Monday, June 28, 2010

Everyone Has A Little Captain In Them!

As a volunteer I always wondered what went on behind the scenes. My curiosity first led me to become a Team Leader for the Flexible Volunteer Program with Volunteer San Diego. My particular project was a piece of cake. There were three other team leaders if I ever needed someone to cover, the project had already been running for ten years so there was already a smooth line of communication with the library, and there were a myriad of "regulars" who attended the project.

Fast forward and I am signing up to be a Site Captain for Serve-a-thon 2009. This should be just like being a Team Leader, right? Wrong. All of these projects are quite literally just "ideas-written-on-paper" until you bring them to life. It's all you. Everything from contacting the site where you'll be volunteering, to getting the supplies that you'll be using, to keeping contact with the volunteers you'll be leading, to running the show on the day of. After learning all of this, my expectations flew out the window.

I attended my first training to get a better hold on what I needed to do. When I arrived, everything was so overwhelming. I was already off to a bit of a late start because I had missed a couple trainings. The Site Captains there all seemed unfazed by the daunting tasks ahead of them. It was intimidating to sit and listen to all the progress they had already made. Then, I realized what all these Site Captains already knew. I understood why they didn't seemed worried: It isn't all you. You are not alone. The staff at VSD is there for a reason. Between trainings and emails there was always someone around to answer questions.

Fast forward through a few more trainings and the project is finally here. My project went off with a few bumps here and there, but overall, it was a huge success. KUSI even came out to film us at one point. I would later find out that my fellow Site Captains had similar experiences and that all of Serve-a-thon was going great. It felt good to be a part of something that was making such a huge impact.

So that was my story from last year. I was scared, I had no idea what to expect, and I had a late start to top it all off. A year later I am signed up to do it all over again. This time around it looks like it will be even easier to ask questions and get support. Hopefully my story can provide hope for those wondering if they can do it; a year ago I wasn't sure that I could. With a positive attitude and a little help from VSD, I discovered that I had a little captain in me.

Site Captains are still needed for Volunteer San Diego's Serve-a-thon 2010. If you are motivated, have (or want to gain) great leadership skills, have a desire to give back to the community, can inspire people and want to have some fun...then Volunteer San Diego is looking for you! For more information, click here.

Andrew Tran is a Serve-a-thon Site Captain and Flex Team Leader for Volunteer San Diego. He also has his own blog, Ramblings of Andrew Tran.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

The Secret to Effective Nonprofits? Good Volunteer Engagement

Recent research is confirming what we’ve often witnessed at Volunteer San Diego: organizations that engage volunteers well are more effective than those that do not. Earlier this year, I had the chance to hear preliminary findings of this research from Peter York of the TCC Group. He discovered that “organizational effectiveness is significantly stronger for nonprofits with more than 50 volunteers AND a robust volunteer management model.” He termed these organizations service enterprises.

The paper concludes with a recommendation for the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to invest in developing service enterprises and to empower intermediary service organizations that support multiple community programs.

As your local intermediary service organization, VSD has long advocated that it is not enough to involve volunteers, it also is critical to engage them well. Yet many organizations haven’t invested in volunteerism. Many do not have staff dedicated to supporting volunteers. Even those that do struggle to adequately prepare the staff member; only 30% of staff with volunteer administration responsibilities have had any training.

It’s one of the reasons that VSD invests in building the capacity of organizations to engage volunteers well through volunteer project management, training, networking, resource sharing, and placement of volunteer infrastructure-building AmeriCorps members.

We are thrilled to learn about this validation of our work and the work of our partner organizations. I look forward to reporting more when I return from our national conference next week.

Thanks for your support of VSD and volunteerism!
Sue Carter
Executive Director

Why 50 Volunteers Make a Difference

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Pat on the Back

Congratulations, Americans! The Corporation for National & Community Service released a report which stated that despite the troubling economic times facing the nation, there has been a surge in volunteerism over the past year. Americans have a collectively generous spirit which has, yet again, shined in times of trouble. Everyone who has selflessly given their time and talents during the past year should hold their head up high with pride. The community as a whole thanks you!

