Last month I wrote an article on How Nonprofits Will Save the World. It talked about the impact of nonprofit organizations on our community, and the value of bringing people together to address our communities’ most critical social needs.
If you know anything about nonprofit organizations, you already know that they never have enough time, money or people. After all, saving the world is a 24/7/365 job! One thing all nonprofit organizations have in common is that they could use more Superheroes. Fortunately, anyone can be a Superhero! This article will share the four ways that everyday citizens can transform into real life Superheroes.
How to Be A Superhero
There are four general categories that define how you can serve your favorite nonprofit organization:
- Serve as a Program Volunteer
- Become a Board Volunteer
- Participate & Advocate
If you care about the work of an organization, making a financial donation is probably the easiest thing you can do. It requires very little time, and every organization already has plans for what they can do with your donation. Even small donations can have a significant impact.
Some organizations take donations of food or supplies. These efforts are great for engaging donors, and a good way to connect children to philanthropy. If you go that route, I’d like to suggest that you also consider a cash donation. Because of their supply chains and partnerships, a food pantry can stretch your dollar much farther than you can. In the hands of a food pantry, a $1 donation can feed approximately 10 people.
Additionally, I’d like to recommend that you avoid making a donation that will create more work for the agency. For example, some organizations collect donated cars, then auction them off for the proceeds. That’s a cool fundraiser, if the agency is set up for those transactions. If they are not, your donated car creates a lot of work for staff who are already stretched thin.
The best way to know what an agency needs most is to check their website or to ask. Clothing closets still need clothes and animal shelters need old blankets. I’m not trying to dissuade you from giving in-kind donations. However, I want to emphasize that cash is king and what agencies need most.
The last point that I would like to make here is to encourage you to do your research. Especially if you are considering a larger contribution. Resources for understanding an agency’s transparency and rating compared to other organizations include: Charity Navigator and GuideStar and the BBB’s Give.org.
Serve as a Program Volunteer
I like to divide nonprofit volunteer work into two categories: Program Volunteers and Board Volunteers (these can also be called Policy Volunteers or Governance Volunteers). In this section we’ll go over different ways to serve as a Program Volunteer. The next section will cover Board Volunteers.
A Program Volunteer is generally someone who performs tasks for an agency. This could be just about anything! Here’s a short list of jobs I have seen organizations employ volunteers for:
- Scout Leader
- Youth Sports Coach
- Food Pantry Processing
- Welcome Desk Attendant
- Nursery Baby Rocker or Book Reader
- Blanket Maker for Chemo Patients
- Event Assistant – water stations at races, check-in tables, providing direction for participants, welcoming, logistics, distributing supplies, etc.
- Tour Guide
- Classroom Assistant
- Animal Companion
- Office Support
- And much, much more!
This one is pretty easy to understand. If you have a skill you want to share or some time you would like to give, it’s just a matter of finding an organizational match. Agencies sometimes have their volunteer positions listed on their websites or on a jobs board. However, oftentimes they haven’t even thought of all the ways they could use volunteers. If you see a way that you could contribute or an unmet need, reach out and present your idea. Just make sure that your proposed idea doesn’t create more work for the staff.
Become a Board Volunteer
Board Volunteers are the fiduciary agents for a nonprofit organization. A Board represents the community or the constituents that the organization is committed to serving. Board members are responsible for ensuring that the organization delivers upon its mission, while at the same time making sure it is a responsibly and ethically managed business.
Board Volunteers differ from Program Volunteers in that they are thought leaders, rather than task leaders. When you are invited onto a Board, the organization is looking to you for your insights, opinions, and expertise. Board roles generally fall into these categories:
- Mission & Purpose
- Organizational Planning
- Select Exec/CEO
- Exec Support/Evaluation
- Program/Service Outcomes
- Adequate Resources
- Financial Oversight
- Ethical/Legal Integrity
- Set Policy
- Board Development
- Community Conduit
This is a lot. Rather than going into detail about each of these roles here, I’ll save that for a future article.
If you are interested in serving on a Board, reach out to the Executive Director/CEO or the Board Chair. They likely have a process for recruiting and vetting their volunteers. You can also check out local resources, like Colorado Nonprofit Association or your local Library to find agencies looking for Board Members.
Participate & Advocate
Last, but not least – you can support your local nonprofit organizations through participation and advocation. If they have a special event to raise money – sign-up. Tell your friends. And don’t just tell them “Hey, I’m doing this fun event, join me.” Tell them what organization the event is supporting, and the impact their work has on the community.
The very best way to spread the word about the amazing work of a nonprofit organization is through word-of-mouth. Real people in the community, telling other real people carries more weight than any paid advertising. If you’ve been a beneficiary of an agency’s services, event better! Tell people. Your testimonial is not only great for PR, but it helps reduce stigma around these critical social issues.
Your genuine, first-person words of support can benefit an agency in so many ways. Leave a google or yelp review. Videotape a testimonial. Offer to speak at a Board meeting or other event advocating for the organization. Spread the word, it truly helps.
During the month of November I will be highlighting several nonprofit organizations. If one piques your interest, I hope this information helps you consider ways that you can step up and be a Superhero for them.
Want to learn more about how you can have a lasting impact on your community? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect for a free 30-minute discovery call. In order to save the world, nonprofits need superheroes like you to help them have the kind of impact they exist to deliver.
Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of small businesses and nonprofits.