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MAVA and ServeMN provide Funding for Volunteer Connection Work

Karmit Bulman
Each year for the last four years, MAVA and ServeMN have awarded grants of $10,000-$15,000 to volunteer connection organizations. These are organizations who focus on connecting community members to a broad array of nonprofits seeking volunteers to help address key community issues. The sub-grant program seeks to fund effective approaches that expand volunteering, strengthen the capacity of volunteer connector organizations to recruit and retain skill-based volunteers, and develop strategies to effectively use volunteers to solve problems.

This year MAVA selected three organizations and awarded them each $14,445 to develop innovations that expand the number of volunteers connected, especially skill-based volunteers, and to implement practices to recruit volunteers for solving the state's most critical issues. These organizations are United Way of Freeborn County, West Central Minnesota United Way, and a consortium of Mahube/OTWA (local Community Action Agency), Essentia Health, Ecumen, United Way, and the Chamber of Commerce in Becker County.

The Becker County consortium will unite local volunteer coordinators to develop a common vision and strategy, build their capacity through education and establish enhanced technology to support recruiting and maintaining volunteers, and will build on community assets to engage the general population and second time home owners in volunteering. Funds are being utilized to hire a consultant who will help build capacity and systems that are sustainable. The funding would also allow for the development of a volunteer database on a website that would be searchable, and match skills and interests to opportunities and coordinators. Lastly, funding will support a volunteer fair focused on recruiting second home owners {30% of the population) and other skill based workers to volunteer.

United Way of West Central Minnesota is funded to implement a Senior Connected program. They will connect and partner with local groups committed to this market segment to identify community needs and gaps in service and develop volunteer opportunities tailored to retiree market. They will also continue to utilize the Get Connected Volunteer Center, get new individuals registered online and reach out to retirement communities to utilize the unpaid workforce of retirees to meet community needs. Specific activities these new volunteers would be involved in include physical labor, general office duties, customer service, assisting specific non-profits including: Safe Avenues, Community Basics, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center, and others. There will also be days of service and other local projects staffed by local retired volunteers.

United Way of Freeborn County will establish a strong network of local volunteers for disaster response and ensure there are team leads to help coordinate response for local and regional events. They will create a volunteer disaster response structure across Freeborn and Mower communities and other areas that are interested in being involved. They will work with youth volunteers in addition to adults and will grow the CHIP (Community Home Improvement Program), which focuses on housing improvement and weatherization.