We San Diegan volunteers can especially be proud of ourselves. San Diego's volunteer rate for the past year was 29.3%, beating the national average of 26.8%. This data is consistent with Volunteer San Diego's experience. We helped fill 51,000 positions last year, which is a 45% increase from the previous year! We project a 15% increase in the next year, which means that the volunteer spirit is alive and well in our little corner of the world.

All of you amazing volunteers are making a big difference in the San Diego community and the time you give is truly priceless. The increase in overall volunteerism in this country is a great attribute to you all.

Katie Grzecknik is a volunteer Blogger for Volunteer San Diego.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Volunteer Superhero: Brad Graybehl

Volunteer San Diego would like to recognize Brad Graybehl: Flex Team Leader, trainer of new Team Leaders and Community Chair of the Flex Project Development Team – basically a Flex Program volunteer extraordinaire. 

Brad came to Volunteer San Diego when a friend asked him to consider taking on becoming a Team Leader for a homework helper project; that was over five years ago. Since his start in 2005, Brad has been committed and continues to lead the weekly Serra Mesa Homework Helpers project, seeing many youth come and grow. Over the past two years, Brad has stepped up even more by working with VSD staff to revise the new Team Leader training and continues to work with staff and other volunteers on the Flex Project Development Team to grow and expand the Flex Program by developing new projects.

This past month, Brad was asked to speak at a national training facilitated by Volunteer San Diego for 17 HandsOn Network Affiliates from all over the country. “It was great to see Brad speak to other HandsOn Network affiliates about how they too can engage volunteer Team Leaders in their communities. The feedback we received from our affiliates was that they wanted a Brad of their own supporting their organization,” quoted Sarah Adams, Program Director at Volunteer San Diego.  

To learn more about Volunteer San Diego’s Leadership Opportunities or the Flex Project Development Team, contact Jaci Feinstein.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Site Captains Needed for Serve-a-thon 2010!

Are you looking for a new leadership opportunity? Do you want to gain valuable experience in volunteer and project management? Become a Site Captain for Serve-a-thon 2010!

Serve-a-thon is Volunteer San Diego’s largest service and fundraising event of the year. Formerly known as Hands On San Diego, this two day event continues with VSD’s tradition of providing quality projects and services to the community. Serve-a-thon projects focus on a pertinent community issue each year, and this year’s focus is on education.   

Our Site Captains truly are the heart of this volunteer event as they are the face of Volunteer San Diego for the volunteers and host organizations. We put a high value on our Site Captains because they ensure that the community members attending our projects have the best possible experience. We ask that all our Site Captains be willing to commit to attending one training a month for four months and leading at least one project during the Serve-a-thon weekend (Oct. 8-9). In return, we will provide you the opportunity to fine-tune your leadership skills, meet great people, build your resume and increase your impact as a volunteer leader.

To sign up for the First Site Captain Training on June 24, 2010 please click here.

For more information, click here or email

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Operation Welcome Home

Yesterday, Volunteer San Diego participated in the launch of Operation Welcome Home, the Governor’s Initiative to help veterans returning home from service. A number of veterans spoke powerfully about living in a war zone, the sometimes hidden physical and emotional scars of doing so, and the challenges of coming back home to civilian life. Some 30,000 vets return to California each year, and San Diego has the second largest veterans’ population in the U.S.

Volunteer San Diego’s role in the effort is to work with local nonprofit, government and civic organizations that serve our vets, helping build their capacity to engage volunteers and supporting their volunteer recruitment. We are honored to help serve those who so dutifully served our country.

If your organization serves veterans and wants to connect with volunteer support, please contact Nate Kieso at 858-300-3280 x203 or VSD will launch new resources for these organizations soon.

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