted to this page.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

VSD Wins National Award of Excellence

(Shhh... it's kind of a big deal, but we're tooting our own horn. Please, celebrate with us. We're extremely proud of our staff, board, and volunteers for making this one happen.)

Mind if we take you straight to the press release?

San Diego, Jun. 23—Volunteer San Diego (VSD) is the recipient of the 2009 HandsOn Network Excellence Award, one of the highest national awards for volunteer centers.

The award—officially titled the George W. Romney Excellence Award—is presented by HandsOn Network, the volunteer-engagement arm of the national Points of Light Institute, which is made up of 250 affiliate volunteer centers across the U.S.

The Points of Light Foundation established the award in 1996 to honor Michigan Governor George W. Romney, who served as founding chair of the National Volunteer Center and as a founding member of the board and executive committee of the Points of Light Foundation. It goes to the volunteer center that best delivers on the network’s core focus areas:

  • Connecting volunteers with the opportunity to serve.
  • Promoting volunteerism.
  • Building capacity for effective local volunteering.
  • Participating in strategic initiatives that mobilize volunteers to meet local needs.
HandsOn Network’s president, Amy Smith, wrote VSD executive director Sue Carter directly last week to inform her of the award, which she presented at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco ( today. In her letter, Smith cited VSD’s role in coordinating volunteers during the 2007 fires, innovative use and development of volunteer engagement systems and technology, and leadership in helping corporations structure and lead employee volunteer programs.

“Volunteer centers are at the forefront of equipping people and organizations to change their communities for the better through service,” said Carter. “So many volunteer centers are doing extraordinary work throughout the country. Our volunteer and staff team is humbled and energized by this recognition.”

To satisfy the nomination criteria, VSD had to detail significant areas where board and staff innovation has grown the organization to the point that it now serves more than 800 community partners and has already filled more than 40,000 volunteer positions this year:
  1. Combining online database technology, training, and tracking to improve the volunteer experience from beginning to end. This allows a relatively small staff of 15 to make available thousands of volunteer opportunities requiring varying levels of skills and experience, commitment levels, locations, and organizational contact details. A focus on continuous improvement, driven by both volunteer and organizational feedback, is a major factor.
  2. Creating an organizational membership program that goes beyond simple opportunity listings to help community organizations develop comprehensive volunteer programs, improving the volunteer experience which prompts more people to volunteer more often. Members benefit from expert assistance in volunteer recruitment and recognition, training, networking, and related resources. Volunteer San Diego partners with San Diego’s Parker Foundation ( to subsidize this program so organizations can join at minimal cost.
  3. Developing a corporate program that provides experts to guide companies (in particular, their human resources and public relations teams) in developing and managing employee volunteering projects. (This is a growing trend as a teambuilding and corporate retreat activity.) The fact that local nonprofits are now referring corporate groups that want to volunteer with them to VSD is testament to the value of this program.
  4. A multifaceted marketing program with a heavy focus on using social media—including podcasts, Facebook, and Twitter—to reach a diverse volunteer base. VSD’s success in this area has been featured on the national 501c3cast podcast, Nonprofit Quarterly, and at the national Nonprofit Technology Network ( conference.
  5. Establishing a permanent Volunteer Disaster Cadre—a team that provides support, training, and management to handle the influx of spontaneous volunteers during a natural or other disaster. This team works closely with San Diego’s disaster response professionals, including government, military, law, fire, and nonprofit responders (especially the local chapter of the American Red Cross) to handle this significant factor during disasters.
About Volunteer San Diego (

Volunteer San Diego is our community’s expert at connecting volunteers and the organizations who need them. Through dedicated volunteer programs—specialized to facilitate and leverage individual, group, and corporate volunteers—VSD equips, inspires, and mobilizes the manpower, talents, and skills of more than 35,000 individuals annually.

Through innovative use of online management tools, an extensive network of more than 800 community and corporate partners, and a perspective that volunteer opportunities should be as unique as each individual’s desire to volunteer, VSD seeks to maximize the volunteer experience as well as the volunteer’s economic and social impact on the community.

About HandsOn Network (

HandsOn Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, leads people from impulse to action, turning ideas for change in to real projects.

HandsOn Network provides a national platform for action. Through our 250 Action Centers (Affiliates) we reach 83% of the American population and engage more than 70,000 nonprofits, government agencies, faith based organizations and companies.


