Fostering Collaboration Through Convening and Grant Making

On October 4th and 5th Peer Leaders had the privilege of attending the Maryland Nonprofit Annual Conference. Session topics included: human services, marketing and communications, finance and operations, leadership and more.

Jessica Plummer’s excited to share her takeaways on the session she attended. In Fundraising and Philanthropy: Fostering Collaboration Through Convening and Grant Making. Participants learned approaches to collaboratively solve complex problems and best practices for fostering collaboration among nonprofits.  Speakers included: Kacey Wetzel, Director of Programs for Outreach and Education, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Gena O’Keefe, Senior associate, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Carol Trawick, Founder, The Trawick Foundation, and Manon Matchett, Community Investment Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation.

Carol Trawick, founder of the Jim and Carol Trawick Foundation, began by sharing that her organization started with only two employees and has grown to 702 employees all by building partnerships.  She encourages others to collaborate with at least four other nonprofits.  Here’s a few of Carol’s key points:

  • The key is to listen. Listen to your partners.
  • Life is dynamic. It’s always changing.
  • Step back. Be objective.

Her final thought for the session was a piece of advice that she was given many years ago that she still uses to this day, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Manon Matchett, Community Investment Officer, asks the audience, “What does collaboration mean? And how do you define collaboration?” Manon gave us a word picture to help us understand how she defines collaboration.  As a funder, Manon asks the audience key questions:

  • What are you living for?
  • Why are you doing what you’re doing?
  • How are you making an impact?
  • How do we come to the table collectively?
  • Who are we working with to support?

Manon explains that as a funder she has to be conscientious at listening to all parties. She emphasized that, “We have to come together with one mindset.” Manon leaves us with a thought provoking question, “If you reached your dream goal and solved the problem then what other problem would you solve?” The overall theme of the collaboration session was listening and understanding your own motivation. As a former Volunteer Coordinator (VM30), I found these tips to be a great reminder of not just how to achieve our goals, as a collective, but also why these goals are important,  not just to us as individuals, but as a community. A volunteer community.

From left to right: Manon Matchett, Gena O’Keefe,  Kacey Wetzel, Carol Trawick


Haley – My VM Story

Haley is a recent graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and is serving at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services for the 2018-19 Service Year. “I’ve been living in Maryland since 2014, and loved Baltimore so much that when I graduated college I decided to stay. One of my favorite things about Baltimore is all of the passionate people who are working to make positive changes in their communities. Working with some of these organizations in school, and seeing all the great work they do in Baltimore was inspiring, and opened my eyes to the possibility of using art as a tool to build community.”

Why serve in AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland? 

“I chose to do a term of service with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, because I want to be doing something that makes a positive impact on the world. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems that I see around me everyday, but AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland offered the support and training to tackle those problems head on. I’m excited to use my skills to get other people motivated to serve their communities and make a positive impact.”

What are some of your goals and what are you hoping to gain in experience serving as part of the VM31 Service Year?

“I’m hoping that my time at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services as an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland will allow me to develop skills in nonprofit management that will be useful going forward. In the future, I would love to be able to work with and develop programs that use the arts to assist underserved communities. My time at LARS is helping me to better understand the needs of those communities and individuals that are in need of assistance, and my training with VM and AmeriCorps will give me the confidence and skills to pursue a career in nonprofit work going forward.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services you may visit…
Facebook: Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, Inc.
Instagram: @laureladvocacy

Sandra – Bureau of Aging + Disabilities – My VM Story

Sandra is a long time volunteer of the programs at Carroll County’s Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and has the opportunity to use her experience as Volunteer Coordinator to implement strategies and initiate projects to grow their volunteer program.

Sandra is an avid ‘maker.’ “I paint, make jewelry, greeting cards, alter books; however, I’m passionate about the 3-R’s (recycle, reuse, and re-purpose).” Sandra states she is most proud of her family. “As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered how helpful and understanding I have become in the process of thriving in life and getting along with others.”

“I was motivated to accept the challenge of joining Volunteer Maryland because of the extensive and interactive training and support that the program offers. This is just a great opportunity to build on the existing experience and knowledge that I already have. The term of service  is giving me an opportunity to make a significant difference in my community because of their ongoing support to which add value to my success.” 

Sandra has always volunteered. “I’ve been a volunteer since my early teens. I’ve found that giving to others helps my physical and mental health. It gives you the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than myself and use my civic responsibility for the greater good.”

“My goals are to improve the skills I already have, learn new ones, and expand my network. I’m a highly self-motivated and independent person, who like to run with a project goal. My long-term goal is provide the most impact in the Nutrition/Congregate Meal Program and Front Desk Programs, in the five Senior and Community Center in Carroll County. ”

We are excited to see Sandra’s journey unfold as she grows this Service Year and makes an impact in Carroll County. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities please visit  

Allie – Sows into Seeds – My VM Story

Our next VM31 Story takes us to Allie! “I just recently graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. The program at my college was challenging and demanded a lot of me as a student and I am proud of myself for completing it. One of the greatest things I learned during my time there is perseverance. There were a lot of rivers I had to cross, but I never lost my forward motion even when things seemed impossible. This is due to having a great support system made up of friends, family, and different mentors I met within those four years.”

