I’m up. It is 5:15am on a Saturday and in a few hours I’ll be on a flight to Dallas. This is how things go when you’re on the road and I couldn’t ask for anything more. I roll out of bed and start making coffee to help kick-start my morning. With my bags packed and coffee in hand I drive to the airport to catch my flight. Wendy, one of our stellar Auction Experts, joins me and we hop on our plane. Once we are settled on the plane, we review the final details to help Fox Sports SouthWest crush their fundraising goal. They are doing this fundraising auction on September 11th on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Fund . Our goal is lofty, last year they raised over $150,000 and this year we’re hoping to raise over $200,000.
Preparation starts weeks before we cross the Texas border with check-in calls, checklists, analysis with trained Auction Experts and of course our game plan. When working with BiddingForGood we stick by our claim that we help at every stage of the fundraising process.
Fortunately for us, Fox Sports SouthWest is eager to put the plan in place and what happens next is what we hope all our clients experience- coordinated chaos.
We touch down at 10am local time and it is straight to the Ranger’s stadium. We’ve done large events but a packed stadium is clearly on another level and isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s only a few hours before the fans start to fill the stands. I’m excited to meet bidders and help them experience our fundraising software. Setting up a fundraiser is different at each venue and today we’re parked inside the Captain Morgan Club, which is an easily accessible public area. This will be our home base for the next few hours. Having a central location is extremely important for a number of reasons;
- You want volunteers and staff to point curious bidders to one place
- Providing computers for those not familiar with mobile devices will allow bidding from the less tech savvy audience
- Learning our platform is easy but having one location where we can train the volunteers allows us to provide training that is uniform
It’s now 5pm and things are in full swing. Batter up! Bidding is announced on the radio, TV, and across the stadium on giant screens. People are excited and ready to place their bids. This registration rush is normal and exciting. Everyone wants to get in on the action and with trained volunteers we are able to get bids in and start raising funds. Things are moving faster than last year, a good sign for things to come.
Now in extra innings the Rangers pull a win which seems quite fitting for the event as a whole. Not only have we surpassed this year’s goal and last year’s number but we are now sitting on a new record for Fox Sports SouthWest. Everyone is elated and we are jumping around the Captain Morgan Club. Luckily a camera isn’t snapping our silliness. All in all a great event and as we pack up our gear we receive compliments and congratulatory remarks from everyone on staff and even the General Manager. This is why we do this. A great cause, a great event and over $200,000 to help those in need. Not a bad days work.
Stay tuned for my next “On the road with Rissler” post!
What comes to mind when you think of youth and volunteering? Perhaps it is traditional activities like serving food at a local homeless shelter, participating in a charity walk or community activities with the Boy and Girl Scouts. The aforementioned activities are great, but there are lots of alternative ways to get the kids involved in volunteering this summer.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Simone Bernstein, the Co-founder of Volunteer Nation. She started the nonprofit with her younger brother to help youth connect with volunteer opportunities across the country.
Simone talked about the growing number of virtual opportunities for youth to get involved in volunteerism. With many kids being passionate about technology, it is a great way for nonprofits to enhance or expand upon their social media strategy. Organizations could have youth volunteers spread helpful information and promote charity events via Twitter or Facebook or research other groups to follow, all with the thought of building the organization’s social media presence.
Teenagers and kids can also volunteer with their family. They can lead and organize a service project (such as a food, clothing or sporting-goods drive) in their local communities and schools. If kids can’t find a particular volunteer opportunity that appeals to them, then take action and help them create their own project. Planning and executing their own volunteer activities will help them develop leadership and organization skills along with a commitment to a cause. Some online resources for finding youth volunteerism opportunities that Simone recommends are GenerationOn.org (part of Points of Light) and DoSomething.org.
In doing more research on some alternative ideas for youth to volunteer, I found an article about 40 Ways for Kids to Volunteer. Here are five out-of-the-box ideas to jump start kids volunteering:
- Tutor a student who needs help learning English or another subject
- Help a pet shelter by walking dogs or playing with cats
- Collect unused make-up, perfume and other cosmetics for distribution to low-income women
- Hold a stuffed animal drive to benefit a local nonprofit
- Baby sit to help a single parent
Thanks for reading my post and please add a comment below if you would like to share other creative ways to get kids involved with volunteering. If you have other helpful national resources, feel free to share them as well. So, until next time, take action and volunteer your heart out!
Mark McCurdy is a Renewal Sales Rep here at BiddingForGood and author of an excellent book called Strategic Volunteering: 50 Ingredients to Transform Your Life and Career. I had the chance to sit down with him this week and chat about his experiences volunteering and how he began volunteering at an early age.