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Monday, June 22, 2009

United We Serve

Today is the kick-off for President Obama's call for summer service for Americans. He is calling this service endeavor "United We Serve" and has the support from top members of his administration. The first lady and cabinet members are working today at community service projects throughout the country. The president is putting the spotlight on four areas of need: community renewal, education, energy, and the environment. This summer service initiative is starting today and ending on September 11th, which has been named the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

For more information about United We Serve, visit

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Have Your Say!

Do you have stories from your volunteer experience that will benefit others? Do you have a volunteer project that can use some promoting? Then the Volunteer San Diego blog needs you! Join the team of volunteers who contribute to the VSD blog and have your say. For more information, contact Jocelyn Garcia (858-636-4131 or

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Organizational Opportunities from VSD

Volunteering is on the rise and so is the importance of a quality volunteer experience. The need for volunteers is growing even as agencies struggle to engage those who want to serve.

Volunteer San Diego is here to help. Please feel free to invite the organizations you support to take advantage of these important opportunities:

· Volunteer engagement training. Three nationally-known speakers visit San Diego over the next six months. The first training is June 16 and focuses on engaging boomer (and other high-impact) volunteers.

· VSD orientation and coaching sessions. Offered monthly (for free), we share how to get the most out of VSD’s volunteer database and resources, including coaching on writing effective volunteer descriptions that are more likely to be adopted. Sessions are deliberately small to provide individualized attention.

· VSD’s membership subsidies. We have subsidies available to increase volunteer project (and organization) exposure, volunteer management support, and volunteer recognition – including priority referral for corporate projects. Only $50 in year one.

VSD also is pleased to announce a new program we’re kicking off with stimulus funding. In July, we’ll provide 18 of our pre-selected member agencies that assist economically disadvantaged youth with volunteer AmeriCorps members. These AmeriCorps members will serve for one year and focus on building volunteer infrastructure to recruit more volunteers and thereby, serve more clients in need. The program is paid for primarily with stimulus funds with a combined cash and in-kind value of $350,000. VSD will incur costs of approximately $15,000 to implement this program and is seeking funding to underwrite these costs.

With fewer funds to go around for everyone, it’s important to take advantage of the resources that still exist – like VSD. I appreciate your assistance in sharing the above opportunities with your community partners.

Sue Carter, Executive Director
Volunteer San Diego

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Election Volunteers

Californians are in for another election in a couple of weeks. A special election is taking place May 19th, providing you with two ways to participate in the democratic process.

1. Vote. Duh! There are six propositions up for election on the ballot. More information about the propositions can be found here.

2. Volunteer on election night. 55 volunteers are needed to help unpack, move, and inspect the official ballots. Sign up for this project here. 

Bonus! The County of San Diego will make a donation to Volunteer San Diego if we can get all 55 of these spots filled by May 12th. Sign up today!

Anna Schulz is a member of the Flex program and a volunteer blogger for Volunteer San Diego. She also writes for her family blog, The Full Catastrophe.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

It's All About Change

Change is upon us. In the past year, we've seen staggering changes in the world economy. We've experience an historical change in our country's political environment with the election of President Obama. Through the Kennedy Serve America Act, we've seen an unprecedented commitment by our leaders to engage Americans into volunteer service. As a country, we are now changing our thought process to how we can make volunteering a way of life. That sounds familiar, doesn't it?

At Volunteer San Diego, we have noticed the changing environment as more volunteers are embracing the call to action. As the spirit of volunteerism grows within the country, there is an even greater need for the year-round programs and program support provided by Volunteer San Diego to the many non-profit organizations throughout San Diego County. As we wrap up our month-long celebration of volunteerism, please consider being a part of that change by contributing to Volunteer San Diego.

The team at Volunteer San Diego does so much to provide volunteers and non-profit organizations with the tools, leadership, training, and support that make the volunteer experience a great one. All it takes is your spare change to change yourself and change the world. Whether you are able to donate $5 or $500, the direct impact of your donation can be seen through the capacity of volunteer opportunities and expansion of programs that we can offer to you and your favorite organizations.


As a fellow volunteer and support of this organization, I want to thank all of you for your ongoing support of Volunteer San Diego. Let's continue to change our world!

