Last week, along with our Outreach Manager, Patrice Beverly, I attended two of our “Connections, Information, Ideas” sessions. (Sadly, we had to cancel the very first one because of the weather.) This is a new format for us, and one that is proving very interesting. At each session, we had about six participants. We spent 45 minutes to an hour of each session learning about the attendees and the organizations they represented. We talked about community issues and common concerns. We then spent about 30 to 45 minutes discussing the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator program.
What I found most interesting was the common theme of connections. In both sessions, several of the attendees already knew each other – and, still, they exchanged cards and found new ways to collaborate. In one session, a participant said to another, “I see you all the time and I had no idea what you were doing!” This sentiment has been repeated a few times and I imagine it will continue.
Isn’t it fascinating that, in our world of constant communication, we often struggle to genuinely connect? Our networks are wider than we could have imagined a few years ago, but we don’t have the time – or spend the time – to know what different people and organizations are doing.
In Charles County, much of the discussion focused on communication. The participants agreed that there doesn’t seem to be a common place to share information among nonprofits. In Howard County, there was a lot of talk about the challenge of finding affordable office space for nonprofits. I saw two different counties with different needs coming together to share what they can over coffee in a library meeting space. 90-minutes of face-to-face networking may seem like a luxury, buy I could see how necessary it was to each of the participants and their organizations.
For Volunteer Maryland, this series of sessions has been a clear win so far. We’ve met new people and we’re learning more about the specific needs and challenges of the nonprofit communities around the State. We’re also sharing our message and sharing ideas and resources.
We have eight sessions to go and I hope to share more about what we’re learning as we travel throughout Maryland. If you can get away from the online social networks for a bit, I hope you’ll join us! We’ll be in Severna Park tomorrow at 11:00 am; you can see all the dates, times, and locations here.