How to 'Get Connected' with volunteering

United Way provides a one-stop shop website for volunteers and nonprofits
Jul. 18, 2013 @ 05:19 AM

"How many of you have an ongoing need for volunteers?" asked Andy Gmitter, director of training and customer success at Galaxy Digital in Asheville, as he addressed a group of nonprofit agency managers and representatives during a training session at the Rutherford County Schools Administrative offices on Wednesday morning.

Everyone raised their hands.

Through a partnership with Galaxy Digital, United Way of Rutherford County has launched a "revolutionary web-based solution" called 'Get Connected' that helps nonprofit offices find and pair volunteers with the right opportunities.

"We have a lot of retirees and skilled people in our county and they don't know where to volunteer and take advantage of those skills," said Faye Hassell, executive director of United Way of Rutherford County, Inc. "This service will provide an opportunity to collectively sweep the county and will be something we can all benefit from."

Get Connected is not a program to be downloaded, but a free user-friendly website that is compatible with both PCs and Macs and all current web browsers.

During Wednesday's Get Connected tutorial Gmitter discussed the website's aid in developing and maintaining long-term volunteer relationships, from both a volunteer point of view and a nonprofit agency manager perspective.

"This web tool will introduce volunteers to how they can get involved with agencies, volunteer needs and community events," Gmitter said. "Whether there is something people are passionate about, a skill they want to use to help give back or they are interested in getting involved in the community, Get Connected will help them find those opportunities."

Volunteers who sign up on the website will be able to peruse lists of participating nonprofit agencies and 'become a fan' to receive direct e-mail notifications about current volunteer needs and community events.

"We are going to be having a need for poll workers soon and we can use this website to help people become aware of how they can volunteer and to help us recruit more people," said Debbie Bedford, director of the Rutherford County Board of Elections.

Interested volunteers will also be able to respond to needs and register for events through the Get Connected website.

"This will especially be a good tool for students who already volunteer, as well as those who are looking for new volunteer opportunities," Hassell said.

On the website, users can keep track of volunteer hours and print a volunteer resume documenting their amount of service.

Nonprofits can also sign up on the website and create profiles to promote their agencies, providing website visitors with contact information, photos, videos and opportunities to get involved.

Agencies will also be able to link Facebook and Twitter pages to their profiles for easy access to prospective volunteers.

"Although Hospice is a well-known concept, many people are afraid of it or unsure how to get involved," said Karen Jarson, clinical volunteer coordinator at Hospice of Rutherford County. "Just being able to connect with more people through another avenue like this website will be a huge benefit for us, our volunteers and our patients."

"If nonprofits see this opportunity to extend their outreach, everyone else in the community will follow suit," Gmitter said. "I encourage everyone to utilize Get Connected to spread the word on how people can get involved. The sooner your agency's content is up, the sooner the community will know about your agency and volunteering."

The Get Connected website is currently up and running and training for the service is ongoing, allowing users to join the website and create profiles at their convenience.

Those interested can visit unitedwayofrutherford.galaxydigital.com.

"Many other United Ways have signed onto this service, and I think people will be just as impressed with this program as I am," Hassell said. "The key will be to market this service and encourage people to utilize it. This is going to be the best thing that has come our way in a while."