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How Can Volunteering Improve Your Health?

Most people don’t realize that volunteering is good for your health. Studies indicate that that people who volunteer not only experience psychological well being, but improved physical health as well.

Research from the Corporation for National Community Service shows that volunteerism helps your physical health in the following ways:

  1. Volunteers feel less depressed:  By being involved in activities where you are interacting with others, you are less likely to feel alone and depressed.
  2. Volunteers feel healthier:  By getting out and about, you are physically and socially active.
  3. Volunteering can promote better life choices:  Those that get involved in 5ks, bike events or work in community gardens tend to have a healthier lifestyle.
  4. Volunteering promotes social and mental activity:  Research has shown that this sort of activity can slow the onset of dementia and even lower the rate of mortality.

To get all the healthy benefits of volunteering, it’s most important that you are volunteering for the right reasons, that you enjoy what you do and that you participate in your chosen activity on a consistent basis.

Stayed tuned for specific volunteer activities that benefit your health.  

If you have healthy events to share, please contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com or promote them via www.GiveGab.com.

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Happy Spring! Get Your Eggs-ellent Badge from GiveGab!

Join the latest Challenge from GiveGab and welcome spring with a brand-spanking new badge!

GiveGab Challenges are stimulating experiences that allow you to engage with your community and earn badges.  Some will be right up your alley, while others may require you to develop skills that will prove useful in other areas of your life.

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You don’t have to search for a candy coated surprise!  Just give a little of yourself and this confection of a badge is yours to keep.  Log any number of hours from April 20-30, 2014 to earn this EGGs-iting badge. If logging hours for good deeds done for an individual, please use “GiveGab Givers” as the organization and in the comment box write a little bit about what you did.

How do you earn your badge? It’s simple.

  1. Join the challenge.
  2. Complete the steps.
  3. Volunteer and log your hours between April 20-30, 2014.
  4. The Eggs-ellent badge will appear in your trophy case!

Visit www.GiveGab.com and get started today!  Stay tuned for the upcoming Mother’s Little Helper Challenge in May and others throughout the year.

 

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How Can Volunteering Contribute to Your Professional Development?

We all know that volunteering is a great way to give back, but what we may take for granted is how it can help develop professional skills.  If you are unemployed or looking to change careers,  volunteering demonstrates to prospective employers how you’ve filled the gaps between jobs and your dedication to the community.

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The Corporation for National and Community Service has issued a report that found that volunteers have a 27% higher likelihood of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers. Also, volunteers without a high-school diploma have a 51% higher likelihood of finding employment, and volunteers living in rural areas have a 55% higher likelihood of finding employment.  Don’t forget to add volunteering information to your resume!

Here are a few ways that volunteering can help your professional life:

  • Improve and Develop Skills:  The skills needed to succeed in community partnerships (working with others, critical thinking, communication, creativity and problem solving) are the same skills required to be a success in the corporate world. Volunteering your time puts you in position to participate in activities and challenges that otherwise may not have come your way.
  • Showcase Skills:  It’s a great way to showcase your gifts. Many a volunteer has obtained a new career position, either with organization where they volunteer, or with someone they’ve met  during the experience.
  • Networking:  Volunteering offers the opportunity for you to network and get to know people.  Through volunteerism you can connect with other professionals who may inform you about job openings that they know of, introduce you to others in the field, or provide a reference.  You never know who may be potential employer.
  • Fills in Resume Gaps:  If you are between jobs, volunteering is an ideal way to to stay busy and develop skills.  Most importantly, try to find opportunities that allow you to use the skills you want to highlight for potential employers.  This shows employees that you are not only dedicated to your community, but that you are willing to continually improve the skills you have and that you have not been sitting idle while job hunting.

For help finding enriching volunteer opportunities, feel free to contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com or visit www.GiveGab.com.

 

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Save Money on Attending the Independent Sector Conference in November!

GiveGab is proud to partner with Independent Sector—the leadership network for nonprofits, foundations, and corporations—to bring its 2014 National Conference to Seattle this November 16-18. Last year’s conference in New York gathered more than 1,200 nonprofit professionals, including more than 400 nonprofit chief executives.

