In this article, NEDRA board member Ginny Santamaria talks about all the different ways to get involved with NEDRA as a volunteer, and shares her own experiences that led her to the board.
Getting Involved and Giving Back: Volunteering with NEDRA
by Ginny Santamaria
Have you wanted to get more involved in NEDRA, but weren't sure how? NEDRA has many volunteer opportunities available that may be just what you have been looking for.
A great place to start as a NEDRA volunteer is at the conference. Throughout the two days, there are a variety of volunteer roles that need to be filled, including registration help, photographers, and session hosts. At registration each morning, there is help needed to distribute packages and name tags, and to help answer general questions. Photographers are needed to document the activities throughout the two days, including the networking reception and NEDRA After Dark. Most of the photos are candid shots during sessions, lunches, and networking, with a few posed pictures of our scholarship and award winners. Maybe the most important of the volunteer roles--but a very easy one!--is session host. The role of the session host is to check in with the speaker(s) of the assigned session, make sure they have what they need, offer to keep time for them and let them know when they are getting to the end of their session, and of course thank them at the end of the session. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can offer to introduce them at the beginning of the session (In my experience, though, most presenters want to introduce themselves.) If you think you would like to volunteer at the conference, please see the Conference Volunteers page.
Outside of the conference, there are other volunteer roles available throughout the year. Multiple NEDRA committees rely on groups of volunteers to accomplish their work throughout the year. These include, but are not limited to: membership, programming, sponsorship, and both of our scholarship committees. As we begin the new fiscal year for NEDRA in June, these committees will be looking for volunteers for the upcoming year. There are descriptions of the various committees on the NEDRA website, and the chairs of the committees would be happy to answer any specific questions you might have.
Additional one-off volunteer opportunities also exist, such as being a speaker at a NEDRA educational program. As I am sure you have noticed, the programming committee this year is bringing many different programs to the NEDRA community. They are always looking to expand their offerings, especially outside the Boston area. Not comfortable being a presenter? There are times when a program has a speaker lined up, but needs a host facility. Does your organization have a conference room that could be used? Think Tanks are another great programming volunteer opportunity. You can host others in your area for discussions on any topic. As host, you just need to kick off the conversation, and everyone will participate in a round table discussion. It is a great way to informally share ideas and to brainstorm on any topic relevant to our industry.
Do you like to write? Please consider writing an article for the NEDRA News. The News blog is available to all members, and is published once a month. Educational articles on any relevant subject are welcome.
I hope that I’ve given you some ideas for how to get more involved with NEDRA. As a volunteer organization, we rely on our many members to make everything happen. Speaking for myself, getting involved with NEDRA has been a wonderful experience. When I first entered the profession, I had no experience in prospect research. I began doing foundation research, and worked very closely with the Institutional Fundraiser to learn the ins and outs of what she needed so I could identify foundation prospects. As I moved into doing major gifts research, I was so lucky to be connected with the late Heather Reisz, who loved working with new researchers and researchers who did not have the budget for research tools. The Heather Reisz Memorial Scholarship that NEDRA gives honors Heather's memory. I’m happy to be able to support this scholarship, and now to be on the board of directors of NEDRA, which approves the scholarship recipients.
Because of my interactions with Heather, I started to go to the NEDRA conferences. My organization did not have the funds to be able to send me, but I knew it was worth my own money to become more proficient in my new profession. I learned so much that I wanted to be able to give back. I began by volunteering as a session host at the conference. After doing this for a few years, I volunteered to be on a committee, and was chosen to be one of the first non-board members on the Membership Committee. I served for one year on the committee, and then went back to volunteering just at the conference. I later joined the Membership Committee once again, and was then lucky enough to serve for one year on the Conference Committee, coordinating conference volunteers. Because of this experience, I know well how important conference volunteers are to the success of the conference. I am now privileged to serve on the NEDRA Board, and to chair the Membership Committee. I have met so many great colleagues through the years, and thoroughly enjoy giving back to a community that has taught me so much.
The success of NEDRA depends on its members and their volunteer efforts. Please consider becoming more involved, and volunteer to assist in whatever way interests you the most. Volunteers are needed in such a variety of ways, as I hope I’ve been able to demonstrate, and in every state in New England. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions on you have on any of the committees, if I don’t have the answers I will put you in touch with someone you can help you.
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