Tuesday, September 20, 2016

10 Volunteer Ideas for Small Businesses That Want to Give Back

When you start earning a profit from your business, it’s normal to feel the urge to give something back to those who are less fortunate than you. Giving back to your community by volunteering your time is not only admirable morally, but strategically as well.

Before we get into the list of volunteer ideas for small businesses, let’s back up and look at why volunteering can be so hugely beneficial for small companies.

How Volunteering Helps Your Business
When your community members and customers see you spending time volunteering and helping others, something called the halo effect comes into play. If you manage this “cognitive bias” correctly, it could mean your business earns loyal customers before they even purchase a product or service from you.

The halo effect is a psychology term that describes a bias where our first or most powerful impression of someone influences how we judge and evaluate that person later on – long after that original impression and in spite of any actions that do not support our original impression.

Very Well put it simply in this example: “Essentially, your overall impression of a person (He is nice!) impacts your evaluations of that person’s specific traits (He is also smart!).”

What volunteering says about you
By volunteering in your community and getting involved locally, you’re shifting that cognitive bias in your favor. For many people, this will be their first impression of your company. You’re a trustworthy business that cares about your community and doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty to help. You’re interested in more than just profits. That’s a powerful first impression to make on community members, and one that will be carried on as you stay involved.

The halo effect can help your business win loyal customers, and volunteering in your community can put it all in motion and put your best foot forward with your audience. Now, back to the list of volunteer ideas for businesses!

10 Volunteer Ideas for Small Businesses

1. Sponsor a community youth sports team. You’ll get excellent local advertising and you’ll feel good about doing your part. For bonus points, join or start an adult sports league (softball, soccer, volleyball, etc.) and make it a point to connect with your teammates!

2. Guide local history tours if they accept volunteers. They’ll teach you everything you need to know, you’ll learn more about the history of your community, and people will associate your face and name with something culturally valuable and positive.

3. Hold a bake sale for your favorite local charity or organization. Get everyone from your business together, or enlist the help of family and friends to bake cakes, cookies, pies, and bars to sell one weekend and give the profits to the organization you choose.

4. Organize a small community auction for charity. Ideas for items to auction: Gift baskets with edible goodies from local stores, gift certificates to local restaurants, entertainment, or health and wellness services, free nights at local bed and breakfasts, hotels, and motels, antiques, furniture, and vouchers good for local lessons.

5. Teach or lead a local class. It can be anything that people are interested in learning how to do – basic computer skills, baking, couponing, music, art, history, fossil hunting, etc. An additional benefit is that you strengthen your brand image by positioning yourself as an industry expert, earning the community’s trust.

6. Get a team together for a walking or running event for a cause, like Relay for Life or Race for the Cure. Show your support (and your sillier side, if you’d like) by dressing in bright colors and matching team outfits/shirts for the event!

7. Offer to help local organizations with small tasks during events, like handing out brochures, water bottles, or picking up garbage. Bonus: Introduce yourself as the owner of ___, here today to pitch in and help the event run smoothly however you can.

8. Get involved in or organize a local cleanup! This is one of our favorite volunteer ideas. A nearby river, empty lot, beach, or park could look good as new in just a couple hours with a big group from your community helping clean it up.

9. Give back to the environment. Say you’ll plant a tree for every $5 spent at your business, offer discounts when customers bring their own recyclable bags, or start a community garden.

10. Host a food-packaging event for hungry children. Your local school will likely allow you to host there. Spread the word and watch the community come together for a great cause!

Thanks www.conversational.com/

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Impact of Neighboring - Findings

Neighboring helps children and youth succeed by providing opportunities, resources, and role models necessary to become successful adults.

Neighboring generates opportunities. Through programs that nurture through neighborhood-based caring connections, opportunities for children and youth expand. Some opportunities are formal. One leadership training program strengthens nonprofit boards, providing for institutional changes that affect children and families: “Graduates help make sure agencies serve clients. They have the life experience to make decisions about people.” Other Neighboring opportunities are not bound by the walls of an agency. When the doors close at a community center, the children, as a group, move to a neighborhood staff person’s home: “It is extended community.”

Neighbors helping neighborhood children
• Serving as tutors, mentors, and readers
• Providing meals, books, and child care assistance
• Assembling and donating small gifts
• Conducting workshops on healthy lifestyles and community issues
• Ensuring safe spaces for children to freely play and grow

Neighboring links resources and children. Resources travel by way of parents and guardians, with benefits spilling over to children. Child welfare agencies are invited to a block party to provide information and referral services to attendees, for instance. Tax assistance programs such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are especially strong producers of external benefits from parents to children. Respondents noted, “Parents who get the income tax credit have more resources to support their children,” and “This frees up money to assist with things they need at home.”

