Natalie Warren, volunteer program manager for the Spirit of Giving Network,
bills herself as a volunteer matchmaker who pairs people with organizations
that need their help.
Kurtis Boggs/The Coastal Star
By Rich Pollack
Jodi Lane wanted to volunteer and give back to her community — she just wasn’t quite sure where to start.
So the 28-year-old Florida Atlantic University student went online and, almost by accident, discovered a one-hour training course offered by the Boca Raton-based Spirit of Giving Network.
The course, offered to the public at no cost, led Lane to the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center in Boca Raton, where she now volunteers two days a week, often working directly with the center’s clients.
“I love it, I really love it,” she says. “I’m really happy I found it.”
Lane is one of about 70 people who have learned more about volunteering and connected with opportunities to share their time and talents — thanks to the Spirit of Giving Network’s new Community Volunteer Training program, which began last fall.
“In seven months, it’s really grown,” says Natalie Warren, the volunteer program manager for the Spirit of Giving Network, an umbrella organization of 60 nonprofits that come together to share resources and information.
Unique in South Florida, the training, placement and screening program serves as a conduit connecting qualified nonprofit organizations with people who want to donate their time.
“I’m a volunteer matchmaker,” Warren says.
What sets the Spirit of Giving Program apart is that it provides names of prospective volunteers to nonprofit organizations, which then can reach out to those individuals who best meet their needs.
“The day after I went through the training, I started getting emails from nonprofit organizations,” Lane said, adding that the Memory and Wellness Center opportunity came the closest to what she was looking for.
Offered twice a week — at 5 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m. Thursday — the one-hour training program includes an overview of volunteerism, providing participants with an understanding of the value of volunteering and a general understanding of what will be expected of them in terms of conduct and reliability.
During the session, participants fill out an application, detailing their areas of interest and the type of work they like to do, which could include everything from helping with grant writing and administrative work to mentoring, working directly with an agency’s clients or assisting at special events.
The application, which is standardized for use by nonprofit organization, also includes background information about the applicant that can be helpful to agencies looking for volunteers.
“Once we have the information, we compile it and send it in an email to the nonprofits,” Warren said. “They go through it and then contact the volunteers that best fit their needs.”
Warren says that nonprofit organizations also contact her when they need volunteers for special events or on a continuing basis.
The program also offers, at a reduced rate, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement background checks required for some volunteer positions.
A long-term volunteer herself, Warren says the volunteer training was born out of a shared need among all of the Spirit of Giving Network member organizations.
“They recognized that they needed one central program to focus on getting the appropriate volunteers to the right nonprofit organization,” Warren said.
For volunteers like Lane, the program is simplifying the process of finding a place where they can make a difference.
“I think a lot of people really want to help but they just don’t know how,” she said. “This program makes it easier for them to get involved.”
For more information, visit the Spirit of Giving Network website at www.spiritofgivingnetwork.com/volunteer, call 299-1205 or email Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.