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At the 2014 National Conference in Seattle, you’ll find illuminating plenary programs featuring the nonprofit and philanthropic sector’s biggest names, alongside breakout sessions zeroing in on the most complex questions of our day. With pre-conference sessions targeted to emerging leaders and policy pros, and a full conference roster of cutting-edge content for professionals and executives across the nonprofit and philanthropic community, the IS Conference will arm nonprofit leaders with the knowledge and connections they need to work toward the greater good in the Pacific Northwest, across the country and around the world.

On-line registration for the conference is launching April 1st and as part of the GiveGab network, you are entitled to receive a discounted registration rate. To learn more, visit the conference website or contact Liz Culkin at Lizc@independentsector.org.  You can view registration rates, a tentative schedule, and see more about this year’s and past conferences.

When registering, please use the following code to receive your member partner discount:

PartnerGG        Main Conference
NGENGG          
NGEN Pre-Conference
PPAIGG            
Public Policy Pre-Conference

We hope you’ll join us in November as we gather to inspire new ideas, examine ways to demonstrate greater impact, strengthen the charitable community by sharing our struggles and solutions, and create opportunity for new collaborations that improve the lives of the people we serve.

To learn how you can get involved with nonprofits whose causes you care about, visit www.GiveGab.com

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Corporate Volunteer Programs - Increasing Employee Engagement

Every day, all over the world, thousands of corporate employees volunteer time and talent to help make a difference in their communities. The trend that began a few decades ago has grown to be something that corporations recognize as not only beneficial to residents and organizations in their communities, but a benefit to employees as well.

Wondering how this helps with workplace engagement?  Here’s how:

1.  Volunteering gives your employees purpose

Feeling involved in a cause helps to give life meaning.  Employees that volunteer with their co-workers feel more positive about their workplace. These positive feelings can only help to boost morale and productivity.

2.  Volunteer programs help with recruitment and retention

When employees are engaged and feel proud about where they work, they will stay longer.  These programs can often times attract better talent that want to be part of a giving culture.  These programs can also be a great introduction to volunteering for people who have never done it before, helping to reinforce camaraderie amongst employees.

3.  Volunteer programs allow opportunities for leadership and skill development

Allowing employees to take part in activities that do not utilize the skills used at work gives them the opportunity to try new things and develop new skills.  Also, as employees become more engaged with a given cause, they may choose to manage events and recruit other volunteers. Managing volunteers is a great way to develop leadership skills and learn how to be a better communicator.

While every corporation’s approach may differ, the one guaranteed result is that employees will be engaged and have the opportunity for greater workplace happiness.

For suggestions on how to begin a Volunteer Program at your corporation, please contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com and search www.GiveGab.com for great group volunteer opportunities in your area.

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Summer Family Activities - Go Outside and Do Something Fun!

Though we normally discuss volunteer opportunities, sometimes it is just nice to observe nature around us.  This week we’re sharing some activities and organizations we hope to enjoy this summer. One family favorite activity is to spend time exploring our country’s beautiful parks and trails. 

The Sea Turtle Preservation Society offers Turtle Walks to the public several nights a week during the months of June and July.  Upon arrival, a video presentation about native sea turtles is shown. After this, if you’re lucky, a scout takes you out to the beach to watch a Loggerhead turtle lay her eggs.

1.jpgSpat counter at Coastal Research Volunteers

Coastal Research Volunteers matches volunteers with researchers to work on a variety of funded projects in the New Hampshire Seacoast and surrounding watersheds. One favorite activity is the Horseshoe Crab Survey, which helps to track the spawning and populations of crabs in the region.

As early as Earth Day, the Nature Conservancy begins to offer programs to connect with nature.  To take some time to hike and explore nature check out their calendar for events in your area.

Warmer nights make for perfect star gazing.  The Wilderness Center Astronomy Club (WCAC) is a group of amateurs promoting the knowledge and enjoyment of astronomy.  They offer astronomy education for students and their teachers, kids and their families.

imageOyster Restoration Program at Coastal Research Volunteers

Want an all around Earth-y experience?  The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum offers an Earth Camp that opens young eyes and minds to all the wonder that surrounds us.  From earth to sea, and sky and home this camp offers a hands on exploration of the world.