Guest Contributor: Brent Shintani, Volunteer San Diego Board Vice Chair, Volunteer San Diego Podcast Producer and Host, and Community Volunteer.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fancy Clothes - For a Change!

My closet contains a few different types of clothes. For example, nice trousers and blouses are for professional purposes, shorts and tshirts are for family activities, and old jeans and closed-toe shoes are for Volunteer San Diego. Not this Tuesday, however. On Tuesday, April 28th, VSD will be throwing their 4th Annual Soiree Celebration at the Hard Rock Hotel's Float pool bar. The party will take place from 6 to 9pm. It is the perfect time to ditch the usual old jeans and closed-toe shoes in favor of a flirty dress and heels for Volunteer San Diego. A ticket costs just $35 and great food, raffles, and drink specials will all be a part of this fun evening. Proceeds from the Soiree have been earmarked for Volunteer San Diego programs and services, directly addressing the needs of the San Diego’s youth, families, seniors and non‐profits, in addition to serving a variety of environmental causes. Get your fancy self over to the VSD event page for more information and to RSVP for the Soiree.

Anna Schulz is a member of the Flex program and a volunteer blogger for Volunteer San Diego. She also writes for her family blog, The Full Catastrophe.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Advocating Selfishness

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hear about it in radio commercials, gallows humor in sitcoms, chatting with the person next to me in line at the post office. Unless you live in a cave, it's hard to avoid the topic of the tumultuous state of the current world economy. On his show, "Real Time", Bill Maher mentioned that somebody even recently had his cave repossessed.

When faced with such adversity, it can be easy to flip the switch on "self-preservation/survival mode." Ayn Rand books touting individualism are flying off the shelf which is incredible for two reasons: 1) Americans are showing enthusiasm for reading books 2) Americans are buying stuff. But despite the fact that most of us will be challenged or affected by the economic trends in some way, this is actually the perfect time to volunteer some of your time.

In the above quote, Ralph Waldo Emerson Recognizes a truth which I'll even take a step further. I say that volunteering in one's community is a means to self-preservation because of the tangible and emotional benefits that the volunteer receives. In short, it is selfishness but a laudable selfishness.

Humans, like all animals are shaped by natural selection and evolution. Camaraderie and cooperation is how we have survived and thrives as a species. Electricity, medicine, poetry are all the results of collective knowledge. No one person could have started from scratch in any of these fields and advance to modern levels of expertise. We each owe our survival and quality of life to our communities. In helping our communities, we help ourselves.

Helping another person also instinctively creates an innate sense of reciprocity in that person, essentially an ally. We are each others' mutual insurance policies. You may not need your ally's help today but you may need their help tomorrow. It is the same with community organizations which rely heavily on volunteers. You may not need their assistance today but you or someone you care about may need them at some point in the future. Now especially, is the time to get stuff done and make sure that organizations which benefit our communities aren't forced to shut their doors due to lack of funding or support (a very real threat given that resources are tight all around).

In addition to tangible benefits, a volunteer reaps emotional benefits as a bonus. Again, over the years of our species existence, natural selection has favored humans who fell good about being cooperative and performing "selfless" tasks in their communities. Human beings are social animals. We need positive relationships with other people in order to be happy. It's a hardwired, basic need like the need for food and water.

So what is you help others in order to make yourself feel good? Is this selfish? Yes, by definition but it is also compassionate by definition. Good feelings, happiness, optimism - these things are contagious and can pull us out of a depression (both the psychological condition and the global economic slump). When you make someone else feel good, you feel good, you make those around you feel good and they make you feel good. And you've created an echo chamber of positivity and productivity.

Now especially, is the time for us to volunteer. Watch the news for 15 minutes and you can see that there is a lot that needs to get done. The flotsam and jetsam of idle bodies and minds would sink this ship. There are so many problems and services that industry alone will not solve. The nonprofit and donation/government-funded organizations which take up the slack are likely to be particularly underfunded right now. We are all in this together and selflessness is selfishness.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kennedy Serve America Act

President Obama has signed the Kennedy Serve America Act into law. Among other things, this law will grow the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 75,000 people a year to 250,000 people a year. As a former member of the AmeriCorps, I feel quite proud of this moment in history. Our country has given 175,000 more Americans the opportunity to serve our nation each year. Without the organization that the AmeriCorps program provides, I would not have been able to give the 1700 hours of service to the community that I gave in 1999. In addition, I gained wonderful professional experiences in the AmeriCorps that gave my career a real boost. Our country can count on a wonderful return on investment in the Kennedy Serve America Act, and I believe my story is an example of this potential.

