Tag Archives: charities

Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research

CALLS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS:
Thirteenth International Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR)
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
10 July  – 13 July 2018

Conference Theme:
Democracy and Legitimacy:  The Role of the Third Sector in a Globalizing World

DEADLINE FOR CONFERENCE ABSTRACT SUBMISSIONS:   27 OCTOBER 2017

Conference organizers are keenly interested in a wide range of submissions, especially on topics related to democracy and legitimacy. In addition, ISTR is also interested in research which advances our understanding of theory, policy, and practice of third sector organizations. Conference themes include:

  • Democracy and Civil Society Organizations
  • Challenges and Opportunities of Advocacy by NGOs and Nonprofits
  • Governance, Management, Adaptation and Sustainability of Third Sector Organizations
  • Hybridity, Legitimacy and the Third Sector
  • New Models of Philanthropy and Voluntarism
  • Active Citizenship and Activism
  • The Third Sector and Development
  • Social Innovation and the Third Sector
  • Research on Teaching Third Sector Studies
  • Emerging Areas of Theory and Practice

Abstract Submissions
Contributions may take the form of a paper, a panel, a roundtable, or a poster.  The abstract must be less than 400 words in length.

Full details regarding submission specifications are found in the Call for Contributions.

Submissions for Panels, Papers and Posters
All panel, papers and poster proposals for the Conference must be submitted using ISTR’s online submission service. To submit your paper or poster abstract using this service, go to the ISTR website – www.istr.org/Amsterdam – and follow the link for ‘Submit a Proposal.’

Good Housekeeping UK Flubs Virtual Volunteering story

One of the reasons I created the list of myths about virtual volunteering was because of journalists who kept writing articles that did not reflect the realities of online service. They loved to say “this is so new!” and that “it’s great if you don’t have time!”, for instance – despite virtual volunteering starting in the 1970s with the advent of the Internet and all volunteering, online or off, taking real time. I ask every journalist that calls me to read those myths before they interview me – and I can always tell if they have or not. 

I have been in positions to develop assignments for online volunteers and to recruit and support volunteers in those assignments since 1994. When I lose volunteers in virtual assignments – the ones that disappear with their assignment undone – the excuse is almost always the same: I didn’t realize how much time this would take. Never mind that I tell all volunteers, up front, how much an assignment might take – and often, it’s a micro assignment, taking just minutes a day or a week. But even a few minutes a day, just once, is A FEW MINUTES A DAY.

This article by Good Housekeeping UK is representative of what so many journalists get wrong about virtual volunteering. Not only does this article claim the practice is new (it’s more than 30 years old), not only do they think it’s great for people that don’t have much time (most virtual volunteering assignments take just as much time as onsite volunteering assignments, just without the need to travel and park), and they think the terms micro volunteering and virtual volunteering are inter-changeable – they just can’t get it that, while micro volunteering online IS virtual volunteering, not all virtual volunteering is “micro.” You know, like group volunteering is volunteering, but not all volunteering is group volunteering.

The magazine even highlights one of my favorite initiatives, the online mentoring program Infinite Family, and then brands it as micro volunteering – despite the program requiring volunteers to make an ongoing commitment of several hours regularly – because that’s what kids deserve, not just a few minutes here or there that a volunteer might be able to spare.

You want to do a story on JUST micro volunteering? Great. Here are some initiatives you can mention:

Carnamah Historical Society virtual volunteering initiative (Australia) – Online volunteers help with transcription and indexing projects to make historical records more discoverable and searchable.

ebird database, supporting the National Audubon Society. You go “birding” or bird-watching, observing birds with your eye or binoculars, and then enter into the database when, where, and how you went birding, completing a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing

Help From Home has a mix of volunteering activities you can do from home, both online and without a computer.

Koodonation, part of Sparked / Extraordinaries, hosts a database of online microvolunteering assignments (tasks that can be completed in around an hour or two online) in support of different nonprofit organizations. Both nonprofits and volunteers must register on the site to view microvolunteering assignments.

NetSquared, an initiative of TechSoup, is a place where nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, NGOs and individuals propose ideas that involve “the intersection of technology and social impact.” Anyone is welcomed to comment on the proposed projects on the site, and there are often opportunities to vote on which projects should receive funding.

Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program. The Smithsonian seeks to engage the public in making its collections more accessible. “We’re working hand-in-hand with digital volunteers to transcribe historic documents and collection records to facilitate research and excite the learning in everyone.” Transcription turns handwritten and typed documents into searchable and machine-readable resources, creating an incredibly valuable asset for art, history, literary and scientific researchers across the globe.

