VCEB in the news

The Volunteer Center of the East Bay is in the news! Please check out the good news in the Contra Costa Times by following the link here:

Voluntourism article

Perhaps your summer plans are already booked. Perhaps you even know what you are doing for holiday break two years from now. One thing we know is that volunteering while traveling is becoming more popular, so we thought, just in case you were still making some plans, that we’d share this article. If you are thinking about combining some travel with some volunteering, give it a read. Especially if you are new to volunteer tourism, it can be a helpful place to start. If you’ve been a voluntourist since you were in the Peace Corps years ago, it might have some fresh perspective. It has some good tips to keep in mind as you begin to plan your next trip.

Here is the link (If you don’t wish to be redirected, here’s the url:

AND, if you plan to be close to home, just search The Volunteer Center of East Bay site here for some volunteer opportunities.

Looking for ways your business and employees can engage in the community?

Your business can become part of the East Bay’s  Business Volunteer Council

The Business Volunteer Council (BVC) is a coalition of East Bay businesses sharing a common interest in workplace volunteering and community engagement.
See more here!

GIVING TUESDAY IS HERE! December 3, 2013

Hard to decide which nonprofit to support today? Please consider a donation to theThe Volunteer Center of the East Bay – your contribution supports the work of more than 600 local (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties) nonprofits! Donate today!

Walnut Creek Community Service Day 2012

vertical csd logo
Time to sign up for the 2012 Community Service Day

NEW! For a complete list of all projects including how many spaces are available, click here.

The 2012 Community Service Day will be Saturday, October 6. Check in and breakfast will be from 7:30-8:30 a.m. at Heather Farm Park, with projects starting at 9 a.m.
PLUS, this year, there are several projects offering afternoon shifts!
With 50 projects to choose from, there is something for every age, every interest and every skill level.
Just read the project descriptions below, then click on a specific project’s link to go straight to the registration page.
OR, for a complete list of all projects including how many spaces are available, click here.

Questions? Email the Community Service Day organizing committee, or call 925-256-3505.

When Kids Volunteer: Liability Basics

This article is reprinted with permission from Blue Avocado, a practical and readable online magazine for nonprofits. Subscribe free by contacting the Blue Avocado editor or visiting here:

By Ilona Bray, J.D.

Two kids with groceries for the hungryWhether kids sell cookies or help clean up a park, they are welcome volunteers. Just be sure you know the basics of how to protect them and your organization when it comes to liabilities (at the end of this article is a link to a sample waiver):

As a kid, I sorted food donations for Lithuanian refugees because my mother was a leader in the Seattle Lithuanian Community. I sold Camp Fire Girls’ mints because, well, I had to. I interned at the Seattle Aquarium where I wore a badge that said, “Ask me! I know everything!” And I interned at Children’s Hospital because I hoped it would make my college applications look better.

But somewhere along the way, something must have clicked, because by the time I finished law school, I asked my corporate law firm employer, “Could you wait six months while I intern at Amnesty International?” And a few years later when I quit corporate law, the first thing I did was a volunteer internship at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

If my experience is a guide, a childhood experience as a volunteer can lead to a lifelong commitment to giving back. And if kids are among your clients or constituents, then getting them involved is a natural. But you’ll want to be sure you’ve got basic protections in place (I guess I haven’t completely shed my lawyer hat!).

Liability basics for children volunteers

Here are the first things to think about:

  • Screening process: If you don’t already have a screening process in place for adults who will be working directly with children, or will be driving them around, now’s the time to start one.
  • Accident-prevention procedures: If the kids will be doing anything remotely risky, then you’ll want to give explicit accident-prevention strategies in your trainings and written materials, and be ready to enforce compliance. For example, if long-sleeved shirts are advisable when the kids are working with animals, then you’ll have to not only give advance notice of this, but turn kids away who are improperly dressed, or at least have a spare sweatshirt on hand for them to borrow.
  • Liability insurance: Make sure your liability insurance covers the activities planned within your volunteer program. Review your policy and talk to your insurance provider.
  • Parental consent: When children younger than 18 are involved, you’ll also need to get written parental consent. Your permission form will document not only the parent’s permission for the child to partake in your activity, but should also contain a promise that the parent will not sue your organization in the event that the child is injured as a result of the carelessness of your volunteers or participants. Note that the effectiveness of parental waivers is a fraught topic in the law; when challenged, some waivers do not hold up—their effectiveness depends on the law in your state and the way the waiver was written.

Attached to this article is a sample parental waiver; click here to download it for free. It’s impossible to create a sample waiver that does the trick for all states for every type of activity. But this form can give you and your attorney something to start with . . . and I do suggest you hire a competent lawyer for advice and drafting help.

Scaring parents?

You’ll see that the sample waiver lays out a whole host of possible risks, from broken bones to death. Will you be scaring parents by doing the same within your form? Don’t worry: Most parents would rather know what’s possible than be surprised later, and will understand that this type of language is legally required. In fact, the more specific a waiver is regarding the actual risks that the child, student, or other volunteer will be exposed to, the more likely a court is to uphold its validity.

So why have kids as volunteers?

