Memphis, Tennessee – (NewMediaWire) – April 21, 2021 – Volunteering
is awesome, right?
But here’s the real
truth: for volunteers, volunteering is icky. It can be hard to find
the right opportunity, the one that fits your schedule, feeds your soul and
makes you feel like you’ve done something meaningful without intruding too much
into your life.
For nonprofits, volunteers are
icky. They’re unreliable and hard to manage. It’s hard to screen
them and harder to keep them busy. And don’t get us started on groups
that want to volunteer only when it’s convenient for them or who do work that
has to be redone by staffers.
Everyone may say volunteering is
awesome – especially during April, National Volunteer Month – but it can really
One woman in Memphis found that
out the hard way. Almost 10 years ago, Dr. Sarah Petschonek volunteered
30 consecutive days at 30 different nonprofits. She chronicled the
experience in her blog. The
punchline is, it wasn’t easy.
So she set about to make
volunteering better for an entire city.
Memphis consistently takes one of
the top spots in rankings of the nation’s most generous cities, in spite of it
being one of the poorest large cities in the country. But until
Petschonek got involved, Memphis also ranked in the bottom five in national
rankings of volunteering in large cities.
Petschonek founded Volunteer
Odyssey. The nonprofit tackles the ickiness of volunteering
from both sides.
She uses software that connects
volunteers to experiences based on their interests, skills or the neighborhoods
they want to impact. She selectively partners with more than 50 Memphis
nonprofits, providing software to recruit volunteers and track their
impact. She applies the principles of psychology to match volunteers to
their ideal opportunities. Plus she and her team manage on-site volunteer
activities, ensuring the volunteers and the nonprofits get what they both
want: a high-quality, impactful experience that leaves the volunteers
fulfilled and the nonprofits better.
Volunteer Odyssey has adapted to
volunteering in the age of COVID. In early 2020, the organization quickly
shifted to help nonprofits and volunteers connect to work virtually.
Petschonek and her team are managing the strategy and logistics for COVID
vaccination volunteer efforts in the Memphis area. And later this week –
on April 23 — Volunteer Odyssey is hosting its second Virtual Volunteer Day of
the pandemic. In partnership with Memphis-based Forever Ready
Productions, the first Virtual Volunteer Day provided an interactive virtual
volunteer experience, garnering a regional Emmy nomination.
Today, Memphis still ranks at the
top of rankings that measure charitable giving. But the city has moved up
from the bottom five to the top half – and climbing — on national rankings of
volunteering at large cities. Petschonek won’t take all the credit for
that, but she is proud of the impact Volunteer Odyssey has had. Her
website touts more than 260,000 hours of service and almost 52,000 acts of
service with a value of $6.1 million dollars.
About Dr. Sarah Petschonek
Dr. Sarah Petschonek is founder
and CEO of Volunteer Odyssey. In 2014 American Express named her one of the 50
Under 40 Social Entrepreneurs in the U.S. She founded Volunteer Odyssey
based on two landmark projects. In 2012, she began Mission Memphis: 30
consecutive days volunteering with 30 non-profits, chronicled on her blog,
Confessions of a Volunteer. Afterwards, she launched Volunteer Bound – a
cross-country volunteer tour researching volunteerism in nine U.S. cities
spanning from Portland, Oregon, to Jacksonville, Florida. Volunteer Odyssey has
grown to include more than 50 nonprofit partners, the most comprehensive
Calendar of Volunteer Opportunities in Memphis and the country’s first virtual
volunteer fair. She has also given a TEDx talk on the power of meaningful
volunteer experiences. Dr. Petschonek earned her PhD in industrial
organizational psychology, an MS and an MBA from the University of Memphis.
Before founding Volunteer Odyssey, she worked for the U.S. Navy and St. Jude
Children’s Research hospital. She was also an adjunct professor of
business in the MBA program at Christian Brothers University.
Contact Kim Cherry, 901.230.8121, Kim.Cherry@CherryPR.co