During National Volunteer Week, we are highlighting the efforts of several key UWGP volunteers. We hope you enjoy their interviews and are inspired by their service to our community! Looking for a new opportunity to give back? Check out http://volunteer.unitedwaygp.org.
Andrew Dolloff, Ph.D., Superintendent, Yarmouth School Department
When and how did you get involved with United Way of Greater Portland?
I began volunteering with United Way around 2006 when I was asked to be part of the Campaign Cabinet. I was working in an administrative position in Scarborough and the individual who was the retiring Superintendent of Schools in Yarmouth asked me to step in and take his place as the liaison to the education community.
I had been familiar with United Way as an individual donor to the employee campaign in my workplace but had not been involved in organizing the campaign. I was interested because I believed in the organization and thought it would be a good way to meet people and form relationships in the broader Greater Portland community. Serving on the Campaign Cabinet seemed like an easy way to take on a leadership role with the organization.
How would you describe what is involved in your volunteer role?
On the Campaign Cabinet, we help UWGP set financial goals for the year, and then we reach out to Greater Portland entities, encouraging them to engage in a campaign and supporting them as they develop their own fundraising goals and strategies.
Volunteering is mostly giving of your time and energy and sometimes your expertise. Having a passion and interest can allow you to become involved in a more meaningful way. I think people volunteer for a lot of different reasons—maybe they had a family member who experienced a certain trauma or illness or event in their life that connected them with a certain agency, so then they develop a willingness to support them.
You were also instrumental to the organization of one of our more recent volunteerism efforts. Would you like to share more about that?
United Way’s Student Day of Action was something that I had thought about for several years, as far back as 2007 and 2008. Along with providing a day for students to volunteer in the community, we felt it would grow UWGP’s list of volunteers and advocates in the future and that students would have an immediate impact by influencing staff to give, advocate, and/or volunteer for their school’s United Way campaign. I believe when teachers see students in leadership roles, it’s a great motivator for them to respond and step up to the plate themselves.
What motivates you to stay involved?
When you can accept that you have time and energy to share, you find there’s a really great reward to it. So much of what we do in this world, I find, is about personal enjoyment or building personal wealth, and volunteering is just very different from that. It’s not about how much you’re being paid to do this, and it feels good. You walk away knowing you gave your time and energy, and you helped someone out. Even if it’s not your own mission or vision you’re necessarily promoting, it’s something that you find worthwhile and helping to accomplish it is very rewarding.
I think there is a selfish side to it as well, in that it feels so good that it makes you want to do more of it. Even though you’re doing it to help others, there’s a personal fulfillment that you get from volunteering and you can build on that. That’s why I keep coming back year after year. I know I’m helping others and I’m also developing relationships with some high caliber people who also like volunteering, and I find that to be rewarding and enjoyable.
Is there anything that you’ve learned from your volunteer experience?
I think it’s been particularly helpful for me, personally and professionally. Working with other individuals in leadership positions who are so intent on giving their time, energy, and expertise has been a great model for me and my own career. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to sit down with CEOs and mid-level managers, and it’s been inspiring to see how a leader can reach out and encourage this type of advocacy and volunteerism and giving within their company. I’ve really appreciated and grown from that professionally and also personally.
Another inspiring aspect is the relationships I’ve developed and the opportunities I’ve had to engage with partners of United Way. It’s been great to see not only the constituents who benefit from the partner agencies’ work but also the individuals who work at the partner agencies and serve others on a daily basis. I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time at soup kitchens, serving Thanksgiving meals and distributing items to folks in need, and it’s really moving on a different level than you might experience in your professional life.
What do you feel is the impact that you’re making as a volunteer?
I wouldn’t want to overstate it, but I hope I’m having an impact. I think that the Student Day of Action we’ve put together is something that has impacted folks and can continue to impact individuals in the community. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve increased the education sector’s level of giving to United Way and its partners, but I still think there’s a lot more that we could be doing. Although I’m proud of any influence I’ve had, there’s also a challenge to do more because I believe we can.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting to think about volunteering?
I think it’s important to know where your passions lie and where it is that you’d like to help. Although I offer my time and energy to the Campaign Cabinet and Student Day of Action, those are areas that are really within my comfort zone. The challenge is for me to step outside my comfort zone a little bit and find other areas that I’m passionate about but involve different types of service. My wife and I continue to look for opportunities to serve the community. We’ve begun by researching and considering what organizations address the needs we’re interested in helping with and what opportunities those organizations have. I think the internet is a great resource for finding those organizations and so is United Way. I would encourage folks to reach out to organizations like United Way and offer their time and energy and expertise. Say, “here’s my passion, where might I be able to help?”
Do you have a story or particular experience that has really stuck with you?
I like to think back to the Student Day of Action and how engaged and enthusiastic the students were. The opportunity was presented to them as a choice and they signed up on a day when they’d normally be off from school. I find it to be a really pure form of volunteerism. It was really exciting to watch them and see how they came up with ideas to meet different challenges throughout the day. [Check out the pictures from last year’s Student Day of Action here.]