Anna Schulz is a member of the Flex program and a volunteer blogger for Volunteer San Diego. She also writes for her family blog, The Full Catastrophe.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Doing More With Less With VSD

As many of us are forced to do more with less, volunteers - and their effective engagement – are even more important for nonprofits and civic groups. In response, Volunteer San Diego has re-launched its Community Organization Membership. We need your help in inviting your nonprofit and community group partners to join today. As a community member, your promotion of this membership demonstrates that you value high-impact volunteer programs and what they can do for an organization’s success, and educates your partners about this value.

We are fortunate to work with The Parker Foundation on this initiative. Through their generous challenge grant, membership is even more affordable (only $50 in year one).

Membership benefit highlights:

  • publicity: posting of volunteer opportunities in the Union-Tribune and other media outlets
  • training discounts: three nationally-recognized experts in volunteer engagement are presenting with VSD in the next six months
  • access to corporate partners and funding: priority referrals for corporate volunteer projects managed by VSD
  • recognition for volunteers: free museum passes during April each year
The value of the package is over $6,000! With the Parker Foundation grant, the cost is just $50 in year one, $100 in year two, and $150 in year three. A three-year commitment is required.

To sign up for membership or get more information, please visit:

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Volunteer and it may lead to a position

I'm often asked from emerging leaders what they can do to find work in the nonprofit sector. Every day available nonprofit positions seem more and more competitive, leaving lots of questions from individuals navigating their way through it all. Here are some tips...


The best way I've found positions at organizations I loved was to volunteer first. It's a great strategy because if provides the volunteer with an opportunity to "try on" the organization, and the organization to do the same with the volunteer, without all the messy paperwork.

Find an organization that you are passionate about and be proactive in approaching that nonprofit about an opportunity to volunteer. Ask them about their needs and see if you can match your skills, passion, and interests with those needs. For example, are you familiar with social media and does the nonprofit need to set up a Facebook Cause or Page? Maybe this is something that you can help manage for them, and it will help you learn more about the organization.

While it is great to offer your times, also be sure that the organization has the capacity to lead volunteers. Volunteer management is a critical skill that nonprofits rely on, but that doesn't mean that they all managed volunteers well. At one point, I volunteered for an organization coordinating other volunteers, serving as a Supervision Group leader on a hotline. My job as a volunteer in that role was to lead and provide support to other volunteers. Be creative since you never know what will come along.

In a least half the organizations I've worked for, I started out volunteering for them or for a collaborating organization. By being in these nonprofit communities, I heard about job opportunities before they went across the wires publicly. I build relationships and allowed others to see what I was capable of doing. If I would do that much work for free, imagine what I could accomplish with a paycheck and an organizational structure and team behind me!

Emily Davis is a Volunteer San Diego guest blogger and a freelance, nonprofit consultant specializing in communications, board development, and fundraising. Check out her blog, Nonprofit Consulting Cafe.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Why Volunteer?

As more people find themselves unemployed, the need for volunteers around the country is growing rapidly. There are many different ways in which we can help our fellow human beings just by donating some of our time to help others. While some of us may be struggling ourselves, it is good to stay busy volunteering and making sure that others are able to live without worrying about life’s necessities.

Help Others
One of the greatest things about volunteering is the fact that you are actively working to help other people in need. Whether you volunteer at a homeless shelter or donate your time to a local charity, you are getting involved and helping others at the most critical level. We are all human beings after all and helping others to live even slightly better is rewarding in and of itself.

Give Back to Your Community
In most cases, people who work within their communities and volunteer their time have a vested interest in bettering the lives of others. When we give back at the grassroots level, we also reap the benefits of a united community. Home is where the heart is, and taking care of others close to home helps to revitalize the shared sense of community when you work and help others near home.

Use Time Wisely
Some people talk while others act. Volunteers may be filling a need, but helping out is also a proactive and productive way to spend one’s time. Rather than sitting on the sidelines complaining about what needs to be done, you can take the initiative and be involved in the rejuvenation of your community and its people.