TechSoup has a series of discussion groups where nonprofits ask questions about technology. You can log into the community at any time and try to help nonprofits and volunteers with questions about software, databases and more. TechSoup also needs people to transcribe its most popular archived webinars (requires that you listen to the pre-recorded webinar and type what is said, re-listening as you need to in order to capture what is being said). 

Wikipedia, the largest online volunteering initiative in the world. To volunteer, you simply find an article you have some knowledge of and add information to the entry. 

And that’s just the virtual volunteering that is “micro” – there’s LOTS more virtual volunteering assignments that allow you to take on leadership roles, manage an entire project, work as a team with other online volunteers, build relationships with other people, and more. I have many links to various initiatives you can get involved with here.

There is no excuse for this flub, Good Housekeeping. NONE.

Wiki re: virtual volunteering in Europe

In the course of researching and writing about Internet-mediated volunteering (virtual volunteering, online volunteering, microvolunteering, online mentoring, etc.) in European Union (EU) countries, I created a wiki to serve as a publicly-shared knowledge base for resources used to inform this project, resources that could inform future research projects related to the subject matter, and to invite further submissions of relevant information from any wiki visitor. The ICT4EMPLOY wiki includes:

  • More about the overall project & researchers
  • The information we are seeking / How to submit information
  • Online Volunteering-related recruitment or matching web sites
  • Organisations that involve online volunteers in the EU
  • Resources related to volunteering as a contributor to employability
  • Resources related to arguments against and concerns about volunteering by unions/professionals in Europe
  • Resources and research related to Internet-mediated volunteering (focused on, but not limited to, Europe)
  • Resources related to telecommuting, virtual teams and remote management
  • Legal status and regulations regarding volunteers
  • Resources related to volunteer engagement and volunteerism in EU countries statistics, studies, volunteer centres, volunteer matching sites, sites for volunteers, sites for those that want to involve volunteers, etc.
  • RSS feeds for keywords associated with Internet-mediated volunteering
  • Información en español
  • Informations en français
  • Informationen in Deutsch

I’ll update it as long as I’m working on the research.

What did you learn today? Or this week?

Are you an employee, a consultant or a volunteer at/with a nonprofit, library, NGO, school, government agency, charity or other mission-based organization?

Then these questions are for you:

What did you learn today, or this week, or recently, about computer or Internet/networked tech while working with or for a that mission-based organization? Or some other thing you learned about tech that would be helpful to others? And per this learning, what else do you need to know?

It could be:

“I learned to do this cool thing with Outlook – I can now…”

or

“I learned that I really don’t like such-and-such feature on LinkedIn. Here’s why…”

or

“I learned that washing my LG 500 feature phone in the washing machine leads to it no longer working” (Yes, that’s me).

I would really love it if you would answer that question here on the TechSoup Community Forum.

Registration on TechSoup is required in order to respond, but registration is free. And by registering, you can participate in TechSoup community activities in the future! Come on, let’s hear from ya!

My Twitter Lists

One of the things I really like about Twitter is that I don’t have to follow absolutely everyone whose tweets I might be interested in reading at some point; I can put people and organizations on various lists, by subject matter, geography, whatever, and then check in with those lists as I like. I pick one or two of my lists a day, and then spend a few minutes going through the tweets of that list.

I make my Twitter lists public – anyone can see them. I’m also sharing them below – I thought you might like to see what they are, either to find someone you should be following, to subscribe to any of these lists or maybe to finally get you on Twitter at long last.

Afghanistan
People and organizations that tweet about Afghanistan. I’ll always care about Afghanistan…

Aid work & Dev
Organizations working development, aid and humanitarian response in developing/transitional countries.

CSR
Corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship, including pro bono help

Colleagues
My professional and volunteering colleagues (if you aren’t on this list, and we’ve worked together at some point in some way, and you are on Twitter, please let me know!)

español
Info & orgs in Spain & Latin America, or any site I follow that tweets in español, all related to some subject I follow (aid work and development, tech4good/ICT4D, tourism for good, CSR, FOSS, etc.)

FOSS
Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) – vendors, distributors, volunteers and advocates.

International NGOs
Major international non-governmental organizations I’m particularly interested in.

Nonprofit associations
City, state & regional nonprofit associations in the USA.

PNW
Portland, Oregon & Pacifc Northwest Tweeters I follow.

