Building Stronger Communities: The impact of volunteer boards on local charities

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024 ~ Updated 11:08 AM

Charitable organizations and the communities they serve enjoy a unique relationship. Successful charities have a tremendous impact on their communities, and this success is primarily due to the community volunteers who give of their time to serve on boards and committees. A recent conversation with Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri (CCSOMO), Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO), and Saint Francis Foundation sheds light on this special partnership, and how each of us can make a difference by getting involved.

“We certainly couldn’t provide the services CCSOMO provides to individuals and families throughout southern Missouri without countless volunteer hours from committed board and committee members,” shared Jeremy Rowland, chief regional officer of CCSOMO. “Our governing board, which includes members from across our 39-county region, sets the overall direction for CCSOMO, and locally based committees make things happen in our communities. The most recent example is the new LifeHouse Crisis Maternity House in Cape Girardeau, which simply would not have happened without the volunteers who initiated the project, served on our fundraising and building committees throughout development, and continue to be engaged in its operation. Because of their vision and commitment, many young women and their children will have an opportunity for a new life.”

Similarly, the work of Community Foundation of the Ozarks covers a large geographic region that includes 62 counties in central and southern Missouri.

“CFO’s governing board, comprised of representatives from across southern Missouri, is responsible for strategic planning and organizational oversight, but we also have 55 affiliate community foundations totaling 500-plus volunteer community leaders with their own community boards," Judy Cantoni, East Region director, explained. "These affiliate boards provide connections with our nonprofit partners, business and governmental leaders, and donors and advisors in their local communities. In the Southeast Missouri area, affiliate community foundations serving the Cape Area, the Bootheel region, Ste. Genevieve County, Perry County, and the Ozark Foothills region are led by volunteers who inspire philanthropy in their communities, educate donors on ways of giving, and assist nonprofit partners with accessing CFO’s grant opportunities.”

As executive director, Stacy Huff leads Saint Francis Foundation in its support of Saint Francis Healthcare System.

“As Saint Francis has grown, so has the work of the Foundation in its effort to serve the healthcare needs of communities throughout its 25-county service region," Huff said. "The Foundation’s board, the Friends of Saint Francis board, and related committees are made up of individuals from the communities we serve along with Saint Francis colleagues, physicians, and providers. The connections made through their work and outreach in the region are critical to all that we do. We truly appreciate their involvement as they generously share their expertise, passion, and support for the work of Saint Francis.”

As critical as volunteers are to the work of these nonprofits in our communities, most charitable organizations find it difficult to attract committed volunteers.

“Many people think they will be required to ask for money, but this is far from the truth," Cantoni said. "CFO and its affiliates and nonprofit partners offer a variety of ways to support the mission and impact communities. Experience in business, communications, marketing, technology, construction (just to name a few) are important for these organizations to have on their boards and committees. Whatever your talents, it is most important to bring a heart for the charity’s mission and enthusiastically represent the charity in the community.”

Rowland echoed a similar idea.

“Volunteers are vital to CCSOMO’s success because of the talents, ideas, passion, knowledge, and commitment they bring to the table," Rowland said. "I especially find that those who serve on our board are critically important because, although employees come and go, the board provides stability and continuity. Our board brings a vision for the future based on their knowledge of the past and the needs they see in their communities that we, as staff, may not be aware of. So, our board members, many of whom stay involved after their board service is concluded, provide the consistency and reliability our communities count on.”

Board members often provide value to organizations even beyond their terms of service.

“At Saint Francis Foundation, we also find our board members remain supportive and continue to champion our work in their communities long after their terms of service have concluded,” Huff explained. “Most of them share with me that they receive great joy and tremendous satisfaction from the work they do on our behalf. Certainly, being involved by serving on a board, planning Foundation events, and helping with projects at Saint Francis is a wonderful way to make a difference in our communities.”

Becoming involved in a charitable organization is a blessing to both the nonprofit and the volunteer. If you are interested in becoming more involved as a volunteer, find that charity whose work you are passionate about and get involved. Ask how you can help and begin with volunteering for a specific project or committee. If you are asked to serve on a board, be sure to confirm the nonprofit’s expectations of you and be clear about your expectations. Your involvement will make a difference to the nonprofit, to the community, and to you!

Southeast Council on Philanthropy (SECOP) is a group of charitable organizations seeking to advance philanthropy through education of our communities throughout Southeast Missouri as well as training and networking for nonprofit staff and volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about SECOP, you can visit, follow SECOP Southeast Council on Philanthropy on Facebook, and feel free to attend future meetings. Our next meeting will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.