Lending a Hand the Robin Hood Way

Happy National Volunteer Week! Let’s celebrate the amazing people who volunteer and make volunteerism possible. Throughout the week, we’ll give fodder for your celebration by sharing easy ways to listen, learn, inspire and act!

Up today: Listen. Pam Koner of Family-to-Family shared this incredible story with us via our website. Enjoy!

Have your own nonprofit story? We’d love to hear it!

Pam Koner of Family-to-Family

Pam Koner, Family-to-Family Executive Director

In fall 2002, The New York Times ran a series of articles highlighting poverty in the U.S. One article described the town of Pembroke, Illinois as a community so poor that “some still live in crumbling shacks with caked­-dirt floors and no running water.” Pam Koner — a mom and entrepreneur from Westchester, New York — read that article and immediately felt compelled to help.

Pam contacted an outreach worker in Pembroke with the simple idea of linking families she knew who had enough food and other basic life necessities with families who were struggling to get by. The outreach worker supplied Pam with the names of 17 of the neediest families in Pembroke. Pam then convinced 17 of her friends and neighbors to join her cause. Each family agreed, and shortly thereafter, began sending monthly boxes of food donations and letters to each of the Pembroke families.

17 families soon grew to 60, and after a flurry of media exposure, 60 families grew to over 900. Thus, Family­-to-­Family was born — a national hunger and poverty relief organization dedicated to connecting families who have enough to share with impoverished American families who have profoundly less.

Read the rest of Family-to-Family’s story on VolunteerMatch.org.

The U.S. Volunteer Rate is Still Dropping. Why?

Volunteer Rates are Going DownEach year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues a report on volunteer rates in the United States.

This report tells us a lot. We can learn the total percentage of the population that has volunteered over the past year (from September – September). We can see which age groups and races volunteer the most, and whether men or women are more likely to volunteer. We can see if employment status, education level, marital status and more have an effect on volunteering.

We can even learn the types of organizations people tend to volunteer with, what the most common tasks they perform are, and how these things differ by various group associations. For example, in the 2015 report, we learn that older volunteers are more likely to volunteer for religious organizations than younger volunteers.

Unfortunately, however, we also see that volunteer rates have been steadily declining* for over a decade.

What don’t we see? We don’t see the why.

There’s an endless supply of reasons that could explain why volunteer rates are falling. Last year, upon seeing the results, VolunteerMatch President Greg Baldwin argued that volunteer rates are falling because we as a nation don’t invest enough resources in the nonprofit sector. Without resources, nonprofits simply don’t have the capacity to effectively engage volunteers.

Someone in the comments of that post argued that the falling rates can be attributed to the fact that more people are overworked with less time on their hands. Others say people are simply lazier than they used to be.

I personally think it could be attributed to a shifting trend away from community involvement, due to the emergence of online communities, young people moving more often, and other factors.

Obviously, there are a lot of opinions out there. Which is right? Could there be multiple reasons at the heart of this issue?

What do you think? As a leader of volunteers, is this trend affecting your work and your nonprofit?

Please share your thoughts and observations in the comments below, or tweet to us @VolunteerMatch. Let’s get to the bottom of this trend so we can start to turn it around!

_

*According to the 2015 report, 24.9% of the U.S. population over the age of 16 volunteered at least once in the past year. In 2011, this percentage was 26.8%, and in 2005 it was 28.8%.

Meet Sandra, Volunteer ESL Tutor

Sandra, Mariana and Ernesto

Sandra teaching English to Mariana and Ernesto at Hamilton Family Center.

Meet Sandra.

Sandra always thought about volunteering. But she also thought she didn’t have the time.

After she found Hamilton Family Center through a search on VolunteerMatch, she realized just how easy it could be.

Now, she looks forward to her weekly tutoring sessions, in which she teaches kids ESL (English as a second language). “When I started, I was like, okay I have to drive more and I’m tired from work,” says Sandra. “But now, frankly I look forward to it, and sometimes, if I can come another day, I’ll make time to come, because I think when you give, you receive more.”

In particular, Sandra works with Mariana and Ernesto, two children from Guatemala. “Even though I’m just helping them a few hours,” says Sandra, “I feel like they’re going to have better lives because of Hamilton. And that makes me feel part of something important.”

In the short video below, get to know the amazing work Sandra and Hamilton Family Center are doing together.

To find your own perfect volunteer match, visit VolunteerMatch.org.

3 Reasons to Give Your Time this #GivingTuesday

Give Your Time This #GivingTuesday#GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back, will take place on Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Whether you’re a nonprofit engaging volunteers on #GivingTuesday, or an individual looking to give back, the following post (originally published on GivingTuesday.org) explains why “giving time” is a good idea.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “give”?

A donation of money? An act of kindness? A concession (i.e. “giving in” or “giving up”)?

How about volunteering?  

Across the country and across the world, people are giving back to their communities by volunteering their time. Why? Plenty of reasons:

1. Volunteering is Good for Your Health

Celebrate with VolunteerMatch Premium!In 2013, UnitedHealth Group conducted a study on the link between health and volunteering called “Doing Good is Good For You.” They found that volunteering makes people feel better physically, emotionally and mentally. 76% of participants reported that volunteering made them feel healthier.

