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Nonprofit Representatives Meet, Discuss Common Issues and Collaboration

  • Created
    Friday, November 18 2011
  • Created by
    Jim Nelson/Media Relations - (304) 327-4103 jnelson@bluefieldstate.edu

Bluefield, WV – Thirteen representatives from ten nonprofits in Mercer and Tazewell counties met on Saturday, November 12, in a Nonprofit Summit sponsored by the Bluefield State College Foundation's Center on Philanthropy. Their organizations serve a spectrum of constituencies: arts, education, health, seniors, disadvantaged women, disabled children, and a town municipality. Their concerns are similar: raising funds, finding partnership opportunities, and getting the word out about their services to the community.

The participants chose to focus on the topic of volunteerism for most of the discussion. Karen Harvey, executive director of the Bluefield State Foundation, organized and facilitated the summit. "We shared ideas on how to find volunteers and make the experience positive for them as well as useful to the organization," she said.

The group quickly reached a consensus that volunteer training is essential, and written job descriptions are the best way to communicate expectations. Patti Cettin of TASK (Taking Action for Special Kids) noted that government regulations apply to staff as well as volunteers working with special needs children and their families. The organization has to inform paid and nonpaid workers about such rules to maintain compliance. Dress codes, confidentiality and sensitivity to those served by the nonprofit are as important as job responsibilities, and they also should be covered in job descriptions.

Summit attendees shared the names of resources for finding volunteers, including the website www.volunteerwv.org hosted by the state's Commission for National and Community Service. Roger Topping of Princeton Health Care Center recommended RSVP in Princeton. A national organization, the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program matches seniors who want to volunteer with local nonprofits. Jeri Elmore of the United Way of the Virginias also said the Mercer County Fellowship Home and Day Report Center are resources.

The United Way has a national program called "Day of Action," where individuals from an area devote a day volunteering for a number of local nonprofits. Often scheduled to kick off United Way annual campaigns, the event provides thousands of hours of assistance while raising the spirit of giving in a community. The next one will be June 21, 2012.

Another topic was finding young volunteers. Suggestions included contacting high schools' Interact Clubs (affiliated with a local Rotary Club), the Bonner Scholarship Program at Concord University, and Appalachian Teen Challenge. Many groups work with student organizations at the colleges, and a suggestion was made to create an electronic clearinghouse where students and organizations could be paired. Harvey took that as an action item.

Other suggestions to attract young donors included offering references and internships and organizing a Family Volunteer Day, where parents and children would spend time together helping others. Organizing via Facebook and other social media was also discussed.

The need to recognize volunteers was another topic. "Feed them," said Ellen Light of the Alliance for the Arts. "We always feed them." Topping added that they give certificates to all volunteers, and T shirts are popular items at a number of the organizations represented. Some hold an annual volunteer recognition event such as a dinner.

Participants also strongly agreed that the opportunity to network with others working in the nonprofit sector and developing partnerships would be of great value. Harvey noted that the area currently does not have professional organizations for fundraisers such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which has no chapters in the State of West Virginia. Future meetings hosted by the BSC Foundation's Center on Philanthropy will foster outreach and affiliation with other nonprofits and resources such as the Chamber of Commerce of the Bluefields.

The Center on Philanthropy will also provide seminars on topics of interest to nonprofit workers, paid or unpaid. The group agreed on the following subjects, dates to be determined:

• Grant Writing
• Budgeting and Annual Funds
• Marketing
• Major Gifts

The following groups were represented at the first Nonprofit Summit hosted by the BSC Foundation:

• Alliance for the Arts
• Gary Bowling's House of Art
• GlenWood Park Retirement Village
• Princeton Health Care Center
• Second Chance Learning Center
• TASK (Taking Action for Special Kids)
• Town of Bramwell
• United Way of the Virginias
• WISE (Women in Search of Empowerment)

For information on these groups, the upcoming seminars or ways to join the conversation, contact Karen Harvey at 304-327-4031 or kharvey@bluefieldstate.edu.