“I started through church growing up. My mother ran a small adoption agency, so I would help out there. Volunteerism was always there. Whether it was stuffing envelopes or helping with fundraising. It was a family thing. “
Mark continued to volunteer through high school and college, but it was after he graduated from college that his passion for volunteering really began to flourish. He began to discover a connection between growing personally and professionally through volunteering.
“I began working with an organization that was a staffing company for nonprofits in NYC and I found YNPN (Young Non-profit Professionals Network) which is great resource. They have all different types of events, panel discussions, and volunteer opportunities with non-profits. Now I volunteer with a non-profit called Career Collaborative. I give practice interviews to low income individuals. I have also been on the board for two years for the organization called Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring, and I’m now on the advisory board. I also do the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Central Park once a year. “
What is the key to volunteering?
“Think about something you are really passionate about. Find organizations that are a good fit for you. If you are interested in cooking or food, try providing meals, feeding the homeless or something around sustainable food sources. Second, if there is something that is really painful in your life, you can use that. Like my father has Parkinson’s. So I’m very passionate about that. Volunteering can be a way to use pain in a good way. “
Mark is very passionate about encouraging others to volunteer to live a fuller and more meaningful life. He explains that volunteering can help you start to bridge the gap between the job you have and the career you want, and also to develop deep gratitude and find joy in your life. Mark even let me in on a secret; volunteering can even make you healthier. He says, “There is a study that shows how volunteering makes you healthier; mentally and physically. There are several studies out there about it.”
The first study Marked referred to includes this statement from Thomas H. Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University: “Civic Engagement and volunteering is the new hybrid health club for the 21st century that's free to join. Social capital research shows it miraculously improves both your health AND the community's through the work performed and the social ties built.”
Mark has some great pointers for our nonprofits:
“Look into YNPN . The other thing is to think about what skills you are looking for and how to find people with them. And focus on skill based volunteering. Volunteers can develop their professional skill set. Don’t forget about AmeriCorps and LinkedIn. The Job and Non-profits section on Linked In. Volunteer opportunities can be listed there. Also connect with your local One Stop Career Center. “
Mark has really made his passion for helping people and for using his own skills to help others part of his own life’s work. He’s now using his skills here at BiddingForGood to help our nonprofits reach their fundraising goals. He has his own consulting business named “Consulting: The Nonprofit Career Coach.” (Check out his website: www.thenonprofitcareercoach.org.) I had a chance to read Mark’s book and found it informative and inspiring! His book is available on amazon.com and I promise it will allow you to see volunteering in a whole new way!
As many of you already know, an auction doesn’t appear out of thin air. Items don’t appear at your doorstep and bidders don’t bid on your site magically. There’s a lot of planning that goes into running a successful auction. From acquiring items, to promotion, to executing your live event, and so on – it’s easy for it to get overwhelming and for auction administrators to feel like it's all going to spiral out of control. That’s why when you’re in those initial planning stages one of your first tasks should be to assemble a team of volunteers to help!
Many times, when I ask administrators about volunteers I find that they don’t know what to do with their volunteers. The way I see it, there are a variety of “job opportunities” available for the online auction. Here are a few to consider:
- Graphic Design – One (or more) of your volunteers can be in charge of creating the homepage, setting the auction colors, and creating your banner. This would be a lot of fun for someone who enjoys working with graphics or has a knack for color.
- Item Acquisition – You’ll need at least a handful of volunteers for the task of asking local businesses, their personal network, etc for items to auction off.
- Data Entry – This is a good job for someone who wants to help, but can only offer a few hours of their time here or there.
- Promotion & Social Media – Ask one volunteer to be in charge of posting auction-related updates on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Also, another volunteer can write up a few promotional emails to send out before, during, and after your auction.
- And more - Depending on other factors, including if you're running a live event, you may have other jobs to offer your volunteers.
With busy schedules, sometimes volunteers can only help for a few hours here or there (me included). By breaking the entire auction into different tasks, you’ll not only appeal to more volunteers, but you’ll also be able to take advantage of their skills and interests.
Around the time of when Walter Issacson’s book on former Apple CEO Steve Jobs came out in the Fall of 2011, I started to think a little bit differently about how I wanted to live my life. Jobs preached towards the end of his life about how important it was to make the most out of every single day we have on this big-blue rock. I realized that I was not doing enough with my time. Right around the same time, a friend of mine named David Cohen (http://www.docwayne.org/david-video) was named the Executive Director of a Boston-based nonprofit called Doc Wayne (501c3). David had previously started his own nonprofit called Playing It Forward, so I was not surprised he was charged with leading another organization. He asked me if I might be interested in helping out with his new organization and I jumped at the chance; not really knowing anything about the organization.