There are important roles for kids to play as volunteers, whether to help on their own projects (like raising money for their soccer team) or to help others. And such activities are good for kids, too. If you have adult volunteers with children, think of activities they can do with their children — maybe passing out water bottles at a walk-a-thon, or staffing a table at a street fair.

Margo, a parent, told me of her daughter’s sales of Girl Scout cookies and items for school fundraisers: “In addition to learning how to make change and use basic math, one of the most important things she learned was how to take ‘No’ for an answer.” And another life lesson I learned from my own childhood volunteer work: Rich people don’t necessarily buy more mints.

Ilona Bray, J.D. is the author of The Volunteer’s Guide to Fundraising: Raise Money for Your School, Team, Library or Community Group, available here. The book has A-to-Z information on a host of fundraising activities that are right for grassroots and community groups, as well as material on recruiting and organizing volunteers.

It’s available, along with Nolo’s other line of nonprofit books, at

Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers – Part 3

Turning Followers into Volunteers

“OK thanks for the social media tips, but how would a social media presence help my organization recruit volunteers?”

Social Media is just another tool in your toolkit. And it’s a very powerful one because studies have shown time and time again, word-of-mouth is the most effective way to attract new volunteers.

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for your supporters to share information about your organization with a greater number of people. The average number of friends for a Facebook user is 120, according to the Economist. If only a quarter of those friends read a post about your org, 30 is a larger number of impressions that traditional word-of-mouth (AKA in-person interaction) would garner. Someone would have to be pretty psyched to repeat the same story to 30 people but it happens every day online.

Thus, it is important that you engage your current supporters via social media because it 1) enables your supporters share your messaging with their friends, and 2) gives potential supporters a low risk way to get know your organization.

Recruiting volunteers via social media relies on the same techniques volunteer coordinators have used for years.

  • Make a clear request for help. Set appropriate expectations up front by stating what the volunteer would do, how it supports your mission, and what the time commitment is.
  • Target specific types of volunteers you want (students or working professionals, etc.) and craft messages that will appeal to them.
  • Explain the benefits of volunteering with your organization. Volunteers can benefit from service by developing new skills, meeting new people, expanding their professional network, and exploring new hobbies/career paths.

Last but not least, be sure to ask for help in 20% or less of your posts. It wouldn’t be fun to have a conversation with someone who only talks about himself; and it would be worse if he spent the whole time asking for help! Be sure to engage people in other topics related to your mission.

Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers – Part 2

As I mentioned before, most who attended our “Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers Training” on May 24th are new to using social media in a professional capacity. I’ve taught this topic several times in the last 18 months and have received a lot of “how to” type of questions. Herewith are answers to a few of the perennial favorites:

  1. What’s this vanity URL option on Facebook and how do I get one?
    After your page gains 25+ fans, you can register for one.
  2. What does ______ mean?
    Use this handy social media vocabulary guide to learn what #followfriday, retweet, and podcast mean. More buzz words here.
  3. How much time does it take to develop a community on Facebook or following on Twitter? What about YouTube?
    Beth Kanter
    answered this question a couple of years ago and her advice still rings true. It takes approximately 20 hours a week to cultivate a strong community on Facebook, 15+ hours/week for YouTube, and 5-10 hours/week for Twitter.
    Tactics, Tools and TimeSource:

Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers – Part 1

Yesterday I met with a terrific group of local volunteer managers from East Bay nonprofit organizations who attended our “Using Social Media to Recruit Volunteers Training.” As always, it was a great group of thoughtful, driven people who spend their days making our communities better. (Can you tell I *love* my nonprofit colleagues?)

Most in attendance were new to social media so we covered a lot of the basics. Here are a few key points about social media best practices.

  • Look before you leap. Listen to what others are saying about your organization, and pay close attention to what other organizations with similar missions are doing online. Learn from their mistakes and successes.
  • Start small. Try one new network at a time. Consider your primary audience and review research to find out where those folks are online and go there.
  • Set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely).
    Examples: increase number of potential volunteers contacting your organization by 10% within six months OR increase unique site visitors to your website by 55% by engaging new supporters via social media by Jan. 2012.
  • Recruit help! Involve co-workers, volunteers and Board members in creating content. More voices, ideas and opinions increase the richness of what you have to offer to your fans and followers.

To learn more about social media from people who have a lot more experience (and success!) using it that we do, check out these resources:

Do you have resources to suggest? Please add them in the comments section below!

It's a Pleasure Just to Be Nominated!

At the Volunteer Center, we are always happy to hear about awards and recognition events for those who give their time and efforts in the service of others. Today we learned of one that is accepting nominations from the general public and we want to share it with you. Perhaps, this could be another avenue for you to recognize some of your invaluable volunteers.National Philanthropy Day

National Philanthropy Day is currently seeking nominations for the awards they plan to bestow at their  awards luncheon celebrating excellence in philanthropy on Friday, November 5 at the San Francisco Marriott.

They are eager to “cast a much wider net” this year and extend their reach into more Bay Area communities.  Another bit of good news is that they’ve apparently streamlined the nomination process so you can just register your nomination information online and upload or email a letter of endorsement.

AFP Membership is not required to participate. The application deadline is May 14th!

Click Here to Submit a Nomination

You can also contact  Marjorie Winkler, ACFRE, NPD Awards Chair at (510) 769-1764 or if you have questions.