7 Inspirational Practices for National Volunteer Month
The theme for National Volunteer Month 2023 is "United We Serve." Just as with collective giving, we're stronger together!
Many Impact Austin members have broadened their definitions of philanthropy to include volunteering - gifts of time and talents that augment donations. Sometimes this happens within Impact Austin itself. In other cases, Impact Austin has been the connector between a member and nonprofit partner
that she later joined as a volunteer.
An earlier blog described how Becky Austen connected with Texas Advocacy Project as a grant reviewer and later as a board member. Tonya Netzley joined Any Baby Can's Board of Directors after first serving as their Impact Austin liaison. Lauren Lewis was so moved by our webinar featuring the work of CASA of Travis County that she became a CASA advocate herself! These are just three of the ways our members have maximized their volunteer potential to benefit both Impact Austin and our nonprofit partners.
How can each of us leverage our philanthropy and volunteer time and talents so that we strengthen the organizations we value? For National Volunteer Month - and every month - here are 7 inspirational practices for our members and friends to consider.
Volunteer within Impact Austin - strengthen our organization so that we are a vigorous partner and advocate for our grantees
You have knowledge, talents, and skills to share. Your availability makes the difference in how you serve. Some people can dive deep, a full year, even years on a committee. Perhaps they accept a leadership role or board service. Others have now-and-then capacity. That can still work well with some committees: assisting periodically with writing or data/tech work or member outreach or developing signature events. Still others have only a day or two to give in the year! Perhaps you're hands-on with one event or a single project each year. Become an Impact Austin volunteer. A strong Impact Austin has a ripple effect into the community and out to our grantees.
Work your social media or email
Use your ties and testimony, not only for Impact Austin, but for our Community Partners, too. When Impact Austin post an event, or news, or grant opportunity, share it with your social media connections! Similarly, if you've connected with (or grown fond of) one of our Community Partner grantees, share their news, events, or donation drives. Your advocacy can build a nonprofit's brand, drive donations, build memberships, or their boost community impact.
Throw a party - literally or virtually
Invite friends or colleagues to your home or office to learn more about Impact Austin. Our story works just as well with evening wine as it does with a brownbag lunch. During November or December, host a toy drive or gift card party party for a nonprofit that delivers holiday wishes to foster children, young adults, or families in need. Gather friends to build baskets of housewares for emancipated foster youth moving into their first apartments. Host a birthday fundraiser on Facebook to drive unrestricted cash to a favorite nonprofit. And then celebrate the impact you've made!
Learn something new
Some of us join Impact Austin committees or other volunteer efforts without knowing much at all about the job. That's OK! We are a learning organization. Seek the opportunities to know more. Whether it's a grant management system....marketing strategies...anti-racist grantmaking practices...a website platform...knowledge of community needs...the tenets of Trust Based Philanthropy...fundraising acumen...local legislation and advocacy efforts....data interpretation....how to drive equity...strategic planning...collaboration...measuring impact...best practices in collective giving...there is much to learn by joining, listening, and being hands-on.
Let your heartstrings be tugged
When serving on a Grant Review Committee (GRC), or voting on Spring and Fall Grants, take note of our applicants and their work. Is there an organization that tugs on your heartstrings? Does their mission align with your values? If so, search their website for volunteer opportunities! Look for donation drives. Check out their events that might inspire you even more. Tell friends and colleagues about them. Encourage others to support their work alongside you. For easy inspiration, see our impact stories online. Many of our grant outcomes will tug those heartstrings and a video may draw a tear. Or two.
Grant Outcomes video for the 2019 Community Partner Collaborative led by MEASURE
Build friendships while volunteering
Impact Austin's Marketing Committee knows the secret: we foster friendships while we work. This blog writer can't imagine a better group to hang with on a monthly 8:45 AM Zoom call! Marketing Co-Chair Linda Yang wrote, While I found a creative outlet in volunteering my skills, I’ve gained indescribably more through the friendships that never would have been without Impact Austin. The Grants team reports that volunteering returns the favor. Past Chair Marla Whelan wrote, What I did not expect is the growth and learning I would gain by working through issues with women from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. And, we have fun too! Margaret von Flatern had this to say: The women who volunteer their time to this important work are some the most thoughtful, smart, and hardworking women I know. Not to mention the work is fun, and incredibly rewarding.
A few of the volunteers from the 2022 Health & Well-Being Grant Review Committee
Here's the takeaway: find friends while volunteering or take a friend with you into a hands-on opportunity or committee. You'll enjoy the experience even more!
Impact Austin volunteers at the Central Texas Food Bank
Open your eyes and hands to opportunity
Long-time member Lorene Phillips says, My advice to new members is to look around at all the ways you can serve the mission. It may be a Grant Review Committee, and frankly, that is a great place to start. But you will get so much more out of your membership if you stay open to bringing your time and talent in additional ways to support the good work Impact Austin does. Whether it is a Financial Committee, the Marketing or Membership Committee, or something completely different…I was raised knowing that we all have an obligation to give back, however we can. I also believe that you can never receive if your fists are closed. So I keep my hands open.
SHORT CUTS to OPPORTUNITY
Founder Rebecca Powers with Lorene Phillips