Tech4Good ICT4D
Also #nptech, apps for good. Organizations and individuals engaged in activities that use computer, software and Internet technology to help individuals, communities and the environment.

tourism4good
Organizations promoting tourism for good, or tourism for development.

Women & Girls Empowerment
Orgs & tweeters re women & girls empowerment/rights

Vol Research
Research regarding volunteerism and/or community engagement

Volunteerism non-English
Volunteer info & orgs that do not tweet English (but tweet in Spanish, French, Portuguese, or anything I can sorta kinda figure out)

For Volunteers
If you want to / are a volunteer. If you tweet about your volunteering activities, the things you do as a volunteer, contact me and let me know. If you are an organization focused primarily on volunteers (you have developed a web site or app to help people find volunteering opportunities, for instance), let me know.

Volunteer recruit/manage
For those that work with volunteers – for managers of volunteers, and for organizations that regularly tweet regarding their volunteers.

Volunteerism
Promoting or researching the concept of volunteers/community help.

If you want to be on any of these lists, please contact me. And if you are interested in the subjects I am, or want to know what I’m up to, I hope you will follow me on Twitter!

Recruiting Computer/Network Consultants (paid or volunteer/pro bono)

There are two reasons mission-based organizations (nonprofits, non-governmental organizations, and public sector agencies) need to recruit computer/network consultants, paid or volunteer/pro bono:

  • Staff at mission-based organizations such as nonprofits, NGOs, schools and government offices have a great deal of expertise in a variety of areas – but, often, such staff do not have expertise in computer hardware, software, and technology-related networks. That means that staff at such organizations often have to rely on consultants, either paid or volunteer, for such expertise.
  • An organization needs to recruit paid or volunteer / pro bono consultants to participate in its program delivery to clients or the public: an organization that helps nonprofits build accessible web sites, for instance, or a community center that helps the low income community it serves regarding computer literacy may want these consultants, paid or volunteer, to design and lead classes.

Staff at mission-based organizations such as nonprofits, NGOs, schools and government offices have a great deal of expertise in a variety of areas, such as health care, child welfare, environmental management, community outreach, human resources management, microfinance, emergency logistics, and on and on. But staff can feel a sense of both awe and fear about tech consultants — that whatever the consultant says goes. Staff may feel unable to understand, question or challenge whatever that consultant recommends.

What can mission-based organizations do to recruit the “right” consultant, whether paid or volunteer, for “tech” related issues, one that will not make them feel out-of-the-loop or out-of-control when it comes to tech-related discussions or the delivery of tech-related services?

See this updated version of Recruiting Computer/Network Consultants (paid or volunteer/pro bono)

Survival Strategies for Nonprofits

I’ve seen two blogs in the last two weeks regarding survival strategies for nonprofit organizations (NPOs), non-governmental organizations, (NGOs), community based organizations (CBOs), charities, etc., per the current dire economic climate.

I was unimpressed with both of them. They were all big picture ideas that lacked specifics (Refine your mission! or Merge with another organization!). Mission-based organizations are looking for ideas to do next week, to save or make money now.

These blogs also talked about volunteers only in terms of saving money – get volunteers to do those things that, in better economic times, you would pay someone to do.

So I came up with my own ideas, based on what I’ve experienced or observed at other organizations, to help a mission-based organization survive these tough economic times:

