New way for volunteers to connect … coming soon

If you ask any nonprofit leader, they will tell you that volunteers are the lifeblood of their organizations. In today’s world, volunteers perform many roles. They organize events. They write grants. They help with collections. They drive, pack, mentor and paint. In fact, you can probably pick almost any nonprofit role and find that volunteers help. This is important, because through volunteerism, people get connected with the mission of the organization they are supporting and, frankly, they are doing things which might otherwise cost money to get done. With so much at stake, you would think that we would have great systems for connecting nonprofits and volunteers to one another … well, if you think that, you would be mistaken!

Over the past year, it has become increasingly obvious to me that there is a huge need for a broad-based system where volunteers can find out where they can apply their energies in a meaningful way and where nonprofits can get access to the volunteering capacity in our community. As things stand today, if you want to get involved, you literally must pick up the phone and start calling around to find out where you can get help. Or maybe you would read about something in the paper, see it on Facebook or on TV. However, there really is no system. At the same time, at United Way, we are constantly being approached by our nonprofit partners with projects they need help for from volunteers, and typically we’ll put out a call on social media or reach out to one of our business partners and make the ask. Again, not really a system.

Having identified this gap as well as the enormous potential for unleashing the volunteering capacity in our community, about six months ago we undertook to put in place an online system which addresses this need. I am pleased to announce that we are now ready to launch a new online portal for connecting volunteers and the nonprofit community. The portal is a partnership between the United Way and The Nashua Telegraph, along with her sister publications, the Merrimack Journal, Hollis Brookline Journal, Bedford Journal, and the Milford Cabinet. Very soon, when you go to the home page for any of these publications, you will find an icon there which you will be able to click on to get connected. The page you will go to is called www.VolunteerGreaterNashua.org, and what you will find there are agencies and opportunities to volunteer in our community. And you will be able to sign up right away!

We are simultaneously making the portal available to the nonprofits in our community. Each agency will have the opportunity to create a profile of their agency and, as events or needs arise, they will be able to post these on the site. As a user/volunteer, you will have the opportunity to become a fan of different agencies and identify the areas you are interested in helping with. For example, maybe you want to help with children’s literacy, so if you have identified that interest, and the Arlington Street Community Center has posted a need for volunteer tutors, not only will you have the chance to sign up, you will even be notified that the opportunity has been put out there!

OK, now I will warn you up front, if you go to the site today, you will NOT find many agencies or needs. Each agency must put these out there, and it will take a little time for this to happen. So, you might not immediately find something, but I think it is possible for you to imagine that in a very short amount of time we will have in our community a tremendous way to connect those who wish to donate their time and talents to those who need those resources to do their work. And that is a very good thing.

I would like to expressly thank Heather Henline from The Telegraph for supporting this project. The newspaper sees this type of community engagement as critical and is a financial supporter and promoter of the project. I would also like to thank my colleague Liz Fitzgerald, our great volunteer Ronna Worth from BAE Systems and our board member and marketing guru, Amanda Schneck from Pearl Marketing, for their efforts. Without them, we could not have gotten this project going. You can visit www.VolunteerGreaterNashua.org and see their handiwork.

According to most national estimates, the value of volunteer time is around $21 per hour. When you think of the thousands and thousands of volunteer hours spent in our community, it is easy to comprehend that we are talking about volunteering as an asset in our community that is worth millions of dollars. That also means lives changed and, in the end, that is why at United Way we always say that Great Things Happen When We LIVE UNITED! Happy Thanksgiving!

Mike Apfelberg is president of the United Way of Greater Nashua.