September 2014

Philanthropic Cause & Effect: Making Lowcountry Volunteer Connections

Author: Kitty Bartell

Like a weight tipping the balance on a scale, a smile lifting someone’s mood, or the strong arm of a pitcher throwing a strike into the catcher’s glove, cause-and-effect relationships are imbedded in the fabric of our lives. Lowcountry Volunteer Connections, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, is putting philanthropic cause and effect into motion, benefitting the area’s non-profits by bringing together the skills, experience, and passions of volunteers, to great effect throughout Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, and Hampton counties.

Expanding on their already burgeoning mission the Foundation’s interactive website, Lowcountry Volunteer Connections, is an easy-to-navigate way for volunteers to find opportunities to contribute time, talent, energy, and passion, and for non-profits to reach out to volunteers for long-term and short-term events and projects.

“With the Community Foundation, our mission is to strengthen community by connecting people, resources, and needs, and understanding that the needs aren’t always financial needs. Having an engaged community certainly raises the level of awareness of the different issues going on in the community; becoming involved with a non-profit organization and seeing hands-on work that they do really creates a greater awareness; and a more aware community makes a better community,” said Carolyn Torgersen, vice president of marketing and communications for the Foundation.

More than a vehicle to match volunteers with needs, the website is a fun place to visit. Designed to reflect the personality and mission of the local Foundation, its functionality is based on a nationally recognized platform used by non-profits across the country.

With approximately 120 volunteers currently registered on the site, the Foundation is hoping to add 100 more by the end of the year. According to Lindsay Dodge, community outreach associate, it couldn’t be easier to get involved. Just visit the Foundation’s website, click on the Volunteer link, select Enter the Lowcountry Volunteer Connections website, and select Become a Volunteer. “All you have to do is sign up, fill out some very basic personal information such as your name, address and e-mail. You add your skills when you register and answer a couple of very brief questions. It takes less than five minutes. Once you are registered, you can start signing up for opportunities.”

The staff at Wexford Plantation came across Connections when searching for opportunities to encourage a greater culture of teamwork, said Kelly Hillyer, Wexford’s director of communications and marketing. Their initiative included organizing a “Giving Tree” for Deep Well, participating in the Hilton Head Shamrock 5K, and hosting a staff trivia night. “Moving forward, we agreed we wanted to participate in activities that give back to the community and turned to Connections for volunteer opportunities in the area,” Hillyer said. “We are planning to get involved with the Habitat for Humanity project in the fourth quarter of this year.”

The new Port Royal South Foundation Maritime Center will rely heavily on volunteer participation, said Jody Hayward, director of the center. “We’ll need docents, program coordinators, aquarium and touch tank caregivers, administrative help, and so much more. The program that Community Foundation of the Lowcountry has will help us attract, register, and manage our volunteers. I think it will be a great resource, not only for organizations that need help, but also for those wanting to volunteer in the community. It’s one-stop shopping for volunteers.”

Both non-profits and local organizations are finding the website’s simple SEARCHPICK – Do mantra to be appealing, not only for its ease of use, but in attracting volunteers for everything from one-time opportunities such as the Heart Walk, a beach clean-up, or the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to more long-term assignments like serving as a docent at the Heyward House. The Connections website also tracks volunteer hours—an excellent resource, particularly for students working on civic transcripts.

Torgersen and Dodge see teen volunteers as a relatively untapped resource, and they are working to increase the number of volunteer opportunities for this age range.
Lowcountry Volunteer Connections is giving locals with a heart for helping the vehicle to carry their passion and energy to great effect.

For more information, visit cf-lowcountry.org or call (843) 681-9100.

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