Text

Happy 4th! New challenge on GiveGab

Summer is finally here! Make sure to keep your GiveGab profile extra cool by earning our “In-Dependence Day” badge. 

image

In-Dependence Day Badge: It may not be Independence Day where you live, but there are certainly organizations near you that depend on the generosity and good will of others to carry out their mission. Find one and lend a hand! Log hours during this time to earn this little firecracker of a badge. If lending a hand to an individual please use GiveGab Givers as the organization and in the comment box tell us how you helped out.

How do you earn your “In-Dependence Day” badge? Easy:

  1. Join the challenge.
  2. Volunteer and log your hours between now and July 18, 2014.
  3. The “In-Dependence Day” badge will appear in your trophy case!

Visit GiveGab and start logging hours now in celebration of our common bond!

Text

Donations: the gift of giving

We often talk about the benefits of volunteering—how it affects happiness and even your health. But we have yet to talk about the benefits of donating.

While donating may not be as “hands-on” as volunteering, giving money or goods is a valuable way to help an organization achieve their mission.  Without these much needed items, nonprofits would not be able to keep their doors open.

According to the Giving USA Foundation, 80-83% of households donated in 2012 which added up to a little more than $316 billion dollars. Whether these people are donating because they feel like they have to, they want to make a difference or simply because they want to get a tax credit, the results are the same for the individual and the benefitting organization.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of donations:

Donations are tax deductible

When you donate to a charitable organization or a non-profit group, the amount you donate is tax deductible.

Giving can improve your sense of well-being

Knowing that you’ve made a sacrifice to help others can give you a sense of purpose.

Giving lets you know you are making a difference

When you give to an organization that supports a cause that is important to you, you get to see your dollars go to work where it matters most.

Matching gifts

Many corporations will match your charitable donations, making your dollars go twice as far!

Setting a strong example

Donating goods and clothing is a great way to educate younger generations about the many people in our society who lack basic needs. 

Every little bit helps

Remember—even if you think that your gift will be small or insignificant, it will make an impact. Every dollar, item or even smile toward a good cause helps.

If you’d like to share stories about your giving, please send them to Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Barrett Anspach.

Text

New Challenge Live: “Props to Pops!”

Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, so make sure you do your gift and card shopping soon!

While you’re at it, sign up for the “Props to Pops!” challenge on GiveGab. Log some volunteer hours between now and June 15th in honor of all the dads out there and you’ll receive this glorious new badge:

How do you earn your “Props to Pops” badge? Easy:

  1. Join the challenge.
  2. Volunteer and log your hours between now and June 15, 2014.
  3. The “Props to Pops!” badge will appear in your trophy case!

GiveGab Challenges are stimulating experiences that allow you to engage with your community and earn badges. 

Looking to fill out your trophy case with even more shiny new badges? Keep an eye out for these coming attractions: “In-Dependence Day” & “Hot Fun in the Summertime” :)

Visit www.GiveGab.com and get started today!  

Text

Thanking and rewarding your volunteers

Many say that the reward for volunteers is in the volunteering itself. While this may be true, it is a good idea to find others ways of letting volunteers know that they are appreciated both publicly and privately.

Rewarding volunteers is all about retention!  If you want to have volunteers to reward you have to engage them first.  A few things to consider are:

  • Be sure to let your volunteers know you appreciate them.  This is not the same as rewarding them.  You need to let them know they are respected and appreciated on an ongoing basis.

  • Offer them meaningful volunteer opportunities.  Volunteers need to care about what they are doing and you should keep them engaged by offering different activities.

  • Constant communication.  Never leave your volunteers out there wondering what is going on. Even if you don’t have an upcoming event, you can stay in touch by sharing stories and updating them on your organizations impact.

Now, when it comes to rewarding your volunteers there are a few things to consider.

First and foremost: NOT EVERYONE LIKES TO BE REWARDED IN THE SAME WAY. Though we know this, we don’t always take this into account. Maybe as part of a volunteer application, you ask how they like to be rewarded. Some may want a thank you card, others like the incentivized rewards where if you raise X number of dollars you receive gifts at different levels, while still others may prefer a low-key gathering like a cookout where volunteers can invite friends and family. Regardless„ here’s a list of a few places that offer some interesting ideas for rewarding your hard-working volunteers:

txtMovies offers a way for you to give your volunteers a free movie ticket when they respond to a post event survey.  This way you are getting valuable feedback and giving a reward as well.

