NORTHERN COLORADO MEN DEFY VOLUNTEER ODDS
Fort Collins Coloradoan — February 12, 2012
So maybe the skill sets of Landon Hoover and other young professionals don’t necessarily include hammering together houses or painting well-worn walls.
That doesn’t exclude them from finding ways to help a community.
Volunteering comes in many forms, and an organization of Larimer and Weld county residents has successfully carved out its own particular niche while championing the cause on behalf of local underprivileged youths.
Northern Colorado United for Youth, until recently known as Northern Colorado Active 20/30, is a group of primarily professional men from ages 20 through 39 whose fundraising formula was developed to match the skills of its members and as an alternative to many traditional volunteering formats.
“Generally speaking, we’re all behind a desk quite a bit,” said Hoover, at 26 one of the group’s youngest members. “(Building and painting) aren’t necessarily our skills, but we do have a lot of leadership, guys with sales and fundraising experience, guys who have strong networking relationships.
“This gives us a forum to leverage the skills we have as professionals and add value in a unique way that can directly impact others.”
Nationally in 2013, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data, only 3.1 percent of men ages 25 through 34 (a prime segment of the NoCo group) volunteered on a given day, the lowest total among six age groups. Meanwhile, the report reveals that men from ages 45 to 54 are twice as likely to volunteer than those 25 to 34, and men over 65 are 33 percent more likely to volunteer than those 45 to 54.
So what has motivated younger volunteers to participate?
“In our minds, charity doesn’t have a lifespan,” said Patrick McMeekin, 34, the group’s president. “The beauty of our group is that you can instill the idea of charity early on. When you’re starting out (professionally), you may not be able to give that $5,000 donation all the time, but you can certainly give 40 (volunteer) hours over the course of a year.”
NoCo United for Youth, which is considering Unify as a shorter version of its name, does require a contribution of $2,000 annually, whether in cash or in-kind, from its members.
Despite the demographic disadvantage suggested by studies, this group of 43 active members has still found time, outside of the organization, to serve on 57 Northern Colorado nonprofit boards for the equivalent of 222 years of service. Its members annually commit more than 3,700 hours to Northern Colorado nonprofits.
“I was blown away when those numbers came back,” said McMeekin, who conducted the internal survey.
Expectations of members are steep. Most are hand-picked by others within the organization and encouraged to apply. But whether through that process or applying without an invitation, candidates are vetted thoroughly by a five-man committee.
“We’re a sought-after group,” said Jeramie Holt, 32, a past membership committee chairman who chairs one of the group’s two main fundraisers. “We require guys to donate their time, and we want them to be in it for the right reasons. We don’t look at this as a networking group where you can just hang out. We’re truly about ‘Let’s get to work.'”
NoCo United for Youth’s fundraisers are its Down & Derby Party in conjunction with the Kentucky Derby each May, and a Suitcase Party each summer. The Suitcase Party, held at the Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal Airport, features a raffle for a free (and immediate) trip via private jet to a pre-determined location.
McMeekin said the fundraising goal for 2015 is $250,000, which would bring the 8-year-old organization’s overall total above $2 million, and he said reaching an annual total of $500,000 is an ambitious long-range goal. Unify would like to find a sponsor that would match fundraising totals, an arrangement that was in place with a foundation until 2013.
“Raising $500,000 is a lofty goal, but if we could do that and find a match that would put it up to a million, then look out,” he said.
Read the article at the Fort Collins Coloradoan