2020 was a year of many challenges and much turmoil. However, it was also one that taught us to be gracious, the importance of helping others and the meaning of community. Nonprofits have long been a central part of communities. With volunteers serving as core pillars to nonprofits, many struggled when their presence diminished throughout the pandemic. With April being National Volunteer Month, now is the time to take a look at just how pivotal volunteers are to the nonprofit sector.

Why Volunteers Are Important

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana was initiated by volunteers, and to this day, is a volunteer-dependent organization. With 15 full-time staff members, the House depends on the efforts of volunteers. While the full-time staff is busy with operational and developmental duties, volunteers at the House take on the variety of tasks necessary to allow the organization to prosper.

The House requires typical chores like we see in our own homes such as organizing, cleaning and stocking pantries, but on a larger scale. Volunteers are tasked with responsibilities like these, and are also crucial to helping feed guest families. They help with cooking, serving and providing catered meals to guests. Moreover, aside from such tasks, they are often the faces of hospitality for guests and visitors. Volunteers are the frontline customer service providers who create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and provide a personal connection to guests that makes the Ronald McDonald House feel like a home away from home.

A World Without Volunteers

The pandemic showed just how important our volunteers are. In fact, the Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health has referred to volunteers as essential personnel. Nonprofits nationwide struggled to function without their volunteers during the pandemic. This is because volunteers are an extension of key resources for nonprofits, providing vital support and people to power to help operations run smoothly.

Without volunteers at the House, serving at full capacity becomes a daunting task. From March until August of 2020, the limited staff managed the tasks typically fulfilled by volunteers, as well as their own operational duties. All meals had to be catered, and while volunteers and donors stepped up to the plate in assisting with this change, it lacked the same personal connection you get with a home-cooked meal. The value of connection that volunteers establish with visitors became apparent throughout 2020.

Moreover, the presence of volunteers brings a lively energy to the house. Volunteers are the key components of the social aspect of the organization.

They are the ones who typically interact with the families and children, creating meaningful relationships in the house.

We are excited to welcome back volunteers, as without them the House lacked the radiance of their positive energy.

Why Volunteer?

As crucial as volunteers are to an organization, the personal benefits one can gain from a volunteer experience are endless. Volunteering can benefit one’s mental health as it is extremely fulfilling and rewarding to positively impact the visitors and their experience. Volunteers form personal relationships with guests. They are often the sympathetic ear to the families, helping them feel less alone in what they are going through. They are the ones to make a visitor’s day a little brighter, whether that be through a shared smile or meaningful conversation.

Volunteers tend to have a passion that drives them to become involved in nonprofits. Many give their time because they have family members or other connections that have been affected by the House. They have often been in the families’ shoes so they bring important perspective and loving energy that you can’t just put a price on. They are there to pay it forward and help make someone else’s day. Needless to say, the impact on visitors and level of personal fulfillment is priceless.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana is slowly and strategically welcoming back our volunteers. We are making every effort to do so in ways that are safe for the visitors, staff and volunteers. Beginning in the summer and fall, we will begin to welcome new volunteers. We look forward to the House once again being filled by the warm and positive energy of our loyal volunteers.

Mary Friend is the Volunteer Resources Manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Indiana

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