  • Make sure your web site and all of your social media activities emphasize what your organization is accomplishing, in detail, rather than your desperate need for funds. If someone looks at your web site, it should exude impact and results, not desperation. People and organizations are cutting back on donations, but they are NOT eliminating giving altogether; they want to give where they know their money will make a real difference. If your web site & social media activities aren’t emphasizing results and opportunities, and isn’t showing exactly what donations pay for, you are regularly missing out on donations.
  • Are you charging for activities and services as you should? For instance:
    • Organizing an activity for a group of volunteers from the local branch of a national bank requires a huge amount of time and resources on your part, often to create an activity that your own employees could do more efficiently or an activity that’s actually not critical to the organization – the activity is to give the group a feel-good experience, but it’s at your expense. Are you charging the corporation a fee, even a small amount, to cover some or all of these costs? Be ready to show a detailed lists of what the costs are for your organization to create this group volunteering activity.
    • Corporations frequently ask nonprofits to collaborate on a project, to advise the company on an activity, such as the development of new software or the launching of an event. For anything that is going to require staff to spend more than an hour on a corporation’s project, ask the corporation to cover the staff person’s time. Consider this: if you wanted the company to do a project for your organization, they would most probably charge you for that service – so why not ask them for the same consideration?
    • What about training for volunteers – what are the exact costs of this, and should you be asking volunteers to pay for some of these costs, even a small amount? Would a corporation be willing to give you a donation in return for saying that they “sponsor” all volunteer training?
  • Does your organization have a service or activity it could sell, for a fee? For instance,
    • If you are a women’s shelter that involves volunteers as counselors to victims of domestic violence, could you market the training you provide to these volunteers to local businesses, corporations and large government offices, as professional development for their employees? Those organizations could pay to have your trainer come onsite to their companies and train their staff regarding recognizing domestic violence, how to make referrals if they see an employee in need, etc.
    • If you are an animal shelter, would area dog trainers be willing to come onsite for a seminar on pet safety or pet training, providing their one-day training for free, with the seminar fee going to your shelter, and the trainers being allowed to pass out advertising about their training to attendees?
    • Do you charge even a nominal fee to those that want to use your company lunch room or common room bulletin board to advertise local services? (restaurants, pet boarding, printing, apartment finders, etc.).
    • Do you have a large space you could rent to other organizations and companies for events, meetings or storage?
  • Ask employees and volunteers for ways to cut expenses in the coming weeks and the coming months. Have them look at their individual program and department budgets and come back to you with ideas of ways to eliminate expenses. Let them submit ideas on-the-record and anonymously. Open ideas up to discussion (on a private online discussion group, for instance, or over lunch – and, of course, staff should provide their own lunches). You might be surprised at just how much money could be saved per the ideas of your own employees and volunteers.
  • Give each department or program a required target for expense reduction. 10%? 20%?
  • Do the written job descriptions for every employee and high-responsibility, long-term volunteer role at your organization reflect reality? Have every employee and high-responsibility, long-term volunteer review his or her job description and edit it to reflect what they are actually doing, to note what they can’t do but feel is still essential, and to note what they aren’t doing, and don’t feel they should be doing, but that’s still listed in the description. Are some staff duplicating each others’ efforts? Should some roles be combined (and, therefore, some positions eliminated or cut back)?
  • Could your organization afford unpaid furloughs for employees? Many employees would welcome unpaid days off to lengthen their holiday time off or their paid vacations. Ask employees for their feedback about the consequences to your clients and programs if they took an unpaid week off — or two weeks off — in summer, for instance.
  • Look at your printing costs. How much of what you are producing in print form could be offered online, with anyone who wants such printing it themselves (and paying for that printing themselves, either from home, from their work, from a public library or from a copy center?)? How much of what you print is actually being read – and should you reduce the size of your printed publications? Is your printed annual report really necessary this year? Do any of your volunteers, including board members, or family members of your employees work at large companies or institutions that might be willing to donate their onsite printing equipment to produce your program brochure? Do you charge the public or donors for any printed report that is more than 10 pages?
  • Be specific on your web site about your organization’s costs. How much do you spend each month on electricity, for instance? Post the cost to your web site and note that you are looking for an Electric Angel – someone willing to sponsor your electricity bill for next month, which will allow you to do whatever it is you do to add value to your community or the planet. Before doing so, make sure your utility use is efficient – is the office thermostat set to a energy-efficient setting?
  • Put a temporary moratorium on furniture purchases of any kind. Post your furniture needs to your own web site and to a freecycle online group for your area. Use your social media to discuss such as well.
  • It may be in the best interest of your organization to scale back, postpone, or even eliminate a service, program or activity. A nonprofit theater may need to scale back its season by one show. Another organization may have to eliminate or scale back an annual onsite event. This may be your opportunity to become even more focused on your mission. Look at how much every program or activity costs, in detail, and think about way to reduce those costs, or evaluate the consequences of scaling back, postponing or eliminating that program or activity in relation to your organization’s mission.
  • If you are thinking of involving more volunteers, don’t think of it as a temporary solution; think of it as a permanent re-alignment of your organization. If you decide that you are going to reserve certain roles for volunteers – for instance, all pro bono consultancies that will support staff, all front desk/phone staff, all bloggers, all conference support staff, etc., make it a permanent change that will last even when the economy gets better. Volunteers aren’t free. In fact, this realignment regarding volunteer involvement will cost money – perhaps more money than you are probably spending now to support and involve volunteers (they will need to be screened, trained more than once, supervised and supported!), but perhaps the savings from elsewhere can pay for this.
  • Be explicit to board members and the press about any cut that is going to affect the scope or even the quality of your organization’s service. It may sound great to an outsider for your organization to eliminate paid positions, while you know that the consequences to clients, the community or the environment will be devastating – think about how you will make those potential consequences crystal clear and very public. That can affect the thinking of an annual large donor that’s considering scaling back on their donations to your organization soon.
  • Get the press, government leaders and corporate leaders onto your location and viewing your work. I don’t mean fundraising events – I mean you need to invite them all to observe program activities, to attend a volunteer training, or to view for themselves your organization in action. The press wants something visually-appealing: people moving or laughing, or people being very expressive. Government leaders and corporations want to see something that is representative of your organization’s impact. Make these invitations in a friendly, no-pressure way, and do NOT ask for donations in the invite nor during the site visit. All you are doing is building connections and interest, so that when the time does come to ask for a donation, you have a relationship with the potential funder, and the organization understands your organization’s work.

