She is now director of the volunteer center at the Pikes Peak United Way and in charge of connecting volunteers with roles available in the Springs. Far from having too few options, she says young professionals have their pick of duties.
Recently, Liotino took some time to tell the CSBJ about herself, her role at United Way and what she thinks about Colorado Springs.
How did you get to your job as volunteer center director at United Way? What sparked your interest in it?
My career in volunteer administration started about seven years ago, when I became an unpaid volunteer coordinator for a local nonprofit.
The role of coordinator and recruiter came naturally to me and I learned quickly that I enjoyed connecting people to their passion.
I began working in the field after that with Habitat for Humanity and volunteering with the Make A Difference Month Committee and attending the Director of Volunteers in Agencies workshops. It was amazing to see the level of professionalism in the field of volunteer administration. DOVIA provided an opportunity for me to become educated on the basics, as well as to develop leadership skills in the field. I was also intrigued with the role of the Volunteer Center in our community. It was and continues to be a one-stop shop for all your volunteer needs. Three years ago I had the opportunity to move to Pikes Peak United Way and direct the Volunteer Center and it was a great fit.
Do you think local young professionals are engaged with the community? If not, what could change that?
I am continuously amazed by the number of ways individuals can engage in our community. There are opportunities for all ages and abilities to connect. Young professionals have opportunities that range anywhere from professional leadership courses, to social and professional networking groups, to boards and committees, to episodic and ongoing volunteer roles. In my position, I see young professionals engaged in volunteering, while in the midst of developing their careers and balancing creating and raising families. That being said, there are always nonprofits with high-level opportunities looking to reach young professionals. The Volunteer Center’s role is to raise awareness around the engagement opportunities and make them easily accessible.
For the past two years, an annual event we have hosted called GeneratioNEXT, which empowers young professionals 30 and under to volunteer. They can engage with an organization as either an individual volunteer, with a group or as a family.
The Volunteer Center, with the support of high-level volunteers, is working on a plan to give volunteer toolkits to educate companies on the importance of volunteering as a professional development opportunity, akin to a loaned executive program. This mutually beneficial relationship would connect young professionals with additional skills to continue to develop with non-profits recruiting for that specific skill set.
What are some of the challenges of working in Colorado Springs?
One of the most significant challenges I experience in my role at the Volunteer Center is trying to connect with the large number of non-profits in the community and the many sectors represented including: arts and culture, environmental, human services, faith-based, sports and leisure, and animal rescues. The Volunteer Center is always striving to gain awareness of the different non-profits to share our free volunteer recruitment tool, www.volunteerpikespeak.org. Another challenge I find working in Colorado Springs is the fact that individuals don’t share their great volunteer experiences with one another. There have been many positive experiences between community residents and nonprofit organizations. Sharing these experiences will break barriers surrounding volunteerism.
What do you like best about your position?
I’ve never been good at picking just one of anything. So, this is a tough question. My position has several moving pieces that I truly enjoy. But if I must pick one, I would say the best part of my job is supporting and empowering others to find their passion and purpose with a nonprofit in our community. Oftentimes, people call the office and don’t know what they want to do or what options they have. Once I start asking questions that generate a spark of interest, they react with excitement and start having fun with the experience. It’s amazing to walk along side an individual as they take ownership of an organization’s mission.
What would you like to change about the Springs?
In the latest survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteeringinamerica.org ranks Colorado Springs 27th out 75 mid-size cities for volunteerism. I’d like to see Colorado Springs move into the top 10. This change would indicate that non-profits are receiving the support they need to complete their mission and our citizens would be making the statement that they want to create a better quality of life for their neighbors. To kick off this movement, I would like to see an educational campaign on the value and importance of volunteerism. The campaign would focus on two areas: 1. educating individuals on how to find an engagement opportunity and 2. educating and preparing all volunteer programs’ infrastructure for the influx of volunteers. Creating this type of movement would impact the entire community in a positive way.