Daily Archives: 12 October 2015

Using volunteerism to build clients’ skills

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersPerhaps your organization has volunteers that help your employees or that help clients at your organization. But have you thought about volunteerism as a central part of your initiative’s program delivery, by facilitating your clients in volunteering activities?

Here’s an example: Adelante Mujeres is a nonprofit in Western Washington County, Oregon, about 30 minutes west of Portland. It provides education and empowerment opportunities to low-income Latina women and their families, in order to ensure their full participation and active leadership in the community. Its Chicas Youth Development works with more than 400 Latina students, grades three through 12, with the goal of instilling the importance of community leadership and civic engagement, and cultivating their skills for school, for future studies, for careers, and for life. The students, as volunteers, provide tech help at public libraries, pick up trash, plant trees and engage in other activities around the area. The participants in this program are role models for younger girls in the community, encouraging those younger girls to become volunteers, and leaders, themselves. The Chicas program has been selected as a 2015 Oregon Governor’s Volunteer Award Winner.

A nonprofit serving people who are homeless could invite those clients to volunteer with the organization, or could work to help them volunteer at other organizations, so that they can build their skills, accomplish things that can be put on a résumé, and meet people that could be potential references for jobs. A nonprofit that helps combat veterans re-integrate into society could help organize group volunteering activities so these clients can engage in a social activity together and have a positive result at the end of the day.

Too often, volunteerism is talked about only as something to supplement the work of paid staff, or as outsiders helping clients. By contrast, this other type of volunteering is integrated into a nonprofit’s program, into its mission-based activities. Volunteering is offered as an activity for clients to undertake themselves, as a part of accomplishing whatever it is a nonprofit wants to accomplish.

Congrats to Adelante Mujeres for this recognition of its outstanding program. And if you have other examples, please share them in the comments!

Nov. 11, 2015 update: Team Rubicon “seeks to provide our veterans with three things they lose after leaving the military: a purpose, gained through disaster relief; community, built by serving with others; and self-worth, from recognizing the impact one individual can make.” It does this through volunteering, uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.