You should have detailed information about your current expenses and a tracking system that allows you to see – and share – exactly how much money you are saving each month and each quarter over the coming year. In sharing that information, tout not only how lean and efficient your organization is; also note what the consequences are of these cuts to clients and the community. When announcing cuts, you don’t want to give the impression that your organization had been wasteful or frivolous in its spending previously – and with these cuts, now it’s not. You also don’t want to send the message that your organization can cut and save its way out of its financial challenges.

If you do end up cutting back or eliminating a program – and cutting employee positions – be as generous as possible with departing staff. You are saving your organization from financial hardship but putting employees into financial hardship:

  • Contact a temp agency or any employment agencies in your city and ask to arrange immediate onsite interviews for staff you are laying off, so that when you lay off an employee, you can hand that person a card and say, “This person is waiting for your call after our meeting to set up an informational interview, review your résumé and talk about employment openings and temp opportunities.” If there are no temp agencies in your geographic area, talk to your board members and see if they work at companies that have highly-skilled HR people, and if the company would be willing to donate this person’s time to do at least two job-coaching sessions with departing staff, regarding preparing résumés and LinkedIn profiles, the best online job boards to use and using social media for job searches.
  • Write each person a letter of recommendation and write a recommendation on his or her LinkedIn profile.
  • Give laid off employees at least three weeks salary and payment for all unused vacation (and remember that they will be out-of-work for MUCH longer than that, in all likelihood).

What are your ideas for saving money ASAP for nonprofits, NGOs and charities, so that they can survive the ongoing financial crisis? Be specific.

No excuses for not having the word “volunteer” on your home page!

Kudos to the Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana for having the words volunteer and volunteers on the home page of its web site, thereby showing immedately the value of volunteers in their efforts. The vast majority of programming that Girl Scouts receive in the USA is delivered by volunteers — unpaid staff — rather than paid staff from a council office or the national office, and Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana shows that it not only recognizes this, but that it welcomes volunteers – by putting those words permanently on its home page.

I wonder why so many Girl Scout council offices do not have those words on their web site. You might find those words on a pull down menu – maybe. But often on these and other web sites for nonprofit organizations or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), I do not see, immediately, that new volunteers are welcomed – and I would see that if it was obvious from glancing at the web site for just a few seconds how someone could get started as a volunteer.

Here is much more advice on the REQUIRED volunteer information on your web site. If your organization or department involves volunteers, or wants to, there are certain things your organization or department must have on its web site – no excuses! To not have this information says that your organization or department takes volunteers for granted, does not value volunteers beyond money saved in salaries, or is not really ready to involve volunteers.

Answering tough volunteer involvement questions

Here are two questions regarding volunteer engagement I am seeing a lot through various channels… but not seeing many answers to:

Where can young children – children under 13, even as young as 6 – volunteer? What kinds of activities can they do and exactly where can they do these?

and

Where can people with diminishing mental abilities, or with mental disabilities, volunteer? What kinds of activities can they do and exactly where can they do these?

The first set of questions come from parents, as well as children under 13, on various online discussion groups, like YahooAnswers.

The second set of questions come primarily from volunteer managers – from those in charge of recruiting and involving volunteers at an organization – and are often the result of a long-time, beloved volunteer becoming less and less capable of helping, and requiring so much supervision and assistance that the organization feels the benefits of involving the volunteer are far below the costs. Or, that volunteer becoming verbally abusive, or saying inappropriate things to other volunteers, as a result of their diminished mental capabilities. But I’ve also seen the question asked by siblings, parents and other caretakers of people with mental disabilities.

