As the state’s lead agency for promoting volunteerism, it’s only fitting that Volunteer Florida spearheaded the development of Florida’s official volunteer opportunities platform. Known as Volunteer Connect, it will function as an intermediary between organizations (specifically nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status and government entities) that mobilize volunteers and Floridians who are interested in engaging in community service. Essentially, organizations will be able to post available volunteer opportunities, and then individuals and groups can sign up for them directly through the platform.
Given the recent announcement of its launch to organizations*, we sat down with our CEO, Clay Ingram, to find out:
Why Volunteer Connect?
*Volunteer Connect will launch to the public in fall 2019.
What led Volunteer Florida to develop Volunteer Connect?
I like to think of Volunteer Florida’s mission as a three-legged stool. The first leg is national service – we administer AmeriCorps programs in Florida. We also coordinate volunteers and donations during disasters, like hurricanes, so the second leg is emergency management. And the third leg is volunteerism because part of our mission is to “strengthen Florida’s communities…by fostering volunteerism.” Volunteer Connect fits into this third leg, helping us cultivate a culture of civic engagement throughout the state.
Sure, there are a lot of Floridians who want to volunteer, but it’s not always easy to get started. For example, is it best to begin with a phone call? If so, to whom? Or maybe a Google search is all it takes? But then what keywords do you include?
Even after you figure that out, there’s often an overwhelming amount of information, and you may not fully understand the diversity of opportunities that are available. This could lead you to jump into a particular type of service just because it’s familiar – like reading to students at an elementary school or serving meals at a soup kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, both are very important, but we want volunteers to be aware of all the different ways they can use their unique skills and experiences to support their communities.
Volunteer Connect was designed to facilitate that, while making this whole process simpler.
Many organizations already have an established platform and/or process for recruiting volunteers. What makes Volunteer Connect different?
Volunteer Connect is Florida’s official volunteer opportunities platform. It’s a high-profile initiative (we’re grateful to have First Lady Casey DeSantis supporting it) and word is getting out fast. Not to mention, it will transcend regional lines and reach both current and potential volunteers all over the state – from the panhandle all the way down to the Keys.
While those of us at Volunteer Florida understand that there are other effective platforms being used, we encourage organizations to consider registering with Volunteer Connect, too. In the end, our thought is that more visibility can only result in more volunteers.
How else will Volunteer Connect benefit organizations specifically?
At Volunteer Florida, we have a history of working closely with nonprofits, so we know that most have very few dollars, if any at all, allocated for marketing support or management software. Volunteer Connect is a free tool that can support both of these functions.
Of course, it can be used to promote volunteer opportunities (searchable by date, location, issue area, etc.), but it can also facilitate scheduling, track attendance and monitor hours served.
In addition to all that, we’re going to offer exclusive trainings through Volunteer Connect, focusing on a wide range of topics, like volunteer retention.
What else do you want Floridians to know about Volunteer Connect?
This is a capstone project for Volunteer Florida. It’s been in development for years, and we’re so excited to share it with organizations now. Our hope is that it makes their day-to-day operations easier and ultimately builds organizational capacity.
We’re also really looking forward to launching the platform to the public in fall 2019. Volunteers can use it to make a difference in their neighbors’ lives and take ownership of their communities. Not to mention, quality of life is directly related to volunteerism, and service offers many benefits – from valuable job skills to improved health.
Clearly, Volunteer Connect is going to leave its mark on Florida in more ways than one.
For more information about Volunteer Connect, click here.