today in black history

June 16, 2024

Author John Howard Griffin, who posed as a Black man for his seminal book on southern racism,"Black Like Me," was born in 1920.

FUNdraising Good Times

POSTED: March 05, 2018, 8:00 am

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Technology is changing all aspects of our lives. Yes, we know that’s not “breaking news.” But, when technology facilitates volunteering – removing barriers to engagement – that is news we need to share. Here’s the headline: check out Volunteer Odyssey, a nonprofit that uses technology to connect volunteers with opportunities offered by nonprofits.

We live a “mobile” lifestyle, using our “devices” for everything from grocery shopping to bill paying. Yet there is often a disconnect between mobile life and nonprofit life. In the nonprofit world there is still a lot of paper, spreadsheets, and even fax machines. The gap between volunteers and the systems in place at nonprofits can make it difficult, time-consuming and frustrating for people to volunteer. That means good intentions go unfulfilled!

But there is a solution. Meet Dr. Sarah Petschonek, the founder and director of Volunteer Odyssey. She’s been volunteering since childhood, and as a grownup she brings her experience in the field of industrial and organizational psychology to the business of volunteering. Her goal: make it easy and meaningful for people to volunteer. And make it easy and impactful for nonprofits to engage volunteers.

No more calling and waiting for someone who doesn’t answer the phone; no more faxing in forms. Volunteer Odyssey “vets” volunteer opportunities, making sure the experience one will be a high value, positive experience for the volunteer, and one that is of value for the nonprofit and the community.

We know from firsthand experience that the work of a nonprofit volunteer manager is often undervalued and underappreciated. Volunteer Odyssey automates some of that work, and provides a way for participating nonprofits to track volunteer engagement and makes it easier for volunteers to “sign up.”

Check out Volunteer Odyssey online. Reach out and explore how your organization can upgrade its volunteer experience. If you can’t automate today, at least take a moment to consider these questions from Petschonek: Are your volunteers having a good experience? Do you know why they volunteer? Do you thank your volunteers? Does your strategic plan include strategies for turning donors into volunteers, and for turning volunteers into donors?

Finally, here are a few new fun words: Volanthropist – a volunteer who also donates money; and dolunteer – a donor who volunteers at the nonprofits they give to. We hope you will find yourself suffering from volunesia – “that moment when you forget that you are volunteering to help change lives because it is changing yours…”

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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