October 19, 2021

Suffering From ‘Recession Depression?’ Try Volunteering!

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Downsizing. Difficult. Depression. Dread. These are a lot of “D” words. But “D” words seem appropriate — even reflective — of the grade many of us might give our financial and mental states right now.

Corporate downsizing and increased unemployment can take a heavy toll on everyone. And the impact is more than economic. Difficult economic times also produce increased incidence of depression as well as a dread of dealing with personal finances.

Tough, even scary, news about our country’s worsening financial condition continues to bombard us from television and radio broadcasts, printed pages and the Internet. To compound the problem, many Americans without jobs have too much time to dwell on their misfortunes and seemingly bleak futures. A downward mental spiral can lead to a range of feelings from a general uneasiness to serious depression.

Clinical psychologist Mary Gresham says, “This is a scary time even for those who are not in an immediate crisis,” on the American Psychological Association’s Web site.

“Many people,” Gresham adds, “mistakenly believe that money stress can only be reduced by money itself … the more you think about money and how not to lose more of it, the more anxious you will become and the less likely you’ll be able to solve problems.”

This certainly seems to be sensible advice, but it provokes an obvious question: How do you stop thinking about money problems? And that query prompts a simple response: Think about something else.

Thinking about something else may be accomplished best by thinking about someone else.  Focusing on how you can make even a tiny effort to help another human being will immediately present a new perspective. Volunteering offers all kinds of benefits, some of them particularly important as we struggle to maintain our financial composure.

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ABC’s of Volunteer Retention

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Recruiting and retaining volunteers is an on going challenge for most non-profit organizations.  Once THE place to volunteer, hospitals have seen an overall decline in the number of individuals who choose to volunteer their time in  auxiliaries and volunteer departments.  So when you do find those precious volunteers, keeping them should become a number one priority!

After careful thought and a little bit of research, it is my opinion that successful volunteer retention can be enhanced with a few simple steps.

A. Make your organization attractive. Shar McBee, in To Lead is To Serve, says that when you are feeling positive about your work (and your organization) it attracts others to participate.  On the other hand, when you feel overwhelmed or burdened, no one volunteers to join in.  A great exercise to rekindle a feeling of spirit at your next meeting is to have members break into pairs, and ask the following questions:

  • What did you love about your volunteer work in the beginning?
  • What was important about this work?
  • What is challenging about it now?
  • What is fun about it?

Take the feedback from this exercise and put it in your newsletters and promotional materials, post quotes and pictures of these folks on your bulletin board and website, and share it with the staff and friends of your hospital.  And then, watch as the energy of your organization goes up!

B. Create a great, big welcome mat! Individuals who “join”  volunteer organizations want to be able to network and build quality relationships that fulfill both their personal and professional needs. Cynthia D’Amour’s, How to Turn Generation Me into Active Members of Your Association, has some great tips on helping your new members make a successful entry:

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Fundraising Planning – A Vital Key To Nonprofit Success

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As a professional grant writer and consultant, I am often amazed at how few nonprofit organizations actually have a fund development plan beyond a vague idea of applying for a few grants and sending out an annual appeal letter. Recognizing that lack of planning, I am not amazed at how often these same organizations have rounds of emergency budget cuts when they realize that they have no assured streams of income.

Very typical is the agency that has received a large grant to run their programs for one year. Then, in the tenth month of the grant period, comes the realization that they have no idea how they will fund the next year’s programs. With less than two months of money left in the bank they go into emergency fundraising mode.

Their first impulse is to start applying for another large grant. But at most foundations, the process – from letter of inquiry to proposal to acceptance – typically takes at least three months, and often six to eight months.

Their next idea is to turn to their individual donors with a panicked letter that essentially says, “Send us money now or we might go out of business.” That, of course, is the least effective fundraising letter you can write. Donors want to invest in your successes, not bail out your failures.

So, how do they avoid these situations? The answer is to plan. Through the planning process, you will achieve the following:

  • Limit crisis fundraising: This, as the example above illustrates, is our primary reason for creating a fund development plan, but there are others as well…
  • Diversity builds in flexibility: Changes in other sectors of the economy can have a major impact on nonprofit funding. A cut in the state budget can be passed down as fewer contracts for local service organizations. The dot-com bust of a few years back cut foundation endowments, reducing the funds they had available to grant. Agencies that had become comfortable relying on one or two sources of funding found themselves struggling to survive these changes. Those with plans and diversified funding bases had the flexibility to adapt and survive.
  • Planning for diversity brings in more opportunities: Through the planning process you come to identify funding opportunities you never knew existed. Further, when you stop having to scramble to pay next month’s bills, you will be able to devote more time to developing new sources of income for your agency.

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Eight Reasons All Non-Profits Need a Website

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

A nonprofit organization can take advantage of the Internet for at least eight purposes:

  • publicity
  • public education
  • fundraising
  • volunteer recruitment
  • service delivery
  • advocacy
  • research
  • communication

Let us look at brief examples of each of these uses in turn.

Publicity

Good sites gain attention. Attention or awareness is exactly what all non-profits need… it accelerates fund-raising efforts, and enhances all the following essential needs:

Public Education

There’s a fine line between grabbing the public’s attention and educating the public about an important social problem or cause.Whatever the mission statement of your non-profit organization is, it needs to be presented with clarity to the various “publics” that all non-profits must influence if they are to be successful. All organizations have several different “publics” which they must influence in a positive way in order to achieve their organizational goals. [Read more…]

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