Downturn’s Upside: More Volunteers

    As more Americans are laid off from their jobs, some are looking to fill their time, network or just give back to their communities by volunteering, the New York Times reported March 17.

    The group reported a 30-percent spike in visitors in February, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters in New York has received 25 percent more inquiries about mentoring over 2008. The San Francisco-based Taproot Foundation, which connects charities with skilled professionals who want to volunteer, also has seen increased interest.

    “Right now, I could volunteer about five times a week, if they’d want me to,” said Emily Jimenez, recently laid off from the Milford Plaza hotel in Manhattan and attending a volunteer orientation run by New York Cares.

    Some nonprofits are welcoming the influx of marketing, accounting, finance and other experts who are now looking to lend their expertise. However, some smaller charities have struggled to integrate volunteers at the same time as many are facing funding cutbacks.

    “It’s like a Greek tragedy,” said Lindsay Firestone, who manages pro-bono programs for Taproot. “We’re thrilled to have all of these volunteers. But now organizations are stuck not being able to take advantage of it because they don¹t have adequate funding.”

    Some nonprofit directors, however, are taking a longer view. “My hope is when they decide it¹s time to do something else, they have fond memories of what they learned at United Way,” said Bertina Ceccarelli, senior vice president of the group’s New York chapter. “Maybe they’ll even become a donor. I’ll tell you, there isn’t an executive director in town who doesn¹t think that way.”

    By Partnership Staff
    March 2009


    March 2009