What Motivates You? New Study Looks at Volunteer Retention Trends

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that at FuzeUs we think about volunteers a lot. And by a lot I mean All. Of. The. Time.

As we build out our platform we’re constantly asking ourselves things like: Why do you volunteer? What causes do you care about? What motivates you to sign up the first time? And what makes you come back time and again?

Why do we ask those questions? Because we want to build a platform that deepens connections between nonprofits and the people that support them. And that means understanding what information you as a volunteer need at your fingertips in order to feel like a better, long-lasting connecting is being made.

Since we spend hours talking and thinking about this topic we’ve managed to come up with plenty of our own theories, so it’s always good to validate those theories against independent market research to make sure we’re on track and not just assuming we’ve got it all figured out.“That’s why we were so excited to see volunteer research released from Janna Finch and Software Advice, a company that reviews, compares, and researches volunteer management software solutions.” In it Finch looks at why volunteering is at a 10-year low – and what we can do to change it.

The biggest takeaway that caught my eye?

Finch found that 24% of volunteers responding to a survey said that demonstrating proof of impact was a motivating factor in convincing them to be a return volunteer. As we know though, demonstrating that proof is really difficult for nonprofits to do with the tools available today. And that’s why we’re building FuzeUs. Volunteers will be able to go into the FuzeUs app and immediately see the real, tangible value their volunteer time provides to the nonprofits while at the same time connecting in real time with the people they’re helping through their volunteerism.

incentives-top-level

Which turns out to be a good thing, because when Software Advice drilled down and asked what kind of proof of impact people were looking for, the top 2 responses were receiving testimonials from beneficiaries and being provided with data that showed impact. And that makes sense, because at the end of the day doesn’t most motivation come down to wanting to make a human connection while making an impact somewhere? We think so (but then again as I mentioned above, we think a lot of things).

feedback-incentives

Finch found other compelling things nonprofits can do to help encourage repeat volunteerism, including offering convenient scheduling, professional development and networking events. We’re firm believers in helping nonprofits better think about all of those things too. We also know that with the greater transparency and connectedness that applications like FuzeUs are bringing to the volunteer management space, everyone in the ecosystem – volunteers and nonprofits alike – will find more efficient ways to connect and organically come together to offer what each party is looking for. And that will lead to volunteers being happier with their experiences (thus returning in greater numbers), and nonprofits getting the help they need where they need it.

Thanks to Software Advice for the graphics. Check out the full survey recap below:

What it Means to Live the #fuzelife

At FuzeUs we talk a lot about incorporating giving back into everyday life (around here we like to call it living the #fuzelife). But we also realize that sometimes all this talk about giving back, building community and being a good person can, well, sound really intimidating. The good person bar feels like one that “normal” people with normal jobs and normal responsibilities could never really cross because you’re just too busy with all the other responsibilities in your life to add yet another full-time job (that of being a good person) to your resume.

I get that. It was intimidating to me at first too, until I realized that living a #fuzelife just meant being mindful that the small actions I could take everyday, things that took less time than my daily coffee run (or that even were already a part of my daily routine, I just didn’t yet realize it), could create lasting change in my community.

What exactly do I mean? Here are just a few examples of small actions people are building into their everyday lives that are making a big difference in their community and the world:

  • The Dream Builders Project, a FuzeUs partner, holds flash mobs to feed the homeless in the LA area. All you do is show up at a local park with a few friends, pack a sack lunch and make someone’s day. Pretty easy, right? You don’t even need to be in LA or attending the formal event to make this happen – just pack an extra lunch one day a week and give it to someone in need on your way into the office.
  • Live in Colorado? Then in all likelihood you’ve climbed one of the state’s “14’ers”, the 54 peaks that rise above 14,000 feet above sea level. And if you’re already hitting the trail each weekend why not bag a summit this August 2 and you’ll get a 2-for-1: a lung-busting, incredible views workout for you while your effort provides clean water for 2 families in Nicaragua. Sounds like a good trade to me.
  • In Portland, Oregon, residents come together on Thursday evenings for Night Strike, a gathering under the famous Burnside Bridge that provides hot meals, clothing, sleeping bags and, possible most important, dignity and regular conversation, to the city’s homeless population. If you don’t live in Portland see if there are similar events in your area, or instead of feeding meals to the homeless see if you can just stop in and have a conversation with them while they eat.

