Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.
It all began in 2008 with an email asking for volunteers to help an organization called Rebuilding Together San Francisco (RTSF). RTSF mobilizes teams of volunteers to revitalize neighborhoods by repairing homes and renovating nonprofit facilities and schools.
The email came from the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO-SFBA). Being a newbie to the professional organizer industry, Debra Baida, who runs Liberated Spaces in San Francisco, didn’t hesitate to lend a hand and her expertise. She chose to work with a woman in her own neighborhood who had a fine arts background just like her. Debra saw an opportunity to practice her skills, stretch herself, and give back right where she lived.
Turns out, that experience made a big impact on Debra’s life. (She talks about her first RTSF client on her blog.) She had volunteered since her early teens and was searching for more community involvement.
Debra recognized the natural connection between her profession and RTSF. She noted that “by engaging with organizers early in the planning process, RTSF has tapped into the power of our (organizers’) client assessment skills to develop a realistic scope of work for projects and to allow the Rebuilding staff to best support the work with their clients.” She also knew that volunteering was a great way to hone skills, build team-working experience and get more client work under the newbies’ belts.
Debra was determined to get more people involved with the RTSF organization. Debra says, “convincing independent business owners to carve out time to give their work away for free was no small task, but my resolve kept me promoting what I saw to be a natural and complimentary alliance between two nonprofits who can benefit each other in so many ways. I gently promoted the opportunity, and slowly…ever so slowly…we got more organizers on board.”
During this process, Debra took things even further, proposing a Community Partner designation to the to NAPO-SFBA’s board. The board quickly approved the proposal, and Debra accepted the volunteer position as the chapter’s first Community Associate Partner Liaison.
Oh, and RTSF honored Debra with an award for volunteer recruitment soon thereafter.
Since that initial email, Debra has provided pro bono organizing services to three residential clients and five non-profit organizations through RTSF. She tells me that her determination paid off this year because NAPO-SFBA had the participation of ten professional organizers. By the end of National Rebuilding Day 2012, those organizers provided nearly 275 hours of pro bono services to three non-profit facilities and three residential clients.
Of course, Debra’s not stopping there. She’s taken all this information to the national association to see if a larger partnership might occur with NAPO and Rebuilding Together. As she puts it, a situation where “professional organizers can participate in the community doing and sharing the skills we love while making an impact right where we all live. Does it get much better than that?”
I would say no. It doesn’t get much better than that.