Those thinking about volunteering to help nonprofit organizations should first consider the amount of time they can donate before making a commitment.According to United Way of the Ocoee Region chief …
Those thinking about volunteering to help nonprofit organizations should first consider the amount of time they can donate before making a commitment.
According to United Way of the Ocoee Region chief financial officer Tanya Mazzolini, potential volunteers may want to start out by aligning themselves with short-term projects, such as one-day events or opportunities that require just a one or two hour-per-week-commitment.
She spoke during a recent luncheon by the Women’s Council at the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“I started really small,” Mazzolini said. “I’m a really good worker bee, so I started out at the bottom.
Mazzolini advises working one's way up in an organization to learn all aspects of its functions. In addition, she said those considering volunteering should ask themselves what time commitments they are able to provide.
“Don’t try to make a long-term commitment starting out,” Mazzolini said. “Start at the bottom. I did because I wanted to know everything from that point up."
Importantly, Mazzolini advised people who are interested in volunteering that they pick an organization that has functions closely aligned with their lifestyles.
For example, when her children were young, she volunteered in their schools. The choice enabled her to be near her children. In addition, the hours she was volunteering did not require her to spend time away from them since they were already in class.
“I would show up to work an hour a week for several years,” Mazzolini said.
She also suggests that people utilize their professional expertise during volunteering stints. When one of her children was in high school band, Mazzolini, an accountant, volunteered to be the band’s treasurer, as well as chief fundraiser.
“That’s my strength; that’s where I’m comfortable,” she said.
As her children reached adulthood, Mazzolini had more time to devote to long-term commitments, such as serving on boards of nonprofit organizations.
“Many nonprofits are looking for people who can think strategically, or for managers who can fill leadership roles,” Mazzolini said. “They may not know how to do accounting or marketing and may need someone to help fill that role.”
Serving on a board of directors may come along with a wide array of unexpected responsibilities, and Mazzolini advises that one do one's homework before accepting such a seat.
“You need to know what it is the organization does and find out what type of board you are being asked to join,” she said.
For example, Mazzolini said there are two types of boards that are commonly associated with nonprofit organizations.
“You should ask if it is an oversight board or a working board,” Mazzolini said.
An oversight board typically meets several times a year and is responsible for such duties as strategic planning. A working board requires more time and dedication and may include responsibilities such as administrative work, as well as fundraising – duties that may require long hours.
“If it’s a working board, then its going to require a lot of work,” Mazzolini said. “It may be too much time for some, and they will be a very unhappy board member.”
In addition, she said potential board members should verify whether the board is protected by Directors and Officers insurance, which protects the financial interests of each board member should someone forget to pay payroll taxes or if another member has committed fraud, causing a shortfall in the organization's financial resources.
“If they don’t have insurance and someone forgets to pay payroll taxes, then the board members are responsible for paying them," Mazzolini said.
Ensuring the board is protected during a financial shortfall is paramount before joining.
“You need to ask before you join,” Mazzolini said.
Some boards have giving expectations, requiring members to make large donations once a year, according to Mazzolini. If so, a future board member must consider if they have the financial means to make such donations, which can reach thousands of dollars yearly.
In the end, what matters most is that someone gives back to their community, whether it is as a long-term volunteer or just a one-day volunteer. She said many organizations, such as those who build or remodel homes, just need volunteers for short-term projects.
“I put siding up one day,” Mazzolini said. “That’s not my strong point, but I showed up for just one day, and it was great.”
For information about volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.unitedwayocoee.org/funded-partners.
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