“Iowans give back all the time, they just don’t call it that,” said Sue Driscoll, senior manager of volunteer engagement at United Way of East Central Iowa (UWECI).
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 41.5 percent of Iowa residents say they volunteer, ranking Iowa No. 4 in the nation in volunteerism. Even so, Driscoll suspects that many more hours go unreported.
“Iowans don’t like to record their volunteer hours; they don’t want to be recognized in that way,” she said.
The same organization reports that 56.7 percent of Iowans say they do favors for neighbors, which suggests Driscoll may be right about Iowans’ modesty when it comes to reporting the amount of time they spent volunteering.
Recognizing that lending a helping hand comes naturally for many Iowans, UWECI works to create lasting partnerships between individuals and work groups and local non-profits. Driscoll hopes to connect people to things they’re passionate about so they’ll want to keep coming back.
“It’s great when you can make that connection, like when Day of Caring volunteers turn into long-term volunteers,” she said.
VOLUNTEER WITH YOUR WORK TEAM
If you or your work group are looking for a way to give back, UWECI provides a holiday volunteer and giving guide with dozens of opportunities to help. (Go online to https://go.uweci.org/holiday-volunteer-guide)
“It’s a one-stop shop. You can peruse what’s out there and sign up online,” Driscoll said. Work groups can sign up to help at a holiday event, contribute to a food drive, or even adopt a family — something that Driscoll enjoyed when UWECI staff participated in the program.
“You learn the family’s first names, ages, interests and what they might need.”
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Participants sometimes get to drop donated items off in person, something Driscoll said was incredibly rewarding.
“It was a few years ago, but I can vividly remember every detail,” Driscoll said. “It was so much fun, and they were so appreciative.”
UNITING BEHIND A CAUSE
When a company encourages employees to volunteer, Driscoll said it not only improves workplace culture and forms bonds between coworkers; it also helps with retention by making employees feel connected to the community.
And it can bring a team closer, working toward a common goal.
“Companies are paying large amounts for team-building activities, but volunteer projects can be just that,” she said.
MAKING TIME TO VOLUNTEER
If your schedule is already full, Driscoll suggests signing up for short-term commitments or splitting a volunteer project with a coworker. Driscoll and a coworker share a 12-week commitment to read to elementary school students over the lunch hour. She and her coworker alternate weeks, depending on their schedule.
However you are able to help, Driscoll encourages everyone, no matter how humble they are of being “Iowa nice,” to record their volunteer hours, which can help nonprofits secure future funding.