Last week, I volunteered my time at Women’s Empowerment by leading a course on relationship building in the workplace for the new “Get a Job Kit” training program. I have to be honest, initially I said, ‘you want me to lead what?’ But I did my research, put together my presentation and went for it. I have to tell you, it was one of the most proud moments of my life when the women I spoke to related to my material, asked the best questions and thanked me for the valuable information. I volunteered my time and made a difference. If just one of the women in the course uses any of the skills I offered to help with a new career, I’m simply humbled and honored.
All of us have skills to offer whether we realize it or not. It may not being leading a course, but you might be excellent with a hammer or paint roller, maybe you excel at turning a messy closet into an organized and useful space. Maybe you are a gardener and want to help with community garden builds? The point is, you can offer something. Multiple studies show Sacramento has a much lower volunteer rate than other comparable cities across the county, so the time is now to get involved and change these numbers. But how do you get connected to the right opportunity for you? Well, I am proud to introduce your new solution for that: theUnited Way Volunteer Center.
The United Way Volunteer Center utilizes the Get Connected software, an easy-to-use web-based platform that matches the right donors, advocates, and volunteers with the right opportunities in our community. What is most exciting is the software allows for so much more than just volunteer opportunities. Volunteers, donors and the community at large can use the United Way Volunteer Center to find ways to volunteer to make a real difference, give unused materials and household items to agencies in need of donations, learn about upcoming special events and fundraisers, and advocate for causes that require a passionate voice.
United Way California Capital Region has brought the Volunteer Center to the community to increase our capacity for community engagement in our mission to improve people’s lives in our region by mobilizing and integrating resources. The software is a very user friendly volunteer engagement and management platform that helps nonprofits find and pair volunteers with the right volunteer opportunities. Much like Facebook, local nonprofit organizations create profiles that highlight their mission statements, contact information, needs, and events. Likewise, interested volunteers create individual profiles specifically tailored to their interests, join volunteer groups, become fans of participating agencies, and track nonprofit needs and events.
Needless to say, we’re very excited about bringing this resource to the community and making it much easier for folks to get connected to causes they care about. Before launch, we have 50+ organizations with opportunities listed. Over the new few months, we expect this number to climb quickly to include at minimum all of United Way’s 160 certified nonprofit partners. You see, it makes sense. We work closely with this high number of local nonprofits who have needs. And at the same time, we work with over 400 companies in our region through our workplace giving and community engagement efforts. This software will marry the two and allow for more great stuff to happen in our community. So how will you utilize the United Way Volunteer Center? Get started today: volunteercenter.uwccr.org. Thank you in advance for your commitment to our community!
Cole Forstedt is the Director of Volunteerism and Community Engagement at United Way California Capital Region. Proudly, Cole strives to set an example by volunteering his time with multiple organizations in different capacities, because, well, it’s the right thing to do. Get in touch directly with questions or feedback about the United Way Volunteer Center by emailing email@example.com.
With a big push from United Way and other important community partners to get the word out about the www.keepyourtaxrefund.com website, I found myself telling folks in our community about this awesome resource and received some questions I couldn’t answer. I’m the kind of guy who wants to fully get behind something I’m asking others to do, so naturally my solution was to use the website myself to complete my 2013 tax return. In the past I’ve used other online software and with this website being FREE to those with income under $58,000 in 2013 and reduced cost compared to other ways to file for those who make over $58,000, how could I resist?
So, on a quiet night at home with my puppy curled up on my lap, I got out the laptop, found my W-2 and other pertinent documents and got to work (all while watching the most embarrassing of reality show secret guilty pleasures which I will not publicly admit here). I accessed the link through the United Way homepage and was easily guided through the process by the H&R Block software the program uses. Everything was clear—there were no hidden fees or any suspicious links or advertisements—just standard tax software data input and calculations. In fact, it was probably some of the most user friendly software I’ve encountered. Now here it is late January and I am already done with my taxes AND saved a ton of money completing them. That feels good. The money I saved will now go back into our local economy on my next visit to the grocery store. Okay, you caught me—maybe I’ll go out to a nice dinner at my favorite local restaurant instead. I deserve it, right?
Back in January when we announced we would try to accomplish 90 volunteers projects in one year to celebrate United Way California Capital Region’s 90th Anniversary, I received some funny looks and eye rolls. I’m fairly certain many people didn’t think it could be done. Well guess what? I am ecstatically proud to tell you that September 11, 2013 marked Project Number 89, which means that the United Way Day of Caring’s 26 projects on Friday, September 13th will bring life to Project Numbers 90-115! That’s right, not only did we as a community collectively work towards meeting our goal of 90 projects, but so far we’ve gone over the goal by 25 (and we still have two and a half months left of 2013!). If you haven’t been involved yet, now’s your chance!
Let’s do the math (not including the 26 Day of Caring projects):
+over 1,500 volunteers
+over 5,000 volunteer hours
+Over $60,000 value of volunteer labor
The individuals in our communities who together make up so many companies, unions and groups who have made such a difference in one year completely impress me! You have made a difference not only for so many of our nonprofit partners as a whole but also for the thousands of people they serve each year. Volunteer projects have ranged from helping directly with the United Way’s STAR Readers, $en$e-ability and Fit Kids projects to helping certified United Way partner organizations with painting and other facility improvements, distributing food and supplies at a food bank, helping with arts and crafts in a children’s program, providing support for program leaders, preparing supply baskets for people in need and so much more. Volunteers also helped with large scale United Way events such as the STAR Readers book drive, Run or Dye 5k Color Run, the 5th Annual LIVE UNITED Toilet Paper Drive, and of course the 2013 Day of Caring! Check out the full list of projects (including pictures!) to see all the groups who have supported the effort since January.
So, congratulations to you, the California Capital Region, including all volunteers, advocates and donors who support the local nonprofit community. Finally, thank you to our wonderful nonprofit partners for being such a major part of accomplishing this goal and working collectively to increase volunteerism throughout our region. I couldn’t be happier and more proud to be a part of this collaborative effort. Thank you all! We did it!
Cole Forstedt is the volunteer services manager in Community Impact at United Way California Capital Region. He doesn’t just talk the talk, but also walks the walk by proudly volunteering for several local organizations regularly. You can also find him supporting community theatre and periodically on stage at Runaway Stage Productions!
You can customize a memorable volunteer experience for your workplace! United Way California Capital Region Volunteer Services can help your group reach out to your community and make a tangible difference by volunteering with United Way’s nonprofit partners.
Nonprofits rely on volunteers, and companies that provide volunteer opportunities do better business and boost employee morale.
Whether your group is large or small, we can connect you to volunteer opportunities that address vital issues in our community:
• Working directly with program participants in United Way projects
• Helping at a children’s program
• Lending your special and professional skills to meet needs.
• Improving nonprofit facilities by building or painting a room
• Hosting a workplace drive to fulfill needs like food, diapers, toiletries and more
• Preparing or distributing supply baskets for people in need