A Publication of WTVP

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week in April, it is a great time to recognize that volunteerism is one of our nation’s leading strengths. It is also essential to providing quality social services to the community. A successful agency volunteer program demonstrates a non-profit organization’s ability to operate more efficiently. These volunteers also create a core group of individuals who serve as ‘goodwill ambassadors’ for the organization, promoting a positive image in the community with increased visibility and credibility.

The Heart of Illinois United Way evaluates our member agencies’ utilization of volunteers as part of their requests for funding. Effective volunteer integration is evaluated by three main criteria: first, whether volunteers are utilized in the agency’s direct services, fundraising efforts and administration; second, what impact these volunteers are making for the agency’s programs and services, clients and the community; and lastly, how many volunteers are engaged by the agency.

With National Volunteer Week coming up, it’s time to celebrate the enormous impact volunteers make in our community and to look for opportunities to tap into this valuable human resource. Just a few of these opportunities include corporate volunteerism, 50-plus volunteers, family volunteers and virtual volunteering.

Corporate volunteerism can be highly effective at building employee morale and generating community goodwill. Effective company volunteer programs are aligned with company goals and are based on employee interests. Such programs work with community leaders who know what and where help is needed. Corporate volunteerism is not just for large companies; many smaller, growing companies also reap the benefits of employee volunteer programs because it generates teamwork and publicity.

For many organizations seeking volunteers, there is vast potential in this 50-plus age group of baby boomers and older adults who have the time, skills and experience to become active volunteers and advocates for community service. Looking to learn new things, make new friends and put career skills to use, the 50- plus age group is a great volunteer resource.

Families who volunteer together create quality time while helping others and learning more about each other. Volunteer projects can be done with the whole family, with just the siblings, as a parent-child team or with extended family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Through virtual volunteering, organizations are utilizing volunteers in new capacities through the use of new technologies and the Internet. Virtual volunteering allows anyone to contribute—often from the comfort of home, and can include conducting online research, professional consulting, online advocacy, translation work, multimedia expertise, desktop publishing, writing and much more.

Volunteering is an essential tool in creating an impact on our community’s future. So take time this month to say ‘thank you’ to the volunteers in your life—whether they are employees who go above and beyond in their volunteer work or volunteers who help you accomplish your organization’s goals. IBI