Dow in Michigan - Corporate Volunteer Managers

Corporate Volunteer Managers Take on Unique Hybrid Roles

Kali Grove, Melissa Eigner, and Elvis Machul began the New Year in new jobs – unique hybrid roles that are part-Dow and part-United Way.

Funded by a Dow community grant, the three new Corporate Volunteer Managers for Midland, Bay and Saginaw Counties have one foot in the corporate world and the other planted firmly in the community.

Individually, for their counties, and collaboratively for the region, each serves as a bridge connecting United Way’s non-profit partner agencies with Dow employees.

The small staffs at non-profits do not always have the time, resources or support to plan projects, recruit, and get the best from their volunteers. Add that to the variety of volunteer needs and the busy-ness of Dow employees - and volunteering goes down.

As Corporate Volunteer Managers, Kali, Melissa and Elvis play matchmaker by identifying volunteer opportunities that align with Dow’s Community Success priorities, the community’s most critical needs, and employee volunteers who might be able to fill those needs.

They split their time between offices at Dow and their respective United Ways, working collaboratively to connect Dow volunteers with projects.

The emphasis is on short-term projects that fit employees’ availability and allow them to “try on” different shapes and sizes of volunteer “hats.” Some projects are small, requiring just a few hours and a few volunteers; others are wider-ranging, regional events, such as the 2011 National Junior Disability Championships to be hosted by Saginaw Valley State University, July 16-23.

Along with volunteer “matchmaking,” the managers promote the personal and professional benefits of volunteering to Dow employees, measure and quantify employee hours of service, and create a comprehensive volunteer recognition program. Additionally, the programs they put into place are shared as “best practices” with other Dow sites around the world.

Meet the people
Kali. It takes a dynamic personality to be a successful Corporate Volunteer Manager – part matchmaker, part cheerleader, part teacher, salesperson and marketer. It helps to believe firmly in the cause: building better communities through volunteerism.

Kali Grove, Corporate Volunteer Manager for United Way of Midland County, got the volunteering “bug” in grade school when her family got involved with the American Cancer Society. Kali’s father is a cancer survivor. At Saginaw Valley State University, Kali served two terms as chairperson for the school’s Relay for Life event which attracted 500-1,000 participants and raised over $125,000.

This busy Hale, Michigan native started her job in January, graduated from SVSU in May with three majors, is engaged to be married in August, and recently moved to Midland.

“This job allows me to be innovative,” says Kali. “I’m the liaison between Dow, United Way and community non-profits in Midland County. In collaboration with Elvis and Melissa, we have the opportunity to impact volunteerism all around the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

Kali says she sees “the good heart of Dow” every day – finding employees have a desire to help and to serve; but she also sees some hurdles to overcome.

“Many employees are very busy and while they’d like to volunteer, they don’t have time to figure it out themselves – the where, when or what,” she says. “Others have time to search for the opportunities themselves,” she says. “It’s our job to do this work for them and simplify the process.”

Elvis. Elvis Machul loves a challenge. The Corporate Volunteer Manager for United Way of Saginaw County brings sales, advertising and marketing experience to the job and says: “If you could design a perfect job for me, this is it.”

The Saginaw native was influenced at a young age by his mother’s high level of motivation, her integrity, and strong sense of community. A 2010 graduate of Northwood University, Elvis has logged a lot of volunteer hours himself, in service to organizations like the Great Lakes Bay Hispanic Leadership Institute, the YMCA, United Way, American Cancer Society, and American Red Cross, to name a few. Elvis also brings management and promotional experience to the role.

In addition to his job with Dow and United Way, Elvis is also busy with family (two children, ages 6 and 11), church, business leadership groups - and he’s pursuing a master’s degree in business management at Northwood’s DeVos Graduate School of Management.

He’s been impressed in his first months on the job by the people he’s worked with at Dow. “This initiative has solid, top-down support from Dow – the kind of support vital to our success,” says Elvis. “Dow employees across the board have been so giving of their time and expertise – they’re always willing to go out of their way to help.”

Elvis feels he has the biggest challenge, with some of the area’s greatest needs in Saginaw County. But this former college basketball player says, “When it’s game time, I look forward to having the biggest challenge of all. With over 800 full-time Dow employees now working in the county, I believe we can have a major impact in this community.”

Melissa. Essexville native Melissa Eigner is used to the mix of skills demanded in her new role. The Michigan State University graduate worked as a marketing and promotions coordinator for Downtown Bay City before becoming the United Way of Bay County Corporate Volunteer Manager early this year. She is a member of the Leadership Bay County class of 2011.

While the job is new, Melissa’s experience with volunteerism began in her early teens as a student aid for the Essexville-Hampton Public School’s Summer School Program and continued in high school as a member of numerous volunteer organizations like Students United and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

“My favorite volunteer memory is a ‘Battle of the Bands’ fundraiser for our SADD chapter,” Melissa says. “We put that event together from the ground up, and I’ll never forget the feeling I got when everything came together. Now, as a Corporate Volunteer Manager, I get that feeling of accomplishment, of doing good for others, every day.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity to ‘blaze a trail’ with this new position,” says Melissa. “Dow employees care so much about their communities. They’re always willing to push up their sleeves and volunteer. It’s going to be fun to capture that willingness and channel it into success for our communities.”

The projects
Volunteer projects vary from renovating floors and walls at The Rock Youth Center in Midland, leading a mentoring activity night for kids enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Heart of Michigan, or assisting with an education day to promote science education to more than 3,500 regional elementary school students.

Most projects are 2-4 hours in duration and allow employees to sign up with a friend or work group, satisfying a social need along with the volunteer activity. Longer-term projects, such as this summer’s National Junior Disability Championships and a regional Habitat for Humanity project, offer varying work shifts that allow volunteers to get in up to their ankles, or on up to their elbows.

At the foundation
To lay a new foundation to grow Dow employee volunteerism, the company recently launched DowGives. This comprehensive program utilizes the time, talent and resources of the company and its employees to address the important social, economic and environmental needs of the region.

What’s more, Dow’s internal web site for VolunteerMatch helps employees to view and sign up for individual, group and companywide volunteer initiatives. In the site’s first full year of operation, it is already teeming with employees interested in getting involved.

“Our volunteer managers will bring synergy to our efforts to serve the entire GLBR,” says Ann Filllmore, Executive Director of United Way of Midland County. “They know their communities, they know their United Way and its partner agencies, and they understand Dow – it’s a perfect blend for action.”