The collective power of volunteering

Carol Gaudino knows changing communities happens one volunteer hour at a time. She is helping people find satisfaction in service as Director of Volunteer Memphis, where she connects citizens to meaningful opportunities to give back and solve city problems.
For Carol Gaudino, connecting the community to volunteer experiences is not a new endeavor. She recently came to her position as Director of Volunteer Memphis, but arrived with experience in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. She was previously with Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation in System Community Outreach and with Volunteer Mid-South as Director of Corporate Services working with companies on their community engagement programs. She also continues to serve on a variety of councils, board and steering committees advocating for volunteerism. Helping people give back through volunteering is both her profession and, ironically, how she volunteers herself.

Volunteer Memphis, an action initiative of Leadership Memphis, works with nonprofits, faith communities, schools, government and public entities, and other groups that engage volunteers to make the community stronger. According to the latest reports (from 2013), only 27 percent of Memphis residents volunteer, ranking us 30th among the 51 largest U.S. metro areas. Gaudino wants that percentage to climb.

"Volunteer Memphis is seen as a bold strategy for meeting the growing need for volunteers and the increasing demand from people who want to make a difference in their community,” explains Gaudino. “The organization is at the heart of volunteering, building capacity for effective volunteering and connecting people with opportunities to serve throughout Memphis and Shelby County."

The journey of the organization she leads has been winding, but the mission has been consistent. Originally known as The Volunteer Center of Memphis, the organization was established in 1975 by the Junior League of Memphis and The National Council of Jewish Women. In 2000, the name was changed to Volunteer Memphis. In 2006, in an effort to establish the organization as a comprehensive “all things volunteer” organization and to better serve local volunteers, it merged with HandsOn Memphis. Volunteer Memphis and HandsOn Memphis evolved into Volunteer Mid-South in 2009. Leadership Memphis acquired the organization Volunteer Mid-South at the very end of 2014.
Why are you in this line of work?
I’m excited about the evolution of Volunteer Memphis and what that can mean for our community. There is such great opportunity for collaboration with our local and national partners who offer an unmatched blend of ideas, innovation, and expertise, along with a powerful commitment to helping citizens to engage, take action, and solve community problems through volunteer service.
The "business" side of volunteerism -- along with the capacity building capabilities provided to nonprofit organizations -- and its role in the collective impact in communities is exciting and ever-changing. The volunteer landscape is constantly evolving. Once a “nice to have,” corporate citizenship is now an essential business strategy and employee engagement a critical component. Our Corporate Volunteer Council (CVC) is a key component in promoting and growing volunteer leadership within our community as well their own organizations.
We will also play an active role in strategic volunteer management training for nonprofit agencies with special emphasis on staff support for expanding volunteer programs, especially by leveraging the skills and talents of volunteers. The goal is for nonprofits to view and utilize volunteers as strategic assets. 
Why is volunteering important?
Volunteering is an enormous resource to nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve -- supporting the nonprofit sector’s impact and changing communities directly through citizen-centered capacity building and problem solving. 

Volunteering is one of the most effective ways to educate the public about an organization's work, and prepared volunteer leaders are essential to the community leadership eco-system. Volunteer leaders are commonly the individuals who are most likely to work tirelessly to implement change but who have not had the opportunity to access leadership training to strengthen their skill levels, expand their understanding of human behavior, and build their confidence.   

What is the economic value of volunteering?
About 62.6 million Americans, or 25.4 percent of the adult population, gave 7.7 billion hours of volunteer service worth $173 billion in 2013 (according to the Corporation for National and Community Service 2014 State of Volunteering in America report).

The national value of volunteer time: $23.07 per hour, but the average for Skills Based/Pro Bono Volunteering is $120 per hour.

How do you define volunteering
My favorite definition is from  Ivan Scheier. “The broadest and maybe the most meaningful definition of volunteering: Doing more than you have to because you want to, in a cause you consider good.”

What makes volunteering powerful for the involved individual?
Volunteering is powerful for the individual because it helps them meet their own needs as well as ultimately helping others.  The motivation for volunteering varies for all – from altruistic (and fully loving and supporting the cause) to social (affiliation), achievement, power, recognition. So, the short answer would be “it depends.”


Read more articles by Emily Adams Keplinger.

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