DIY enthusiasts should check out Pinterest for amazing volunteer appreciation ideas. The handmade approach always makes volunteers feel like you went that extra step.

VolunteerGifts.com has been helping nonprofit organizations since 1995.  Offering hundreds of items to suit any need, they promise to meet or beat anyone’s prices.

Whichever route you decide to go, just be sure you say “Thank You” honestly and often.  Your volunteers help to make your mission a reality.  Without them, your vision goes nowhere.  

Contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com if you’d like to share your ideas with the community!

Text

How Understanding Your Volunteers Can Lead to Better Engagement

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 2013 had the lowest volunteer rate since the study was first conducted in 2002.  With the 1.1% drop in volunteerism from last year, some may wonder if people are less motivated to give back. Others will conclude that the issue is not with the volunteers, but with how they’re being engaged.

Most volunteers say they volunteer simply because they were asked. Volunteer managers should not be afraid to ask for help, and to be specific about what they need from their volunteers.  

First, you should understand your volunteers’ motivation.  Are they volunteering because of an affiliation?  Maybe someone in their family has been diagnosed with cancer, or maybe they care deeply about the environment or homelessness.  Or maybe they want to share or develop a particular skill.  An accountant may want to use their financial skills to help someone with taxes or a dentist may donate time to a free medical clinic.  Knowing what your volunteers’ motivations are will better help you to assign them opportunities that peak their interest.

image

Second, be sure to ask your volunteers about their availability and what time commitment they are willing to make.  For the most part, they are going to fall into two categories.  Some people are only interested in short-term or periodic commitments.  These people are best used for a one-day type activity; e.g. a position of responsibility for a one-time event such as registration desk or managing an auction.  Others want to make a long-term commitment by donating time to an ongoing project, such as tutoring youth or being a board member.

Once you have a general feel for volunteers’ interests, you need to make an investment in them.  Just like a new employee needs training, your volunteers need to have a clear understanding of your mission and vision.  These people will be the face and voice of your organization when they are interacting with their community, whether as a volunteer or a citizen.  Most importantly, you need to invest in understanding who they are and developing a relationship with them.  If you don’t take time to learn about their lives outside of volunteering, you could lose the perfect opportunity to engage them in some new activity that you may not otherwise have known would be appealing.

image

In the next post, we’ll look at how to thank and reward volunteers for their service.  If you have stories you’d like to share about engaging volunteers, please send them to Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.  And be sure to list your volunteer opportunities at www.GiveGab.com!

 

Text

Earn the Mother’s Little Helper Badge for Your Trophy Case on GiveGab!

Join our latest Challenge, give a helping hand by volunteering now through May 21st, and be rewarded for your efforts with the Mother’s Little Helper badge from GiveGab.

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.

You have a mother, know a mother, or are a mother.  Whatever the case may be, this is the week to do something special to honor all of the mothers out out there.

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

  1. Join the challenge.
  2. Complete the steps.
  3. Volunteer and log your hours between May 7-21, 2014.
  4. The Mother’s Little Helper badge will appear in your trophy case!

Visit www.GiveGab.com and get started today!  Stay tuned for the upcoming Hot Fun in the Summertime Challenge in June and others throughout the year.

Text

Have a Bit of Wanderlust in Your Soul? Try Volunteering Abroad!

Giving something back while traveling abroad allows you to share your skills and knowledge, see new regions, learn new languages and live like a local.  If you’ve got the travel bug and can’t find a way to stop the fever, then this might be the cheapest and sometimes completely free option for you!  

There are thousands of organizations looking for help from travelers. Many ask for donations, though there are some that will let you stay for free.  Below are a few options and the causes they support.

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming)

WWOOF offers opportunities in over 60 countries.  Usually you live with your host and are expected to join in the day to day activities. In most countries, the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help for a full day’s food and accommodation.

Conservation Volunteers

This organization offers opportunities to participate in projects to enhance the environment and natural heritage of Australia and New Zealand.  On these projects, you can volunteer for multiple days at a time. For residential programs involving an overnight stay, there are some small costs involved to cover transport, accommodation and meals, etc.