Doc Wayne’s mission is to offer youth who are burdened with complex trauma, serious emotional disorders, and severely challenging behaviors an innovative and therapeutic experience. The experience is offered through the medium of team sports based on a specifically designed therapeutic curriculum and stressing positive youth development. Sports played a significant role in my life as a youth (and into my adult years as prior to working for BiddingForGood I spent 10+ years working in professional sports and entertainment) and I was interested to see how this organization could help these young men and women who have dealt with so much difficulty in their young lives.
My role with the organization was simple; referee soccer and basketball games. It was made very clear to me that this was not like most youth sports in that the players have not been exposed to being members of a team and few have ever played in any organized sports activities. With the different traumas or disorders these kids were dealing with I was expecting it to be like a pool of 5 year-olds chasing a soccer ball around a field at best, but it turned out to be something much, much more.
Before coming to play in a Doc Wayne league, players are taught about Doc Wayne’s core philosophy, which is called Do The Good (DtG). DtG is about getting to a place on the field and off the field where you feel effective, and you got there without doing any harm to anyone else. In other words, it’s about working hard to find your ‘positive path.’ It was clear right from the start that the skill level of these kids was not the highest but they completely bought into this DtG mindset and were immediately enjoying this distraction from the stresses of their daily lives. They were also learning how to become more social, shaking the hands of opponents, helping teammates up after falling, and high-fiving after someone scored (All skills they could take with them when they left the field). As an observer, this to me was what sports should be all about: A release from stress, the chance to learn, an opportunity to work as part of a team and to have fun.
Since I started volunteering with Doc Wayne, my fiancée has also become involved with the charity and it now is something that we could not imagine not having in our lives. It’s become something we can do as a couple and feel good about on the ride home at night. We might not have a direct impact in the lives of these kids on a daily basis, but for a little while each week we can share a kind word or show a skill that was not learned before (we might even be getting more out of this than the kids sometimes). It’s amazing to seeing kids deal with their difficulties through sports and I am pretty happy that we have the opportunity.
I hope from this piece you take away two things:
1.) Get involved. I was so wrapped up in me for so long that I forgot how great it can feel to give back. No matter the cause or activity, take some time out of your life and try to make someone else’s better as I’m sure it will come back to you in some way.
2.) Do the Good. I think most people live this way but it’s a simple philosophy…put yourself in a position to follow a positive path and you are setting yourself up for a successful future.
Outside of BiddingForGood, many employees volunteer in their free time. To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we're interviewing some employees this week to learn about their volunteer experiences. To kick things off, I recently interviewed Amanda Rutherford, our Administrative Assistant:
How long have you volunteered?
Pretty much my whole life. My family took us to a soup kitchen and a nursing home to volunteer. My parents instilled volunteerism in us. I have been active in volunteering since high school and in college; I went on alternative spring breaks. One was for Katrina relief. It was a better way to spend my break and I got to meet new people and be around people who enjoyed volunteering too.
Where have you volunteered and where are you currently volunteering?
I volunteer now at Horizons for Homeless Children. (They have been a client of BiddingForGood’s for years with a new auction opening soon.) I’m a Play Space Activity Leader. A lot of shelters set up spaces just for kids. They have activity leaders come in to play and give kids an outlet from the confined space. I volunteer once a week; in a teen mom shelter, every Thursday in Somerville. It gives them a break from the kids for a while. I also worked for Cradles to Crayons. They provide school supplies and clothing for kids in need. I also did some work with the national chapter and also worked with the national MS society. I volunteered and helped with their walk last year and this year. I also helped them with some mailings. Organizations need all sorts of help with all kinds of stuff. Volunteering your time is a great donation too.
How did you get involved there? How did you find out about the organization?
I found ads on the MBTA for Horizons with Homeless Children and on the sites Volunteer Match and Idealist.org. I was on Idealist.org back when I was looking for a job at a nonprofit. I found they also had a database for volunteers.
What advice would you give to someone interested in volunteering?
I’d direct them to Volunteer Match. Other advice would be to think about their interests and where they want to volunteer. It makes sense to find a place that means something to you and to think about you want to do to help. Also, many colleges have volunteer centers. That’s a good place to look too.
What do you like most about volunteering?
It makes me feel really good to know I’m helping someone else.
Do you have any other advice for our orgs who are seeking new volunteers?
There are only so many times you can ask your own members. It’s good to ask people outside the org. One thing organizations might not know is sororities and fraternities need philanthropy hours as part of their membership. I was in a sorority when I was in college. It’s strongly encouraged. We even had incentives sometimes for who had the most philanthropy hours. Like the winner would get the bed in the quietest part of the house. Stuff like that. Alumni could reach out to sororities and fraternities at their colleges.
I learned a lot from my conversation with Amanda. Especially about new ways nonprofits can get the word out that they need volunteers like getting listed on volunteermatch.org or idealist.org. For our organizations, it can make a huge difference for them to have volunteers who can help build the site or promote their online auctions. There are definitely people out there who want to volunteer; they just need to know where and how they can help.