Success story: Highly effective nonprofits value and engage their VolunTEAM

Chicago youth at Lawrence Hall Youth Services paint a mural

Youth paint during an activity with Lawrence Hall Youth Services.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Lawrence Hall Youth Services is one of Illinois’ oldest child welfare agencies, established in 1865 to assist at-risk youth and their families with services that develop the self-worth, knowledge, and skills they need to lead independent and productive lives.  One Good Deed Chicago connected Lawrence Hall with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the One Good Deed VolunTEAM project. Their objective: By the end of May 2012, to evaluate and structure the organization’s volunteer management to meet diverse needs while ensuring a positive and fulfilling experience for more than 200 volunteers.

The ESC consultant assigned to the project, Thomas White, has more than 20 years of corporate leadership and project management experience.  He works closely with Nathan Rosato, Lawrence Hall’s Director of Community Relations. Together, they began with a systematic study of current volunteer utilization patterns and needs assessment from a cross-section of program areas to identify required functions, estimated volunteer hours, responsibilities and needed skills. 

Armed with this data, White and Rosato began building a matrixed volunteer management program that that views volunteers through multiple lenses, all interconnected and each with different benefits.  To ensure the most capable and committed volunteers and balance the needs and objectives of both the volunteers and Lawrence Hall, the team is reviewing volunteer position descriptions and considering a more comprehensive use of existing volunteer management software to ensure the best match between talent and function and accurate tracking of hours for improved planning. They are updating a handbook that will help to standardize volunteer management policies and procedures throughout the organization and establish a targeted recruitment plan to ensure an ongoing source of the varied skills and talents needed throughout the year.

“We are taking a tactical program and giving it the depth and integration that will optimize the organization’s investment in its volunteers and their investment in the organization,” says White, “challenging, but not impossible, with the type of buy-in that we are receiving from all program areas and from Lawrence Hall leadership.”

Volunteer Wesley Tibbs describes his role as a member of Lawrence Hall’s Junior Board.

“I volunteer because I want to give back and Lawrence Hall gives me that opportunity,” he says. “An orientation prepares us and training helps us determine situations where we can be helpful.  There is opportunity for fundraising and developing leadership skills for future service.”

“”We want our volunteers to know they are valued and give them opportunities to be truly connected to our programs and invested in the work we do together, beyond a one-day volunteer experience,” notes Rosato.  “By the end of this project, we will be better equipped to help our volunteers with training and program-matching, build our volunteer program with an efficient recruitment effort and establish lasting relationship with our volunteers for the benefit of the people served by Lawrence Hall for years to come.”

Kim Luckey, Lawrence Hall’s Director of External Affairs, calls the project with ESC and One Good Deed Chicago an opportunity to re-evaluate their needs and review what’s working well and where extra help is needed.

 “Our volunteers are important to us; we not only benefit from their contributions of time and talent, they are our strong connection to the community,” she says.

As nonprofits struggle in an environment of unusually deep and lingering economic stress, facing diminished resources even as the demand for service increases, the need for a an effective volunteer program, streamlined, efficient operation, strong leadership teams and diverse sources of revenue become mission-critical. As a nonprofit with a proud reputation for service and results, ESC is the premiere consulting resource for nonprofits in these areas, ready to help with practical and affordable solutions for lasting impact.

To learn more about Lawrence Hall Youth services and its positive impact on youth and families, please visit www.lawrencehall.org.  To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago and its services in leadership development and coaching, strategic planning, fund development, urgent action, executive transition and interim executive director placement, visit www.esc-chicago.org or email Jo.Posselt[at]esc-chicago.org.

Volunteers make a difference at Bookamania

Volunteer Chicago Public School Bookamania

Volunteers work with Chicago Public School children at Bookamania 2011.

by Ruchi Ray, Intern, Leap Learning Systems 

I cannot wait to tell you about a successful volunteer event Leap Learning Systems has had in the past! Each year, Leap Learning Systems partners with After School Matters and Chicago Public Schools to implement a career and college readiness program in the Austin community.  Participating students volunteered at the Harold Washington Library’s Bookamania event on November 19, 2011. This event was a free celebration of children’s books for children ages 3 to 10 and their families. Our students had the opportunity to help and interact with the younger children and their parents. 

I can say that for some of these teens, this was their first trip to the main library.  Not only were the ASM teens thankful for the opportunity to work with the children, socialize with other teens from around the city, and give back to their community, they also felt very accomplished after the overall experience. Leap is always curious to know feedback on the turnout of volunteer events like these; here is one from Ms. Robin Willard from Harold Washington:

 “Last year our Events staff estimated that there were approximately 7,000 guests on Saturday – the largest crowd we have hosted in Bookamania history – and we know we could not have made it as successful as it was without the help of volunteers, such as those from Leap Learning Systems.  It was a pleasure to work with the many teens who came from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to represent Leap with their mentors and program facilitators”. 

