WELL-TRAVELED: Collette Vacations is among the local companies that has made service a priority. Pictured above are Collette volunteers from left: Lauren Pinto, corporate trainer; Josh Picther, outside-sales trainer; Cochetta Horton, call-center trainer and Anna Tajaea, director of training.
The idea that less can be more usually doesn’t apply to volunteerism, especially with cash-strapped nonprofits clamoring to augment a downsized workforce and recapture a volunteer base lost during the recession.
However, that recession also has created a corporate culture of giving back, in which more companies are turning to hands-on volunteering over financial donations to sustain their philanthropic commitments.
Where all these socioeconomic circumstances intersect is a sort of mismatch between the ways in which Rhode Island companies want to give to the nonprofit sector and the ways in which the state’s nonprofit organizations most need help.
Crossroads Rhode Island, which provides, among other things, housing, case management and vocation services to the state’s homeless and at-risk populations, has experienced this predicament.
“Sometimes coming up with a volunteer project for 40 people could be difficult,” said Karen Santilli, Crossroads vice president of marketing and development. “Some might say you’re sending volunteers away.”
Santilli was referring to her organization’s policy of redirecting large corporate groups Crossroads cannot accommodate to Serve Rhode Island, a nonprofit that works to increase volunteerism in the state and maintains an online database of volunteer opportunities for businesses, groups and individuals.
The hope is that Serve RI, which also functions as the state’s volunteer center, will be able to help any business in search of a place to send its group of volunteers.
But that’s not always the case.
In its new strategic plan, released late last year, Serve Rhode Island identified, through a survey of Rhode Island nonprofits, a need to make volunteering easier and more accessible to groups who, as a general rule, prefer project-centered service such as food sorting, tree planting or classroom painting over long-term commitments.