…”the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own”…

“Another thing that I learned there is to not accept without first questioning. My college adopted the “Great Books” program in 1937. Throughout the four years all students read works from what is referred to as the “Western canon.” This includes Western literature, European music, and philosophy. Through reading, I was exposed to a lot of different ideas, a lot of them opposing. This puts students in a place where they are not sure what to think. A lot of what they believed to be true has been broken down through this process of reading and questioning. But, the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own firm view and a new order will begin to develop. These are our beliefs, the things that sit at the core of each individual. This reformation is a process that I believe takes a lifetime to complete.”

In Allie’s spare time she loves to read, ride her bike, and bake. “I especially like to make new and challenging recipes so that I will grow as a baker. When I am out and about I like to attend different community events, visit museums, and spend time with friends or family. Something different I recently started is Muay Thai! I have never practiced martial arts, so I am excited to see what I will learn in my classes!”

When we asked Allie why she is doing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps, here’s what she had to say: “I grew up and went to college in Maryland. I have spent a lot of time in this state, but during all that time I have not become the community member I would like to be. At my college I took a lot of initiative to get into a leadership role, especially my junior and senior year. I ended up working with Student Services as well as serving as a board member of a committee called “The Committee on Student Life.” I think I realized that if I was unhappy with something in my little community, such as the campus culture, instead of sitting around and wishing things were different I could seek out the opportunities to do something and be a part of the change I would like to see.”

“During my senior year, when I was getting ready to leave the community I had been a part of for the past four years, I wanted to apply that same logic to the greater Annapolis community through volunteer work. I asked a campus counselor to suggest some organizations I could volunteer with. One of the organizations she recommended was Seeds 4 Success. Since I wanted to volunteer consistently each week, I went ahead and applied to Seeds 4 Success. After some emailing back and forth I met with their Volunteer Manager and soon after started my volunteer term as an Academic Success Coach (tutor) on November 1, 2017.”

“It made the work feel worth-while!”

“I went into the work with some preconceived notions of how tutoring works and quickly found out that that is not what my time with my tutee will look like. The Academic Success Coach is there to create a relationship grounded in trust, to be a positive role model, to teach self-advocacy, to teach organization, to help discover passions, and to give agency to the student. It is much more than homework help or tutoring in any one subject. We were there to help our tutee address academic barriers, but we were also there to be a guide (in matters both academic and non-academic). Academic Coaching begins with asking the question “what would you like to do today?” instead of telling them what we think they should work on. These subtle differences between traditional “tutoring” and “Academic Coaching” made the volunteer role to me quite compelling. It made the work feel worth-while!”

“It was exactly what I was looking for.”

“The time I spent working with my tutee was fun and other days it was challenging. Those challenging days only made me want work harder, to find other strategies to help my tutee become engaged in the program. The fun days were rewards for the work we both were putting in. In April of 2018, when the program year was coming to an end, I was approached by their Volunteer Manager who asked me if I was interested in coming on board with them as their Volunteer Coordinator. She told me I would work part time over the summer and then in the fall I would transition to full time through an AmeriCorps program called “Volunteer Maryland.” Before I even knew what exactly Volunteer Maryland was I agreed to move forward with the opportunity. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was already thinking of doing an AmeriCorps service term after I had graduated. (I applied to the another program in November 2017 and was offered a position but ended up turning it down as I felt it was too early in my senior year to commit to.)”

“After my initial “yes,” the Volunteer Manager sent me a lot of resources in an email in so that I could read about VM and understand what they are about. Nothing I read came as a surprise to me, nor did anything make me want to change my initial answer. I believed in the mission of Seeds 4 Success and was ecstatic that I was now getting the chance to work with an organization that I felt so strongly about. I have always felt that in my work I would like to make a difference, even if it is not changing the entire world. Working within my local community to help address a need is exactly the work I wanted to do upon graduation.”

“I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

Thinking about her goals Allie says, “I am young and have a lot of learning and growing left to do. I know that Volunteer Maryland will help me with both of those things. I will grow both professionally and personally, as well as learn a lot about what it takes to be an effective Volunteer Coordinator. I am hoping that I will leave my service year with the knowledge of how to be the best resource and provide the best support I can for my volunteer core, as well as a thorough understanding of all the moving parts necessary to run both volunteer programs and the overall organization. I would also like to build my confidence, both as a professional and an individual. I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

“Lastly, I am most excited to see where this service year will take me. A lot can change in one year and I know that the person I am today will not be the same person I am on July 23 of 2019. I hope to be better, stronger, and more knowledgeable. How could I not be? I am being provided with a great opportunity to spread myself out and take in as much information and experience as I can. For now, I am ready to learn, to grow, to serve my community, and to see to what paths this service year will lead me.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities as Seeds 4 Success you can reach out to Allie at or find Seeds 4 Success on various social media: Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn

Get to Know Cassie – My VM Story

Cassie’s our first Volunteer Coordinator to be featured in our #VM31 Service Year introductions!  Cassie Motok, is currently the Volunteer Coordinator for Caring Matters, formerly known as Hospice Caring. “This is the first time I am actively serving a nonprofit organization and am excited to start this new journey!”

