-Blog post by Reed Sandridge from Washington, DC
Last week I attended the National Conference on Volunteerism and Service (NCVS) in New Orleans. The Big Easy seemed like an appropriate backdrop for an event talking about how to effectively mobilize people to serve. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers helped this special city rebuild itself after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina nearly six years ago.
“A third of the city many people feel is better than it was before,” commented political strategist James Carville as he addressed the conference on Monday, “a third is getting better and a third is [pause] long range.” As a tourist, most of what you see falls into the first two sections Carville describes. It’s the lesser visited areas, such as the lower ninth ward, that you find ghost neighborhoods and 6-year-old pleas for help painted on sides of abandoned homes.
I arrived on Sunday and had to get a decent night sleep because I agreed to be a volunteer for the conference organizers on Monday morning. Somebody (who just might be yours truly) had a terrible idea to volunteer from 5am-9am helping get registration set up on opening day. That means I was up at 4am. You know it’s early when the Starbucks if full of dark shadows from the street instead of caffeine addicts lining up to get their fix.
Working registration was rather simple. My specific role was to help people self register on computer terminals. After a minor technical setback that caused 5 of the 8 computers not to work, we got things up and running. The online registration system was not as intuitive as it could have been which caused many people to ask for assistance which I gladly provided.
I ended up staying on until about 10am since the next shift of volunteers arrived a little late. I walked the new group through the process and wished them luck. I had a feeling that it was going to get really crazy later in the day when the opening ceremony kicked off.
The rest of my week there was spent soaking up valuable knowledge in workshops and seminars on topics such as improving employee volunteer programs, effective volunteer engagement, and dynamic partnering between the for profit and nonprofit sector to create social value. I got to hear from inspiring speakers such as Bea Boccalandro, Caroline Barlerin, Susan Portugal, John Power, Gail Gershon, Monique De La Oz, Evan Hochberg, Dr. Madye Henson, Glen O’Gilvie, Jill Friedman Fixler, Melody Barnes, John Oliver, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the list goes on.
Alas my week of beignets, muffulettas, coffee with chicory, jazz and near 100 degree weather came to an end. It’s a unique sensation. Part of me is exhausted yet there is another side of me that wants to work all night developing strategies to solve some of the challenges we face in this sector. Exhaustion won, for now at least, as I slipped off to sleep on the flight back to DC.
There is a lot going on this week. Wednesday is the Worldwide Day of Giving. Click HERE to find out how easy it is to be a part of this global movement. And if you live in DC, we will be getting together in person – details can be found HERE. Finally, I got to catch up with 94-year-old Ms. Charlotte T. from New Orleans who was my 248th recipient of $10. I will post an update on her later this week – you won’t want to miss it!