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Volunteer Series: I

Thursday, September 01, 2011 @ 4:25:00 PM - Written by Laura Cootsona
Today I'm starting a three-part series on the theme of volunteers. My first calling in the nonprofit sector was to run a Volunteer Center in Somerset County, New Jersey. I had the privilege of directing scores of volunteers each year to one hundred nonprofits large and small to use their talents to help the causes they cared about. Additionally, I ran the local DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies) to develop best practices in volunteer management. My love for volunteers has never diminished.

This week I was working with a 30 year old organization that only in the last ten years has employed professional staff. Having once served on their board, I still remember those early discussions, laced with warnings, that if we hire professionals we'll lose our touch with the people, our volunteers, the heart and soul of the organization. And interestingly, this in some ways did happen. Today with the right professionals in place, the organization is ready to reinstate the heart, hands, and community once again. This turn will distinguish this organization from others because instead of just a virtual presence, there will now be a phone call, a personal letter, someone trying to connect a new member with an old member building bit by bit a community of real people.

Less money in the system (thanks to the economy) has forced many of us to go back to our origins. With each dollar less, we are forced to rely on something better-- people. My next post will talk about this shift among corporations and the remarkable concept of "in-kind" giving. The touch of a real person indeed is a lot kinder than a dollar any day.