Thursday, July 30, 2009

Collaborations making work smarter, not harder

Volunteers have become ever more important as struggling nonprofits in a troubled economy experience mounting pressure to provide resources and services. Despite the trying economic times and the first decline in charitable giving in 20 years, the Volunteering in America report finds that rates of volunteerism continue to hold steady from 2007 rates.

As a Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the Nonprofit Network in Dakota County (NNDC), I'm excited to share that our network is facing the challenge of diminished resources despite greater need by banding together to work smarter, not harder. A project of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, the network formally known as the "Dakota County Social Leaders Action Network," has transcended its initial goals of engaging nonprofit board members to become a coalition of collaborative local organizations.

The Nonprofit Network in Dakota County has promoted partnerships amongst our member nonprofits since the beginning. In 2007, on National Make a Difference Day, three nonprofit groups co-hosted the first-ever "Birthday Bag Blitz" to assemble Cheerful Givers birthday gift bags for less fortunate children. In doing so, mentors and mentees from Kids 'n Kinship were able to share a common volunteer experience as well as hear from Smoke-Free Dakota about the new statewide smoke-free workplace law.

Other Nonprofit Network groups joined together to host a series of 5 Emergency Preparedness workshops in Spring 2007. Individual nonprofits walked away with individual emergency plans as well as the opportunity to discuss with other community institutions how to coordinate their distinct roles in times of crisis.

In August 2008, the Nonprofit Network recognized and thanked the county’s many volunteers at the first “Honoring Volunteers Day” at the Dakota County Fair in Farmington. Rather than require individual organizations to pay booth fees and staff their tables for 12 hours a day for a full week, Honoring Volunteers Day allows for nonprofits to recognize their volunteers and recruit new supporters in one afternoon! This year's Honoring Volunteers Day is slated for Sunday, August 16, 2009 from 1:00PM-4:00PM at the Dakota County Fair. Stop by to learn about nonprofits across the county, participate in speed-volunteering opportunities, and be recognized for your own volunteering efforts in our community!

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