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5 Steps For Identifying a Trustworthy Tech Vendor

Just because vendors say they're trustworthy, it doesn't mean that they are. When making technology decisions for your nonprofit, it is important that you take the time to evaluate your options and select a vendor who can earn your trust.

In this article, we'll offer five steps for identifying and selecting a trustworthy technology vendor.

Step 1: Determine a Functionality Match

Does the product actually do what the vendor says it does? Most vendors these days offer the ability to try their platforms risk-free. Take advantage of the free trial period to see if the tool could possibly meet your organization’s needs. You should also make sure it really works the way it is advertised. If the software application doesn’t live up to its billing, you may consider seeking other vendors.

Step 2: Investigate the Vendor’s Reputation

Along with evaluating the software’s functionality, make sure to do your homework on the parent company. You’ll want to look for a company that is firmly established and financially stable. The company should be happy to give you the contact information of a few satisfied customers. It’s always a good idea to talk with an organization that already has the product in use. Don’t just assume that everyone loves the tool. Collect some evidence and make that determination for yourself.

Step 3: Inquire About Customer Support

Even if you take great care to select the best software available, sometimes the best technology will still experience the occasional glitch. An important hallmark of a trustworthy tech vendor is the ability to give support to its clients. Of course an active knowledge base is helpful, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want the ability to submit support tickets, and, optimally, the company should give an emergency tech support telephone number as well.

Step 4: Review Security Precautions

Everything is moving to the cloud these days, so you may naturally be concerned about your data. A top-notch vendor will alleviate those worries. Your data should be protected by a powerful firewall with servers under constant monitoring. Additionally, the information should be mirrored to a reliable back-up system.

Step 5: Evaluate Integration Opportunities

There’s an old adage that says, “No man is an island.” The software you choose shouldn’t be an entity unto itself either. Vendors should be looking at the larger picture to make sure the products they are developing integrate with other software you already use (or may plan on taking advantage of in the near future).

For example, VolunteerHub recently announced its partnership with Blackbaud, the premiere name in constituent management and fundraising. VolunteerHub works seamlessly with Blackbaud’s fundraising systems (The Raiser’s Edge, Blackbaud CRM, and eTapestry) by automatically converting volunteer records from VolunteerHub into constituents in Blackbaud’s products.

Trust is Earned

You don’t have to feel like you’re in a maze when searching for new technology. Use this article as checklist. Strong technology vendors should score highly in these areas and provide you with the peace of mind you deserve. Just remember to look beyond the software to the provider and its reputation in the industry.

The following is a guest post by Shawn Kendrick, a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on what you need to know about volunteering for nonprofits.

How to Build Trust with New Volunteers

First impressions matter, especially with new volunteers. In today's digital world, volunteers expect a convenient, intuitive process for expressing interest, reviewing volunteer opportunities, and getting trained to do the job.

How to Convert More "Super Supporters"

“Super supporters” are those who contribute significantly to your nonprofit's fundraising and volunteerism programs. So, when you take a step back and look at your donor and volunteer lists, how many contributors could be classified as "super supporters?"

Four Volunteer Predictions for 2014

Technology and demographic shifts are changing how nonprofits engage volunteers. If you're not ahead of the curve, then you may be missing out on golden opportunities to expand your volunteer network.

Trust, But Verify: Why Volunteer Screening is So Important

Why Inefficiencies Might Be Damaging Your Volunteer Relationships... And What to Do About It

Most volunteers just want to show up and start helping. However, from your organization's perspective, it is important to have best practices in place for registration, check-in, hour tracking, check-out, and other processes. In this article, we'll offer some tips for streamlining your queue, building efficiency, and solidifying volunteer trust.

Simply Meeting Expectations Just Doesn’t Cut It

People usually come to a work environment with some basic assumptions. These can include aspects such as a clean, well-lit workspace and office equipment that functions as it should. Also in this category, and most apropos to our article, is the assumption that a business is efficiently run. Of course, it’s not hard to apply this theory to the volunteer world. The interesting thing here is that, although these trust-building factors by themselves will not help retain workers (and volunteers), their absence is a fairly clear indicator that individuals will not remain with an organization for long.