Strength in Numbers
Volunteering is difficult when there are only a few people who care enough to devote time to a cause. However, once people begin to volunteer, they often recruit friends and family members to help the cause. With more people involved, more can ultimately be accomplished to help people and the community as well.

A Feel-Good Experience
Giving back and helping others is something that can help you personally as well. Helping others without expecting anything in return can be one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences you ever participate in. Look for opportunities to help your fellow human being and your life will change as you help others to change their lives.

Click here to find a volunteer opportunity.

Courtney Phillips is a Volunteer San Diego guest blogger. She also writes blogs for her website Rated Colleges.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Exercise your advocacy muscles on behalf of volunteerism

Last week was a reminder of how much our work is cut out for us in the nonprofit sector.

The GIVE Act and Volunteer Generation Fund amendment passed in the House last week. Thanks to all of you who reached out to show your support! Our work is not finished however. Today, the Senate will debate the Serve America Act. It will provide increased investment in our civic infrastructure and engage, mobilize and equip volunteers to help meet our nation's urgent needs.

Please call with your support - today. The Senate is expected to vote early this week.

Dianne Feinstein – 202-224-3841
Barbara Boxer – 202-224-3553

For talking points, visit Be sure to include brief comments about your direct experience with volunteers –their impact on you, your organization, or our community.

Actively advocating as a sector was a hot topic at this weekend’s sessions about the economy and nonprofits at USD. Once again, volunteerism was promoted as a strategy for weathering difficult times.

Congresswoman Susan Davis, a GIVE Act supporter, reminded the audience that good volunteerism doesn’t just happen. Volunteers need support to make the most impact.

California Secretary of Service and Volunteering Karen Baker urged nonprofits to engage skilled volunteers in their organizations, particularly volunteers with policy experience who can help promote our sector’s needs and successes.

Nationally recognized speaker, author, and policy expert, Rick Cohen, urged organizations to invest in their volunteers and volunteer programs, as volunteer mobilization efforts will fall short if nonprofits aren’t able to effectively engage them.

Volunteer San Diego has support and resources to help organizations heed these calls. Please share these opportunities with your favorite nonprofits.

For training resources:

For volunteer recruitment (including board and skilled volunteers):

To become a registered member:

As always, thanks for your support of service and Volunteer San Diego!

Sue Carter
Executive Director
Volunteer San Diego

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The 1000 Follower Countdown

VSD's Twitter presence is growing and just about to top 1000 followers. Will today be the day that we reach this new height? You can help...sign up!

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Volunteer San Diego truly appreciates everyone who volunteered at the Buick Invitational last month. Thank you for your understanding with all the changes and last minute cancellations due to the weather. Because of each volunteer, Volunteer San Diego will receive a donation from The Torrey Pines Lodge and the Century Club for each volunteer hour. We are still awaiting those numbers.

UnitedHealth Group
While attending their National Consultant Forum in San Diego, employees had an option to volunteer one of their afternoons upgrading an outdoor courtyard/patio at a local nonprofit. Volunteers painted walls, replaced missing tiles, gardened, assembled two benches, created three mosaic boards and a beach mural that were all installed in the courtyard. The recipient of this volunteer project was the Family Recovery Center in Oceanside. To learn more about how Volunteer San Diego can coordinate and manage your project for your group, team or company, click here.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Superhero of the Month: Cheryl Shaw

This month we would like recognize Cheryl Shaw, a volunteer with Best Buddies San Diego. Best Buddies is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide people with developmental disabilities with opportunities for one-on-one friendships. Volunteers from the community are matched into such a friendship with adults with disabilities who share similar interests. A Best Buddies friendship provides vital socialization skills, a heightened sense of independence and increased self-confidence to the people who are often neglected by mainstream society.

Cheryl volunteers about 15 hours each month through this program and has done so for the past two years! In addition to this, she has been a den leader with Cub Scouts, a volunteer with the Boy Scouts, and a board member for the Escrow Association.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Ten Steps: Effective Volunteer Program

I recently read Volunteer San Diego's ten steps for an effective volunteer program, as outlined by Sue Carter, Volunteer San Diego's Executive Director. She presented this list at The San Diego Foundation's "Survive and Thrive Initiative" workshop for nonprofit CEOs and board leaders. It is a very interesting presentation. As a member of the board of directors for Rolling Readers, I often wonder how our organization can further harness volunteer power. Small organizations like Rolling Readers have historically required the expertise of volunteers in a variety of roles to keep their doors open, but recent economic hardships are making the push towards volunteerism even more prevalent. Nonprofits and governmental organizations are calling on volunteers to fill the gaps left by new budget constraints. I am glad that Volunteer San Diego is in position with tools such as the ten steps and its community organization support to guide these agencies to greater success with volunteers.

