Volunteers are Vital Resources for Nonprofits

2014-03-06T18:09:00Z Volunteers are Vital Resources for NonprofitsMichelle Krueger nwitimes.com
March 06, 2014 6:09 pm  • 

Many nonprofits would not be able to fulfill their missions without the service of volunteers. In fact, a volunteer board of directors normally oversees the vast majority of nonprofits.

For most people, volunteering is a two-way street. Ultimately, it benefits them as much as the nonprofit they choose to help:

• Volunteering is a great way to meet new people – you can make more friends and more business contacts. By connecting with others, volunteering strengthens ties to the community and broadens support networks.

• Volunteering can also help advance your career with valuable workplace experience in teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management and organization.

• Volunteering is good for the mind and body, providing a healthy boost to self-confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction while reducing the risk of depression from social isolation.

“No one will argue that in today’s society “time” is an extremely precious commodity,” Linda Armstrong, who started her volunteer service with the Crown Point Community Foundation (CPCF) in 2009 as a member of the planning committee for the inaugural Spring into Action Fair in March of 2010, said. “It is both humbling and heartwarming to see the number of people willing to give this treasure to others. Each year I am more and more amazed at the generosity of time and spirit offered by the volunteers – those that work in nonprofits – and those just coming to explore the possibilities. We have seen many ‘perfect matches’ made, and are happy to have helped make that connection. I am thrilled to be a part of an event that feeds our community nonprofits with volunteers willing to devote their precious time to service!”

Now Chairman of the Spring into Action Fair and an elected member of the CPCF Board of Directors, Armstrong has a deeper understanding of local philanthropy.

“Typically, the Community Foundation gets the opportunity to work with donors who give monetary gifts to set up endowment funds to help others – and the nonprofits that receive grants and funding from these endowments are grateful beyond imagination,” she explained. “The Spring Into Action volunteer fair provides a resource to nonprofits that goes beyond traditional funding. This special event allows those willing to give of their time to help others a chance to explore the community needs in a very unique and personal way. We are excited about the number nonprofits participating in 2014 – and hope that all their volunteer positions and projects find the perfect people willing to serve this year!”

Beverly Huber, Treasurer of the Crown Point 4th of July Parade, has participated in the Spring into Action volunteer fair since its inception.

“We’re always looking for more people to share some of the responsibilities,” she said. “Right now, there’s a core group of just eight of us – and four of those came from the volunteer fairs we attended over the past few years. Last year’s theme was ‘Hats Off to Our Heroes,’ and we met a woman who had worked at the VA center so she volunteered and coordinated that aspect for us. One of our co-chairs, Scott Billeck, joined us after an earlier volunteer fair and there are a couple of others that have been on the committee for three or four years now.”

“We officially start planning in January with one meeting a month up until the last two weeks in June when things can get a little crazy,” Michelle Katsaros, Co-chair of the Crown Point 4th of July Parade, said. “This year’s theme is ‘Pedals on Parade,’ and we already have plans in place for children to ride their bikes in the beginning of the parade and then get back in time to watch it. At the end of the parade that first year, I just thought, ‘WOW! All of the hype and energy was so awesome’ and immediately started brainstorming for next year. It definitely gets in your blood, and it’s a great example for the younger generation. I have a 6-year-old, and I know it’s exciting and important for her.”

To show their appreciation to all the nonprofits who take time out of their busy schedules to attend the volunteer fair, the CPCF awards six $500 grants in a random drawing of participating nonprofit organizations who must still be in attendance at the end of the day.

“The volunteer fair is a great event for us, it helps us get our name out there,” Cecil Collins of The Giving BackPack Foundation said. “We provide school supplies and materials to disadvantaged children and teens, primarily in Lake County. Since we were established on December 7, 2011, we have distributed 2,000 backpacks and are very proud to have provided 300 to help out an entire school last year. Winning one of the grants at the end of the day last year was a great surprise for us and an added bonus to having the opportunity to meet other organizations trying to change lives out there.”

Another grant winner last year, Brandon Grelle of The Awestruck Experience, which sponsors a weeklong community service project with 21 different work sites for 72 youth, also couldn’t have been more appreciative.

“For us, the grant helped affirm what we are doing. As it turned out, it was huge for us - it helped us stay on budget,” he said. “I’ve attended the volunteer fair for the last two years now, and it’s been great. It helps the community understand what nonprofits are out there and see the need for service in the community. We’ve had the great opportunity to network with other nonprofits that can support one another and are now looking for that to grow. Last year, we logged 21,000 service hours in one week with high school students. It gives you a brand new sense of hope for the next generation – our youth.”

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