These are just a few examples of the thousands of ways people around the country are living the #fuzelife. We’d love to hear from you what’s happening in your community. What are simple actions you can take each day to make your community better and live the #fuzelife? Let us know in the comments section!

FuzeUs Debuts at Dream Builders Project Flash Mob for the Homeless in Los Angeles

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By Kenny Warner, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Partner, FuzeUs

FuzeUs was ready to make its debut – all we needed was the perfect event. Enter The Dream Builders Project, an organization I’d found awhile back while searching on Twitter for philanthropic founders located in the Los Angeles area and came across Mayer Dahan of Dahan Properties. Many of the actions he took were philanthropic, and in the nature of “paying it forward”, and being personally interested in architecture as a whole I decided to look further into the properties his company building. Not only were they impeccable but also completely green and sustainably built. Beyond that they had a philanthropic division, The Dream Builders Project, which is committed to overcoming community hardships in locations around the country. As a whole Dahan Properties and The Dream Builders Project have a mandatory policy of corporate involvement, employee participation, and financial contributions, which are all things that we support at FuzeUs. Why I personally wanted to be involved with them went even further than that – their events were not the stereotypical non-profit events you think of when doing charity work. Instead they focused on quick, fun, and engaging events that allowed for whole communities of like-minded but diverse people to come together and reach a common goal. It’s an approach and belief we share at FuzeUs so I knew I wanted to get us involved.

Which is exactly what we did for Dream Builders latest event, a flash mob to feed the homeless, in early June. Not only was the format of the event perfect for FuzeUs, but the cause was near and dear to my heart because of my upbringing. It was also an ideal first test for FuzeUs to see just how well our system worked and how it could attract others.

The event itself was phenomenal. Right at 10:45am everyone started showing up, got their shirts, and mingled briefly before filling 100-plus bags full of sandwiches, fruit, shirts, windbreakers, sun glasses, toiletries, and bottled water. As with any flash mob, we werImagee gone as fast as we arrived. The idea was to show everyone that doing good is not something you have to commit your life to but something that you can do by just taking a few simple actions everyday that take only a few minutes. That’s exactly what we did, and without a doubt everyone enjoyed it and we all felt camaraderie and community both when we first showed up together to get organized and continuing as we fanned out in separate directions to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves have just a little bit of a better day.

I know I couldn’t have been more happy that day as I saw many of my friends that I had invited show up, right on schedule, with many of their friends, and some friends of their friends. Everything that FuzeUs was built on was being proven right before my eyes. Overall it was an encouraging and energizing first showing for FuzeUs – the systems works and attracts others when built on easy, fun, engaging events to do good, people sharing in their experience with their friends, and promoting their great experiences through social media. I even met some really excellent people working on many other great initiatives in the community that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. All of which will only help The Dream Builders Project and Dahan Properties do more and more good as they continue their events in the future and learn more from the data we provide them.

Once the bags were filled everyone departed in a million different directions, many around Pan Pacifc Park in Los Angeles, some in downtown, and many others in their own respective neighborhoods. A couple of my friends and I went down to the homeless park in Santa Monica. ImageI had known about it, but had never really been by the park to see just how many homeless individuals there were there. I was stunned by the number of people in need at that park, in many respects it made my heart sink and fully comprehend just how prominent the homeless population is in California. There we were with only eleven bags in hand, I felt completely unprepared to help everyone. Fortunately, a church group was there handing out many more meals than we could, and everyone at the park was at least satisfied for the morning and hopefully into the afternoon. We made our way through the park handing out our eleven bags, and even though I felt like this was only a small fix to a big problem, the gratitude and stories I heard from the people we were able to give bags to were profound and touching. It made all of us realize that as individuals we may not be able to make a huge dent, but as a community, together we can be well on our way to solving many of the problems we experience everyday. I left that day having a new appreciation for everything and everyone I have in my life. The 2nd annual Dream Builders flash mob to feed the homeless, and all the wonderful pictures that everyone shared, will forever be a reminder to us of the small, quick actions we can all take everyday to make an ever-growing difference in our world.

