Dr. East was the guest speaker at the July FPRA Business Meeting.

Dr. Julia East spoke to the Southwest Florida Chapter of FPRA on the various aspects of philanthropy and how to determine what to volunteer, whether it is your time, services, or money. She also went over the questions you should ask before joining a Board for a non-profit to determine if it is something that you can be passionate about and work with.

Many times, when an individual is considering volunteering their time, or joining a Board for a non-profit, there is a wide range of research that goes into it. Some people research everything about the organization, while others may not do any research at all, and everything in between.

Dan Whicker, Dr. Julia East and FPRA President, Pam Nulman, APR, CPRC

What are some of the ways that you can volunteer for a non-profit without serving in a Board role? You can bring something to the organization that you handle for your every day career, in our case, Public Relations. Volunteering to handle some of the PR services for the organization would be very helpful. Additionally, in the PR field, many of you have network connections to various vendors and suppliers that could be helpful to the organization. Taking the step to connect the two would be another great way to offer your services.

Maybe you only want to volunteer your time without the focus on your specific set of experiences. In that case, you can just contact the organization and state you want to help in any way possible, but make sure you do set parameters. Otherwise it could turn out badly for you and the organization. Let them know maybe that you can only volunteer so many days a week or for a set amount of time, but you are willing to do whatever is necessary in that time frame. This allows the parameters to be set out up front and there will be no surprises.

You could also involve your families, kids, or friends to make it like an adventure. This could become a traditional event by coming a certain day of the week, or time of year, like every Thanksgiving. Then the organization knows to expect you and what you can assist with.

Money is always welcome at non-profits, because it is a resource that they can use to purchase what they need. Another resource that would be helpful is if you or your employer has any excess items, like paper or materials, to donate that to the non-profit as well. Materials like this can be used by any organization.

Board Participation:
Board training is always something that would be great to go through if you can find it in your area, or receive it from the non-profit organization that you are considering becoming a Board member for.

Before volunteering, know some key things:

  • Do you care about what the non-profit does, do you know what it does?
  • Talk to past Board members to learn about the Board and non-profit
  • Do your due diligence in the organization
  • Make sure that the primary reason you are volunteering is because it feeds your soul, or is something you are passionate about.
  • Questions you should ask before joining a Board:
  • Does the non-profit have Director/Officer insurance, and if so how much?
  • Will you be expected to make a financial contribution to the organization and if so, how much or how often?
  • How long is the term?
  • Are there any pending lawsuits?
  • What are your expectations on meetings/attendance/time participation?
  • Who else is on the Board and can you work together?
  • What is the relationship between the Board and the non-profit staff?
  • Ask to see the form 990 and any audited financials.
  • Do they have a strategic plan?
  • Do you understand their mission?
  • Who would be the lead staff member you work with or report to and can you work together?
  • Look at any partner agencies. How do the work together? Are there any duplicate services?
  • Have you visited the site to see how services are offered?
  • Look at their by-laws and codes.
  • Ask to see Minutes from previous Board meetings.
  • If it is a local non-profit, does it report to a national branch? If so, how is that relationship?