Reflections, food, and fun!

Back in December I wrote a post in which I mentioned Ok Go’s perpetual motion machine video that complements their song, “This Too Shall Pass.” As I reflect back on my service year, that video comes to mind (just ignore the lyrics) again. I felt like I was in constant motion, some times things got really messy, and I had a blast!

I was directly involved in more than 20 nonprofits serving citizens across the state of Maryland. Some organizations, like St. Francis Neighborhood Center, I had become familiar with last year as a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. This year I developed a deeper understanding of SFNC’s mission and the amazing impact they have on the Reservoir Hill Community. I will never forget the delight on the children’s faces when they arrived on Read Across America Day. Others, like Baltimore SquashWise, I was introduced to for the first time. Words fail me in describing the warm welcome I received from the SquashWise volunteer family at the Meadow Mill Athletic Center squash rally this spring. I wish I lived close enough to be regularly involved in this wonderful organization.

I also had the opportunity to develop relationships with AmeriCorps members serving in programs other than Volunteer Maryland. I met Dara from Public Allies, Cory from PALS, Shane from Campus Compact, and Cora from Experience Corps, just to name a few. It made my day when I attended Maryland Association of Nonprofits Organization events and walked into a room full of friends!

Did I mention how much fun I have had? Just yesterday I looked like a Blue Man Group wannabe after putting grout on a mural with Project PLASE. It was an incredible cooperative effort that engaged clients, community members, staff, and volunteers. Last fall during a tree planting day at Anacostia Watershed Society I met an amazing group of corporate volunteers from a local engineering firm. They even offered to feed me!

Speaking of eating, food was a memorable part of my service year. Both exchanging recipes and discovering great places to eat. I made the Stinking Rose recipe Sumiko gave me for staff meeting this week. I’m still trying to get up enough nerve to attempt Liz’s chocolate cake. Joy introduced me to Lemongrass, a great place to warm up on a cold February day. And, thanks to Patrice, I discovered Nando’s Peri Peri. The Butternut Squash and Couscous salad is delish. If you are in the Bolton Hill neighborhood, be sure to stop in On The Hill. The sandwiches and salads are excellent. I am looking for an excuse to go back and get a burger. . .hope Laura can join me!

Last, but not least, Volunteer Maryland. I loved working with Maureen, Laura, Patrice, Kim, and Joy. If you are considering serving with AmeriCorps, become a Volunteer Maryland Coordinator. It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and you might even get lunch!


What Would @Kanter Do?

 This post is dedicated to Stephen Covey.  He died shortly after I began writing it and was a paragon of “Personal Branding.”

She would curate, that’s what! Beth is the queen of content curation. I, on the other hand, am more at the handmaiden level. So, given my status, I’ll do the next best practice and “re-purpose”. Last week I wrote a piece for the Volunteer Maryland newsletter on transitioning into the future. There are only two weeks left of our AmeriCorps service year. In the interest of leaving my co-contributors, Joy and Laura, room to say a few words, I left a chunk I really liked on the cutting room floor. A rabid recycler, I am repurposing it for today’s post lest it wind up in the rubbish.

Last spring the Destination AmeriCorps committee gathered resources to be shared with attendees of the event. One that Joy contributed caught my eye, “How to Create Your Personal Brand in 6 Easy Steps,” by Joey Weber. According to Weber, “Personal Branding” means intentionally influencing how the rest of the world perceives you. This includes colleagues, future employers, social circles etc. Weber quotes Tom Peters’ adage, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc.”

I am not sure that I would say practicing the steps outlined is “easy.” They are practical and several of them resonated with me, so I am going to invest some time and energy in developing my “personal brand” as soon as I complete my end-of-year responsibilities. I’ll paraphrase them for you:

1) Choose 4-5 qualities you want to be known for
2) Rank these qualities in order of importance to you
3) Condense those elements into a “personal elevator pitch”
4) Adjust your online identity to reflect your personal pitch
5) Create a personal website
6) Intentionally live your “personal brand”

The first time I read the article, I choked at number 5; then I read number 6!

How do you brand yourself?

Four Goodies From My Inbox

Do you ever get your mail, thumb through it, and put everything right in the recycling? That’s a pretty regular process for me. Frequently, my inbox is the same. This week though, I was pleasantly surprised to find several gems! I thought I’d share them with you.

Here is the link to Heather Mansfield’s post on NonProfitOrgs blog from Monday. She gives many examples of what she has determined are appropriate photos to post. However, I found her guidance regarding taking photos especially useful. She is a fierce advocate for social media managers.

Ritu Sharma, Executive Director of Social Media for Nonprofits, wrote a guest post on Socialbrite. Here is a  from their new website featuring the enchanting Guy Kawasaki. Do you know the pillars of effective social media? How to be enchanting?

The Wild Apricot Blog was really juicy recently, pun intended. A couple of highlights include: a post from Amy Luckey.  She suggests nonprofits consider not only what they do, but, also, what they get accomplished. Amy got me thinking! The answers are definitely not the same.

