Recruiting Volunteers “Organically”
by Mary Ann DeSantis
In 2010, Robert Sena, Aaron Resnick, Charlie Venturi and a group of 20 friends were looking for ways to give back to the South Florida community. The men established the Little Lighthouse Foundation (“LLF”), a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that financially supports its own programming and numerous partner organizations throughout South Florida. From the beginning, the mission has been to assist children and their families with educational, financial, and medical hardships. However, it wasn’t just fundraisers the founders had in mind although the two major ones they host — the Hearts & Stars Gala in the spring and the Nightmare on the Beach Halloween Party — have been extremely successful. They also wanted hands-on experiences where volunteers would make a difference in children’s lives.
“The Little Lighthouse Foundation just celebrated its fourth birthday in January, and we now have 615 volunteers. It may not sound like a lot, but in just four years it’s been incredible to see the numbers of volunteers jump so quickly,” says Director of Operations Reed Nicol. “We have a strong resume of programming.”
Volunteer projects have included delivering meals to children and families at the Ronald McDonald House, reading to children during Story Hour at Miami’s Chapman House, and “adopting” a floor at the Holtz Children’s Hospital where volunteers play games, read, or engage in arts and crafts projects with patients. This list of opportunities grows as more people and organizations learn about LLF.
Nicol attributes the success of the volunteer program, which logged over 2,500 volunteer hours last year, to word of mouth.
“People and organizations reach out to us to volunteer,” he says. Friends bring friends, and when things grow at an organic level like that, you know people are coming because they want to be involved.”
One of the organization’s proudest moments came recently when it received its first corporate grant from Target for the Learn & Earn program, which provides complimentary tutoring services to Miami-Dade students who need assistance with standardized testing.
“Getting a grant is a big step in the foundation world,” says Nicol. “When you start to earn grant money, you know your foundation is doing good work. You know what you’ve been doing is validated.”
For information, visit www.thelittlelighthouse.org.