How FuzeUs Helps You Make the Most of Your Giving Back

At FuzeUs we know how precious your friends and family, time and money are to you. You work hard to provide for yourself and your family, make time for them when you don’t have any and prioritize those needs above everything else in your life. That’s why we don’t think you should then be expected to donate that time, talent or treasure without knowing exactly what the impact will be: if you’re choosing to support a cause that’s important to you, you should also understand the personal impact your actions are having in moving that cause forward.

For example, what if you knew that recruiting 5 new supporters to a cause was 10 times more valuable than a $20 donation? Or that adding 2 hours of volunteer time to your own donation would triple its real world value? Imagine how having that information at your fingertips would forever change how you approach doing good while also multiplying the difference you make.

FuzeUs can imagine it. In fact we’re building it for the people like you who want to understand the single best actions they can take in order to make the world they care about a little bit better.

For Millennials

All of us hear that the Millennial generation is more connected to the world around them than those directly ahead of them. Findings from the Pew Research Center confirm that: helping others is the third highest priority in Millennials’ lives. Yet Millennials don’t always give in the same way their parents and grandparents did, making it difficult for nonprofit organizations set up to communicate with those older generations to successfully connect with this generation at the same time.

That’s where FuzeUs comes in. We understand that you may be more interested in volunteering, introducing your favorite causes to your friends and family, maybe even crowdfunding a cause than you are simply sending in monthly tithing checks. That’s why we’ve given you a platform from which you can connect with others who support the same kind of causes that you’re interested in while also allowing you to share your activity with family and friends (and even invite them to participate alongside you). And, maybe best of all, we allow the nonprofits you support to understand the exact value your non-monetary actions bring them, which means they’ll be able to connect with you around ways to support them that meet both their needs and your interests and skills. 

For Volunteers

Volunteering continues to thrive in the US: in 2012 64.5 million Americans volunteered nearly 7.9 billion hours of their time. That’s a lot of parks being built and meals being served, and we believe everyone wins when the relationship between volunteer and organization is strengthened. At FuzeUs we know that individuals volunteer for a number of different reasons, and we also know that nonprofits don’t always have a great way to connect with their volunteers beyond simply checking them in and sending a thank you email later.

But we also know that volunteers are twice as likely to donate as non-volunteers, so wouldn’t it be nice if it was easier to connect in a meaningful way? What if you knew that volunteering on Saturday and bringing 5 friends with you was 15x more valuable to a nonprofit than showing up on Wednesday afternoon by yourself? Wouldn’t you want to know that? Wouldn’t you want to be able to tell your friends just how valuable their contribution would be? At FuzeUs we’re making it easy for both you and the nonprofits you support to see this information so that your share of those 7.9 billion hours do the absolute best good they can. After all there are only 24 hours in each day so you best be committed to making each one of them count.

For Donors

We know that donations will always be at the heart of the relationship between individuals and nonprofits, so we’re making it a point to improve the donation experience as well. Whether you prefer to give at an event or monthly, or by check, online or mobile, FuzeUs helps you better understand your giving profile and even introduces you to causes and organizations it thinks you’ll like based on past behaviors and stated interests.

FuzeUs also allows you to understand the full network effect of your giving: maybe you only personally gave $25 to a particular campaign, but what if all of the people you’ve introduced to the organization collectively gave $5,000? Wouldn’t you want to know that? We would. For the first time we’re putting that kind of information at your fingertips – and also making it available in plain view to organizations, so you know what real monetary effect you’re having, and those whom you support know it too.

What We Believe at FuzeUs

Sure, on the surface FuzeUs is a social sharing and fundraising platform that deepens the connections between nonprofits and the individuals and communities that support them. But look a little further and we’re so much more than that: we’re the place where social gooders of all kinds come together to multiply their individual voices into world-changing action.

We do it by making it easier for the entire do-gooding ecosystem – the individual world changers, the nonprofits and NGO’s, and the companies looking to strengthen their CSR and social good initiatives – to find, share and care about the good being done in the world.

