Reflections from the 2015 Conference on Volunteering and Service

Last week, I attended the Conference on Volunteering and Service hosted by Points of Light. Let me tell you, there is nothing more inspiring than to see change makers come together from across sectors, regions, roles and causes to learn from each other, collaborate and make a difference.

The dynamic world of volunteerism and service continues to evolve, and it was exciting to be surrounded with the country’s leaders in this arena to learn about their cutting-edge strategies for creating positive change. As I attended workshops, listened to engaging panels and caught up with new and old friends, a couple of themes emerged for me throughout the week:

· Prioritization of capacity-building – I heard countless corporate leaders discuss their commitments to support and fund capacity-building efforts as their organizations seek to sustain and scale initiatives. As anyone knows who has worked at a nonprofit organization, program outcomes are impossible without fundamental organizational support, and this prioritization of capacity-building from funders is a pivotal step in strengthening and increasing impact.

· Skills-based volunteer matching – Although using skills-based volunteers isn’t a new concept, I found an increased enthusiasm for this topic from the field and corporate partners. This focus appears to be even more dominant as companies create strategic pro bono programs that leverage their employees’ expertise, ranging from legal counsel, accounting, data analytics, coding and development. Not only has this become an integral piece of companies’ corporate social responsibility strategies, it is also a welcome channel of support for organizations looking to tap into fresh skills and support from a new channel of volunteers.

· Digital age of volunteering – Volunteer engagement, background checks, member registration, service hour tracking, grant reporting … the list of digital challenges faced by volunteer managers goes on and on. Luckily, there are amazing solutions and partnerships happening today that are bringing volunteerism and service to the forefront of the digital age. Using these examples, organizations are poised for new potential in creating operational efficiencies in today’s digital world.

· Big data for social change – In her welcome remarks, Points of Light CEO Tracy Hoover referenced corporate disruptors like Amazon, Airbnb, Uber and their use of predictive analytics to inform strategy and how these business practices can be transferred to mission-driven organizations. Additionally, in another workshop, panelists from DataKind and Nielsen described impressive examples of using big data to make positive societal change, including an organization that used Google Earth to prioritize resource distribution to impoverished communities in Africa and another organization that surveyed market research to evaluate food prices across the U.S. to predict the resources needed to eradicate hunger. The opportunity to leverage big data for social change is endless, and we’re embarking on an incredible time to use innovative models to create new data-driven solutions.

· Local and global impact – In another session, Points of Light leaders challenged us to think locally and globally. At this session, two Points of Light award recipients from America and England were recognized for their work to support children amputees. Although from different sides of the Atlantic, they each shared traumatic experiences that left them inspired to support children with disabilities in their area. These two women were brought together on stage to discuss their stories and shared cause. The energy in the room was electric — a new bond and partnership had been formed and ideas were sparked on scaling work beyond their own country borders to develop an international solution.

I have spent most of my career connected to volunteerism and service in some way — whether as a volunteer, working for national and local nonprofit organizations, serving as a consultant for corporate social responsibility strategies, and now working at Rallyhood, a software company that provides a digital solution and mobile app for nonprofit volunteer and member engagement. Despite this experience, the power of volunteering and service never ceases to amaze me.

Now I challenge you … be inspired to impact the world, and don’t forget to #DoGoodToday and #ServiceUnites.

About Rallyhood

Rallyhood is a branded, secure platform and mobile app that makes life easier for those looking to rally a community of supporters, while capturing important data and providing insights that organizations can act upon.

At Rallyhood, we are transforming how nonprofit organizations activate member engagement and drive loyalty with its stakeholders by providing branded online micro-communities and mobile tools that inspire members to unite, take action and support their organization. Our enterprise platform provides a digital space where national, regional and local members can seamlessly come together to advance their mission, delivering what members want, when they want it.

Some of the brands that have embraced Rallyhood include Girl Scouts of America, Susan G. Komen and the LIVESTRONG Foundation.