Posted on August 15, 2016 17:01
Jefferson County’s United Way has launched a new website to connect people interested in volunteer work with agencies in need of workers.
The site is simple to use, and sign-up is free for both the potential volunteers and the agencies seeking them, said United Way Co-Director Larry Cummins.
Hosting and design of the website was paid for through a $29,000 grant from the Indiana Association of United Ways, which will cover the first two years of expenses, Cummins said. He and Co-Director Sheila Coffin and other United Way staff are trained in day-to-day maintenance of the site and updating information, as needed.
When creating a profile, a new user is asked to provide their name and contact information; areas of interest, such as education and literacy, historic sites, or helping with upcoming events. With the click of a mouse, a user also can become of a “fan” of any of the agencies that interest them, as well. This will enable them to receive notifications when those agencies update their information.
So far, 26 organizations have their own “portal” on the site, and Cummins said more are welcome.
To be included, an organization must be non-profit and must be located within Jefferson County. Once in the system, the agency’s information and volunteer needs can be updated daily or weekly – whenever new opportunities arise, he said.
The site provides an overview of each participating agency, including the services they provide, their mission or vision statement and the specific causes they support, along with available volunteer positions. An agency may also include photos and videos of their projects and the work they do.
In addition to streamlining the process of matching volunteers to opportunities, the website will a database that can provide agencies with much-needed information about who their volunteers are, in terms of demographics, as well as the specific work volunteers are doing, and the number of volunteer hours logged.
“We hope it will encourage people to volunteer, but what we really want to do is get statistics,” Cummins said. He is hoping that can save a lot of time and effort for people like Molly Dodge, director of The Clearinghouse, who write a lot of grant applications every year. Up to now, Dodge would have to contact each agency individually and ask for all of that information.
The website can also calculate the value of volunteer hours into dollar amounts, so they can be included as “in kind” donations, which often are grant requirements.
Other useful reports include providing a summary of needs in the county, the response to those needs, volunteer hours based on interest, as well as the agencies that are viewed most and the top 50 volunteers.
“The whole idea is we will be able to pull these reports up, then anybody that’s applying for grants, us included, will be able to pull out the specific information they need,” Cummins said.
The only potential glitch is that volunteers must log the hours they work on the website themselves; the agency then receives an email notification through which the hours can be verified, Cummins said.
Cummins plans to present an overview of the website to the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce and during freshman orientation at Hanover College at the end of August.
“We’ve partnered with Hanover College, because the college is pushing volunteerism for their kids,” he said. “Hanover will have its own portal and (post) their own volunteer opportunities on the campus that students can sign up for.
The students also may volunteer directly for agencies in the community, as well.
For more information or to sign up, visit www.jcinvolunteer.org or www.jcinunitedway.org.