Posts Tagged ‘ncvs’

Back to follow up from the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for a moment….

Besides the professional volunteer managers and national service members, there were for profit companies and celebrities at the conference.  As the service movement gains popularity, and volunteering is seen as cool, many companies and brands are looking to partner.  Last fall, the Entertainment Industry Foundation worked with individual celebrities as well as TV producers to promote service through their programming and PSAs.  In most cases these partnerships are win-win.  The celebrity or company gets good PR and the organization has greater visibility and may receive donations, volunteers, or free marketing.

At one of the first sessions that I went to, CauseCast showed this video from Ben Stiller:

This video and the type of civic activism that it represents is seen as a win for the service movement.  This model rests on the following assumptions:

Assumption: celebrities will be perceived as more trustworthy than the average joe and therefore a better spokesperson for your cause

Assumption: having a celebrity promote your cause will help your cause

Discussion / Reflection Questions:

Are those assumptions always correct?

Is Ben Stiller a volunteer leader?

Most volunteer policies say that you can not volunteer to do the same work that you do for pay.  For instance, a County social worker can not volunteer to screen homeless clients.  Ben Stiller is an actor and he is now acting on behalf of a cause.  Is he being paid?  By whom?

If he is not compensated are there labor law considerations?

Can you be paid or receiving material benefit and still be a volunteer leader?

Is the definition of volunteer leadership more about your actions, or about your intentions?

Is the concept of “being” the same as intentions?

Do celebrities who are promoting causes while also promoting their own brand muddy the waters of volunteerism or is this a great innovation in the social sector that changes the paradigm of giving?

That’s a lot of questions I know, but I have far more questions when it comes to this model of volunteer leadership than I have answers.  I would appreciate your insight or suggestions for other reading on this topic.


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At the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this morning, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine introduced a new model for volunteer leader engagement (though that is not how they referred to it).  Kanter and Fine, in their new book, The Networked Nonprofit, describe a new phenomenon that has accompanied the rise of social media.  They coin the term “free agent” to describe social media savvy and socially minded folks who raise awareness, money, support, or elicit action on behalf of a cause or organization which they support.  These free agents are able to mobilize their networks using free tools for causes they care about.

With the rise of social media, there are new ways of connecting to each other and new ways for individuals to demonstrate leadership.  Social media savvy, well connected folks can leverage their online networks to support a cause that they are passionate about.  Or, as in network weaving, individuals can play a critical role within their social network by connecting people and ideas to generate new partnerships and action towards social change.  In the first example, which Beth Kanter and Allison Fine refer to as “Free Agents”, the individual is often front and center.  He makes a commitment, speaks out about his cause, or even pledges to ride naked (almost!) in the DC area if his connections will follow him in his effort. (see video for a great example)

Most of the time the individual is moved to act, but may or may not have extensive knowledge of the cause or solution he is trying to help.  I see the growth of free agents as a push back against the professionalization of the service movement.

How do these free agents fit into the overall picture of the service movement?

Are free agents the volunteer leaders of the future?  How do nonprofits embrace free agents while also continuing to create more structured opportunities for volunteer leadership?

How does the connection someone has with their online networks affect their relationship to local in person networks?


Network Weaving, http://www.networkweaver.blogspot.com/ June Holley

The Networked Nonproft, Beth Kanter & Allison Fine

The Networked Nonprofit session, National Conference on Volunteering and Service

Nonprofit Network Building, Case Foundation

The End of Nonprofits as we know it session, National Conference on Volunteering and Service

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Yesterday I had the honor of being part of the social media for social good fair at NCVS.  We gathered around small tables to discuss various aspects of social media.  My topic was “8 Signs your organization is doomed to fail on Facebook”.  You can access my presentation here: Facebook_201 or online at: http://bit.ly/NCVSFB201.

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It’s only the opening day of NCVS, but already there have been an outstanding number of volunteers noted and organizational shout outs.  I have met some great volunteer leaders; making new friends and reconnecting with old.  Conference is all about making these connections and re-energizing around service and so far NCVS is meeting its mark.

You can find quotes from the opening plenary on Twitter under #ncvs and can even watch the action at: http://www.volunteeringandservice.org so I will not recap what went on.

2 great off the cuff moments:

  1. Mika Brzezinski calling out “Morning Joe” for dropping F-bombs on live TV
  2. Mo Rocca stumbling over the “Cougar” Kids Club name wondering if it engaged a certain population of older attractive moms.

What I thought might be helpful is a rundown of the people and organizations represented during the plenary as well as a few observations.

First the observations and then the run down after the break.

  • Large for profit companies come across as having a very different understanding of the service movement.  They used different language and seemed to focus on different priorities in addressing social problems.
    • The CEO of JP Morgan Chase used a lot of language that did not resonate with me.  Although I think I support a lot of his overall message, he came across as both defensive and accusatory, defending big business’ role in providing jobs, paying taxes, and providing retirement investments; as well as insisting that organizations use their “brains” and base decisions on “facts” (which to him is the bottom line).  … More on this in a future post.
    • The exception to that is when the company put its community relations person in charge of the talking points (Target).  Laysha Ward connected with me around Target giving back 5% of income, partnering with the school for a library makeover that they really wanted, and having a 3 part strategy towards partnering in the education space including volunteerism, arts, and social services.
    • Ben & Jerry’s also provides a great example of partnering with the social sector in a win-win project.  Scoop it Forward is fun, creative, and uses what Ben & Jerry’s does best (create & market delicious ice creams in inventive flavors) with what VolunteerMatch does best (connect people with opportunities to volunteer).
  • “Morning Joe”, Joe Scarborough, seemed to be the least of a good fit of all of the speakers and moderators.  When he referred to Millennials (my own generation) as “babies” Twitter lit up with great folks like @menista & @ngongang of mobilize.org, @socialcitizen with Case Foundation, and @AtlasCorps speaking up for the role Millennials are already playing in social change.  My major disappointment was that no one actually on the panel put in a plug and spoke up about the huge proportion of the audience that actually are millennials taking a lead in making a difference.

Ok, if you want the run down of organizations/Campaigns that were mentioned in the opening plenary (mentioned, not featured), check it out past the break:


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It’s that time of year again… national conference time!  This will be my third National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) and I am excited for what is in store.  They have continued to up the stakes and therefore my anticipation meter is through the roof.  Hopefully I am not disappointed.

Since I arrived in New York City early to visit family, I have already begun pre-conference activities.  Yesterday I met up with my peers from NAVPLG (National Association of Volunteer Programs in Local Government). I was reminded of 2 things:  1. I strongly dislike New York… especially Times Square, 2.  It it’s invaluable to have a great group of peers like my buddies from NAVPLG who’ve got your back.  I forgot my wallet at the hotel but was covered and still able to enjoy a dinnner with great company!

This morning I hit the streets early to attend pre-conference sessions for HandsOn Network affiliates and hopefully meet some new folks before the Opening plenary.

Best find of the day: secluded speakers room with computer access!  (I love my speaker badge!)

Finally, speaking of being a speaker….   I am presenting on the Social Media for Social Good Fair session tomorrow from 8:30 am – 10 am at the Mecury Rotunda at the Hilton (3rd floor on your left).  This is a pretty casual session, so feel free to drop by and say hi!  You can preview my presentation here: http://bit.ly/NCVSFB201

I will continue to journal about my conference experience here and will also post pictures when I am able to load them off my camera at the hotel.  You can follow me on http://www.twitter.com/sharontb during the conference.

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