Guest columnist: Triangle volunteers make nonprofits hum

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 06:54 PM

December is the time of year when many nonprofit organizations look back on the previous 12 months and think about the generosity of their supportive donors. Concentrating on the dollars and cents of accomplishing good work sometimes seems like an all-consuming enterprise. But even if every one of the thousands of nonprofit organizations in the Triangle area found themselves financially independent, with no further need to write grant proposals or letters of appeal, we still would not be able to fulfill our missions. Volunteers make the difference. Without the legions of volunteers who populate the nonprofit landscape, all the money in the world would not bring about change by itself. It is the unselfish commitment of our volunteers who provide us with the amplified ability to work in the interest of public good.

The facts about this army of volunteers speak volumes. The year before last, in an often-quoted study by Independent Sector, 62.8 million people in the United States volunteered their time. The value of the time devoted to working in the public interest has been quantified as being truly off the charts. The Philanthropy Journal estimates that an hour of volunteer time in our state of North Carolina is valued at $18.80 an hour. That’s millions of dollars of hard work and energy aiding statewide nonprofits in meeting their objectives each and every year.

At the Emily K Center, the volunteers in our educational programs are primarily college students from a number of the great schools in the region. Undergraduate and graduate students from Duke University, North Carolina Central and the University of North Carolina stream in every day on foot and by bicycle, bus and car to support our certified instructors and work with our Scholars. The volunteers’ primary tasks are academically focused and skill specific, but a quick walk around the center on any given day reveals that these students provide much more than that. They operate as role models and inspiration for the young people we serve. In addition to our college-aged volunteers, we also benefit from the assistance of local community members whose experience and know-how is a tremendous benefit to our students as they shape their vision of career possibilities and long-term goals. My fellow nonprofit leaders share with me that their volunteers provide not only time-on-task, but also provide the communities we serve with friendship and hope.

So, at this time of year especially, on behalf of executive directors, development personnel and volunteer coordinators throughout the Triangle area, hats off to our volunteers. You are essential. You effect change. You make the real work possible, and for that, we owe you thanks!

Adam Eigenrauch is executive director of the Emily Krzyzewski Center in Durham.