Consider the nonprofit that you know and love as you read these suggestions. Significant improvements in your volunteer program are possible and I can't wait to see what you make of it.

Ten Steps: Effective Volunteer Program

1) Challenge Volunteer Assumptions
We stereotypically think labor (think envelope-stuffing, tree-planting, or soup kitchen helpers).

What about attorneys, doctors, accountants, marketing and public relations experts, engineers, executives, and skilled craftspeople? How can your organization benefit from the skills these potential volunteers have to share?

2) Challenge Cost Assumptions
It is tempting to just add up staff hours spent managing them and declare cost. Or add up volunteer hours and declare that their value ($22/hour according the Independent Sector). But these methods fail to capture some very important benefits:

a. What is the real savings when a professional (i.e. accountant, attorney, or public relations expert) gives time? (Hint: Ask their rates.)

b. Smartly recruited, well-managed volunteers free staff to focus on higher-level duties (OR volunteers can take on the higher-level duties.)

c. Volunteers, though they might be green, make your best fundraisers. They already have the passion. (What else could they do if you trained them?)

3) Think Investment
Time and effort spent planning a volunteer program fits in the same category as smart financial management, marketing, or fundraising. Yes, it costs something up front, but the long-term payoff more than justifies the time and resources designated.

4) Designate a Champion
Find a point-person to serve as a champion and manager for your program. This can be an existing staff member (just make sure they are given enough time to truly focus on the volunteer program, if this is a new part of their job). Think of this as a parallel to and equally important as HR. They will oversee the program in much the same manner HR oversees your employees. Recruiting, screening, setting policies, and reviewing, but not as the everyday supervisors of each volunteer.

5) Plan Strategically
Your champion should consult your entire team to find the smartest matches for volunteers. The thinking and the decisions should be part of your organization’s strategic planning process. Challenge the team to think in terms of items 1-3:

a. What kind of help could we really use (fantasize)?

b. What have we always wanted to accomplish?

c. Could any of our staff members move to another position (one they have or could develop skills for) and have volunteers fill in?

d. Could any of our staff members manage their current role and replace themselves with a team of volunteers (accomplishing even more)?

6) Create Your Wish List
Turn step 5 into a “Wish List” document. Make everyone in your office, including existing volunteers, aware of what is on the list. (Those volunteers will become your best recruiters.)

7) Develop Volunteer Job Descriptions
Create position descriptions from the Wish List. Yes, just like HR. What do you need from these volunteers? Education. Skills. Commitment. Resources. What should they expect of your organization?

8) Use Volunteer San Diego (That’s what we’re here for.)
Post projects and positions you are actively seeking to fill to the Volunteer San Diego website (

a. More than 35,000 volunteers use this database annually to find tailored opportunities, much like a job board.

b. The database allows you to indicate times, locations, experience required, screening requirements, and commitment levels.

c. It’s free; however, for $150/year, you receive a host of services from a team highly-experienced in volunteer organization, management, training, and leadership. (Save yourself time and resources!)

9) Train Well
Training establishes expectations from both sides, as well as two-way communication. Training can make the difference between a one-time volunteer and someone who becomes a longer-term, passionate advocate for your organization. Training is also a benefit many volunteers seek, leading to job skills and resume-builders.

10) Seek Candid Feedback
As part of training—and the volunteer’s ongoing relationship with your organization—seek their feedback. (Make this a ritual.)

a. Make volunteers feel as much a part of the organization as your employees. The entire staff must carry this candle.

b. Regular feedback (and acting on what you can change, which is a key part of listening) helps keep volunteers engaged and advocating for your program.

c. Hint: Volunteers, because they are not worried about losing their positions, are more inclined toward being candid.

Anna Schulz is a member of the Flex program and a volunteer blogger for Volunteer San Diego. She also writes for her family blog, The Full Catastrophe.

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