Homepage | Archives | Calendar of Events | Exploring Akron | Pets | Death Notices | People & Places | Faith & Worship | Get email news alerts | About Us
Community News

Businesses, nonprofits benefit from matching

9/4/2014 - West Side Leader
      permalink bookmark

By Ariel Hakim

Earlier this summer, BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence held its Summer of Service event, when employees from ASW Global, Fifth Third Bank, IBM and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Reserve LeBron James Clubhouse at Joy Park in East Akron. Volunteers scraped paint, painted benches and playground equipment, swept mulch and picked up litter to beautify the outdoor areas of the clubhouse and park.
Photo courtesy of BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence
DOWNTOWN AKRON — When BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence got started, it was because there appeared to be a need in Cleveland for a matchmaker, though not the traditional kind.

Put simply, the organization brings together businesses and nonprofit organizations, filling specific needs for each.

The founders of BVU, which stands for Business Volunteers Unlimited, were a group of business leaders in Cleveland, who, in the early ’90s were interested in supporting their city’s nonprofit organizations and saw the benefits of volunteerism among their employees, according to BVU Regional Vice President Beth Winter.

“They wanted to have an organization that was out there to help businesses get their employees engaged in the community, thoughtfully and strategically,” she said.

“When people are volunteering and their company is supporting them in it, they are happy, more involved, more engaged and they stay longer,” she added.

When they surveyed nonprofit organizations regarding their needs, they found nonprofits needed help finding and training qualified board members, she said.

Board matching is BVU’s signature service, she said.

BVU opened its Akron office in September 2011, when it merged with The Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE). In total, the organization has 22 full-time employees, with three now at the Akron office, according to Winter.

The Akron office serves Summit, Medina, Portage and parts of Stark and Wayne counties, she said.

BVU’s business members, who receive services from the organization based on levels of paid membership, provide willing candidates for the board-matching service.

Considering a person’s passions, skill set and availability, BVU looks for potential matches to a nonprofit organization’s mission, Winter said.

BVU staff provides five to seven potential matches for the candidate to review. Then, the candidate chooses one, or sometimes two, she said, and BVU makes a referral.

“Just over 96 percent of people get on the board they want,” she said.

What’s more is that when surveyed after three years, two-thirds of the people they matched have become officers on their boards, “so you know they’re doing good work and making a difference,” she said.

New board members also go through a three-and-a-half-hour training program, the “Role of the Board,” which is held five to six times a year. The workshop focuses on outlining the roles and responsibilities of the boards of nonprofit organizations, and includes a panel discussion of experts and looking at case studies to practice problem-solving.

BVU also places people who might not be ready for the commitment of serving on a board to committees of boards.

“It’s a very nice entrée into that whole governance arena,” said Winter.

Besides its board-matching program, BVU also helps businesses by coordinating team volunteer projects that are done in a day — for example, working on a Habitat for Humanity house, said Winter.

Recently, BVU held its Summer of Service event, when employees from ASW Global, Fifth Third Bank, IBM and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of the Western Reserve LeBron James Clubhouse at Joy Park in East Akron. Volunteers scraped paint, painted benches and playground equipment, swept mulch and picked up litter to beautify the outdoor areas of the clubhouse and park.

“They were so enthusiastic, and they made such a huge difference in that park,” said Winter.

Another way BVU matches business and nonprofits is for pro-bono consulting.

BVU staff members match the expertise of business members with the needs of nonprofits and scope projects so volunteer consultants know what they’re getting into, said Winter.

Also called skill-based consulting, projects — ranging from providing guidance with an audit to creating a technology roadmap — generally take 20 hours or less over a two to three-month period, said Winter.

Winter noted that a 2012 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has been providing funds for minority professionals and young professionals (40 and under) to participate in the board-matching and pro-bono consulting programs. The three-year grant goes until April 2015, noted Winter.

Those grant funds allowed BVU to start Linking New Leaders, a board-matching program strictly for young professionals now held twice a year.

Using a speed-dating format where pairs spend five minutes together, Linking New Leaders brings together 15 young professionals with 15 representatives of nonprofits for a semi-social event.

“At the end of the evening, everybody there marks down their top three choices of who they’d like to continue the conversation with, and we make those matches and send them out, and that typically generates into a committee or board position,” said Winter.

For nonprofits, becoming a member of BVU is inexpensive, ranging from $100 to $1,500, depending on an organization’s annual budget.

Membership is not required for nonprofits to take advantage of board referrals or volunteer projects that are done in a day, Winter noted.

Benefits of membership for nonprofits include access to consulting on governance and leadership by BVU staff and pro-bono consulting from business members.

Membership also provides reduced fees to seminars on a variety of topics and access to an extensive resource library, including an online directory of grant-making groups.

Nonprofits just need to have 501(c)(3) status, at least one paid staff member and a nonresidential address, said Winter.

For more information on BVU, visit the website at www.bvuvolunteers.org or call Winter at 330-762-9670.

      permalink bookmark