With this in mind, it may not hurt to look around your office — and perhaps your entire volunteer program — to take stock of it through the eyes of a volunteer. (Click here for additional tips on reviewing your volunteer program.) What happens around the organization that your volunteers probably see as time and/or money wasters? In many instances, these issues can be solved with technology, specifically those that might impede the volunteer from performing the respective task(s).

Leveraging Tech to Build Trust and Rapport

Corbit Harrison

At first thought, the idea of leveraging technology to improve personal concepts like trust and rapport may sound strange. However, start thinking beyond the surface level, and it’s really not. When volunteers show up for an event, they don’t want to be greeted by disorganized staff members riffling through papers. The same goes for hour tracking and check-in/out processes. Bottom line: your agency looks much more professional when processes are managed by a streamlined system.

Your Volunteers Have “Gone Mobile”…Shouldn’t You?

Once again, technology can be a key component of your program, but now let’s talk about mobile technology in particular. According to consumer information company Nielsen, over half of Americans now own a smartphone, with that number jumping to 66 percent in the 25-34 year-old demographic. In fact, some estimates suggest that in 2013 the sum of mobile devices and tablets will exceed total PC usage. People have integrated these mini-computers into their lives, so why not take advantage of it when they donate their time? Having volunteers use their smartphones to check into an event is an excellent way to speed up the process for them and take up fewer resources for you. Also, while participants have their smartphone on, it’s very easy for them to do a quick mention on their favorite social media sites. Encourage this behavior as most people enjoy spreading the word about one of their favorite causes, and it’s great marketing for your organization.

Tech Builds Trust

Take this opportunity to re-evaluate your volunteer program and think about ways management apps can improve it. Although some may argue that with technology comes impersonalization, I have to disagree in this case. It’s often overlooked that, because systems are automated and create efficiencies, there’s now time for more personalized interaction between volunteers and staff. Less time organizing operations means more time making sure the volunteers are having a great experience and connecting more deeply with you and your mission. Isn’t that what trust and engagement is all about?

The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.

Why Your Nonprofit is Missing Volunteer Recruitment Opportunities

Let’s start with a fact: online conversions are essential for business marketers. In today’s web-driven world, conversions are the main purpose of most online campaigns. For those unfamiliar with the term, “conversion” simply means that someone from the intended audience took action. The action could be calling a phone number, starting a trial, downloading a whitepaper, or signing up for an offer. In the end, the point is for these to result in the ultimate conversion: a sale. Although nonprofits aren’t necessarily trying to sell a product or service, your NPO can benefit from the “conversion mentality”, but just in a different way. Here’s how.

Thinking like a Marketer - What Conversions Mean for Your NPO

A conversion may come in many forms for a nonprofit. It could be a simple thing, such as gaining registrations for a newsletter or likes or shares on Facebook. These are great for branding and may actually increase other metrics. Naturally, though, the most typically sought-after conversion is one that ends with a donation. Let’s be honest; these are crucial for most nonprofits.

However, another important conversion often overlooked is the transformation of a website visitor to a volunteer. And it goes without saying that donated time is also a very valuable asset. But what are some best practices to increase volunteer conversions?

Is Your Website Enticing to Volunteers?

Many best practices that apply to business marketing professionals for improving conversions also can be used by nonprofits. Check your website to be sure it includes some standard things common to marketing best practices. For example, one of the cornerstones is having a website that is professionally designed, easy to navigate, and full of useful information (download the slides from our recent webinar with GuideStar). These elements will build trust in visitors, which is essential when selling your call to action. In marketing, you have to tell your prospective customer exactly what you want them to do. Be clear, with a statement like “click here to volunteer.” It may seem overly simplistic, but it does work.

How to Attract More Volunteers using Landing Pages

You’ve looked over your website in general terms, but now let’s take things a step further. One of the best means of increasing your volunteer conversion rate is to create customized landing pages within your volunteer management system. These can be used to brand events or campaigns, each with a specific branding. Research shows that making this “message match” can boost conversions by at least 25 percent. Landing pages can also be used to market to certain demographics or manage events at multiple locations.