These are just a few ideas, check www.GiveGab.com for more as summer nears.  If you have great programs you’d like to share, please send them to Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.

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Refer Friends to GiveGab, Earn Money for Your Favorite Nonprofit!

What’s your favorite nonprofit on GiveGab?  How would you like help them make $10 or $25?  It’s not hard to do, we promise!
We’re announcing a new Referral Program for GiveGabbers, because volunteering is more fun with friends.  And it’s simple:
  • Refer 10 friends to the site and we’ll donate $10 to your favorite nonprofit on GiveGab 
  • Refer 20 friends and we’ll donate $25
Easy, right?  Your friends simply need to sign up and activate their account by March 31, 2014 and the nonprofit must have a profile on GiveGab.
Not a member of GiveGab yet?  Create your free profile at www.GiveGab.com and start earning money for your favorite nonprofit.
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day-Get Your Lucky Clover Badge from GiveGab!

Join the latest Challenge from GiveGab and stay on top of your volunteer game!

GiveGab Challenges are stimulating experiences that allow you to engage with your community civically and earn badges.  Some will be right up your alley, while others may require you to develop skills that will prove useful in other areas of your life.

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Did you know that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover?  Be part of this special group by logging hours March 17th through 31st to receive a Lucky Clover badge.  If logging hours for good deeds done for an individual, please use “GiveGab Givers” as the organization, and in the comment box tell us a little bit about what you did.

How do you earn your badge? It’s simple.

  1. Join the challenge.
  2. Complete the steps.
  3. Volunteer and log your hours by March 31, 2014.
  4. The Lucky Clover badge will appear in your trophy case!

Visit www.GiveGab.com and get started today!  Stay tuned for the upcoming “Eggs-ellent Challenge” in April and other Challenges throughout the year.

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Introducing R2D2: The GiveGab Approach for Better Usability

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The problem.

Below, is a screenshot of GiveGab’s old landing page and how it appeared on an average size desktop screen.  Meh, not too bad.

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This is that same landing page at 320px wide.  Notice anything?

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Yeah, we know.  GiveGab isn’t responsive and this makes us sad.  

Last fall, the GiveGab Design Team attended the FOWD (Future of Web Design) conference in NYC where we heard many presenters speak about the importance of responsive, mobile-first driven websites.  That’s when we decided we need to do something about it.  We need to make the GiveGab site responsive so that volunteers could have a better user experience.  

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Our team at FOWD 2013

A multitude of questions stood in our way like a giant wall between us and the solution.  

Where do we begin?  How do we convince the rest of the team that a responsive overhaul is important and necessary?  How do we go about cleaning up and consolidating our CSS and javascript so that we improve our code quality?  How long would a project like this take? How long should it take?

We needed a plan.

The solution: R2D2

Watch out.  We’re bringin’ out the big guns.   

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We all know R2-D2, the lovable astromech droid from Star Wars, but for our own purposes it’s shorthand for Responsive Re-Design & Development.  For us, R2D2 is a chance to improve our site’s usability.  It’s a process by which we can tackle design problems and rethink our content.  

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R2D2, you’re our only hope.  

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Redesigning the entire front-end of a large-scale ruby on rails web application is going to be quite the undertaking (especially when there’s a lot of code cleanup and consolidating to be done).  For our own sanity we’ve broken our process into phases.  

Note: If you’re interested in the technical nitty gritty, by all means keep reading.  Otherwise, just know that we’re working on making GiveGab a better, responsive and more user-friendly experience.

R2D2: Let’s talk details

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Phase One:  Research and Technical Decision Making

We were torn between two different front-end frameworks.  Do we make the switch to Foundation 5 or upgrade to Bootstrap 3?

Both options are pretty baller and include responsive, mobile-first fluid grid layouts and a lot of reusable components making it easier and faster to code.  

We chose to stick with Bootstrap.  Truthfully, it came down to these two things:  

1.  Bootstrap has a larger community base

2.  We have already customized a lot of Bootstrap’s UI elements

Don’t worry Foundation, we think you’re swell.

