Posted On: March 30, 2021
Mark your calenders because April is National Volunteer Month! No one does more to foster volunteerism throughout our region than the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
For Rick Skinner, Vice President of the Volunteer Center at the United Way, volunteerism represents much more than a career.
“Volunteerism is critical to a healthy community. Whether it’s helping people gain financial stability, providing youth with the opportunities and resources to succeed, or just making sure individuals have their basic needs met, the United Way brings together millions of people to address and hopefully solve our community’s most pressing issues,” Rick reflects. “We’re all here together to help people live their best lives, and it’s an honor to be associated with an organization that has such a longstanding history of making an impact in our region.”
In 2022, the United Way of Greater St. Louis will celebrate its 100th year of service to the community. Rick’s only been around for roughly 20 of those years, but during that time he has noticed the positive influence of advancing technology on the volunteerism landscape.
“We’ve seen a significant evolution in how people want to engage. They want a resource where they can quickly find something in their community that aligns with their passion,” Rick acknowledges. “But they might not know which agencies support their specific cause. How can they conduct a truly robust search to find exactly what they’re looking for? That’s why we created STLVolunteer.org.”
Any organization, whether funded by the United Way or not, can post volunteer opportunities on STLVolunteer.org. It’s as simple as visiting the website, selecting the portal for organizations and completing a brief eligibility form. Once approved, agencies can begin uploading their listings to the site. Listings are coded by category, so would-be volunteers can easily find the available opportunities that match their areas of interest.
Rick says the new online portal represents a vast improvement over the old-school Caring Catalog, a phonebook-style directory that used to advertise United Way volunteer opportunities in the 1980s and ‘90s. STLVolunteer.org now serves as a one-stop shop for all things related to volunteer management.
“Not only is STLVolunteer.org a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood, but it’s also a platform to support the organizations seeking volunteers,” Rick explains. “How do you recruit volunteers? How do you train them? STLVolunteer.org provides a host of informational resources and best practice libraries compiled by volunteer center experts who are adept at building capacity at all types of organizations.”
Agencies that don’t have a means of acquiring their own volunteer management software can use STLVolunteer.org as a full-service volunteer management platform. The system tracks all volunteers for a given organization, sends out reminders of upcoming projects and even thanks volunteers when work is completed.
With offices closed and so many programs transitioning to virtual formats, volunteer possibilities might seem scarce. But generous folks have been making a difference from the comfort of their homes since well before the pandemic.
“The concept of virtual volunteering actually isn’t new. It’s been brought to the forefront by COVID-19, but it’s been with us for quite some time,” Rick insists. “Many organizations might not have their traditional on-site opportunities, but there are so many meaningful ways to volunteer remotely. Putting together a welcome kit for a nurse or first responder, sending greeting cards and care packages out to people who might be homebound, going online to mentor or tutor a student virtually — you can find opportunities like these and more at STLVolunteer.org/volunteerfromhome.”
Starkloff Disability Institute is a proud partner of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Thanks to STLVolunteer.org, SDI has onboarded a few virtual volunteers from the new online platform. You can see our open volunteer listings or find volunteer opportunities at other St. Louis organizations at STLVolunteer.org.