United Way Volunteering 101

Ashley Nicoson (right) and her engagement team plan and lead volunteer events across the city.

Chicagoans are deeply committed to the city we call “home.” We are people who care about our neighbors and want to see everybody thrive. There’s no shortage of desire to give back or opportunities to get involved, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

At United Way, we help to connect volunteers to the greatest needs in our community. Together, we’re making a difference in everyday ways, like cleaning up schools, assisting our neighbors with tax prep, mentoring the next generation and more!

In honor of National Volunteer Month, our Corporate Liaison Ashley Nicoson sat down with our Digital Content Specialist, Carley Mossbrook, to discuss why United Way of Metro Chicago is the perfect one-stop shop for volunteers who want to get involved.

Carley Mossbrook: Ashley, a lot of people may be interested in volunteering but feel like they aren’t qualified or don’t have the right skills if the project is drastically different from their day-to-day work. Are there any qualities or experiences needed to be a volunteer?

Volunteers at ITW’s 5th Annual Day of Action landscaped and painted fences at a local preschool, led outdoor sports for summer campers and packed care kits for new moms.

Ashley Nicoson: Anyone and everyone should volunteer! While we certainly see a need for skill-based volunteering, anyone can plug into local needs with a bit of research into their own interests and what is happening at agencies in their community. Volunteering is a great way to build a new hobby or continue building an established interest.

CM: Exactly. And it can be really fun! But sometimes it’s hard to gauge whether you’re making an impact through volunteer service. Can you explain why volunteers are such a vital part of United Way of Metro Chicago’s work?

AN: As we examine what community engagement means, volunteers are a crucial part in addressing needs and driving change that an agency or neighbor has. United Way is able to connect these needs with volunteers that share their time, serving as a link between resources and opportunities.

CM: Sounds like United Way is a volunteer matchmaker. I know we do a lot of that connection for our corporate partners, in particular. Why do you think corporate philanthropy and having the opportunity to volunteer through their companies is important to employees?

AN: We find that our partners value the chance to invest to in community by rolling up their sleeves and addressing a genuine need. This allows them to not only work alongside their coworkers and teammates but also pair their professional work with their personal values.

AT&T employees joined forces to make improvements at Primo Center for Women & Children in January.

CM: But employees aren’t the only ones who have something to gain from volunteerism, right? How do employers benefit from providing volunteer opportunities to their team?

AN: Volunteering provides an immense opportunity to both strengthen teams and understand United Way’s impact firsthand. A team volunteer project breathes life into philanthropic goals a company has and provides a different perspective on what it means to work together towards building stronger communities.

CM: Makes sense. I’ve seen volunteers create great memories together. That’s team-building at its finest. Now that we have the lowdown on volunteerism, where can community members and employees find opportunities to volunteer with United Way of Metro Chicago?

AN: Anyone who is interested in joining our fight to build stronger neighborhoods can visit our volunteer Opportunity Calendar to get involved!