Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Message to President: Good Volunteering Requires Good Support Staff

With President and Mrs. Obama providing personal support United We Serve, volunteering is likely to increase in the US.

Since this is the time of each year when most volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs around the country are beginning to launch their Back-to-School Volunteer Recruitment campaigns, this is a key time for the Tutor/Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections.

However, it's a challenging time, too. Because while the President is providing public support to encourage people to volunteer, his stimulus packages have done little to provide the dollars for programs like Cabrini Connections to retain the key staff who manage the involvement of volunteers. He's done little to encourage foundations or individual donors to reach deeper to provide the dollars required for volunteer programs to operate.

That's ok. Anyone can share this message and provide that encouragement. I think that's what President Obama hopes will happen. Many people will say "If it is to be, it is up to me."

I looked up a study on volunteerism, titled Volunteer Management Practices and Retention of Volunteers, which you can find on the Urban Institute web site.

One point highlighted was "No matter how well intentioned volunteers are, unless there is an infrastructure in place to support and direct their efforts, they will remain ineffective at best or, worse, become disenchanted and withdraw, potentially damaging recipients of services in the process."

This article has good information for organizations who involved volunteers in their activities, as well as for business leaders who want to encourage employee involvement. If we want more kids to connect with tutors/mentors at the start of this school year, and still be connected next spring, donors need to find ways to reach out and touch tutor/mentor programs with some meaningful contributions.

If you browse the links to Chicago area youth organizations on the Tutor/Mentor Connection web site, you'll find many that would use your contributions effectively.

You can also use the interactive Chicago Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, to zoom into a Google map to search for tutor/mentor programs near where you live, or work, or along the route you travel as you come and go to work.

Mr. President, please encourage people to volunteer dollars to places where other people volunteer time and talent. It will make the volunteer involvement much more effective and a much greater benefit to the people being served.

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