Perhaps most importantly, however, a landing page can become a customized portal for corporate employee volunteer programs (EVPs), complete with the company’s logo and postings of special volunteer opportunities unique to that group. This trust-building facet shows your organization is ready and willing to go the extra mile to accommodate an EVP and puts both the company and its employees more at ease when visiting your website. (Continue reading about best practices for using volunteer landing pages.)

Stop Missing Out on Volunteer Conversions

Increasing conversion rates can clearly benefit your organization, so don’t be afraid to leverage a few marketing best practices. Business marketers build trust through branding and targeted marketing. You can use these same strategies to drive more volunteer conversions.

The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management softwareapplication that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.

Viral Volunteerism: 171 Billion Reasons to Give Back

Have you ever stopped to think about the value of your volunteers? Every nonprofit certainly appreciates its volunteers, but I’m talking hard dollars and cents here. If you added up all the volunteer hours over the last year, how much would that actually be worth? For most nonprofits, the total sum might be staggering. Here’s why.

Corbit Harrison

According to a report by, each volunteer hour is worth $22.14 per hour. If you consider that over 7.9 billion hours were donated in 2011 (according to The Federal Agency for Service & Volunteering), the total “value” of volunteer hours in the US exceeds $171 billion annually.

Corporate America’s Impact on Volunteerism

Simply stated, volunteers can be the greatest asset a nonprofit has. As I discussed in a previous article, corporate sponsors have started to realize this fact. These days, most major for-profits have some type of corporate volunteer program. If you’re not familiar with such programs, corporations typically partner with nonprofits by sending a steady stream of employees as volunteers. Some companies even offer paid time off for employees to volunteer. These arrangements can be especially beneficial for the nonprofit, as corporate employees tend to be highly skilled volunteers with expertise in areas such as marketing, accounting, technology, and other professional services.

Going Beyond Employee Volunteer Programs

Lately, we’ve been noticing a desire (by both nonprofits and corporate partners) to move “beyond” a traditional employee volunteer program. The natural progression is often for the corporation to make a financial contribution to further support the nonprofit’s mission. Sure, corporate financial donations are always appreciated, but such endowments can be quickly eaten up by the nonprofit’s operating budget. Such donations, though certainly helpful, rarely offer any lasting or ongoing value to the nonprofit. If this sounds familiar, perhaps it’s time I introduce you to a new concept: viral volunteerism.

What is Viral Volunteerism?

In today’s culture, it’s quite common to hear the word “viral” used to describe some silly YouTube video that managed to get millions of views. How could this concept ever apply to your volunteer programs and other services? Simply put, our research shows that every corporate sponsorship dollar assigned to new technology (specifically value-added software applications) has an obvious “viral” effect on the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Keep in mind that software donations aren’t a particularly new concept. For example, Microsoft has been leading the charge on this for years. However, I would argue that engaging corporate sponsors to help pay for new applications has an added “viral” effect (versus traditional software donation programs). Let’s take a closer look at a real-world example.

Why “Viral” is Better than “Free”

A food bank realizes it desperately needs a volunteer management tool like VolunteerHub. Instead of paying for it, the food bank sends a letter (click here for a free template) to its favorite corporate donor asking for the gift of technology. The corporate sponsor agrees and purchases the VolunteerHub subscription for the food bank. Instantly, the food bank sees a 40% improvement in volunteer operations and is able to re-allocate some of its volunteer hours to recruiting new volunteers. After one year of this arrangement, the food bank is able to increase total volunteer hours by 15% and reduce volunteer turnover by 5%. Simultaneously, the corporate sponsor sees the value that the food bank is getting from the software and decides to make a similar donation to 10 other nonprofits in the community.

So let’s take a deeper look at the value being created in this example. Keep in mind, each improvement is valued at $22.14 per volunteer hour used by a nonprofit.