I’m very disappointed not to see organizations that are supposed to have the promotion of volunteerism as the central focus of their mandate jumping in to answer these questions. Where are you, Points of Light Foundation? Hands On Network? Why aren’t you out there on various online fora, such as YahooAnswers, addressing these tough questions about volunteering?

Anyway…

I’m not at equating children and people with diminished mental capacities. These are two VERY different groups. But they do have one thing in common: they require much more planning, support and staff time to involve than adult volunteers. Hence why I’m discussing these two groups at once here in this blog.

The reality is that it’s more efficient, economical and immediately beneficial for most nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and charities to involve adult individual volunteers who can successfully complete a project, from start to finish, with minimum supervision. Also, most organizations do not have the money, staff, time and other resources to create volunteering opportunities focused primarily on fulfilling the needs of various types of volunteers, rather than creating volunteering activities that are focused primarily on fulfilling the needs of an organization (I’ve said this about microvolunteering as well!). For most organizations, volunteer engagement is primarily about fulfilling the organization’s mission, not fulfilling the wishes of volunteers.

If you think nonprofits, NGOs, charities and others should involve everyone who wants to volunteer, no matter the volunteers’ ages or abilities, then consider this: no matter what your job is, no matter what sector you work in (for-profit, government, nonprofit, whatever), could YOU come up with a safe, fun, meaningful hour-long activity for a 10 year old child to do in your office twice a week, or a two-hour weekly activity for a dozen 10 year olds to do in your office, and do you have time to supervise that child or those children during that activity? What about creating similar activities for someone who has severe short-term memory loss? If you could not do it in your own job at such-and-such corporation, why do you expect nonprofit organizations to do so?

Just as creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities for adults is difficult, creating volunteering opportunities for children, or for people with diminished or diminishing mental abilities, is also difficult. Should a nonprofit, NGO or charity be spending time and resources to involve these groups? In some circumstances, yes.

First, think carefully about what is in it for you, the organization or program, to create opportunities for either of these groups. What benefit are you looking for?:

  • measurable results regarding participant or community awareness of a particular issue, program or your organization. Could the volunteering activity help children understand a particular issue? Could the activity help parents or family issues understand the issue more fully?
  • cultivation of donors who would be interested in funding this part of your organization’s program. The staff time to create opportunities and support these volunteers, the materials needed by volunteers, etc. all need funding. Are there foundations, corporate philanthropy programs, government agencies or individual donors who would be attracted to funding the resources required?
  • activities that fulfill your organization’s mission. The volunteering experience results in activities that reach part of your organization’s mission. For instance, if you work with seniors, particularly those with diminished mental faculties, then involving these seniors as volunteers would be a part of your mission. If your organization is focused on children under 13, then involving those children as volunteers would be a part of your mission.

I wrote a page on creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities, and it includes a long list of activity suggestions. Some of those could be adapted as volunteering activities for children, or for people with very limited mental capacities – but not all of them. And to be honest, I’m stumped on creating voluntering activities for either of these groups.

Not every organization is going to be able to address any of those three bullet points – and, therefore, is not going to be in a position to create volunteering opportunities for either of these special needs groups. What I advise those organizations to do:

  • For those that are getting called by parents who want their children to volunteer, have a list of other organizations in your area to refer their child to. For instance, for girls, I recommend the Girl Scouts of the USA (or, in other countries, Girl Guides). I also have a web page of recommendations for family volunteering – specifically families that include children under 16 – note that many activities are home-based.
  • For those that ask about volunteers with diminished mental capacities – for instance, an organization that finds a long-term volunteer can no longer undertake any of the volunteering opportunities at the organization, could a placement be found elsewhere?  Is there a community theater that could involve him or her to hand out programs before a performance? Could the volunteer help serve refreshments at an event – just putting cups filled with a liquid, not doing any of the fillings of the cups him or herself? And does the family of this person understand that a family member will have to be with the volunteer at all times? Or is there an organization in your community that helps people with diminishing mental capacities that you could introduce the volunteer to, that could give that person meaningful activities to engage in – like going to community events in a group? Does this volunteer attend events by a community of faith (a church, temple, mosque, etc.), and could that community be called on to help in this situation?

What other advice do you have for parents seeking volunteering activities for young children, or nonprofit organizations that are going to have to let a volunteer go because of diminished mental capabilities? Leave your answers in the comments. What I’m particularly interested in: how did you go about letting a long-time volunteer go that you had to let go because of his or her diminished mental capabilties, and what did you learn from that expereince that you would like to share with others?

Also see:

Creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities

Recommendations for family volunteering – specifically families that include children under 16