It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the formation of the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration. I was lucky to join 90-plus individuals to commemorate this event at the MAVA Annual Meeting. It was a grand celebration with video and skyping (the lovely Susan Ellis joined us from Philadelphia) – a technology none of us were even familiar with 10 years ago (the skyping, not the video.) If you missed this great event, or even if you were there, I encourage you to do something to celebrate. Check out the helpful 10 Things You Can Do to Celebrate MAVA: http://www.mavanetwork.org/10th.
Part of the celebration involved storytelling. Our first Board Chair, Sue DeGolier and our first Membership Chair, Denise Renee Wollenburg, interviewed Strategist, Judie Russell about the history of MAVA – some I remembered and some I’d forgotten. Back in the ‘90’s, Minnesota had many networks for leaders of volunteers. It was hard to know what to join. So many organizations were around that when a national meeting on volunteer engagement was held in Washington, DC no one from Minnesota was present as national leaders didn’t know who to call – and Minnesota was considered a leader in the field of volunteer management. This got the magical mind of Judie Russell turning, and through her efforts, and a few others, a statewide network was born.
Frankly, if one thinks of the events of the last 10 years, it’s truly amazing that MAVA exists at all today. The MAVA kick-off was held in November, 2001—with Key Note Speaker, Susan Ellis – just two months after the tragic events of September 11. There was so much uncertainty at that time – while that first meeting was filled with hope, there was also fear, not just for the future of this little organization, but for the country in general. Things looked even bleaker when the Minnesota Office of Citizenship and Volunteer Services (MOCVS) – where MAVA office was to be located – was eliminated by the Ventura Administration. Then, after only two years of existence, MAVA lost its Executive Director – we just weren’t generating enough funds to afford one.
Despite these things, MAVA continues – and I believe this wonderful organization continues to exist because of its outstanding membership. Our numbers of grown from just about 200 to over 800 in the past 10 years. Financial contributions aren’t the only things keeping us afloat – the time and talents of many dedicated folks help keep us going. Board members provide strategic direction; committee members provide sweat equity; volunteer trainers share their expertise while raising funds for the organization through the Volunteer Leaders Impact series and other trainings. Then there’s the hard work of our MAVA staff, Mary Quirk and Katie Bull, but that’s a blog for another day! You too can support MAVA, either with your time and talents, or by contributing financially (or both!) Give to the Max Day is coming up on November 16. By giving money on this day, MAVA has the chance to win even more money, thus increasing your donation. More information can be found at: http://givemn.razoo.com/
So, as they say, “we’re still here.” Organizations like MAVA are needed now more than ever. While our expertise in our field continues to grow, our value is often challenged. It remains to be seen how or if the Corporation for National and Community Service will be funded. Leaders of volunteers are often the first positions cut or made part-time when times are tough (check out the November Hot Topic from Susan Ellis’ Energize Inc. — Part-time Volunteer Management Means Equally Limited Volunteer Management: http://www.energizeinc.com/hot/2011/11nov.php) Get involved and make the next 10 years even MAVA-lous, not MAVA-less!
Terry Straub, University of MN Extension Master Gardener Program in Hennepin County