NH Nonprofits Eager For Boost In Volunteers

December 11, 2009

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Mary Ellen Jackson is thrilled that New Hampshire nonprofit organizations could get an influx of volunteers, but she hopes resources will be available to train and manage them as well.

Jackson is director of the New Hampshire Center for Nonprofits, and plans to attend a conference Friday in Concord on how the state may benefit from the $5.7 billion national service bill President Barack Obama signed in April.

The law triples the of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years, expands ways for students to earn money for college and establishes a fund to help nonprofit organizations recruit and manage more volunteers. That last piece is crucial, said Jackson, whose organization offers leadership and management seminars and other programs for nonprofit groups.

"Volunteerism is critical and essential, but it also deserves and requires effective management," she said. "A lot of the services provided by nonprofits are complex and they require a variety of skills."

The conference, hosted by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., will bring together officials from several organizations, including the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, City Year New Hampshire and PlusTime New Hampshire, which creates and supports after-school programs for children. Sonal Sha, director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, will participate in one of the panel discussions.

Alex Allen, co-director of City Year New Hampshire, will to discuss programs her organization wants to expand if it is successful in applying for the federal funding. City Year volunteers devote a year to full-time service as tutors and mentors in schools.

"I think for us, and for many nonprofits, it means a greater opportunity to make an increased impact in communities," she said.

For example, City Year has volunteers in a few schools as part of its "In School and On Track" initiative, which identifies high schools with a high percentage of dropouts and then sends volunteers to the elementary and middle schools that feed those high schools.

"We have a plan to grow our corps and our presence to really be able to impact 50 percent of the off-track students in some of the highest dropout areas in the state," she said.

Shaheen said New Hampshire, with its strong tradition of volunteerism, is well positioned to make the most of the funding. She said she hopes that through the federal program, the public sector will partner with nonprofits to support education, energy and health care projects.

"I think there are tremendous opportunities, and I want to make sure New Hampshire is on the ground floor, that all of the folks doing good work in New Hampshire know what's available," she said.

The bill was named for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. Sponsors included Shaheen, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.


Source: Associated Press