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    Neighbors Helping Neighbors

    On Friday, Feb. 27, I attended the "Summit on Volunteerism" in NYC hosted by the Knights of Columbus.  And I came away inspired with a greatly expanded view of the role fraternals can play in a nation in need of community service now more than ever.

    I write this on the flight home from that event.  This will be the first of several postings about the summit.  You can view the various sessions by clicking here, where you can access video coverage of the entire event.

    Who Was There?

    Summit 8The summit brought together more than 200 representatives from charitable organizations, government, religious groups and corporations to discuss how we could work more closely together to provide much-needed volunteer support to those individuals and groups with the greatest need.  The fraternal system was well represented with CEOs or senior officers from Thrivent, Royal Neighbors, Catholic Aid, Catholic Life, and Catholic Order of Foresters in the audience.

    I'll provide more details on who was there – and the incredible opportunities for partnerships that exist for fraternals among these groups – in a blog posting later this week.

    Top Ten List

    Here's a list of the top ten ideas for enhancing the value of fraternal community service that I walked away with…

    1. Develop INNOVATIVE partnerships – What organizations really need your help and what alliances may ring bells with your members?  Look beyond traditional partners.

    2. Be big – Affiliate with Service Nationand other national volunteerism groups to maximize the impact of your society's and individual lodge's contributions.  NFCA is working on this and will have some ideas for you on how to make this work for you in the coming weeks.

    3. Be small – Individual organizations doing things in their communities is still the best way to deliver volunteer services.  National partnerships boost our impact and awareness, but lodge activities make the impact.

    4. Get on the news– Invite the media to your events and provide them a local volunteer spokesperson who is trained to speak "sound bite." NFCA can help with this.

    5. Get on government's radar screen – State and federal lawmakers should be aware of your partnerships and events and be invited to participate.  They need to know who we are and what we do.

    6. Develop sustained, committed partnerships – Moving from project to project and partner to partner (like a bee moving from flower to flower) detracts from the value of community-service projects and dilutes the value of our brand.  Pick a few causes and stick with them!

    7. Make sure your projects are meaningful– Raking leaves won't cut it in a time when basic human services are so badly needed.  Focus on serving the underserved whether the elderly, homeless, those with special needs, or focus on the educational needs of the youth in your community.

    8. Create an infrastructure to support sustained volunteerism– Do you have the ability to organize, train and manage volunteers so that they have a positive experience and want to stay engaged with your group?  If not, you need to develop these capabilities or partner with a group that has them.

    9. Establish goals, publicize them, and be accountable – Work with lodges to create goals for number of volunteer hours, amount of direct financial aid, and IMPACT of community service projects.  Let folks in the organization and the communities you serve know of those goals, and hold folks accountable for achieving them.  Of course, don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments!

    10. Ask your members to participate – If you've done #1-9, getting your members to join in will be much easier.  And don't forget to ask others to pitch in, too.  Everyone who's not a current member is a potential one, and the chances of convincing them to become a member significantly improve if they have a positive volunteer experience.

    Lots more on the summit later this week.  Please add your comments on this top ten – or expand the list by filling in your suggestions below.

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