by Abby Landmeier
April is host to National Volunteer Month. Across Mesa County, hundreds of hours are given each day, thousands a year. Each hour leads us to having a stronger community and keeping access to essential services going. Volunteering helps an organization and empowers individuals. Lending thought to the democracy we have, volunteering is a way to vote on what is needed in the community directly with your investment of time.
Volunteer hours are invaluable; however, research has been done to determine what it would look like if we were to associate economic impact. According to Independent Sector, the value of a volunteer hour is $26.78 in Colorado. Giving three hours a week leaves an annual economic impact of $4,177.68. For a nonprofit, volunteers are essential to keeping core services robust and of quality. This impact helps lower what the agency would expend on paid staffing. Above all, it provides a human touch that we need.
Moving the needle on better community health outcomes can happen through volunteering. Many of the services we have in Mesa County are made possible by people giving their time. Walking away knowing you made an impact or helped the organization achieve their core mission is powerful.
At an individual level, we’re learning how much healthier we are when we’re socially connected. Volunteering is one avenue of creating this.
Tips for seeking a volunteer position:
- Share your work and volunteer experiences. Some of your work history may feel like it doesn’t fit, but it may light up ideas for the volunteer coordinator regarding tasks or expertise they need.
- If there’s something that you want to contribute, ask. Nonprofits love volunteers. Innovation and creative ideas are welcome. If you have a specific idea, bring it up to see if it is a good fit. The organization may or may not have the capacity to implement your idea, or they may need some planning time to do so. Mesa County is well connected, nonprofits talk to each other frequently, and if your idea is not a good fit, they can let you know what may be a great fit.
- Share items you really don’t want to do. If the thought of filing or answering phones elicits nausea, let the organization know. Their goal is to set volunteers up for success and create a win-win.
- Be honest about how much time you have. Organizations will depend on your time commitment and create your schedule accordingly. Letting them know your availability up front, or whenever there’s a change in your life (i.e. a job change or retirement), can help them see where you fit best.
- Consider how much, or how little, responsibility you’d like to have. It’s okay if you don’t want a role with large responsibilities. Volunteering for a board of directors comes with more responsibility, while there are other areas where giving of your time can be fun and not come with as much pressure.
Where to look for volunteer opportunities:
- If you are 55 or older, Mesa County RSVP offers a connection point to long-term volunteering as well as volunteering for special events.
- Call organizations you are passionate about, or ones you are curious to learn more about.
- Local governments have various volunteer boards and commissions focused on key areas.
- Core community services continuously need help. Examples include local hospitals, being an advocate for those who have been affected by a crime, local hunger relief organizations and those serving the homeless. Locally we have a robust pool of volunteers at fire departments and fire districts, as well. Some ideas:
Abby Landmeier is Manager of Community Funding at United Way of Mesa County. She has supervised volunteers for United Way’s citizen review process to allocate funding to programs. She volunteers her time at the board level to the Partnership for Children and Families, City of Grand Junction’s Parks and Recreation and Mesa County Library District.