Ep 39: From Kitchen Volunteer to Board Chair (with Sylvia Vogelman)

by Joan Garry

Multiple studies show the positive benefits of volunteering (for the volunteer). Today’s guest took that to the limit and ultimately became the board chair!


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One of my absolute favorite nonprofit stories centers on today’s guest. It has to do with the reason she was able to go in short order from being a volunteer in a kitchen to becoming the chair of the board of a significant nonprofit organization.

I’m not going to spoil it here. You’ll have to listen to the episode.

But more broadly, we talk about the power of volunteering. Multiple studies show the positive benefits of volunteering.

But the positive benefits aren’t just for the people receiving services. They’re for the VOLUNTEER too.

The benefits are even more pronounced in volunteers over 50. But what about the impact on the nonprofit? Let’s talk about the “Ladder of Engagement” and what you can do to move volunteers up that ladder. Maybe even all the way to board chair.

About Sylvia Vogelman

After Sylvia Vogelman retired from a successful career in publishing and direct marketing, she became a volunteer at God’s Love We Deliver, chopping vegetables and preparing meals for homebound residents of New York. Eventually, she became a fundraiser and, ultimately, the board chair at GLWD.

Her story is inspiring and teaches all of us a whole lot about cultivating the assets your volunteers bring to the table (no pun intended).

In this episode:

  • How to grow your volunteers as your organization pivots or matures
  • How volunteers can save you literally millions of dollars
  • One very simple thing you can do to make your volunteers feel appreciated. It’s so simple, and costs nothing.
  • What you can do as a volunteer to grow into a new role at your organization
  • The importance of allowing giving at ALL levels a.k.a. “The Tile Story” (my favorite nonprofit story ever.)
  • How to identify volunteers who might be prime to move up the ladder
  • The care and feeding of volunteers (yeah, another food pun)

Episode Links:

3 thoughts on “Ep 39: From Kitchen Volunteer to Board Chair (with Sylvia Vogelman)”

  1. Loved this podcast. My ah-has:
    1. Know your org personality (serious, edgy, etc.) and stick with that style.
    2. Create an impact statement that says what you do vs. list the projects you run (“We help change agents go deep improving maternal mental health to impact the lives of mothers and babies in the United States.”)
    3. Hire pros to help you focus, prioritize and get the biggest bang for your limited buck, especially when rebranding (like hiring an interior designer -you’ll make a bigger impact and possibly spend less fixing things later).
    Joan I’d love to hear more about curating content vs. blogging, podcasting, etc. Who does this well and are there other considerations -always citing the source, etc.?
    Thank you Joan and Sarah.
    Joy Burkhard

  2. Joan, would you ever consider including a written transcript of all of the podcasts? For many of us, it can be challenging to sit still and listen to 45 minutes of speech while resisting multitasking or avoiding other distractions. Many people are not auditory processors, primarily–some people’s comprehension and retention is maximized with a written visual that can be referred to repeatedly. There are many inexpensive speech-to-text programs out there that may be able to generate a transcript. Thank you for your consideration!

  3. Do you have a transcript of the recording available? I have deaf individuals on my board who would benefit from this material and I would love to be able to share it with them.