Organizations, whether they be corporations, nonprofits, government entities or others interested in adding value struggle to do so because they don’t have the right data in front of them. Instead they use limited data or respond to opportunities that land in front of them, often causing mismatches between well-intended action and sustainable social good outcomes. FuzeUs is committed to resolving those disconnects by gathering all the disparate pieces of data that are out there – and inviting stakeholders to build their own data sets – and then combining and delivering aggregate results in an easy to understand, actionable and customized shared value overview customized to the individuals and organizations on our platform.

From a social lens, this information enables individuals who want to do good in the world to better understand the impact of the actions they’re taking: they can understand the action impact of a single donation as compared to time spent volunteering or introducing their network to a certain cause. With this information an individual can make informed decisions on how to best contribute to ensure his or her actions have the desired impact.

From a business perspective, FuzeUs helps businesses who want to give back to their communities to understand the best way to do so. By helping businesses understand what their customers value, and which nonprofits or community groups best fit with those values, businesses are better able to build sustainable CSR programs that deliver ROI to the business and impact to the community. And when those two pieces line up, businesses are freed to give even more to their community because they know it will be sustainable.

As you see now, FuzeUs was developed out of our collective desire to see people, nonprofits and corporations come together to create value. Why did we have that desire? Because we grew more frustrated every time we saw disconnects like Occupy Wall Street when individuals came together to tell the corporate world they weren’t happy – but in the process caused millions of dollars of damage and clean up costs to public spaces in New York City. Or when we saw a company try to give back through CSR efforts only to see it blow up in its face because the company and cause weren’t well-matched. Instead we wondered what would happen if instead these groups could talk directly to each other. After all,

  • 92% of consumers want to do business with a brand that shares their values
  • The average Fortune 500 company spends anywhere from $50mm – $100 mm annually on sustainability, CSR and cause marketing and 70% of consumers would switch brands based on cause marketing, yet 60% of individuals are unsure if companies support good causes
  • Individuals give 7.9 billion hours and $175 billion worth of service each year in the US, yet individually do not understand the impact they’re having, and the organizations they’re bringing their service to don’t understand how to value it either.

Bottom line: Individuals and organizations of all kinds want to do better, but they need a better way to make decisions on how to best bring social change – and added value – to their community. We believe that by connecting all three stakeholders onto a single platform we’ll be able to measure the ROI of different actions and empower them with the knowledge of the single best actions they can take to meet their value-add objectives.

And that’s why we built FuzeUs. It’s an online database that nonprofits and corporations use to understand what their supporters and customers care about, and it’s a mobile app that individuals use to demonstrate their values through action. And we can’t wait to share it with you.

Is Your List Segmentation Strategy Losing You Supporters?

If you’re like most nonprofit marketing directors you have an email list segmentation strategy, and that strategy is probably based on whether or not a person on your list is a donor. Once you’ve determined donor status, you segment by how much they’ve given in the past and send off a message populated with an appropriate ask for their donation history.

Sound familiar? If it does, you should rethink your segmentation strategy because you’re likely missing opportunities to connect with some of your most valuable supporters. At FuzeUs we help nonprofits understand how to best connect with every supporter they have, whether that person donates or not, because we know that non-monetary actions can be just as valuable to your organization as a check.

In that spirit, here are four new ways we encourage you to think about your list:

Understand Your Supporter’s True ROI

If you’re only segmenting based on your contact’s donation history you’re probably missing connecting with important supporters who are volunteering, promoting your organization to their network or supporting in other important ways. Make sure you understand the value of those activities and build list segments – and messages – that speak directly to your supporters who fill these important roles.

Multi-Passionate Nonprofit? Understand Why An Individual Supports You

I’m hearing the term “multi-passionate” more and more this year, maybe even more than “selfie,” Oxford’s 2013 Word of the Year. Multi-passionate just means you care about more than one thing, and while the word is usually associated with an individual, there are plenty of nonprofits that fit this bill too. If you’re one of them it’s possible your individuals supporters like you because of one of your passions, but not all. In this case you need to know which passion an individual supporter connects with, and make sure you’re sending that person a message that fits with that passion.

