June 10, 2011

NCVS: Innovation and volunteerism

Soledad O'Brien
CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien at NCVS this week.


JD LasicaThis week I participated in the National Conference on Volunteering and Service for the first time. The annual conference, held in New Orleans this year, brought together about 4,500 thought leaders in the community and volunteer sectors across America.

It kicked off Sunday with a Social Media for Social Good bootcamp that I put on with George Weiner of DoSomething.org, which drew more than 60 participants. (See our presentation here.)

But I’d rather talk about some of the other highlights I came across, and share this 100-photo Flickr gallery of the event.

Brian Reich and Scott Henderson put on a fascinating Idea Throwdown that I took part in, along with representatives from AARP, CauseCast, VolunteerMatch, MyImpact, TechSoup Global and a couple of dozen other organizations. Some outputs from that 2-hour gathering included the following:

• Participants ought to think about partnering with like-minded movements instead of launching duplicative efforts. We should be paying close attention to working together as a front, and participating in cross-sector collaboration, rather than claiming credit as trend-setters. Talk to three competitors and figure out how you can work together.

• Chris Noble: “Kill a feature a week and a program a month and your organization will get better.”

• In his “Information to Impact” session, George Weiner said, “If you’re never surprised by what you find in the data, you’re not asking the right questions.” And this priceless gem: “Data is better than gut.”

• Neil Bush, chairman of the Points of Light Institute: “Twenty years ago over 30 million people were volunteering. Today over 60 million people are.”

• I also was a panelist in Chris Noble’s session on “Brands and Causes” and argued that we need new language in the cause marketing space, especially around the nexus between nonprofit causes and corporate behavior.

• In my discussions with social entrepreneurs, we’re pretty much in agreement: Companies are too often looked at as sources of funding rather than as sources of solutions.

• Wonderful to be a few feet away from such celebrities as Soledad O’Brien of CNN (pictured above), James Carville, Mary Matalin, Neil Bush, Wynton Marsalis and many more.