Neighboring creates role models for children. Children “see caring and kindness modeled” when neighbors provide service. More importantly, when volunteers are people to whom children relate, the notion of “helping ourselves” becomes more possible, imbuing self-reliance. Parents become role models when they take an active role in their children’s life. Parenting classes and parental involvement opportunities are common. As with all Neighboring programs, the recipients of service (children) are also empowered to be service providers. Through their Neighboring experiences, children “gain a sense of pride,” “feel part of something bigger,” and become friends.

Neighboring changes the lines of accountability. The accountability to children in Neighboring is different than a traditional social service model. Parents and neighbors have a personal stake. “These are OUR children,” one volunteer noted, and then went on to say, “I love being around the people who helped my family grow up.” This sense of responsibility to children of the neighborhood is unwavering and transcends institutional boundaries.

Neighboring helps to improve the quality of the places in which the nation’s most vulnerable children and families live.

Neighboring gives power. Shaping the community agenda heightens individuals’ desire to engage and their self-efficacy. This resident involvement is “a long process” that often requires “time to educate people” to show them “they have power and they have a voice”; yet on all accounts, the dialogue indicates that benefits of capturing and using resident voice outweigh the costs. As one grantee stated, “When you spend that much time, there is a lot more buy-in. Things are more vetted out. ...They have a stake in it now.”

Neighboring connects neighbors. “We have open gym, but that is not going to change lives. It is the people met there that does,” was an example one volunteer used to illustrate that “programs are ways to create connections and relationships,” or the “things really valued in the neighborhood.” So while the programs are important, it is the “sense of family” and “camaraderie” cited by so many that speak to why a neighborhood approach works. By joining people in collective action, Neighboring helps people realize “they are not alone” and their neighbors “care” and “want success for everybody.” In this, they see “potential.”

Neighboring supplies leaders. As one long-time community activist said, “We don’t want to call on the same people all time. … This program brings new people. … It is extremely important that minorities are represented and that we create a long line of future leaders.” And youth earn leadership skills early on. As one Neighboring volunteer noted, “This taught me a lot about leadership roles and life lessons that I wouldn't have learned if I wasn't involved so early. It helped me stayed focused on doing the best I can for everyone around me and myself.”

Neighboring counts not only the people who self-select as leaders; numerous respondents referenced certain community members who unconsciously grew into leadership roles. “Sometimes people don't know that they started something and that they are the leader,” one respondent explained. Another resident volunteer helps to “break the ice” when volunteer groups arrive at seniors’ homes for painting and yard work.

Neighboring helps to provide low-income workers with the supports they need to get and keep good jobs and to build assets and savings.

Neighboring puts money into the pockets of low-income workers. Through tax assistance programs, low-income people receive real resources. Resident volunteers involved in tax preparation tended to view it as not just a service but a “re-education” in how people think about getting their taxes done. “The for-profit places make taxes seem like a mystery. Demystifying things for people is really important. When people realize they can do something, it is empowering.”

Neighboring builds financial skills and knowledge. Through the tax programs mentioned above, resident volunteers gain knowledge of taxes that affect their own lives. Subgrantees supported classes, workshops, and experiential learning sessions often led by resident volunteers and even resident staff members on topics such as budgeting, business planning, managing money, opening savings accounts, and filing taxes.

Neighboring helps promote workforce participation through job creation and skill development.

Neighboring indirectly affects workforce participation. Respondents alluded to life skills that they gained, or helped others gain, that are thought to have indirect impact on family economic security. As a staff member said, “The one thing that we want people to realize: a lot of things are transferable. Skills are transferable; attitudes are transferable; behaviors [are transferable].” Beneficiary knowledge, changed through more traditional areas of education, is also imparted by resident volunteers. One site serves a majority of resident clients at an “education level that is more about survival” and focuses on building basic reading, language, and math skills. There are also instances when resident volunteers are offered employment as a result of their volunteering, especially volunteer tax preparers.

Thanks to HandsOn Network

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

UPCOMING SERVICE PROJECT: Join Us on September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance

Residents will step up through service to mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks for the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. Volunteers will provide clean up services, joining hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country in volunteer service.
Interested volunteers are invited to join with members of First Presbyterian Church, Harvest Vineyard Church, and the Walnut Neighborhood Association as they spruce up the neighborhood by picking up litter from the sidewalks, vacant lots, and streets.
  • Meet in the Park Avenue parking lot of First Presbyterian at 3 p.m., Sunday, September 11. Teams will be assigned to spread out into the neighborhood. Gloves and garbage bags will be provided.
  • Return to First Presbyterian Church at 4:30 p.m. to enjoy fellowship at the Sunday Supper served at the church.
The September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is the culmination of efforts originally launched in 2002 by the nonprofit 9/11 Day with support by the 9/11 community and leading national service organizations. This effort first established the inspiring tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and a forward-looking tribute to the 9/11 victims, survivors, and those who rose up in service in response to the attacks.