HF Holidays

HF Holidays operates walking and leisure activity holidays from 19 Country Houses in the UK and walking holidays in over 70 destinations overseas that require volunteer walking holiday leaders.  For a two week commitment they offer accommodations, travel expenses, training and more.

HelpX (Help Exchange)

HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.

EarthWatch Institute

EarthWatch Teen Expeditions are designed specifically for 15 to 18 year olds.  Teens work alongside experienced scientists at the cutting edge of conservation research, gaining first-hand knowledge of, and trying to find real and achievable solutions to, some of today’s most pressing environmental challenges.

If you have volunteer abroad opportunities, please post them to www.GiveGab.com or contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.

 

Text

The Future is Here…the New & Improved GiveGab!

For the past several months, the team at GiveGab has been working on a re-design of the website which we internally dubbed “R2D2” (short for Responsive Re-Design & Development).  We wanted to bring a better user experience to all our faithful volunteers and volunteer managers.  And we’re proud to announce, the future is (almost) here!

Before we launch the re-designed site later today, we wanted to give a sneak preview so you’re not too blown away on the day the fantabulous new site pops up on your screen.

image

You’ll notice changes to the Gab, your Profile and overall navigation around the site…and we hope you’ll like them (because we know we do!)

Organization pages are also changing, to a clean new layout, with easy access to the information you need the most!

image

Pages will automatically scale according to the size of the device you’re viewing them on…no more scrolling to get the complete picture!

Once you’ve had a chance to use the new site, we welcome your feedback.  We’re always working on improvements for the GiveGab universe.  Stay tuned to www.GiveGab.com for this life-changing experience (or just to see our new awesome website)!

Text

"Gro-WHack-A-Mole": Do you need to go scatter-shot on growth hacking?

image

Newsflash: Getting users to love your product and to love it so much that they tell their friends, is hard.  If you look around the startup ecosystem these days, you see countless stories of the latest apps with MAU growth at 40%+, but you don’t hear about the multitudes more of these stories where the startup struggled for months even years to achieve this level of growth.

Context and user effort to engage in your service plays a huge part in determining what is a realistic growth level and what isn’t.  GiveGab is a site about motivating consumers to volunteer more by making it easy and fun to discover opportunities, challenge themselves, and tell their story to the world alongside their friends.  It’s our job to make people love to give.  At the end of the day though, the transition from GiveGab - “the web site about volunteering” to actually volunteering requires a personal level of commitment that doesn’t necessarily have the “crazy fad” or “what’s in it for me” aspect that lots of other services have.  When you are sitting on public transportation, you might search for volunteer opportunities, but it still requires you to commit time outside of swiping your fingers a few times on that transit ride.

We here at GiveGab live this day in and day out. It’s the most pressing and hardest challenge on our plates and always at the forefront of our minds.  We’ve read blog after blog, talked to different product managers who seem to have a bead on this and have watched and taken many professional short courses on this topic.  It’s a constant stream of ideas in our own minds that we synthesize with different tactics and strategies leveraged by other products.

I like to refer to all of this as a “dark art” or magic that happens in the ether of product development which leads to user growth.

How We Got Here

So I’d like to tell a little bit of our story… at GiveGab, we are both a consumer product to volunteers, and an enterprise product to organizations.  We have the typical two sided marketplace problem that Sangeet Paul Choudary describes here (http://platformed.info/two-sided-market-seeding/) and also blogs about at platformed.io.  We must provide enough content, specifically, volunteer opportunities to volunteers as well as the reverse of that - enough volunteers that can start to build up the network of interaction that makes our platform powerful to the volunteer managers and administrators at organizations that rely on that engagement and content for doing their jobs.

Our strategy to seed one side has been to work in an unscalable fashion directly with volunteer managers and administrators at organizations to bring their volunteers on board and to post opportunities.  This approach has worked quite well with organizations that have truly embraced and engaged on GiveGab where typically 80%+ of the members they invited through traditional referral channels have activated and engaged.  On the flip side, for those volunteer managers or administrators at organizations that don’t embrace the platform, we see only a 5%-10% conversion rate.  We know there is some secret sauce in the approach that the heavily engaged organizations have taken so we continuously learn from them and use that as we onboard new organizations.  We still have a long ways to go to build up this content on our site including scraping and seeding from other complementary platforms, so that work continues.

