By Gary Davis
Quick question: What comes to mind when you hear the word “volunteer”? For some, it signals a time commitment that could potentially be overwhelming and difficult to back out of. For others, it signals a fulfilling and joyful experience.
Then there’s the overlay of the pandemic which shifted most of us away from community-oriented activities, including volunteering. Even those of us who have an immediate positive reaction to the word “volunteer” are less sure about how to face outward again. And, if we do take that step, will we do it differently?
The reality is that volunteerism is down in the Pacific Northwest, having taken a big hit during the height of the pandemic. So how do we build it back up? And, again, does it make sense to approach volunteering differently following months and years of COVID-cautious isolation?
That’s where Companis likes to place itself – at the crossroads of discernment and engagement. We offer a fundamentally different way to discover and interact with volunteering in our community. One that is intentional and makes room for a lot of questions and considerations before committing to something.
Companis values taking it slow. We work hard to craft a great fit for the volunteer, and for the nonprofit where that volunteer is placed. No falling between the cracks, no overwhelming demands on a person’s time. Instead, a commitment that lifts everyone up.
Here’s a quick overview of our intake process: Once Companis and a potential volunteer delve into some options for doing service with a nonprofit and a good match is found, then we write up a simple agreement that clearly lays out logistics and boundaries. If there’s any confusion or concerns about the volunteer’s role down the road, Companis is there to negotiate the volunteer’s needs and those of the nonprofit. In addition, we offer the volunteer a community. Companis Workers regularly come together for enriching experiences and meaningful conversations. These include in-person and online meet ups, fun retreats, and personal and professional development workshops – all “opt in” events.
Happily, because we approach volunteering this way, we’re seeing our volunteer placement numbers grow, bucking the larger downward trend. In 2022, we made 66 placements in our two county service area, with a third of our Workers in Snohomish County, and two-thirds in King County. That’s up almost 18% from 2021.
Here’s a Companis volunteer who illustrates just how little time is needed to make a difference: Yulia Tolskaya, a Companis Worker with Lutheran Community Services Northwest, spends two hours a week helping resettle Ukrainian immigrants by using her Russian language skills. And as our profile in this newsletter says, “two hours can change lives.”
Then there’s the conversations we have around flexibility. That was a top draw for Everett Community College student Nefertiti Gilbert. She volunteers her social media and communications skills to the Everett Recovery Café on Fridays, the best day for her school schedule. “I’m so happy this is where I was placed,” she says. That’s music to our ears, because that means everyone’s a winner: the volunteer, the nonprofit partner, and our neighbors whose lives are touched by her commitment. Check out Nefertiti’s volunteer story here.
There’s no mistaking that our local nonprofits feel the drought of volunteers. Currently, we have more requests for volunteers than we’re able to fill. But, no matter the volume of requests, we’re honored to partner with these nonprofits and enjoy the challenge of finding the right volunteer match.
So, if you or someone you know is curious about doing service through a nonprofit that’s providing basic, human needs, we’d love to explore that with you. We invite you to submit your information on our website. We want to meet you where you are, and when you’re ready. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunities.