Following the Path of a Successful Volunteer
Picture a young woman with five children whose drinking and incarcerations led her to lose custody of them. Nowhere to go but home to a toxic environment, she knew she needed help to get clean and sober and get her children back. Enter Hope’s Crossing, a Phoenix, Ariz., nonprofit organization founded by Laura Bulluck, a 2011 MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership graduate. Within 18 months, that troubled woman was sober, employed, a peer mentor, and member of the board of directors at the same nonprofit organization that gave her hope and the tools to overcome life’s challenges.
“We helped her identify triggers that drove her to drink, and she started having more confidence in her ability to remain sober,” Bulluck says. “We worked with her to design a résumé, offered mock interviews, helped her obtain a job and connected her with a mentor. She recently received a promotion to a management role.”
As CEO and interim executive director of Hope’s Crossing, Bulluck has helped turn lives around. Her nonprofit offers programs and service to women who have experienced trauma and empowers them to be productive community members. Bulluck understands their circumstances: As a single mother of three children, she had faced domestic violence and had no other choice than to live in a shelter.
“I gained wisdom about how to navigate the process and helped other women through some of the same experiences,” she says. “I also began to volunteer and take on a mentor role with the women, and the social service bug bit me. I kept thinking about how I could do this full-time on a larger scale to help more women. I went to Walden to turn this dream into a reality.”
While completing her degree, Bulluck decided to leave her career as a senior information technology manager for a large healthcare company to create Hope’s Crossing. “I was typing papers and doing my homework when it really got me thinking, ‘What am I waiting for? I could lose my life and never live my dream.’”
As the leader of a small nonprofit organization, Bulluck now relies on others who are willing to volunteer to help women in transition. “Volunteers are critical,” she explains. “We wouldn’t be able to operate without them. They are our administrative staff and our assessment coordinators. Our board members are volunteers, too.”
For those interested in volunteering but not sure how to start, Bulluck offers her advice:
Assess your skills, knowledge and interests. Think of everything you have to offer: Are you a whiz at Excel? Have you organized a group event? Everything you’ve done can be applied in a volunteer role. “I guarantee nonprofits can use your skills,” Bulluck says. “Search your heart, and find your passion. Then seek out the agency that’s doing what you really like to do and go ‘feel’ the experience.”
Look at websites or social media pages of organizations that interest you. These pages will give you insights into the types of volunteer opportunities available to you and may also describe the experiences of current volunteers.
Dig deeper by talking to staff. Meeting face to face will give you an opportunity to learn more about the match between your skills as a volunteer and a nonprofit organization’s needs. “We encourage people to visit us, to feel the energy and the emotional experience they’ll have when they’re helping someone,” says Bulluck. “Every time you volunteer, you should have that same emotional experience, that ‘this is something I love’ feeling.”
What kind of social change agent are you? Bulluck discovered she is a Faith-Inspired Giver, someone whose faith is a major influence in their commitment to social change. Take the quiz based on Walden’s 2013 Social Change Impact Report.