  • Value for the food bank:
    • Free volunteer management tool, sponsored by the corporate partner
    • 40% improvement in operations, allowing for a re-allocation of volunteer hours to more value-added activities
    • 15% increase in total volunteer hours
    • 5% decrease in volunteer turnover
  • Value for the corporate sponsor:
    • Measurable value for each philanthropic dollar invested
    • Reinforced relationship with the food bank
    • Scalable philanthropic program, which can be offered to other charitable organizations
  • Value for the community:
    • Simply multiply the value experienced by the food bank times the number of software sponsorships offered by the corporate partner

Go Viral & Start Benefitting

I’d personally like to offer myself as a resource in helping nonprofits connect their operational needs to corporate philanthropy. Since 1996, VolunteerHub has been used by nonprofits to track over 5 billion hours (yes, billion with a “b”). We’ve established a strong record of helping nonprofits get connected with corporate sponsors. Feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll be glad to help.

The preceding is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. Corbit has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on LinkedIn. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.

3 Steps for Building Trust with Corporate Sponsors

The following is a guest post by Corbit Harrison, vice president of business development for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. This is part of our ongoing VolunteerCorner series – focusing on issues that you need to know about in the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofits sometimes view building relationships with their for-profit brethren as a significant challenge. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, as long as you reach out and ask, you’ll find that many for-profit businesses are more than willing to help. Like all partnerships, the key to the nonprofit and for-profit partnership is creating win-win situations. Below are some tips on setting yourself up for success when dealing with potential corporate sponsors and donors.

Step 1: Be Proactive

Corbit Harrison

First and foremost: when dealing with businesses, you can’t be shy. Corporations ask for the sale all the time. In fact, it’s what keeps them going. They understand that “a closed mouth won’t get fed,” so they won’t automatically be turned off if you approach them for monetary assistance. The fact that U.S. corporations give 15 billion dollars in gifts annually solidifies the point that companies are often in a giving mood. If you’re not asking, your organization may really be missing out.

Step 2: Be Measurable

Be very clear how donations will be used. Will they go toward continuing an existing program? Purchasing much-needed equipment? Launching a new initiative? Additionally, try your best to quantify the observable outcomes in terms of people served, supplies purchased, et cetera. When companies are deciding which causes to support, they want to be assured that their money is being used wisely.

Most importantly, make sure your corporate partners are getting something in return, and put it in a statistical format when possible. Maybe your partner is getting advertising exposure to a certain demographic that is key to them. State your best estimate of how many of those people will be reached. Or perhaps when a company sends volunteers to your organization, you can make sure their time with you gives them a particular skill or experience to take back to the workplace. Any way you can measurably better your corporate partner’s brand, image, or workforce is a win for you, too.

Step 3: Be Creative

Creativity will help your partnering opportunities stand out from all the rest, and it will elevate your sponsor’s brand. For example, at VolunteerHub we recently launched a corporate sponsorship program that allows for-profit companies to sponsor “hubs” for their preferred nonprofit organizations. We believe such programs serve as a unique way to cement the relationship between nonprofit and for-profit partners and offer targeted exposure for the corporate brand.

In addition to requesting dollars, as we mentioned earlier, you can also ask for volunteer time. There is a growing trend in which companies are establishing employee volunteer programs (EVPs) as part of their corporate citizenship efforts. Companies such as Home Depot, Target, and Verizon are some such examples.

EVP structures vary widely, but most larger corporations offer information about their social responsibility plans on their websites. Make the time to do a little research into those near you, and approach them if it seems to be a good fit. This may be especially helpful when you’re planning a big event -- and a great opportunity for corporate volunteers to be seen in action helping the community, especially if they are wearing shirts with their company logo.

Getting Started with Corporate Sponsors

This article is just a springboard to get you thinking about the many opportunities available with corporate partnerships. The key to forging relationships in this arena is like any other. Being clear about what it is you need and what you will do with the gifts offered will go a long way in building trust with those in the business community. Meanwhile, taking the time to add some uniqueness and creativity to your giving opportunities will help your cause stand out among the crowd.

Corbit Harrison is the Chief Operating Officer for VolunteerHub and has been actively helping non-profit organizations better engage constituents for over 10 years. Connect with Corbit on Linkedin.

For Better or Worse: What’s Your Online Image Saying about Your Nonprofit?