The other highlight is a useful guest post by Brad Aronson.  (This is the second place I’ve come across this post so you know it’s worthwhile.)

What is the best your inbox had to offer this week?

Some Best Practices of Volunteer Recruiting. . .Far and Near

Back in March, at the Volunteer Maryland Mid Year retreat, each of us share the successes we’d experienced so far in the service year. Jordan Silverman, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at Planned Parenthood of Maryland (PPM), mentioned that she had recruited volunteers remotely. Recruiting volunteers locally can be a challenge and I wanted to know more about recruiting “from afar.” I invited Jordan to have coffee and I picked her brain to find out how she did it. What she shared with me are “best practices” of volunteer management, regardless of geography.

First of all, I would be remiss if I did not re-educate you about Planned Parenthood of Maryland’s intention:
Our mission is to enable all Marylanders to have access to a wide range of high quality, affordable reproductive health care services. By providing medical services, education, training and advocacy, PPM seeks to help individuals make informed decisions about their reproductive health, family planning options, and sexuality.

There are eight PPM centers across the state of Maryland; only three sites have their volunteer positions filled. PPM clearly communicates their expectations to prospective volunteers. Each volunteer is asked to make a minimum commitment of six months, and preferably pledge at least a year of time. Volunteers’ talents are matched with tasks to be done. Both PPM and the volunteer benefit from these intentional matches.

Volunteer position descriptions are very clearly written; each volunteer is provided clear expectations of what’s needed. Some volunteers teach classes. Outreach volunteers are enthusiastic and engaging with good public speaking skills. The culture on transparency shows through even on their web page.

In addition to making a time commitment, volunteers also receive intense training provided by PPM. Most of the centers have very limited space and many administrative duties. One strategy for confronting this challenge is monthly administration nights. These evenings are dedicated to assembling information packets, writing Thank Yous, and other crucial administrative tasks. This approach permits staff and volunteers to plan accordingly and effectively use the schedule.

PPM strives to reach community members effectively. Billboards and TV marketing are used in areas where that approach has proven to be effective. The organization has also established partnerships throughout the community, including local colleges and universities and other community and civic groups. Currently a graduate student is working on a long-term history project.

PPM shares a continuous flow of information through their website, Facebook Page, LinkedIn and Pinterest. They also use, VolunteerMatch, and Idealist, etc. These tools allow PPM to communicate with the public and volunteers effectively and in a timely manner. The website is user friendly and engaging. Visit it and you will see how PPM implements the best practice of transparency. It’s easy to find a local PPM center,volunteer opportunities, or make a donation.

Whether you are recruiting volunteers from the next block or the other side of the bay, here are a few best practices to consider. Know what the community need is and how your organization’s mission intersects with the need. Have a clear understanding among staff of tasks to be accomplished and position descriptions that reflect the understanding. Following successful recruitment, screen volunteers for “best match” of tasks and then orient and train them. Finally, be creative in over coming obstacles like space. Regularly scheduling duties on rotating days means space can be re-purposed. These are best practices wherever you are recruiting volunteers.

Three things I love. . . (part 2)

A few months ago I wrote about the PEOPLE. Today I am writing about another aspect, learning new skills. I am not a great photographer. My camera is at least ten years old so you can imagine my challenge of living in the digital age. Thank goodness there are excellent resources, online and in person. I’ve found that a combination of the two works best for me. The “undo” button and I have become fast friends. I want to give a hat tip to Dropbox. I can go back and forth between Volunteer Maryland, my host site, and home, without clogging my inbox with emails and attachments I sent myself.  Another hat tip to Laura, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the Ulman Fund.  She shared with me most of the tools listed; and, coached me on video editing—a work “in progress” as well as a post for another day. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Here are some photos I have posted on my “AmeriCorps Works!” and “Creating Community Through Service

boards on Pinterest recently. It’s fun to experiment with the different online applications but they don’t take the place of good quality photographs. In fact, I am considering using my AmeriCorps Education  Award to take a photography class at the community college.  I just don’t think the award will cover the camera too.  Here are the applications I tried out: 

What are your favorites?

Volunteer Maryland/AmeriCorps = Happiness

Did you kick start summer this Memorial Day weekend? I sure did. Two highlights were a surprise visit from one of my kids and a picnic. Sunday I joined out of town friends at Pen Mar Park. Pen Mar is unadulterated Americana, including a Big Band concert and dancing! A lesser highlight was cleaning out my “desk”. I used quotation marks because being on the road quite a bit the last two weeks; I have spent little time at a desk. I have been in the car using my bag as my desk. Among the pages of “notes to myself” I found the latest edition of the IC VIEW, the Magazine of Ithaca College. “Hmmm,” I thought, “I’m sure there was a reason I put this in here.” Once I opened it up, I remembered that the featured articles were about “happiness.” Writer Keith Davis examines “The Pursuit of Happiness” and asks, “Is happiness a choice?” The section that really caught my eye was “10 Core Values that are essential to happiness.” I reflected after reading this that serving with Volunteer Maryland as an AmeriCorps member offers the opportunity to experience some of the values Douglas Ramm identified as enhancing happiness.