–      Robin Willard, Young Adult Specialist, Chicago Public Library 

This semester, the students in the Beverage Industry: Products and Profits After School Matters program will be involved with a service event for young children.  We focused this session of ASM on Dairy.  The teens will provide literacy support and activities based on their knowledge of the Dairy industry to students at Goldblatt Elementary School.  The students will also participate in a fundraiser on April 1 at the Oberweis Dairy Store in Oak Park.  They will be marketing, advertising and working the all day event.  Come out and support the students of ASM! 

Leap Learning Systems is committed to delivering cutting-edge language and literacy development programs to educators, students, and their families across Chicago and beyond, particularly those in underserved communities. We look forward to future endeavors in similar After School Matters programs.

Interested in helping further Leap Learning’s mission? Visit OneGoodDeedChicago.org for more information and search volunteer opportunities.

Metro Achievement Center celebrates special bond between mothers, daughters

midtown metro valentine's lunch

A mother and daughter celebrate their special bond at a Metro Achievement lunch

by Helen Gerety, Service Initiatives Coordinator, One Good Deed Chicago

“A mother must be physically strong, emotionally stronger, and spiritually strongest.” This is the message that Pascale Burns, mother of four and Midtown Educational Foundation advocate, shared with more than 200 mothers on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The day marked Metro’s 12th annual Mother-Daughter Day Luncheon, where people from Chicago’s underserved communities gathered together to honor each other with the Valentine’s Day –themed lunch, “Mothers are Stronger Role Models than Pop Culture.” I was lucky enough to spend the day at this event. As One Good Deed Chicago’s Service Initiatives Coordinator, I often get the chance to attend the events of our Success Coaches partners and see their work firsthand.

midtown lunch zumba

Mothers at the event do a Zumba-style dance exercise.

The event began with a call to action. Local priest, Father John Waiss, reminded not just daughters to honor their mothers, but mothers to also honor their daughters.

“Mothers, honor your daughters by picturing what qualities you want your daughter to possess and then acquire them yourselves,” he said.

Mothers and daughters separated for part of the day; Daughters wrote love letters to their moms, while the parents had a chance to discuss what makes a strong and successful mom.

The day came to a close when daughters rejoined their mothers for lunch and presented them with hand-crafted love letters. When mothers were asked about how Metro has impacted their daughters, one was especially thankful. She remarked “Metro taught my daughter how to become a young lady.”

The event reminded me of the important relationship that I share with my own mother and the significant role that she played in my development as a self-confident and independent woman. I am thankful for the work that Metro is doing to build and support similar relationships between the mothers and daughters in Chicago.

In addition to hosting an inspiring event like this, Metro for girls, along with its brother site Midtown Center for Boys, is celebrating 12 consecutive years of 100 percent graduation and college enrollment. Midtown Educational Foundation helps close the achievement gap for Chicago’s urban youth by providing one-on-one tutoring, high school prep, and college counseling.

If you are interested in contributing to Midtown and Metro’s success, become a tutor! Visit the profile of Midtown Educational Foundation, the sponsoring nonprofit organization for Midtown and Metro, on OneGoodDeedChicago.org to learn how.

Changing Worlds: A Success Story

A student works with a volunteer at Changing Worlds. Changing Worlds is one of One Good Deed Chicago's VolunTEAM partners.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Changing Worlds is an educational art nonprofit whose mission is “to foster inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding.”

One Good Deed Chicago connected Changing Worlds with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the VolunTEAM program. ESC is a volunteer corps of nearly 300 men and women who use their skills and knowledge from long and successful careers to help other non-profits thrive.

The project is scheduled for completion in May, but the results to date are already a noticeable and satisfying success story on many levels for everyone involved, including the volunteers, the program staff and of course the children who benefit from these programs. 

Identifying needs

Changing Worlds Executive Director Mark Rodriguez points out that it was critical to the project’s success to create a clear direction at the beginning.

“We needed to be able to create an infrastructure for our volunteer program as well as a system and a process that would be sustainable when the project is over,” he said.

Patti Pangborn, Changing Worlds manager of office operations, finance and program support, said “we had a database we weren’t using, a wonderful core group of volunteers and no system or anyone on staff who could coordinate the volunteer experience or make it truly satisfying for the volunteer.  We weren’t fully utilizing our volunteer strength”

The ESC project management team, David Marienthal and Estelle Holzer, worked with Patti and Mark to evaluate specific needs. They then began identifying lasting solutions and immediate changes that could be readily implemented without additional workload burden or cost.  Both David and Estelle brought more than 20 years of experience in project and program management to the assignment and were able to make recommendations that produced immediate results.

Marienthal describes the process.

“We met every three weeks or so and tracked our progress together to ensure we had the solutions we needed,” he said. “First, we recommended the addition of a volunteer ‘volunteer coordinator’ position!  This focused more dedicated attention to an area of need and removed the additional workload burden from staff while we set up a process and procedures to get a structured volunteer management program set up.”

