For those who are on the ground working directly with communities, we know our work simply cannot be done without a number of partners, including donors; local, state, and federal government; other organizational partners; and of course, the children and families themselves. I’d like to shine a light on one of Pablove’s most important constituents—our volunteers—and discuss why they are so instrumental to the work that we do in the healing arts.
Volunteers are your biggest advocates.
In any organization, volunteers are not only your biggest advocates; they often are the first to adopt your mission. Many organizations, including Pablove, started with volunteers who believed in the idea of addressing childhood cancer through photography and providing opportunities for chronically ill children before our first staff member was hired. Why? They were the first adopters, going on instinct and belief in the arts. There isn’t much research out there about the correlation between photography and childhood cancer, yet these volunteers, mostly artists themselves, found their way to Pablove and were willing to represent our work on a grassroots level long before our first major donor, foundation, or corporate sponsor came on board. Does that sound familiar? First adopters are usually risk takers and innovators ... and their voices count toward innovation in your arts non-profit, representing the community, and providing first hand stories to support your mission.
They provide hours (translated into dollars) of their time and expertise.
It’s nothing new to say that volunteer hours have a monetary value. Time is money, and our volunteers provide plenty of time to support our organization’s goals. Volunteers provide different levels of support, including serving on our board of directors, scientific advisory committee (the science half of Pablove’s mission), and facilitating our photography program, tirelessly working to provide a joyful experience in the arts for children undergoing active treatment for cancer. Ask any arts non-profit, and I would wager the general consensus is that in our busy day-to-day work dealing with budgets, 990s, fundraising, or addressing the latest snafu with our heat and air conditioning, we often take our volunteers for granted, knowing that they will be there for us at the end of the day. Whether your volunteer is a high schooler helping with a mailing or an esteemed oncology physician who gives you guidance on the link between arts and quality of life, the value and expertise volunteers bring to the community is priceless.
Volunteers make us better professionals and people! (So let’s invest in them!)
I have many stories on how volunteers have taught me lessons on being a better professional. One in particular stands out: Every year, David Reeve, a long-time mentor with Pablove Shutterbugs, goes above and beyond with his volunteer work with our kids. He dedicates eight weeks out of his winter to travel to our students’ homes to teach them photography, and is a camp counselor and teacher for our programs as well. One time, we had the unfortunate task of letting him know sad news—that one of his mentees had passed away from their childhood cancer. David, a busy working professional with two kids of his own, attended the memorial service and represented our foundation by being there for our student and his grieving family. I learned that day about the power of showing love and showing up by caring personally. How do we express appreciation for special volunteers like David? Acknowledging their work and saying thank you is a must, but helping them grow in other ways (i.e. developing their skill set in the healing arts, connecting them to other photographers and professionals in the field) is equally important.
How do volunteers impact your arts organization?