We’ve talked and talked (and talked and talked) about the benefits of employee volunteer programs, including volunteer time off (VTO). Now we want to show you. In this series of blog posts, we’ll interview some of our own employees to find out how they spend their volunteer hours, and why they love VTO.
So – who are you?
My name is Laura Ellis, and I’ve been at VolunteerMatch for three years. I’m a Client Relations Manager, which means that I consult our corporations on how to best engage their employee volunteers!
Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer for the Golden Gate National Park Service (GGNPS) as a wildlife photographer. Since photographers and graphic designers can be expensive, GGNPS asks us to capture different activities at the parks for brochures, promotional material, etc. It can be anything from a trail maintenance event to an awards banquet. Even weddings!
What drew you to that particular organization and/ or type of volunteering?
I spend a lot of time hiking around the San Francisco Bay Area and wanted to find an opportunity that allowed me to explore more of the area while also giving back to a place that had given me so much. I had also recently taken up photography and was looking for a way to develop those skills.
What’s the most fun part of your volunteering? What’s the most valuable?
The most fun part is getting to explore new trails and meeting people from all over the world. The most valuable part is knowing that I’m playing a part in promoting the parks that I love so much!
Can you share a story from your time volunteering with GGNPS?
I remember the first time GGNPS posted one of my photos on their social media accounts. It was a picture of a secret path I had found on a popular trail. A woman commented that this picture inspired her to get off the couch and go find that secluded spot. It is now her favorite trail! This made me realize how something so small can inspire adventure in others.
Would you be able to volunteer if VolunteerMatch didn’t offer VTO?
Most of the wildlife photographers can only work weekends, so there are usually a lot of open spots for weekday activities. VolunteerMatch VTO allows me to pick up those shifts and make sure the parks get the shots they need!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
VTO is one of those things that some people might say is less important than a gym membership, free lunch or some of the other fancy stuff some tech startups offer. And yes, it is less glamorous. But I would take VTO over all of those perks because it’s good for my soul. It allows me to give back and make connections with people and organizations that I care about.