This event is sponsored by First Presbyterian Church, Harvest Vineyard Church, Walnut Neighborhood Association, and Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley. 

The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley works to promote and support effective volunteerism and to serve as the resource and coordination center for volunteers and community partnerships. To secure volunteer opportunities call (319) 272-2087, email information@vccv.org or visit www.vccv.org

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Seven Essential Principles

We have identified seven strategies that individuals, organizations, and businesses can use when working with under-resourced communities to engage and empower local volunteers and to build effective partnerships with the community. By integrating these strategies into planning and implementation of programs, whether it is a short-term volunteer project or a long-term community initiative, we can effect real change!

1. Understand the language and nature of volunteering.
• Learn the language to seek understanding.
o Low-income community, disadvantaged, underserved, disenfranchised
o Block captain, community workers, community leader, community organizer, street walker, neighbor
• Understand the history and culture of the community.
• Include youth, immigrant communities, seniors, faith communities, and refugees.

2. Overcome barriers to volunteering.
• Understand the community obstacles.
o Lack of time and/or financial resources
o Lack of child care
o Lack of transportation
o Low self-esteem or confidence in skills
o Negative perceptions of volunteering or of external volunteer organizations
o Culture and/or language barriers
• Understand the organizational barriers.
o Racism, sexism, classism, ability; agencies’ stereotypes and assumptions
o Cultural blindness, i.e., a belief that differences of color, culture, are irrelevant
o Lack of political support and/or resources and skills to implement change
o Long-standing biased, exclusive system

3. Empower the community.
• Create space for residents to own their issues and develop solutions.
• Support residents to witness the benefits of their involvement.
• Engage residents in the decision-making process.
• Mobilize residents around issues that impact them directly.
• Host community meetings and provide examples of success.

4. Cultivate community members’ skills and talents.
• Acknowledge and build on existing community assets.
• Help members identify their own skills and talents.
• Allow residents to have a real role in the partnership.
• Encourage residents to plan and lead projects. • Show the relationship between residents’ skills and project outcomes.

5. Strengthen existing community leadership.
• Cultivate leadership and the internal capacity of community members to lead and engage in community activities.
• Help develop leadership and recognize different leadership styles.
• Identify volunteer leadership development training.
• Encourage leaders to have a leadership role in the partnership.

6. Acknowledge that volunteering is an exchange.
• Offer volunteers something in exchange for the time, talents, and efforts they contribute to bettering their communities.
• Help people see the benefits.
• Understand that it’s okay to receive something in exchange for volunteering.
• Develop mechanisms by which residents receive tangible outcomes such as tutoring, child care subsidies, and job opportunities.

7. Ensure community readiness.
• Participate in building the internal capacity of communities to partner with outside organizations and engage residents in community activities.
o Organized neighborhoods
o Prioritized issues
o United residents
o Committed leaders
• Be patient; community building and resident involvement takes time.
• Remember that relationship building is a process.
• Be flexible; survival issues demand time and attention.
• Help communities resolve conflict that may be preventing involvement.
• Set your community up for success but accept if it is not ready.

To secure volunteer opportunities contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at information@vccv.org or (319) 272-2087. Volunteer opportunities may also be accessed at www.vccv.org. 

Thanks to HandsOn

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Preliminary Steps for Neighboring

Now that you have assessed organizational capacity and interest in bringing Neighboring to your community, here are the preliminary steps to help you get started. The most important thing to note here is that these are suggestive steps, not prescribed, and do not need to be completed in a particular chronological order. You and your community will determine together what steps to take and at what time. Keep in mind throughout the process that Neighboring is a framework and that your primary source of volunteers should be from the under-resourced community that the project will serve.

Identify a neighborhood
• Identify a community in your city that can benefit from asset- and empowerment-based service.
• Look at which neighborhoods have projects with resident involvement emerging or already under way.
• Find out what other organizations are already operating there.
• Evaluate the challenges faced by other organizations that try to go into low-income communities for volunteer initiatives.
• Be specific in defining your Neighboring community; starting small often is the best approach.

Explore your organization’s motives for partnering with the community.
• What goals or anticipated outcomes are you pursuing through partnership?
• What do you hope to gain?
• Why is it important that you establish a partnership?
• What is your long-term commitment to the neighborhood?
• What assets do you offer?
• How can you add value to the community’s work?

Build trusting relationships with leaders and residents.
• Learn about and understand the community’s history.
• Ask them what issues they face.
• Find out how and by whom volunteering happens within the community.  
• Get to know both leaders and residents; respect and acknowledge the leaders, but also find out community perception of the leaders.
• Let residents know you care.
• Identify and meet with local stakeholders; determine their interest in partnering and identify synergies for shared outcomes.

