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Guest Opinion: Do you desire to make a bigger impact?


By Brianne Fitzgerald | Communication and engagement officer, Volunteer Iowa

Imagine this: There is a charitable organization in the community where you’ve been volunteering for years. You’ve been assisting with a few specific volunteer tasks over the years, and one day the volunteer coordinator asks you if you would consider lending your time to help go through their human resource policies and procedures. It’s been several years since they’ve been updated, and there are a few vacancies that need to be filled soon. 

You work in human resources; however, you’ve never thought of lending your expertise in this way, and you happen to also be pretty darn good at QuickBooks. Next thing you know, you spend the next six months helping update hiring manuals and interview questions, helping the organization save money on liability insurance, spending time teaching a few key staff members how to use QuickBooks, and much more. 

The executive director asks to sit down with you one day and shares that because your time has been spent helping as a skilled human resources volunteer (and not to mention helping with QuickBooks), the investment of the time you’ve given has been significant – you’ve saved them thousands of dollars. The icing on the cake? You’ve been able to spend this volunteer time helping this organization an hour or two a month during work hours because your employer supports volunteering in the community.

Volunteers of all skill levels are always needed in organizations across our community. In many cases we believe that the only opportunities that the organization has available are joining a committee or board, or helping with a one-time or sporadic project. How often do we think to seek opportunities to volunteer designed around skills we are already good at, and making a story like this happen? Not nearly enough. 

Charitable organizations operate on a tight profit margin. Besides paying their employees, keeping the lights on, and purchasing what they need to operate day to day, they are diligent about spending all the money they can to support their mission and help those they serve. They often cut back on salaries (and sometimes even benefits) so that they lessen their “overhead” to make donors happier, and sacrifice bringing on multiple positions that they truly need to operate at the highest level they can. For example, how many charitable organizations do you know that have a human resources professional on staff? Important functions, like human resources, are completed without an expert on staff, and board members cannot fill in all the gaps (nor should they be expected to do so).

This is where you can come in.

April is the perfect time of year to celebrate National Volunteer Month, as many people are ready to spend their time and talents to support causes they care about in the community. This is also a way to recognize and celebrate the volunteers that make our communities stronger. As a bonus, employer-supported volunteering is alive and well in our communities across Iowa. Is there an opportunity for you to reach out to the organization of your choice and offer your skills in a new way? Absolutely! 

I challenge you to be proud of your own talents and offer those unique skills to your favorite charitable organization. And if you want to make an even larger impact, talk with your employer about sharing information on what skills-based volunteers can do for all organizations with the employees in your company. (It’s a great professional development opportunity for employees, too!) See how your gifts of time and talent can turn into a different kind of treasure, by saving the organization money in a whole new way.

Brianne Fitzgeraldis the communications and engagement officer with Volunteer Iowa, a government agency that works to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. She was honored in 2015 as the winner of the YPC Amy Jennings Impact Award, and recognized as a Forty under 40 in 2016. Fitzgerald is active as a volunteer for Simpson College serving on both the Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Multimedia Communication Advisory Board, is the Community Leadership Program Project Chair-Elect on the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute Board of Governors, and is the Chair of the Youth Leadership Initiative. She is a mother of three.

Contact Fitzgerald via email.

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