This is a great resource that compares the two side by side if you’re trying to decide.

We also decided to convert from HAML, to a different lightweight templating language called Slim.  Why not?  We could stand to lose a few pounds. Slim reduces the amount of syntax needed which in turn allows us to code better and faster.  

If you’re converting to Slim with a converter like Haml2Slim, be aware that like many converters, it’s not perfect.  It’s best to work in stages when doing a large conversion and carefully review your auto-converted code.   

Phase Two: Plan. Plan. Plan.

Many of our users (and even some employees) have trouble navigating our site.  We knew we needed to restructure our navigation and page flow to be more intuitive and usable.  We started by taking content inventory.  

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Creating a content inventory will help you and your team understand what you’re working with and help you identify problem areas in your site’s architecture.  

In order to better organize and restructure our site’s architecture, we held a card sorting activity with my team.  Starting with our global navigation (the navigation that’s accessible from any page in the site), we wrote each of the navigational links onto separate cards.  We laid the cards out on the table and structured them to reflect our current navigation.  

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From there, we started to consolidate similar navigational items into groups.  For example, rather than having separate links for the “Nonprofits”, “Universities” and “Businesses” search pages, we grouped them into one navigational link called “Discover”.  We also removed navigational items we saw were unnecessary and confusing for our users.  

Luckily, we had results from a recent usability test and a lot of customer feedback that helped us make some major decisions around our information architecture.  After all, a wise CTO once said, “there are no facts that exist within the building, only opinions”.  Assumptions only get you so far.  Conducting usability tests and tapping into your user base is essential during the development process.

We also planned a prioritized set of features that we will be redesigning over the course of the next few months.  We found that this approach makes the redesign much easier to tackle.  

Phase Three:  Implementation

Our back-end team provisioned a separate heroku environment for R2D2 so that my team could work on the redesign without interrupting the work being done on the GiveGab web application.  A separate environment, though needing to be constantly rebased against our web app, has proven to be very beneficial for now.   We plan on merging in the redesign work once we’re finished with our first round of prioritized features.  

We’ve already made some great progress with the redesign.  Our landing page, at the top of the page, has received a facelift and is now fully responsive.  We conducted an A/B test between the old and new landing pages and were fairly surprised by the results.  After only 2 weeks of running the test, we saw that our conversion rates were exactly 91% better with our new landing page design. 

Below is the new landing page design in an average desktop viewport.

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This is what the new landing page looks like on an iPhone 5 and Droid Incredible 4G.

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Currently, we redirect our users to our mobile website if they’re visiting GiveGab via their mobile device.  It wouldn’t make much sense for us to remove the redirect now since only the landing page is responsive.  Never fear.  We hope to remove the redirect in 2-3 months once more of our site is redesigned and responsive.

Keep on the lookout for more updates about our R2D2 process.  Until then, rock on!

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Introducing the Weekly Digest Email for Volunteers!

We realize that in the past, you may have received a few more emails from GiveGab than you might have liked (or, let’s face it, a LOT more). That’s why we’re excited to launch Weekly Digest Emails for Volunteers! 

Starting Wednesday, March 12th, volunteers using GiveGab will begin receiving a Digest email every week.  This email includes 4 important sections: 

  1. Posts to Your Wall: This includes the last 3 comments made to your wall within the last 7 days.  It will not include Reflections or Logging Hours posts, and we only display activity that wasn’t your own (because you know what you did).  :)
  2. Posts to your Organizations’ Walls:  Similar to the above, each organization that you belong to will have a section which shows the last 3 comments made to their wall. 
  3. Events: This section will show recently added Events, Programs and Jobs by your organizations.  And if any of your friends are volunteering there, you’ll see that information too!
  4. Connections: Friend requests and recently added friends will appear here.

If there’s no new activity in any of these sections, then it won’t appear in your Digest email.  If there was no new activity at all that week, you won’t receive an email (we’ve learned our lesson about too many emails!).

Here’s a sneak peek at the new Digest email, let us know if you have any questions or feedback at info@givegab.com.

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