Volunteerism is a Key for Success of Nonprofits
By Loeurt TO, Cambodia
Working with Missoula Children’s Theater (MCT) surprised me with the numbers of community volunteers. Community people in Missoula seems enthusiastic to provide non-financial support back to the community through voluntary work. MCT is very successful through this volunteerism. Volunteerism happens not only in Missoula, but also the rest of Montana.
Last weekend we (two fellows) visited Polson, western Montana about one hour drive away from Missoula. We stayed with our friend’s family for a night and visited their theater named “Port Polson Players Theater”. The theater which has multi-level program includes Community Theatre, Children’s Theater, Summer Theater and other performing arts programs, has been run by only a couple, Neal and Karen Lewing. This surprised me of how the organization is run.
The theater performance that we went to was “Two by Two” a part of the story from the Bible when Noah built the ark. There were 8 actors in the performance on the stage, one operator and 2 technicians and two assistants includes two children. I was impressed with voluntary work that all actors, technicians and assistant did. Questioning about why they volunteered in/for the show, a mother of two children who volunteered for the show said that they volunteered because they like it, and because they want to give back to the goodness that Neal and Karen did to her and to the community. A mother brought their children to volunteer in the theater so that they could contribute to the community and learn to take responsibilities from their younger ages. I observed that the two children had a strong confidence with their assigned task as light controller and services. Likewise, despite no paid, all actors voluntarily performed very well and very confident on the stage. Asking why they volunteered, I got an answer that they just felt happy when they were on the stage – they like it. This reminded me about the words that I learned from my host family John and Kathy that doing good thing to/for your friends so that your friends do good thing to/for their own friends and community. There was also a pulling factor of the volunteerism. Trust was one of them.
Lewing family is very nice to their neighbors, friends and relatives. The family earned a lot of respect from the neighbors. It was proofed when I stayed and had chances to talk to them. Neal give us a ride with his old Limousine to the Kerr Dam on Flathead River which is about 15-minute drive from his home. It was the first time that we were in a Limo, a luxury car albeit old. Their behavior toward other people told us how much respect and trust they deserved. I can say that this nonprofit (Port Polson Players Theater) is very successful and appreciated by local community.
The above experience tells us that to have community participation in the form of volunteerism, an organization has to build trust, respect and love with people. This takes time and needs leadership roles. Thus, leaders should be well aware of how to build trust and respect with community so that community people are passionate about participation.