Find your nonprofit by focusing on what you’re passionate about

Skill-based volunteering could be the ticket to finding the nonprofit connection you’ve been looking for

I spent 25 years working for Fortune 250 companies and currently I work as the director of operations for Educational Opportunities for Children and Families (www.eocfwa.org). Over the course of my career, I worked with many great professionals – people with unique education, skills and experiences. In most cases, these professionals also had a deep passion to do more – to contribute to their communities and use their skills for the greater social good. In fact, I retired from corporate America in 2013 to work with local and regional nonprofits full time until I retire.

The specific ways to use your passion to improve your local community is not often realized. My colleagues didn’t know how to connect their skills with the needs of local nonprofit groups. While the days are long and the priority lists constantly change, we’re all looking for balance and want the opportunity to dedicate some time to a cause that we’re passionate about. Because you have amazing skills and knowledge that can be paramount to the success of a local nonprofit, skill-based volunteering could be the nonprofit connection you’ve been looking for.

According to Forbes magazine, there’s no doubt that skills-based volunteering is more valuable to nonprofits, more beneficial to companies that can use these opportunities to stretch their employees’ skills in new ways and usually more meaningful to the volunteers.

The CECP’s 2014 Giving in Numbers report shows that the number of businesses that have some kind of pro bono program has increased from 30 percent to just more than 50 percent in six years. Some of you may have a family member impacted by a disease or cause and now you want to support the same cause. There are many positive reasons why volunteering benefits the giver and statistics that show volunteerism is on the rise. If you’re a professional who wants to connect with a nonprofit that will match your passions and social responsibility, here are some tips to get started:

1. List three things that you’re passionate about as it relates to your local community, our metro market or a national issue.

2. Now, look for a nonprofit using the following resources:

  1. Visit Mac’s List to determine which nonprofits are hiring. This will be an indicator of growth or transition within the organization and where your specific talents may be best served.
  2. Check the Washington Nonprofits because they have resources to locate nonprofits that interest you.
  3. Browse The Gates Foundation’s list of various sources for nonprofit volunteer opportunities.

At times, a nonprofit may need you to fill a spot on a committee even though it does not align with your expertise. Resist the temptation of “I’ll do anything,” and ensure that you align yourself with a function or committee that exactly matches your experience, education, time commitment and passion to serve.

Every nonprofit wants their volunteers to be engaged but not all nonprofits have a system on how to accomplish this. Since you are a professional, it’s critical that you initiate the first steps to ensure that your engagement through volunteering is successful and impactful. This will require detailed expectations that are mutually agreed upon.

As the holidays get closer, your need to impact your local community will grow. I will share with you more strategies to engage local nonprofits and provide resources to local nonprofits about strategic planning, fundraising and governance in future articles. I wish you a great connection to the cause you’re passionate about with the nonprofit that you will love.

Brad Lebowsky is the director of operations for Educational Opportunities for Children and Families. He spent 25 years working for Fortune 250 companies and retired from corporate America in 2013 to work with local and regional nonprofits full time. Visit www.eocfwa.org to learn more about the Educational Opportunities for Children and Families organization.

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