Butler County Times Gazette
  • Becky Wolfe: Where are the volunteers?

  • Maybe non-profit and civic organizations need to look at volunteers in a different way.
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  • In my work and experience with non-profit organizations across the State of Kansas, I continue to hear statements such as “The same people step up to fill key volunteer roles” or “It is difficult to find volunteers to fill the roles of board and committee members”. These statements come from rural communities as well as heavily populated areas.
    According to the Corporation for National and Community Service Kansas ranked 7th overall among the 50 states for residents who volunteer with total of 36.4%. The national percentage is 26.8%. People are volunteering in the areas of Religious 35.0%, Education 23.9%, Social Service 17.1%, Health 8.8%, Civic 6.0%, Sport/Art 3.1% and other 6.2%. Kansas has a reported 790,170 volunteers with 90.9 million hours of service. This is impressive and I, for one, am proud Kansas is one of the leading states in volunteerism according to this data.
    So what aren’t we seeing? What is changing in the way volunteers behave? Maybe non-profit and civic organizations need to look at volunteers in a different way. I have been a community volunteer for over 26 years, as well as being the Director of a non-profit organization and I haven’t seen much change in the way we do things with our volunteers. In this instant access to information society, people (myself included) want most things quickly. Does this include volunteering? In my experience, it is relatively easy to find a volunteer to take on a short term duty such as taking registration at an event or playing host/hostess for the evening. It is much harder to find someone to commit to long term event planning or monthly committee and board meetings.
    In our community leadership program, Leadership Butler provides training in leadership skills and capacities for participants to take into their communities and use. So, in essence, we are encouraging participants to do more in their communities then they are currently doing. Here is the catch and one our organization faces continually. Even when you create a built in volunteer base as Leadership Butler has through the Alumni Association, reality dictates the needs are still great. Leadership Butler still needs volunteers to assist with our programs. Having needs for more volunteer support is an ongoing dilemma with volunteerism for this program.
    Whether staffed or not, non profits and civic organizations still have to conduct business to meet federal standards and guidelines for their organization. This includes having a governance structure coordinated through formal meetings. Where do these board members come from? Non profits and civic groups have revenue demands that could involve fundraising events. Volunteers are crucial for supporting such events, for large and small organizations. Where are they? What would on-site and remote volunteer support look like? Asking “what role could technology play in the way we think about volunteerism in Butler County?”
    Page 2 of 2 - These are examples of questions I continue to ask community citizens and organizations. So then, how do we engage people in our efforts and create a mutual benefit to the volunteer and the organization? One key answer is to match people with their passion. Another is to challenge people to get involved in something. Get into your community and become involved in something that you may not normally do and you just may find your passion.
    It all sounds like it should be easy, right? Well there are roadblocks to volunteering. We hear “I don’t have time” which is the most common reason people do not volunteer. “I wouldn’t know what to do or who to ask” and “If I volunteer, they will just want my money”. More often than not, these perceived roadblocks are not there at all. Schedules can be negotiated often times and the organization will train you for the task or role you would fill. There are more times when your time and talent is more valuable than your wallet.
    If you and others can overcome these roadblocks and think about the benefits of volunteering, these benefits far outweigh the roadblocks. Volunteering connects you with others, creating friendships and professional connections while increasing your social and relationship skills. Volunteering is good for your mind and body by increasing self confidence, combating depression and helps you stay physically healthy. Volunteering can advance your career by providing experience and teaching of valuable job skills. Volunteering brings fun to your life by finding new and interesting opportunities.
    Look into your community and see what opportunities there are to volunteer. Find what you are passionate about and spend a little time volunteering. You won’t regret it.
    Resources for this article came from the Corporation for National and Community Service at HYPERLINK "http://www.volunteeringamerica.gov/KS"www.volunteeringamerica.gov/KS.
    For more information contact Becky Wolfe, Executive Director of Leadership Butler at HYPERLINK "mailto:info@leadershipbutlerinc.org"info@leadershipbutlerinc.org
     

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