But what I really want to talk about is how that seeding strategy influenced our product decisions.  What we found was we ended up developing a product which was from the volunteer manager and administrator perspective, rightfully so since they were engaged and paying organizations; however, we let that transcend over to feature development for the volunteer side of things.  Essentially, we built b2b features for organizations as we should have; BUT, we let b2b input drive consumer feature development.  In the end, our consumer growth has not been driven organically and we’ve been tip-toeing around the true value that we offer to consumers.

As they say, it’s always easier to build exactly the product that customers tell you they want… but where we fell short was to fully embrace the two very different personas for building the product.

Getting Consumer Focused

So about 6 months ago, we realized we built all these great features on our site, but that none were truly hitting the value prop for volunteers at the level we needed them to.  We had feature bloat and realized we needed to shift our approach for product development to hone in on the volunteer perspective.

So how does a company change it’s product development culture?  Well, it’s not easy, but we realized we needed to do it and we realized we wanted “user growth” on the consumer side, so we started reading up on “user growth” around the interwebs, landed on the cool new term “growth hacking” and started reading tons and tons of content at places like growthhacker.com, growhack.com, founderweekly.com, platformed.info and even took some online courses at General Assembly.  These are all great places to learn up on this stuff and there is so much, that it can be daunting.

Growth Culture

So we read all this great content but needed to figure out where to start.  Do we just start going after all things?  Do we focus on specific things?  Was there a framework to think about all this stuff in?  Well, as most others who live in this world have found, we settled on really structuring our thought processes around using the “Lean Marketing/Growth Funnel” (http://www.growhack.com/2012/10/25/introducing-the-lean-marketing-funnel/) also known as Pirate Metrics (Dave McClure - http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/2007/09/startup-metrics.html).

We also knew that we didn’t necessarily just want to have one or two people focus on this but that we needed to change our product culture.  It needed to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind so we took the approach that Conrad Wadkowski suggests - “Don’t just hire a growth hacker - make it part of your DNA” (http://growthhackers.com/stop-trying-to-just-hire-a-growth-hacker/).

With that, we created a company-wide exercise where we built cross-functional teams of BizDev, Marketing, Product, Engineering, UX/UI.  Each team was responsible for one of the states of Pirate Metrics.  We had two sessions.  Session 1 had everyone in the company do some homework and read up on several key articles/videos explaining growth hacking, pirate metrics, content marketing, etc.  During session 1, we had a game show style presentation, where people were quizzed on some of that content and won prizes for getting the right answers.  We also had a few different key leaders in the company present on the different states that were relevant to their jobs as well as how analytics came into the picture for tracking these.

image

At the end of session 1 we broke out into our cross-functional teams and each team was responsible for coming up with a fun team name based on their state of the growth funnel.  

Team names were:

  • "Axis of Acquisition"
  • "Hacktavists"
  • "Retain in the Membrane - Crazy insane, got to retain"
  • "Whatchu’ Talkin ‘Bout GiveGab?"
  • "Pirates Booty"

image

Each team also had a week to put together presentations for their state of the funnel as it applied to GiveGab and talk about what we currently do but also what we should do.  

image

Overall, it was a fun exercise that was helpful in getting people’s heads wrapped around the basics of this discipline.

Credit to my colleagues on some fun and hilarious presentations!

Beyond the Exercise

So we did this exercise to get everyone talking the same lingo, understanding the same concepts, but beyond that, we needed to actually start executing on the framework and baking into our ongoing operations.  So we rolled out “GAUGE” (aka GiveGab Awesome User Growth Engine) which created new cross-functional teams comprised of folks that had their daily job responsibilities fall under the different categories.  When we mapped this out, we realized just how much the various states of the funnel require buy-in and input from roles across the organization.  We also hit hard on making sure that as we moved forward, we were taking an analytical approach… making sure to create hypotheses about features, ensure we were testing them through analytics tools, and following up to learn about their effectiveness.

We ended up with the following teams:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Activation
  3. Email
  4. User Growth Features (Retention / Referral)
  5. Customer Engagement

Because the teams didn’t include everyone in the company and were mainly comprised of the various organizational leads, we still wanted everyone in the company to have input and be able to submit ideas, so we created a Trello board for each of these categories where anyone in the company could submit ideas. We called this our Idea Nursery, where we could cultivate ideas into actionable work items (credit to Andrew Daines from PrePlay, Inc. for this name).  Each idea had to provide a business case, ballpark of complexity and cost, how it was addressing one of the states of the funnels, and how it could be tested with analytics.

