NORWALK, Conn.. — Julianne Alberty’s strengths lie in bringing people together. The Norwalk woman finds that skill particularly valuable in her role as the executive director with Norwalk-based Volunteer Square, which matches local volunteers with nonprofit agencies throughout Fairfield County.
“I’m very collaborative,’’ said Alberty, a native of Monroe who started her new job with Volunteer Square in July. "When I meet with nonprofits I tell them I can't promise that we can do every idea they suggest, but I can promise that I’ll look into every shared idea to see what’s possible.”
Volunteer Square was founded in 2010 by Darien resident Ned Brokaw. The nonprofit organization matches volunteers with other nonprofit agencies in Fairfield County and has nearly 1,400 volunteers and 280 nonprofit organizations registered on the site.
The website matches volunteers with organizations based on questions filled out in an online profile during registration. Alberty's most immediate task is to increase the number of registered volunteers.
“We’re hoping to double our number of registered volunteers by the end of next year,’’ Alberty said. “We’ve had a lot of success bringing agencies on board. Now we want to focus on who are volunteers are. I've been meeting with high schools, church groups and going to community meetings to help get the word out.”
Alberty has developed several creative channels to reach volunteers. She has encouraged more participation through area high schools, developed a more aggressive social media campaign and visits community groups and volunteer fairs where she believes she can find volunteers.
Volunteer Square is also doing a holiday season campaign, “Share One, Give One,” in which people can share a volunteer tradition. For each submission received, the Volunteer Square team will donate one hour of service to an agency that has a current posting on its site.
It will also unveil a revamped website in January that will be more user for user-friendly for volunteers, encourages community building through individual town pages and has a look that is more relevant for 2017.
One of the biggest challenges for people wanting to volunteer is the time commitment. “People are so strapped for time," Alberty said. “There’s a challenge in each age group, high school and college students are over committed, parents too. They’re working, they have activities and they don’t have a tremendous amount of time to give.”
Alberty has found older residents who are retired and semi-retired have more time to devote to volunteer opportunities. Additionally, through a high school internship program, she created this fall, she's seen success with high school interns recruiting others from their peer group to get involved through group volunteer projects.
Alberty’s creativity and personality are a strong match for Volunteer Square. She managed community and family programs at Lincoln Center in New York before joining Volunteer Square but wanted a job closer to her home to spend more time with her husband and young daughter.
“I’m attracted to the idea of building communities in each town,’’ Alberty said. “I love to get out and talk with people. I believe that being so involved in the community you live in is very important. This job is helping me get to know my own town a little bit better.”
Before joining Lincoln Center, Alberty worked as a stage manager for theater companies in New York City and Connecticut. The collaborative skills she learned in that industry transfer neatly into her role with Volunteer Square. “The organization, the communication with people, it’s all very similar,’’ Alberty said. “At Lincoln Center, there was a lot of event planning, coordinating and community building in the programs I managed. Everything I’ve done has led me to the next role.”
Some nationally-based agencies have similar goals to Volunteer Square, but Alberty points out an important difference. “We are focused on being local and staying local,’’ she said. “We want Volunteer Square to be the first thing people think of when they are looking for volunteer opportunities in Fairfield County.”
As the only full-time employee for Volunteer Square, Alberty has a big task to coordinate all of the moving parts. Her team of high school interns and her own enthusiasm and passion for the cause will go a long way in helping find volunteers to support the important non-profit organizations in Fairfield County.
“A lot of nonprofits are facing funding cuts,’’ Alberty said. “They need more volunteer support. It’s a challenge, but we try to do as much as possible to encourage people to get involved and volunteer in their community to support the important work these agencies are doing every day.”
For more information about Volunteer Square, click here to visit its website.