United Way unveils new online volunteer database

Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:38 p.m.

United Way of North Central Florida has launched a new online volunteer match system called Volunteer Select that matches volunteers and in-kind services and goods with nonprofit organizations.

The new online volunteer system serves three functions, said Debbie Mason, United Way of North Central Florida president and CEO.

A two-way match where volunteers post their resume and interest areas, and nonprofit organizations post their volunteer needs.

A posting opportunity for businesses and professionals to post their in-kind services they are willing to donate to charities. Charities can also list their service needs.

A place where individuals and businesses can donate in-kind supplies such as clothing, diapers, toiletries, furniture, appliances, etc.

"We are so pleased to be able to provide this new, upgraded service to our community, and we are grateful for the terrific input we received from local nonprofit leaders this past year," Mason said. "That feedback really helped shape the modalities of Volunteer Select."

Early in 2012, the United Way of North Central Florida team realized the community needed a different way to match volunteers and in-kind services and goods with nonprofit organizations. There was not a system in place to match volunteers/donors with specific opportunities, Mason said.

"We took that void seriously because we had volunteers looking to serve the community, yet they struggled to find an opportunity that was a match to their interests and the time they had available to give," said Mason.

Last fall, United Way received a Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) grant that focused on increasing volunteerism among people age 55 or older.

The RSVP grant focuses on recruiting senior volunteers and matching them either in early learning centers and elementary schools for reading support or placing them in three local high schools as mentors to children at risk of dropping out of school.

"As part of the RSVP grant, we had the opportunity to purchase software to better match senior volunteers," said Mason. "This became the platform for United Way to take on an even bigger role than we had in the past around volunteerism."

Volunteer Select now supports all types of volunteerism, from those looking for an occasional service opportunity to those seeking a longer-term, weekly or monthly commitment.

Volunteer Select lets any IRS-approved nonprofit (civic and charitable) to post its volunteer needs and for any volunteer to post their desired volunteer opportunity. Each party gets an automated email when there is a match. This two-way feature gives nonprofit organizations a better chance of finding the right volunteer.

"We know there is a real need for readers and mentors to volunteer with school-aged children," Mason said. "Right now there is no central place for someone who wants to read or mentor youth to find those opportunities and find the right program for them."

In addition to offering the two-way matching service for volunteers, Volunteer Select also provides an opportunity for people to donate in-kind items and services. Nonprofit organizations often need food, clothing, diapers and equipment as well as services such as building repairs, lawn maintenance, plumbing, etc. North Central Florida lacks a matching system to connect in-kind donors with recipient organizations.

"Our clients are always in need of baby items such as diapers, clothing, pack-n-plays and unopened and unexpired baby formula," said Cathy Winfrey, Healthy Families Alachua program manager. "Volunteer Select is a perfect online, collaborative tool for people to post what they have for our agency and others to see what is available."

Volunteer Select is available at www.unitedwayncfl.org/volunteerselect.

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