United Way of Southeast Alaska is already the go-to organization for non-profits seeking an umbrella organization for handling donations, increasing awareness and publicity, resource development and more — now, whether you are a partner organization or not, United Way is offering one more service.
Are you a nonprofit organization seeking volunteers or in-kind donations? Are you an upstanding citizen with time and skills to spare? Get Connected is where you can meet.
Get Connected combines social media functionality with a heart of gold, allowing organizations to set up pages and volunteers to set up profiles, each listing what kind of help they need or can provide, respectively.
The online offering from United Way is relatively new, the project of Americorps Volunteer turned full-time employee Resource Development Director Jennifer Treadway.
“Doing some research, Jennifer found this program called get connected and it really is a very clever model, because it’s all self directed.” said United Way Executive Director Wayne Stevens.
“Think of it as a dating service between Regional nonprofit organizations and individuals in specific communities who would like to get involved in something they believe in or that interests them,” Stevens said in a press release.
“An agency can put a listing on, basically it’s an adjunct part of our website, they can put information about their needs, their opportunities for volunteering, and as an individual, I can say, “Well, I want to get engaged in my community” and maybe I want to read to a kid 30 minutes a day, twice a week. Maybe I hate serving on boards but I’d mow somebody’s lawn if they need yard work— so there’s an array of things you can say (you’re) willing to do. So you create a profile and become a fan of those agencies you might want to be engaged with.” he said.
Treadway is the expert on Get Connected at the United Way office. She handles all he behind the scenes stuff and is intimately knowledgable about its functions.
“It’s like Facebook kind of. A nonprofit organization makes their page, they put in what their mission statement is, how to contact them, links to their Facebook page, their Twitter, their website, and then they can go in and put in their volunteer, advocate and in-kind donation needs.” Treadway said, “Then I go in (as a volunteer) and I say I’m interested in 5K walk/runs, I’m interested in auctions and I’m interested in tutoring. If SAIL were to put in their Fools Run at Midnight, I’m going to automatically receive an email because I’ve said I’m interested in 5K fun runs. Or, like Facebook, I can go in and say I’m a fan of an agency. So if I’m a fan of United Way, SAIL and Red Cross, any time one of those organizations, even if it doesn’t match my interests, any time those organizations posts an event or a volunteer need, I automatically receive an email about that as well.”
Treadway is the human interface. When organizations sign on, listing a contact person, she calls them up to make sure they are a legitimate nonprofit organization.
Also like dating, sometimes there are ultra-specific needs and miscommunications, but Get Connected solves that problem by asking volunteers and organizations alike to choose from a variety of categories relating to the type of volunteering, the time commitment and the type of organization.
Stevens said this system is something a long time coming, something the community has needed.
He pointed to an organization from the list, “This group, they called me about a year ago and said “We want to post on your website”… so now I called her back and said “We’ve finally got the perfect place for you to put all your information now,” so she signed up.”
Postings by organizations can include events, volunteer opportunities, advocacy opportunities, in-kind donations and even jobs.
Advocacy is probably the least straight-forward of the options — Stevens described grassroots lobbying and board service.
“If AEYC was going to approach the assembly on a childcare issue and they wanted people to support that, they could put something on (Get Connected) and people could come and speak about how hard it is to get childcare in Juneau, or the exorbitant fees you have to pay for childcare.” he said.
He also said that organizations, United Way for example, have committees they need members for, and that is something they might list under the advocacy category.
So far, Get Connected is relatively unpopulated. Twenty-eight organizations throughout Southeast and around 50 individuals have signed on.
Treadway said a few organizations had connected with volunteers through the program, but only three months since the Get Connected went live, Stevens and Treadway are just hoping more people will learn about it and take simple steps to get signed up (I am personally guilty of “liking” Get Connected on Facebook without having signed up, but right after this interview, I went through the process).
Signing up takes only a few minutes and if you had the time to read this article, you also have the time to check it out.
• To sign up, visit www.unitedwayseak.org and click the “volunteer” button.