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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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