-Mutual sharing in interpersonal relationships
-Food, clothing, shelter
-Money to get the other nine values (Ok, the stipend may fall short here.)
-Rewarding occupation (The shortfall on the stipend is made up for here.)
-Good health
-Security of not losing the other values

You can take a happiness inventory and read the entire article here. And, if you are looking for an opportunity to gain skills and experience (that enhance happiness!), check out the information sheet and application to be member of Volunteer Maryland Class 25. AmeriCorps Works and enhances happiness!

Charm City’s Rite of Spring

In the Volunteer Maryland Support Team meeting this week each of us shared highlights of the service year to date. One of the highlights I shared was my introduction to two restaurants that immediately became go to’s: Lemongrass and Nando’s Peri Peri. Later this week I anticipate encountering another highlight, the annual Baltimore FlowerMart at Mt. Vernon. It’s “Baltimore’s rite of spring.” When I solicited “Upcoming Events” from the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators for the May Volunteer Coordinator newsletter, the VMC serving at Project PLASE sent a plea for volunteers to help at the “Purses for PLASE” booth at the FlowerMart. I’d like to say it was the “goodness of you heart. . .” as Faith put it; but, I could hardly disregard, “. . .or your love of purses” she included in her plea.   All the proceeds benefit Project PLASE and I could work it into my schedule, so I signed on. Then, Faith sent me an email that included:
Dress code is FUN! We might be lifting boxes here and there, so you should definitely wear comfortable clothing, but we want to be colorful and noticeable! Flower Mart’s colors this year are green, pink, and black. Project PLASE’s color is, as always, purple!

There was also this “eye candy” signature:How could I resist? I checked out the event’s website. There is so much going on: vendors, entertainment, pet parade, contests, local non profits, and the signature treat: lemon sticks! I can’t wait. Maybe I’ll decorate a hat. The important questions are: Do I really need ballroom couture? How will I resist a pet that needs a home? And, of course, can I get the lemon sticks back to the car and home to Anne Arundel County?  The next time you are recruiting volunteers, use some of Faith’s “can’t resist” techniques.  I used a few this week recruiting for Destination AmeriCorps volunteers (which is next Friday!) and they worked like a charm.

Have You Used the Reward Volunteers App?

Have you heard about the “Reward Volunteers” app that launched last month?  Since I do not have a smart phone, I hadn’t paid much attention.  However, I recently found out that a smart phone is not a necessity; there is also a web widget!  It is a novel tool that’s free, fun, easy, and users can win donations for their charity, as well as individual prizes.  You spread the word about your organization and are eligible to win a donation too!   I’ll be keeping track of all my volunteer hours via Reward Volunteers for the remainder of the service year.

This is a video of the highlights:  Reward Volunteers App

Here are the basics:

  1. Download the iPhone app or the web widget.
  2. Login using Facebook Connect — just type in your Facebook username and password.
  3. Type the exact name of your organization’s Facebook page..
  4. If your organization does not have a Facebook page, or you are volunteering outside of an organization, you can write in the name of the activity or group; you won’t earn “Reach” points, which improves the likelihood of winning a prize.
  5. Select a category for your volunteer service and enter the time you spent volunteering. Log the number of hours (within 24 hours).
  6. A message that you can edit, post to Facebook, or email to friends will be generated. The post will appear in your Facebook news feed, on the iPhone app live stream under the “Everyone” tab, and on the live map on the web widget.
  7. The more volunteers logging hours, more buzz, and greater possibility your organization will win one of the $3, 000.00 prizes in July!
  8. Embed the widget on your nonprofit’s homepage.  You can even download the application platform to a computer and have volunteers sign out by logging their hours.  This increases your nonprofit’s chances of winning!

Check it out. The second round of winners was announced yesterday.

Volunteer Walk of Fame

National Volunteer Week is just around the corner!  Are you looking for a fun, simple, almost no cost, way to tell your volunteers how great they are? Present them with a Volunteer Walk of Fame.  You need:  cardboard (rescue a box from the recycling), a sharpie, a box cutter, a roll of plastic red table cover ( I had some left over from a party), painters tape, spray adhesive and gold wrapping paper (both available at Michaels). 

  1. Make a star template and trace the stars on the cardboard with the sharpie.  




2.    Use the box cutter to cut the stars out.


 3.     Unroll the gold wrapping paper and trace around the stars on the back side; cut the stars out of the wrapping paper.





4.    Spray the adhesive on the back side of wrapping paper and carefully place on the cardboard star.  Allow to dry.

5.    Print the names of your Hall of Famers on cardstock and cut to fit the stars.  Glue to the stars using the spray adhesive.

6.  On location, unroll the red table cover.  Tape to the floor on the underside with the painters tape.  Place the stars on the “red carpet” and tape in place.  After the celebration, the stars can be easily removed for a keepsake!