In 2017, Volunteer West Virginia applied for and received a Volunteer Generation Fund Grant
, which, as the name implies, is meant to increase volunteerism. One aspect of this was to subgrant some of the VGF funds to different organizations to act as Volunteer Centers in different parts of the state. The grantees were selected through a grant process and decisions were made by a review committee consisting of staff, commissioners, and other volunteers. Previously, there were no volunteer centers in West Virginia. Volunteer West Virginia has tried to be that one-stop shop for volunteer opportunities in the past, but we have found that volunteer matching works better on a local level. In a recent episode of “Volunteering in West Virginia
,” we talked to a representative of two Volunteer Centers, one in Upshur County and one in Tucker County.
Casey Gilbert’s position was unique because she split her time between two volunteer centers. The Tucker Community Foundation got the grant to become the Potomac Highlands Volunteer Center
. They cover Barbour, Grant, Mineral, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, and an additional county in Maryland. The City of Buckhannon is now the Buckhannon Upshur Volunteer Center
, focusing on the Buckhannon Upshur community.
In the case of the Tucker County Community Foundation, they were providing opportunities to the people in the area they serve, and people were already doing great things, so they thought, there must be a better a way to track the hours people are voluntarily putting into improving their community, and providing more opportunities for those people.
In the case of the City of Buckhannon, the town has always been volunteer-centric, but most volunteering happened by word-of-mouth through family and friends, and they believed that the grant could help get the word out and bring in new volunteers.
Both centers chose to use the Galaxy Digital platform, harnessing the power of technology and offering it for free. Having a human with strengths in relationship building helps make matches where originally there was disparity between needs posted and what types of opportunities volunteers were seeking.
In a recent episode, Brent Sturm talked to us about United We Volunteer
, the name of Volunteer Center activities at the United Way of the River Cities. They cover Cabell, Lincoln and Wayne counties. After moderate success in the first year, they realized that having a full-time person to help guide the Center could help build on that success. “United Way has always had volunteer programs, but it was mostly in-house,” Sturm said. They also provided days of service, like the Day of Caring, but they really weren’t reaching out to the community.
One part of the program that Sturm is excited about is workplace volunteering. Gallup research showed that 16% of employees are actively disengaged with their work. “That means we don’t love it and we don’t work to make our employers better,” Sturm said. However, when a company directs its attention to the community, and employees have a voice in where corporate dollars go and where they can do some hands-on work, it leads to less job turnover, and higher productivity within the company.
One of the trainings United We Volunteer provided to nonprofits in the area is on writing volunteer position descriptions. There has been some opposition to this as organizations say, “we’re not paying someone; we just want them to come in and do this. Why do we need to write a description?” But on the flip side of that, volunteers want to know exactly what they are expected to do and how long they are expected to it. Sturm reminded organizations that keeping opportunity listings up to date will attract more volunteers. While West Virginians aren’t known for being formal, Sturm would also like to remind volunteers that by logging hours in a formal way, you are allowing the organization whose work you believe in apply for funding so that they can keep doing that wonderful work!
For more information on any of these centers, see the links below to the June and July episodes of "Volunteering in West Virginia."