Learn how members come together to address issues and concerns.
• Meet with key community leaders, or invite community representatives to forums where they can participate and learn about resources for the neighborhood.
• Listen to residents’ voices.
• Develop connections with leaders and residents that foster sustainable activities to address the issues they want to work on in their community.

Identify potential partners.
• Determine which other organizations or individuals in the community to involve in the partnership.
• Determine which partners are essential to the success of the project.
• Include residents and leaders to serve in a planning and decision-making capacity
• Involve the local volunteer center.
• Determine which businesses in the community have an interest in the neighborhood.
• Find out if the community foundation is involved.
• Find out which, if any, other organizations already work with the community.

Establish a partnership plan with a realistic timeline and expectations.
• Develop a shared understanding of the partnership and what you hope to achieve together.
• Decide how each partner will contribute to the overall action plan and, ultimately, to its success.
• Communicate and manage expectations.
• Determine what is required to build a trusting relationship with the community and its leaders and how this will impact your timeline.

Understand the characteristics of an effective partnership
• View the community, its leaders, and its residents as partners, not as clients.
• Develop clear outcomes and roles jointly, with community input.
• Maintain a shared vision; neither impose your views, ideals, and expectations on the community nor allow them to do that to you.
• Understand and respect differing perspectives and diverse voices.
• Be flexible, have patience, and realize that neighborhood efforts take time.
• Extend your resources to help build and enhance the community.
• Help the neighborhood see the benefits of connecting with services that exist along the margins of the community—local services, programs, and providers.
• Have a positive relationship with the community and maintain a continued presence.
• Provide project leader training.

Expect and plan for setbacks
• Identify the likely challenges and barriers that may influence the partnership’s success.
• How will you deal with changes in key project personnel or community leaders?
• What financial and other resources must be secured?

HandsOn Network offers three training curricula that can be beneficial in training partners and community members.

For more information, contact training@pointsoflight.org.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Neighboring vs. Traditional Volunteering

Traditionally, people who live in low-income communities have been viewed primarily as recipients of service rather than providers. Yet it is increasingly clear that many people who live in these communities volunteer and play critical roles in restoring the health and well-being of the neighborhoods in which they live. Volunteering has been, and continues to be, a source of survival.

Much of the volunteering by people in low-income community’s takes place informally: people help each other when they can, and neighbors come together in times of need. It has happened for centuries, in various ways, in communities of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Community members might purchase food for a neighbor in need, organize block patrols for safe streets, or offer safe places in their homes for neighbors in crisis.

For many residents of low-income communities, the terms volunteering and community service have negative connotations, bringing to mind court-ordered community service. To others, the terms simply do not resonate culturally. Most immigrant and minority communities have a wealth of traditions and values tied to helping others, but the term volunteer does not translate into the terms they use to talk about these activities.

During this initiative, we have decided that the term volunteer is culturally specific and, by definition, excludes many populations. Adopting the terms neighboring and community involvement expands the meaning of volunteering to all segments of society. We recognize, however, that employing new language takes time. Work in low-income communities focuses primarily on educating and shifting the attitudes of traditional volunteer organizations and on raising awareness among other groups that also have shown a commitment to build capacity in low-income communities. We hope that funders, nonprofits, and corporations find the information and models significant to their work in low-income communities and will be inspired to build partnerships.

Traditional volunteerism, which often brings in external resources to under-sourced communities, can be seen as outsiders intervening in to save residents. This model typically focuses on short-term, external support to serve communities, rather than serve with communities. This often relies on external agencies’ perception of what the community needs and not on what local residents identify as their priorities. Programs are typically deficiency focused, and residents are conditioned to see themselves as clients and recipients rather than providers.

Traditional volunteer models may fail to develop community leadership and skills of community residents, and ownership lies with organizations or external volunteers rather than residents. This can make sustainability and long-term impact more challenging.

Points of Light Institute and HandsOn Network

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Importance of Neighboring

By increasing civic participation in and with under-resourced communities—and by encouraging organizations to dedicate financial and human resources to support local volunteer and organizing efforts—the Neighboring initiative works to help improve conditions in these communities. Neighboring is critical in vulnerable communities because it builds self-esteem and stronger ties among community members, empowers them, and encourages them to take ownership for creating safe and supportive neighborhoods. Communities become more connected, safer, more inclusive places to live as resident volunteers lead local change efforts and participate in securing additional resources.

Neighboring is not a program, policy, or service; it is a grounding philosophy. Because it grows out of individual communities, it can be applied to any program or project.

Neighboring will occur whether or not it is supported; it is the proverbial casserole that appears on the doorstep of an ill neighbor. Imagine, however, the potential when organizations and associations change mindsets and systems to allow Neighboring to become part of the everyday course of action. 

HandsOn Corps VISTA