Charlotte has one title - but works with two organizations. She manages donors, volunteers and messaging from two different orgs that share a common goal.
Charlotte Lewis-Manager of Programs-HandsOn Northeast Ohio/Lorain County Volunteer Connection
In my role, I manage the strategic partnership between HandsOn Northeast Ohio and the United Way of Greater Lorain County - dubbed the Lorain County Volunteer Connection. I work between the two organizations to support each of their individual missions and goal while implementing volunteer programs and strategies that meet our common goal of engaging volunteers in Northeast Ohio.
The organizations I work with are different, but share a common goal. HandsOn Northeast Ohio empowers individuals to be a changing force in their community through our calendar of recurring volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits. These opportunities are led by a staff member or one of our volunteer leaders. In addition, we design and manage volunteer projects for companies and groups looking to make a difference in their community. One of the largest projects we manage is the Homeless Stand Down, serving more than 1,500 homeless individuals.
The United Way of Greater Lorain County is “a catalyst for measurable community transformation, leading to a better life for all through collective impact in health, education, and financial stability.” The organization has 11 community collaboratives, each focused on a different issue area and geographical location in Lorain County. These collaboratives are comprised of up to 50 partners working together to achieve a common goal. This model helps to curb competition between nonprofit organizations, instead allowing them to work together to decide the best methods to solve projects facing their community.
Due to the nature of my job working with two organizations, my day to day varies greatly. I split time between the United Way of Greater Lorain County Office in Downtown Lorain and the HandsOn Northeast Ohio Office in Cleveland. Some days I’m laughing until I’m crying because a volunteer showed me Ludacris rapping “Llama Llama Red Pajama” at a project where we are sorting 10,000 books. Other days I am meeting with Executive Directors trying to determine the best way to mobilize volunteers to get a need met or project completed.
HandsOn is a small but mighty team of three, so the staff shares a lot of job responsibilities. We all lead volunteer opportunities, as well as assist each other with larger scale corporate or group projects. We also all work on the recruitment, training, engagement, and retention of our volunteers, and volunteer leaders.
One of my favorite parts of my job is managing social media, along with helping with marketing and fundraising efforts. I love to write creatively and tell stories, so for me, aside from interacting with volunteers, this is my opportunity to get everyone as excited about the work we are doing as I am!
At United Way, I allow donors to see their dollars in action by engaging them in collaborative focused volunteer projects. I also consult with the community collaborative leads to identify volunteer needs, develop projects, and identify the right group to complete the project. I design, manage, and help to market the Week of Caring, Spring Day of Caring, Make a Difference Day, and other service days. I also help support United Way and other Community events with volunteers throughout the year and manage the Lorain volunteer referral program.
One of the amazing parts of this job is all of the different skills I have learned. United Way uses Improvement Science to measure their impact and create systems change, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to go through this program this Fall. As a program and volunteer manager, it is important you understand the goals and structure of the organization you work with. Thus, I sit in on a lot of meetings, which has allowed me to learn invaluable lessons about fundraising and development, marketing, board leadership and more.
At HandsOn my director, Lauren, is incredibly supportive. I started graduate school this month and she has been complementing my studies with real-life practical applications, allowing me to become more engaged in fundraising and leadership development.
Despite the perks of not being at a desk 40 hours a week, and the endless learning opportunities, the nonprofit sector is challenging. The three most importantly lessons I've learned so far are:
- Be okay with being uncomfortable. Working between two organizations you won’t always have all the answers, and there might not even be one clear cut answer. That’s okay - being flexible is key to success in the Nonprofit world.
- Identify your top three things you need to get done every day. Working in nonprofit, you’ll have so many different responsibilities. Some days I may need to get a few office things done but am ut putting in fence posts at a project. Checking off those three boxes gives you a feeling of accomplishment, your full to-do list might be a mile long, but you got your top three priorities done.
- Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing this. Just as we seek to find our donor’s why we need to find our own whys. We work in a messy world with very hard questions that we can’t always answer by ourselves. No one person can solve homelessness, hunger, or poverty. However, if we remember to hold our motivations tight, we can put our best foot forward every day and work with others toward making people's lives a little better.
Charlotte Lewis is a contributor to the YNPN Cleveland blog. To write for this series, or the blog in general, contact Outreach Chair Erin Zaranec at firstname.lastname@example.org.