Seeing results

“Claire Gilbertsen is our new volunteer coordinator, a volunteer herself with lots of experience, who comes in two days a week to concentrate on this program,” Pangborn said. “We added a volunteer management module to our database to better track volunteer experiences, and we have begun putting together a handbook of policies and procedures and an orientation and recognition program for our volunteers.”

Rodriguez says “we value our volunteers and hope, through this project with ESC and One Good Deed, to advance our three primary goals toward 1) greater public awareness of our programs, 2) recruitment and retention of volunteers and, 3) fundraising to support our programs.”

As the economy struggles, as money from state and local governments dries up, and as donations and foundation monies shrink, non-profits are facing the perfect storm. Demand for their services is increasing dramatically, just as revenue sources are dwindling. The need for non-profits to improve their organizational performance is as important as it ever was. It’s ESC’s mission to help them.

To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago or apply to be an consultant, visit the ESC Website at www.esc-chicago.org.  For a list of all 19 nonprofits currently in the One Good Deed Chicago’s VolunTEAM program, go to www.onegooddeedchicago.org/priorities.

Why volunteering makes sense, from a human resources professional

Volunteering can help you find your career path.

by Tony Rea, 20/20 HR LLC

There are many good reasons to volunteer your time and energy to a worthy cause. Volunteering can be rewarding whether you are currently employed or even if you are looking for work.

One of the strongest reasons to volunteer is the sense of fulfillment one gets from giving back to the community served by the nonprofit organization. You may volunteer because you are drawn to the mission of a particular nonprofit or because someone in your personal circle was helped in some way by that nonprofit.

You could volunteer you time assisting the nonprofit in their operations. A good example is the bell ringers during the holidays for the Salvation Army.

Another way to volunteer is to contribute your personal and / or professional expertise. Many nonprofits seek out this type of assistance which can be provided on a pro bono consulting basis or by serving as a board member. Board membership is typically built around having the right combination of business, marketing, accounting, legal and other professional level skills to lead the organization.

For those who are looking for work, this represents a “win-win” for both the individual and the nonprofit organization. What a great way to stay active and connected to your profession by giving back. For new graduates and those considering a career change, it is also a great way to break into a desired or new field of interest.

Volunteer experience looks good on a resume and can be helpful in covering employment gaps created by a period of unemployment. If you give of your professional skills, it will keep you sharp and also show initiative to any prospective employer. It also shows that you are resilient and respond to adversity in a positive and proactive way.

Volunteering can help improve your visibility through networking with people throughout your community. While most likely not a direct path to a position at the respective nonprofit, you will have the opportunity to meet and work with people within the nonprofit, those served by the nonprofit and possibly even influential board members.

While I don’t believe in spiritualism, I do believe that volunteering brings good karma!

Tony Rea is a human resources professional at Orland Park-based 20/20 HR, LLC.

 

This is part of a guest blogging series highlighting good deeds and volunteerism. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it! Email alexandra.baird[at]cityofchicago.org for more information.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel to speak at Casa Central awards dinner

Casa Central is an action-driven nonprofit that provides a network of services improving the lives of many in Chicago’s Hispanic community. The nonprofit is one of One Good Deed Chicago‘s selected partners this year in the VolunTEAM initiative. Mayor Rahm Emanuel will speak at the group’s annual awards dinner at Westin River North on Oct. 20.

Casa Central’s impact includes:

  • 500 children ages 2-5 prepare for kindergarten in its Head Start groups.
  • 175 children participate in its after-school enrichment activities in the School Age Program.
  • 100 teens participate in positive development activities at Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
  • 70 homeless families receive housing and support services at La Posada, on their way to permanent housing.
  • 500 victims of domestic abuse receive counseling and support through the Violence Prevention Initiative.
  • 800 community residents gain access to the Internet as they learn to use computers at the Community Technology Center.
  • 1,500 home-bound seniors receive visits from its Home Care aides, who provide basic assistance.

Individual sponsor tickets for the awards dinner begin at $500 and support Casa Central’s programs. For more information or to find out more about this impactful nonprofit, visit casacentral.org.

If attending the awards dinner is out of your reach but you’ve got time to spend, consider volunteering to support Casa Central’s efforts. See the current volunteer opportunities posted at One Good Deed Chicago’s website by clicking here.

Hi, Welcome to our NEW blog!

Sometimes people like to talk to one another. 

That includes us.  :  )

We feel it’s important to hear and speak about the stories of volunteers who have made an impact and changed the lives of others for the better.

This space will be used to post thoughts and insights on the world of volunteerism in Chicago, the Nation, and yes… even the World.

But most of all we’d like to hear YOUR thoughts and opinions on things so please post/comment away and tell your friends, of course.

And if you’re not familiar with One Good Deed Chicago that’s fine.  One Good Deed Chicago is a City-sponsored campaign promoting volunteerism, community service and furthering civic engagement by citizens.

You can read more info at our website, facebook, and twitter.

Thank you for your time! Hopefully you know a little bit more about us. And I will leave you with this question to start our conversation:

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What is a good volunteer experience? What was your best volunteer experience?

-Carlos “The AmeriCorps VISTA”