Let the games begin!
Sure, it’s not as exciting as watching Olympic synchronized diving or your team’s next NFL preseason game, but completing the Project Selection Lottery for the United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring certainly feels like competing in a marathon! For two straight weeks, I’ll be working all day, every day to ensure that more than 140 volunteer teams are able to find a project that is both meaningful and fun.
Instead of playing out in a stadium, this game is played in my tucked-away nook at our United Way office downtown. The rules of the game are pretty simple: make sure that all of our teams walk away happy with their project and that the nonprofits and schools will have enough volunteers to fill their needs.
To ensure fairness in picking projects – and to make sure that 10 teams don’t all pick the same project, we have a lottery system. I use an app that randomly mixes up the volunteer teams and assigns them a number. The first day, I notify teams 1 – 25 that it is their day to pick their project. They are the lucky ones, as they have all 200+ projects to choose from. Each consecutive day, the next 25 teams on the list get their chance. From year to year, I do make sure that the last 50 or so teams do not get bottom spots again, but that is the extent of my manipulation of the numbers. And believe me, I have been bribed! But just like a referee, I must remain impartial.
My “playbook” is a notebook filled with spreadsheets, project lists and team rosters. The teams wait anxiously for their turn to see what projects will still be available to “draft”. I receive about 40 calls per day from team leaders, who fill a role similar to a coach. Our team leaders are responsible for encouraging their teams, making sure that everyone is where they need to be and maintaining communication with their players and also the nonprofit or school where they will be playing.
As each project is filled and each team walks away happy with their pick, I record a win on my score sheet. You see, this is the kind of game that everyone wins. The nonprofits and schools win, because they are getting volunteers to complete projects that have been on their wish lists for months or even years. The volunteers win because they’ll get to spend a day team-building with colleagues and making a real difference in the community.
Before we know it, our teams will don their Day of Caring t-shirt uniforms and head out to pre-game party at our State Farm sponsored Kick-Off Breakfast. After the breakfast, they’ll gear up to participate in our “Super Bowl” of volunteering – the United Way Laurence E. Richardson Day of Caring. That evening, people will watch the highlights of the event on the Charlottesville Newsplex or listen to a recap on WINA.
At the end of the day on September 19th, I will breathe such a sigh of relief and take a moment to reflect on the whirlwind. All of the hours of preparation, hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails will be so worth witnessing the biggest win of all - seeing thousands of smiling faces at the project sites while tackling some of our community’s biggest needs.
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