As far as analytics went, we toiled over going with MixPanel, KISSmetrics, and abstraction layer through Segment.io - but in the ended decided to keep is simple and just leverage Google Analytics across our platform for event, goal, and funnel tracking.  We combined this with retention data that we maintain and store in our own database and report out using a simple BI tool called DBInsights.

How it Went

So we operated with these teams for about 4 months… there were lots of meetings which ate up people’s time, but the teams formed and started to tackle some low hanging fruit.  We tackled A/B testing of the landing page and improved our conversion.  We revamped our emails and decided to stop annoying people with so many and really focused on a few simple ones that drove up retention, we started to get a bit more coordinated on the various channels of acquisition and who was responsible for what, and we stepped back from our UI and the responsive design effort known as R2D2 (http://blog.givegab.com/post/79548324366/introducing-r2d2-the-givegab-approach-for-better) was born really focusing on the volunteer.

We did take a “whack-a-mole” approach to all of the basics and we saw some decent returns.  Since Jan 1 this year, we’ve seen 64% user growth - certainly not viral, but a decent clip.  Our DAU/MAU as been consistently around 8% as well, which is a good start.

At the same time we do recognize that something is still not quite there from a value prop perspective to get us that referral-based growth needed but we are heading in the right direction.  The scatter-shot team based approach worked well for baking growth concepts into our culture and getting people to work cross-functionally on these challenges, but we realize that we need to start focusing more on a few key metrics and features that hit hard on retention and engagement while continuing to build up content to deal with our two-sided marketplace issue.

We’ve now collapsed all but the acquisition team into their respective operational teams where now it’s simply their jobs to execute on the growth funnel from the perspective of the personas that fall under their product domains.

In the end, is “Gro-WHack-a-Mole” a bad thing?  Early on, I say not, particularly if it helps engrain growth concepts into the DNA of your organization or as long as it fits the context and the lifecycle you are at with your product.  But recognize, going scatter-shot is not sustainable.  Recognize when the pendulum might have to swing back toward a more focused approach.

image

Aaron Godert
CTO & Co-Founder, GiveGab.com
@aarongodert
aaron@givegab.com

Text

Volunteer Events to Get You Active!

Now that the weather is warming up, you may be thinking about getting outside and setting some goals around healthy living.  A great way to get in shape and to make a difference is to participate in events like a 5K, bike ride or dragon boat race.  This week we are sharing some information on how to get ready and listing a few organizations that offer these types of events around the country.

5K Runs

Running a 5K is an excellent choice for new runners. You’ll get tons of satisfaction and see results by participating in this event, and 5K (3.1 miles) is the perfect distance for first-timers.

A few places to help you get started are:

  • Couch to 5K - This program seems to be one of the most popular for folks that are just getting started.  They put together a simple training program and offer a mobile app that makes it even more convenient. 
  • 5K run: 7-week training schedule for beginners - Everybody trusts the Mayo Clinic, so why not trust their running program? This 5K run training schedule was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway. It’s tailored for beginners or anyone who wants to complete a 5K race.

Popular 5K Events:

  • Great Strides- This event supports the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • The Color Run - The Color Run partners with charities to help shine a light on their amazing work within society and highlight the causes they stand for.  These events happen all across the US.

Bike Events

Whether on the road or in the mountains, don’t ever think that just showing up is going to be enough. Preparing both mentally and physically will help you to have a successful day of racing. Also, please make sure that you have the correct type of race for the event you choose.image

A few places to help you get started:

Popular Bike Events:

  • Philly Bike-a-Thon - This event is put on by the American Cancer Society and is one of many bike-a-thons offered around the country by this organization.
  • Bike MS - Bike MS is a series of 100 extraordinary cycling events across the county.

If you are interested in biking, hiking, running or a triathlon and events that offer you training, a favorite is Team in Training offered by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  They not only offer training, but travel to great destination, an opportunity to meet your goals and a connection with an honored patient so that you know just who you are doing this for.

If you have events that you love, please post them at www.GiveGab.com or contact Tonyehn@GiveGab.com.