You may be wondering how volunteering could possibly be related to health. One big reason? Volunteering lowers stress, which not only improves general health, but improves your mood. Which leads me to point number two…

2. Volunteering is Good for Your Happiness

Make your volunteers HAPPY!According to that same UnitedHealth Group study, 94% of volunteers report an improved mood from volunteering. And it’s not surprising. Volunteering can be fun.

Volunteering is a great way to meet others in your community with similar passions and get connected with your neighbors. Volunteering together with friends or coworkers can strengthen those relationships.

And beyond the fun, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose. By seeing how your actions are having a positive impact on your community, you’ll feel an unsurpassed sense of fulfillment.

At VolunteerMatch, we collect stories from our network of volunteers, and nearly every one is inspiring in some way. Becky, a volunteer at a hospice care facility, recently told us, “Other than raising my children, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything quite so meaningful!”

3. Volunteering is Good for Your Community

Older Americans "Get Active" By Volunteering for Older Americans MonthLet’s not overlook the obvious. People volunteer because they are needed in their communities. There is someone that needs help, a problem that needs to be fixed, or an improvement that can be made.

According to the National Council of Nonprofits, 85% of nonprofit organizations are entirely volunteer-run. Gina, who works at a no-kill cat shelter, said to us, “Without our volunteers, we would cease to exist.”

Furthermore, if you put a dollar amount to every volunteer hour, you would find that the amount of social value volunteers generate each year is astounding. Do you volunteer using your specialized skills? That number gets even higher. For example, $1.3 billion dollars of social value was created through connections made on VolunteerMatch.org alone in 2014.

Even if you have the means to give monetary donations this #GivingTuesday, consider giving your time as well. Working during the week? Volunteer the weekend prior, or the weekend after. While the exact date doesn’t matter, the act will carry you and your community to a better place.

To find your #GivingTuesday volunteer opportunity, visit VolunteerMatch.

Nonprofit Spotlight: Catholic Charities Community Services

Linda Tailleart of Catholic Charities

Linda holding her CVA certification!

In the 1970s, Linda Tailleart taught students in a Michigan classroom. It’s here that she first began working with volunteers.

“Volunteer engagement became my passion,” explains Linda. Now, she’s the Director of Volunteer Services at Catholic Charities Communities Services in Phoenix, AZ.

“Volunteers make such a difference to our organization, community, and the people we serve, by sharing their time, talent and love which infuses Catholic Charities with energy and passion,” says Linda.

Managing the volunteer program at Catholic Charities is no small endeavor. The organization currently has at least 100 different volunteer positions, in over 20 different programs. Domestic violence, immigration, foster care, human trafficking – these are just a small sampling of the causes areas Catholic Charities works on.

Volunteer videographer at Catholic Charities

Keshia, a volunteer videographer capturing client stories for Catholic Charities.

With all of these programs and causes areas, there’s a lot of choices for potential volunteers. Volunteers fill roles from “Counseling Interns” to “Filing Ninja” to everything in between.

“My joy comes from helping a volunteer find just the right placement,” says Linda. “We want every volunteer to feel that s/he makes a difference!”

One cause area that is important to Catholic Charities is homelessness. They run 5 programs aimed to alleviate homelessness in Arizona. They do everything from offering a safe place to shower, to finding housing, to offering treatment to those who are homeless and also struggling with addiction and mental illness.

Linda explains, “When you’re homeless and isolated, a day can seem endless without another person to talk to. The LOFT Day Drop-in Center in Cottonwood provides air conditioning in the summer, heat during the cooler months and a great place to socialize, job hunt, and stay in touch with family by phone or email.”

Pat, volunteer with Catholic Charities

Pat, volunteer at Catholic Charities’ The LOFT.

One volunteer that stands out to Linda is Pat. Why? Before becoming a volunteer, Pat was homeless himself.

As a former air conditioning/heat technician from Michigan, Pat watched his 26-year-career come to an end after a back injury and then faced divorce after 26 years of marriage. Through a series of events, he ended up experiencing homelessness in his late 40s.

For Pat, loneliness was the worst part of experiencing homelessness. He worried about getting water and food, showering, figuring a way to move on with his life—but the lack of human contact felt maddening.”

“If you’re alone enough, especially if you’ve had some traumatic experiences, your mind can go to some dark places,” says Pat.

Living out of his car for eight months, Pat found his way to Catholic Charities’ The Loft, a day center reaching the homeless population in Cottonwood, Ariz. When he first arrived, it was difficult to assimilate back into society.

“I was closed off,” says Pat. “But then I got a support system and started meeting people, and it helped me to open up.”

He immediately used the shower, kitchen and laundry services. Staff helped him to come up with a plan, and in six months, he moved into an apartment. He also got support to address health issues. Then, he took another big step and enrolled in Yavapai College to start a new career in education.

Now, he also volunteers at The Loft to help others. “I like working here, because at one time, I was in the same situation as the people that visit here,” says Pat. “I know how much this drop-in day center helps people… I wouldn’t be surprised if this place has saved lives.”

Pat comes in early to start the coffee, turn on the computers, launder the towels and restock the bathrooms. Then, when people start coming in, he provides a friendly greeting and guides them to needed resources ranging from food to staff support.

“Usually, when people come here, it takes them about a month to warm up to people,” says Pat. “They don’t have much to say. But once they get connected, it becomes a community.”

Your story can help inspire others to get involved! VolunteerMatch collects stories about volunteering to help illustrate the challenges and successes of nonprofits. How have volunteers helped you? What role has VolunteerMatch played? Share your story!