Successful executive directors and board members of nonprofit agencies know they must excel in certain key areas to carry out their mission and to make maximum impact in the community. Falter in these key areas and their agency’s span of reach and impact is significantly reduced, or worse. Two of these keys to success are volunteers and donations.

Every agency needs passionate and reliable volunteers who are committed to the cause and steady, reliable cash flow to finance its work.  So it makes sense that agencies focus a lot of their time, talent, and efforts on these two success factors.

Well, what if there was a local partner for agencies whose sole purpose is to promote giving and volunteerism in the local community? What if you could tap into a no-cost partner whose mission is to help you in these two areas? Here in DuPage County, IL we are fortunate to have just such a resource-Giving DuPage.

Two philanthropists who felt that the community was unaware of all the ways to share their time, treasure and talent with others founded Giving DuPage in 2001. With the support of the DuPage County Government and in collaboration with the Healthy DuPage initiative, Giving DuPage was initially called the DuPage Philanthropy Project, and was established with a mission to promote giving and volunteerism in DuPage County.

While the name was changed to Giving DuPage, the mission and vision have remained consistent over the last ten years. It does not promote any particular organization or cause-it just wants to help people get involved in the community. Giving DuPage has a terrific board of directors and two volunteer committees that offer assistance: Event and Marketing (where I serve) and Non Profit Steering.

Kathy Blair

Kathy Blair has been the Executive Director of Giving DuPage since 2007 after working locally in the non-profit sector since 1998.  I spoke with her about how her organization partners with over 300 local nonprofits.

Through her hard work and constant networking Kathy positions Giving DuPage as the pre-eminent resource to local nonprofits and volunteers. She strives to serve as a connector or a facilitator to help nonprofits thrive and volunteers to get connected.  If it’s a nonprofit issue in DuPage County, Kathy probably knows all about it.

DuPage County is very fortunate in the area of volunteerism. Kathy says the state of volunteerism here is very strong and growing because there are so many opportunities available for all interests and for people with a wide range of skills. (Probably because of her hard work, too.) Among those pitching in to help nonprofits are:

  • Corporations
  • Youth groups
  • Churches
  • Colleges
  • Elementary, middle, and high school service students
  • Families
  • Individuals
  • In job transition
  • Underemployed
  • Retirees
  • Recent college grads

There is a wide variety of nonprofits benefiting from this call to service- from schools, to cultural nonprofits to social service agencies. So many are seeing increases. Kathy notes that many people with more time available have turned to the nonprofit sector to network, polish ones’ professional and business skills, or just give back to a community that has given so much to so many residents.

Giving remains strong too, both annual giving and major gifts, but especially in the area of planned giving. People are not just putting time in their favorite agencies but also making plans to leave a legacy gift later on. When community members call Kathy to request more information about these topics, she refers them to the DuPage Community Foundation.

I asked Kathy what the successful agencies are doing during these tough economic times. She listed five specific actions:

  1. Getting out in the community and staying engaged
  2. Living their mission
  3. Using donor’s dollars prudently
  4. Ongoing communication with staff, volunteers and donors about successes and shortcomings
  5. Remaining focused. Today’s most successful organizations are always evaluating themselves to insure they are relevant, while maintaining their core values. Those who fail are confused about who they are and what they want to be.

I asked Kathy to project out to the year 2015 and assume Giving DuPage is still a highly successful agency, doing great work. What 2-3 things contributed to that success? Almost immediately, she said:

  • Encouraging collaboration among all nonprofits
  • Providing capacity-building opportunities for nonprofits to grow and mature
  • Being an advocate for volunteerism and community engagement.

Finally, l asked Kathy if she could obtain any resource or asset, what would it be. She said a webmaster or someone who could manage the site and her social media. This could significantly increase her agency’s services to nonprofits…Any takers?