During National Volunteer Week, we are highlighting the efforts of several key UWGP volunteers and staff. We hope you enjoy their interviews and are inspired by their service to our community! Looking for a new opportunity to give back? Check out http://volunteer.unitedwaygp.org.
Diane Garofalo, SVP, Corporate Human Resources, Unum
How did you get involved with United Way? What volunteer roles have you held?
I moved to Portland in 1980 and immediately started taking classes at the [former] YWCA. I joined a committee of the Y and then the Board early on in my career and tenure as a Mainer. The Y received investments from United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP), which is how I first started learning about the organization.
As a Unum employee, UWGP became an even more visible part of the fabric of the community for me. In the late ‘80s, I was asked to manage Unum’s employee campaign. This was my first volunteer effort directly supporting United Way fundraising and took about three months of my work time. After that experience, I was addicted to the cause.
As my relationships with UWGP staff and other volunteers grew, I was asked to join the committee formerly known as the allocation committee. In the ‘90s, I continued to be involved in fundraising and was part of a special committee which focused on small business campaign development. Fast forward to four or five years ago, I was asked to join the UWGP Board of Directors. As a Board member, I also served on a Human Resources and Organizational Development Committee, which supported the development of human resources policies until a specific HR role was created.
In addition to my board service, I am currently Co-Chair of Women United [an affinity group of United Way] and Chair of the Resource Development Council.
What skills do you use and what have you learned from your volunteer experiences?
Running the United Way campaign for Unum actually changed my career path and opened me up to thinking about different things I could do within the company. It happened at a point in my career when I began aspiring to more of a leadership role and helped me gain visibility and credibility within the company. I developed my network, built relationships, gained communication and presentation experience, and enhanced my project leadership skills.
I’m new to chairing the Resource Development Council, and it’s something that I think is stretching my skill set. I’m leading a group of experts – council members who are each responsible for overseeing a specific part of the revenue generation efforts – and trying to keep us connected to a cohesive vision of where we’re trying to go in the community and how we can continue to accelerate and add to United Way’s sources of revenue and funding potential.
Being on the Board has exposed me to a more strategic view in terms of how United Way sets mission and makes impact in the community. It’s been a great source of networking and an opportunity to expand the number of professional colleagues in my circle.
What keeps you coming back to volunteer? What motivates you?
When I moved to Portland, I quickly learned that there is a unique richness about the lifestyle here, and I want to ensure that it remains a vibrant place for people to work, live, and raise a family. I value our special community, and I want to see it continue to thrive and be a place where people aspire to stay or join. One way I do this is through volunteering.
Women United is my current passion. In my view, it’s about capturing the passion and the desire of women in the community to help other women improve their lives, through health, financial wellness, access to housing, etc. It excites me because it’s attracting members of the community who might not otherwise be engaged in United Way volunteering, and captures their passion of helping women. We’ve existed for about a year, but we recently kicked off and raised approximately $120,000 and have a core committee and extended membership team of about 30 people. We are now starting our work and thinking about how to use our funds to better the lives of single moms, specifically through a dual generation focus on single moms and their children.
What advice do you have for someone starting to think about volunteering?
I think about why I continue to volunteer, and the people I have admiration for, in terms of their commitment. Whatever the cause, it comes down to one thing – you do it from the heart and not from the head. You have to have passion toward whatever it is you’re offering your service. We often talk about skills, experience, and commitment, and in my opinion, those are tools one can offer but without the passion it doesn’t make a difference. Don’t volunteer just to volunteer; volunteer for something you really care about. It’s very simple – you make time for things that are important to you and you get it done.
Please share a story about your experience.
So far, one of the things I have valued about my experience with Women United is connecting with members of our community with whom I’d otherwise never have the pleasure of connecting. Women United members recently visited the East End Community School as part of our mission to understand what is going on in the Bayside neighborhood through the eyes of children and their parents. We went at lunch time, which was a great time to interact with all of the kids. They were offering us carrots and apples, very curious about who we were and why we were there. What I gleaned is how vibrant the kids are and how hopeful our future is if we continue to support them. It was very eye-opening. After lunch, we visited with the assistant principal and school social workers and learned about the challenges they face. This has provided the foundation for Women United’s work and I never would have had that experience otherwise.