November CVC-TC Member Profile: Mary Smith

As a member of the CVC-TC, we’d like other members and partners to get to know you a bit better. By sharing a bit about what you do and how you make an impact on the community it strengthens not only our organization, but could also strengthen corporate volunteerism as a whole.

Name: Mary Smith 

Company: Greater Twin Cities United Way

Company Social Media:

TitleSenior Manager, Volunteer United

How many years have you been at your current company? Eight.

How many years have you been in your role? Five.

Describe your role at your company and how your work contributes to the success of the company?

Volunteer engagement is a core value of United Way. It’s embedded in our tagline:  Give, Advocate, Volunteer - Live United. We work to connect those who want to volunteer with the needs of our community partners. We feel that volunteerism is a great way to demonstrate the work of United Way in the community

What corporate volunteer best practices would you share with other CVC-TC members? 

Although we are not corporate, but work with many corporate partners, these are a few of the best practices we have observed/encouraged:

- Less is sometimes more. Don’t assume that a small group of volunteers will not be effective. Many agencies are happy to accommodate a small group of volunteers, and only a few can handle between 50-100 volunteers in one location.
- Realize limitations. Most nonprofits have limited resources. Even an agency with whom you have a strong relationship may find it difficult to organize a volunteer project if there is very little, or no, money for supplies. The greater the number of volunteers to engage, the more likely help with materials and other project costs will be needed.
- Utilize your skills. Projects become more meaningful when you think about the strengths, areas of expertise, or resources your group can share with a nonprofit in need.
- Expect the unexpected. Sick volunteers, Minnesota weather, traffic delays and more are all variables to consider. Try to have a back-up plan for whatever curveballs are thrown your way.
- Recognize the impact of your volunteer efforts and highlight them to your group. Be flexible. Try to be open to new ideas and be willing to share your own ideas. Who knows what will happen!

What are some of the most successful volunteer projects you’ve worked on? Large scale: Action Day. In 2017, we worked with the CHS Field and the St. Paul Saints and utilized 3,000 volunteers to assemble 12,000 backpacks with school supplies. Small scale (but no less impactful):  Volunteer United frequently connects smaller groups with capacity-building projects at local agencies.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in the CVC-TC? Attend as many programs as feasible and join a committee!

Why did you choose your current role or company?  I am passionate about civic engagement, of which volunteerism is a piece.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you have ever received? Trust your gut. It’s seldom wrong.

Where is your favorite place to volunteer and why?  It’s usually the last place I visited.

What are three personal, must-have items at your desk?  A variety of plants, lip balm, and a tacked up quote from Martin Luther (“For truth and duty it is ever the fitting time; who waits until circumstances completely favor his undertaking will never accomplish anything.”)