As an Accounting Associate at the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, Krista DeJoode doesn’t always have opportunities to interact with the community in the way that other staff members do. She’s often behind her desk, helping to make sure nonprofits receive their grants and donors receive their fund reports—amongst a host of other things.
It’s one of the reasons she jumped at the opportunity to participate in Integrity Integrated’s Quad City Leadership Academy. The program, run by Ginny Wilson-Peters, provides staff development for leaders. DeJoode had initially learned about the program from a colleague at CFGRB.
In class, DeJoode was partnered with one other person and the two were faced with a problem to solve—help a local nonprofit overcome a challenge unique to their organization. DeJoode picked Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Quad Cities for the project. The nation’s largest donor and volunteer-supported youth mentoring organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs adult volunteers with youth members in one-on-one mentoring relationships. “I’ve never been a Big or a Little, but I know people who have and it sounded so cool and exciting,” she said.
The organization was interested in receiving help to recruit more adult mentors, particularly men. “They have more kids than mentors,” she said.
The groundwork was already laid, DeJoode said, as a group the year before had tackled the problem by creating a “100 Days–100 Bigs” campaign that encouraged at least 100 Bigs to sign up before the start of school. “They had success with that,” DeJoode said, and the organization was doing the campaign again this year.
But there was a twist this year. Big Brothers Big Sisters was interested in a way to recruit more adults throughout the year. DeJoode and her partner approached the challenge by convening a focus group of seven adult mentors to ask them about why they volunteered, how they heard about the organization, and what would make them sign up again. “The insight and feedback from them was really helpful,” she said.
They realized, DeJoode said, that the current adult mentors might be the key to increased recruitment. The two of them came up with a “Recruit One–Double Your Impact” campaign that focused on encouraging current adult mentors to recruit at least one other person each year. “We decided it would work best to use the volunteers they already have,” she said.
The idea worked, she said. The organization took their lead and have been using the campaign in their marketing materials and out in the community this year. “It was pretty exciting,” DeJoode said, to see their work help a great organization. “Sometimes you do projects like this and nothing happens with it. We feel like we made an impact.”
DeJoode said the project also had an impact on her own work at the Community Foundation and how she sees the community. “I love what I do at the Community Foundation, but a lot of what I do is numbers and I don’t always get to interact with the community, so it was exciting and fun to be out and about in the community,” she said.
During the class, that meant connecting with leaders and staff members from nonprofits around the region. The classes were held in a different location each time, usually at a local organization’s headquarters. A staff member or the president of the organization often spoke during the class to share their leadership journey and talk about the organization’s work in the community.
“I got to see different places in our community doing big things, and got a feel for what other organizations and businesses are like,” she said. “It was a really great learning opportunity.”