An easy example is animal advocacy. Most animal rights groups support dogs and cats equally, but I know plenty of people who are firmly in the “dog person” or “cat person” camps. You don’t want to send a dog person a cat photo, or vice versa. Track why each individual supporter connects with you and set up message segments with that in mind.

Connect with Millennials

We’re passionate about helping nonprofits connect with Millennials because we know your future success is tied to attracting a younger support base. Catch is, Millennials aren’t like their parents and grandparents, and they want to interact with organizations in ways that go way beyond just donating. Millennials crave connecting, experience, and knowing the exact impact their actions have. Crafting messages that speak to Millennials about what they care about will go a long way in helping you foster long-term relationships with this group.

Take Care of Your Partners

Many small non-profits can’t do what they do without the help of community organizations, local foundations, small community businesses and other partners who play vital support roles to you but are sometimes overlooked in your messaging strategy. Segment out your partners (or, if they’re not in your database – get them in there and tagged as partners) and send them specific messages tailored to relationship-building. This way you’ll stay top of mind, and when you need their support they’ll remember you and be more likely to back you again and again.

Social Good Takes Over SXSW

The annual SXSW Interactive Conference just wrapped up in Austin, TX. And while this year’s version may have grabbed headlines for Edward Snowden’s virtual appearance and cognitive cooking from a food truck, what stood out to me was the emphasis this year’s festival put on social good. SXSW’s 2014 version featured a rich helping of content centered around how the tech community can support innovative nonprofits, Millennials doing good, social entrepreneurship, new ways of looking at corporate social responsibility, diversity in the tech community and more. And turns out that wasn’t a mistake: organizers consciously went out searching for this content in response to past year’s attendee feedback asking for the shift. It was, in effect, the tech community throwing a call to arms out to itself.

Here are just a few of the many social good highlights from 5 action-packed days:

Celebrating Social Good Innovation

Chelsea Clinton delivered the keynote on the festival’s final day and her message was an appropriate one to leave on. She reminded the tech community, known for chasing and celebrating those who invent and get there first, that sometimes in the development/doing good world, it’s actually more important to be transparent to your process, even if that means coming in second or third. She challenged the NGO and tech communities to embrace the idea that “innovation isn’t always new,” that sometimes the most important innovations come from incremental improvements of old ideas that celebrate what’s working. Because when lives are on the line, first isn’t always best – effective, proven and scalable is.

Combatting the Stigma of “Slactivism”

A group of high-profile organizers, including Hollywood actor Ian Somerhalder and the founders of Omaze and Ryot came together to praise the ability of social media to create positive action, directly disagreeing with the growing notion that tweeting or posting for change amounted to nothing but “slactivism”, or the idea that so-called passive action is an easy way to look like you’re involved without actually getting involved.

Somerhalder and friends argued it’s actually the opposite – organizing millions via simple messages communicates support around an issue that can be used to make real change. The hugely-successful and popular (Red) social media campaign to combat AIDS in Africa was cited as an example of social media activism creating real change.

Sidenote: if you haven’t seen the video Ben Afflect and Matt Damon put together put together for Omaze you should check it out.

Smart(er) CSR

Another hot topic amongst those at SXSW’s StartUp Village was how to build smart corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies into their new companies. It was clear that this generation’s young founders are thinking about a lot more than profit when they plan their companies: they want their companies to have a role in changing the world. Two conversations kept popping up within this community around CSR: First, do CSR and giving back programs need to have a measured ROI, or are they better measured anecdotally as a piece of an overall benefits package, to guard anyone seeing CSR volunteerism policies as simply another way to make money? If companies genuinely want to give back, do they need to prove an ROI every single time?

And second, how can companies better supply skilled volunteers to nonprofits so nonprofits get as much value as possible out of CSR time? For instance, it’s great for team-building if a group of creatives gets together to build a house for a day, but anyone can swing a hammer and unskilled volunteers are relatively easy to find. Wouldn’t it be better for a design shop to offer a 24 hour design-a-thon so that nonprofits in desperate need of website makeovers and professional logos could take advantage of the shop’s pro bono, skilled time?