By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — What began in 1963 as an arm of the Greensboro Community Council, which was a predecessor to United Way of Greater Greensboro and later merged with a similar program in Randolph County, now operates as the Volunteer Center of Greensboro, an independent agency that places 2,500 volunteers a year with local nonprofits.
Since 1993, it has raised over $3 million for 150 nonprofits through its annual Human Race, an event that over the years has worked with 5,000 volunteers and over 40 business sponsors.
And it operates with 150 member agencies that are looking for volunteers, a database of 5,000 volunteers, and an advisory council of 30 corporations.
Now, with a new executive director, the agency wants to raise awareness about its work and expand its reach by enlisting small and mid-sized businesses as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013.
“Our main goal is to connect volunteers with agencies that need their help,” says Carley Swaim, who joined the Volunteer Center as executive director in October after serving as director of development at Bell House, a community for adults with physical disabilities.
Operating with an annual budget of $225,000 to $250,000, the Volunteer Center receives all its operating support from United Way of Greater Greensboro, and also receives grants to support specific programs and projects.
For its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in 2011, for example, it received federal funds through the Points of Light Foundation.
That event, through a partnership with the Guilford County Schools, enlisted 5,000 volunteers to participate in community projects.
A separate event in 2011 that also partnered with the school system enlisted another 5,000 volunteers for a day of service commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Center, which had not had an executive director for five months, has just filled two other positions, including a director of programs and a director of volunteers, and also employs an administrative assistant.
It helps match volunteers and nonprofits through an online system known as VolunteerConnect that lets member nonprofits post volunteer opportunities, and lets individuals look for options to volunteer.
The Center helps manage those relationships, and follows up with agencies to see how the relationships worked.
It also provides half-day workshops every other month for member nonprofits on topics such as how to manage volunteers, work with boards of directors, and raise money.
It works with a Corporate Volunteer Council that brings together corporations with strong volunteer programs on a monthly basis to exchange ideas and talk about their programs.
Swaim says she hopes to expand the Council by enlisting small and mid-sized businesses that want to build volunteer programs, with larger companies serving as mentors for the smaller businesses on volunteer issues, and with all the companies volunteering as a group on community projects.
The Volunteer Center, which is housed in the offices of United Way, will be working with United Way to strengthen the partnership between the two agencies and boost volunteerism in the community, says Swaim, a former leadership giving manager for United Way.
On Oct. 30, the Center held its annual dinner to recognize volunteer service, an event that attracted 150 people and raised $5,000 through a silent auction.
Swaim says the Center will be working to develop a brand it can use to market itself so people turn to it as a one-stop shop for volunteerism in the community.
“We want to strengthen our recognition,” she says.