United Way Volunteer Center Director Liahann Bannerman shares her perspective on volunteerism as a trajectory—taking your volunteers from one-day projects to year-round support.
If you’ve ever seen my desk, you know the question is what’s NOT on my desk? I’m “time optimistic,” usually rushing from one meeting to another. As a result, I have a diverse mix of local, state and national volunteerism-related information, plus notes on better integrating our volunteering theory of change with United Way’s priorities, a diet Dr. Pepper cap or two, United Way board orientation binders, and copies of evaluations and metrics for our Volunteer Center’s grants.
What, did you expect it to be all T-shirts and sign-in sheets?
The reality is that our highly visible volunteer activities like Day of Caring take a lot of work—as you know. Part of my job is thinking about how to turn those one-day volunteer experiences into year-round engagement that makes our community stronger. Like leaves on an oak tree, autumn brings a few ways to help turn those volunteers from green to reddish-orange. Yes, I really just said that.
The week after the Day of Caring hamster balls were returned, we began listing holiday volunteer opportunities. The holidays. Everyone and their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, second cousins and step-nephews want to volunteer during the holidays, and the volunteer projects fill up FAST! In the spirit of my pretend-friend, Alanis: Isn’t it ironic that the time of year with the most demand by volunteers is also the time of year when they are least likely to find a volunteer opportunity? Hard to begin year-round engagement with “Sorry, we have enough volunteers.”
Fortunately, Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is right around the corner. If we’re lucky, we can convince those potential volunteers that MLK Day is part of the holiday season. Getting a free T-shirt helps.
This year, we opened MLK Day right after Day of Caring to give you more time to create great volunteer experiences that create lifelong volunteers. If you haven’t yet, you have a few days left to submit your projects.
Are you an alumnus of one of our Volunteer Impact Partnership (VIP) programs? You can get a mini-grant for your MLK Day projects —email Carolyn Cunningham for more info. Not a VIP alum? Autumn is also when human services agencies can apply to improve their volunteer engagement in our 2015 VIP programs.
VIP 360 and VIP Manager Corps
For those unfamiliar with our reinventing the VIP abbreviation for volunteerism: The VIP programs—VIP 360 and VIP Manager Corps—help human services agencies make the most of volunteers and volunteer programs in order to deliver on their missions better.
Why should you apply to VIP? We asked a few 2013 VIP 360 organizations to help us convince you. They reported back to us nine months after completing the program so we could see what’s different as a result of VIP.
- Community Schools of Kent: “We have increased the amount of corporate sponsorship dollars and the number of corporate volunteers…and added volunteers from communities of color, including on our board.”
- Dynamic Partners: “Staff look forward to the volunteers now. Going from 100 volunteers to 200 volunteers, and 150 hours to 2,200 shows we have improved tracking and had a big turnaround in retention.”
- Seattle Goodwill: “Departments are thinking creatively about roles and realizing the value of a skilled volunteer. It’s been awesome to have staff whom I would have put into a category of “never going to have a volunteer” and see them embrace a volunteer in their department.”
Examples like these make me happy. I know VIP is changing how organizations involve volunteers and that it’s more likely a one-day MLK Day volunteer who will have an experience that leads to future service.
And knowing that makes me not worry about my messy desk.
P.S. Don’t forget that you can log in and post volunteer opportunities anytime on our website. We promote volunteerism year-round on our site, in our newsletters and via social media, so we’re ready to help you get the word out.