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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