Cassie’s passion for helping others started at a young age. “I always did volunteer work growing up, whether it was volunteering at retirement homes or serving food at the local the soup kitchen. This created a drive for me to want to be in the position of helping and serving others.”

It was not until my sophomore year of college when she joined the fraternity, Zeta Tau Alpha, where her passion for serving others really took off! “Our philanthropy is Breast Cancer Awareness and is something that hits close to home. However, it was not until I actively started to fundraise for our philanthropy and attend educational events that I saw the true impact volunteer work had on others.”

“I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.” 

After graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Cassie was not sure the direction she wanted to go in. “I was actively searching for jobs, but doing a service year was always something I thought about the most. However, it was not until a year after where I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into Americorps. That is when I came across the opportunity to serve in Volunteer Maryland’s AmeriCorps program.”

“I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into AmeriCorps.”

“One of my main goals this year is to gain a new perspective on how nonprofits work. I would like to have a strong understanding of how to create sustainable practices to benefit smaller organizations when they may not have as many resources or as much funding as others.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities and the great work at Caring Matters in Montgomery County be sure to visit

Get to Know Jason – VM31 Peer Leader

Jason is serving with Volunteer Maryland’s 31st class. Here’s what he had to say about service and what he’s most looking forward to this upcoming service year!

I didn’t get heavily involved in community service until my third year of college. The year prior to that, I had just transferred to Virginia Tech and I was having a really hard time finding my place at the university. In Spring 2016, I came across a promotional flyer for a co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. I didn’t know anything about APO aside from the small handful of folks that I had heard mention the name before. Honestly, my initial thought was “Hey! I know some cool people in this and I really need friends, so let’s check it out!” I had no idea how much my life would be significantly impacted by a single organization. During my pledging semester, I remember having multiple conversations about how I wasn’t very active in my community during high school. “I have always loved helping others,” I would say, “but I was just never introduced to enough service opportunities.” As I continued on my path to becoming an official member of APO, I engaged in a wide variety of service projects. From helping third graders with their history homework to maintenance work on the Appalachian Trail to participating in one of the largest collegiate Relay for Life events, and everything in between, I was gaining a better understanding of what it takes to make a community thrive. While my initial motive for joining Alpha Phi Omega was to make more friends, my reason for staying was to make an impact in others’ lives through service. APO ignited a spark in me. Now I’m ready to take my passion for service and spread it like wildfire which leads me to where I am today…

I decided to do a year of service because I wanted the opportunity to immerse myself in
community engagement full-time. As strange it sounds, the number one thought that gets me out of bed in the morning is, “Someone needs me today.” When I started ingraining this idea into my head, I found that I had a much easier time waking up and starting my day than if I thought, “I need to do this or I need to do that for myself.” Instead, I try to channel my focus onto how I can support someone else.

My three greatest strengths have always been these: empathizing with others, making
connections, and utilizing my creative abilities to enhance the connections that I have made. As a Peer Leader, I hope to maximize my strengths to their full potential. I also hope to improve upon some weaknesses as well. I believe this role will help me build more confidence in myself and my abilities as a servant leader. I also hope that along the way I will discover more things that I am passionate about that may redirect my educational and career goals. Lastly, I would love to build lasting relationships between chapters of Alpha Phi Omega and Volunteer Maryland’s partner sites. APO opened the door that led me here and now, I would love to open a door of opportunity for others.

I am so excited for this brand new adventure at Volunteer Maryland! I can’t wait to start
motivating more people to get involved in service!

Jason wanted to leave us with this inspirational quote:

“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

We are excited to have Jason be a part of the support team doing great things for VM31! Stay tuned to see and learn more about all of our AmeriCorps members who will be with us for the 2018-19 Service Year!

Welcome Back Jessica – VM31 Peer Leader

Our first VM Story for the 2018-19 Service Year brings us to Jessica who is serving as one of this year’s Peer Leaders at VM HQ!

Jessica served as a Volunteer Coordinator in Volunteer Maryland Class 30 at End Hunger In Calvert County for the Calvert Cash Program in Huntingtown, Maryland. “I had been a client of the Calvert Cash Program and I filed my taxes for free and last service year I had the opportunity to create a sustainable structured volunteer program by implementing policies and procedures. I was able to gain valuable experience such as team work, excellent verbal and written skills, organization and execution of objectives.”

When asked about her journey as an AmeriCorps member; “I felt a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment throughout my service year and I wanted to have that opportunity to serve again but in a different capacity. At the same time, I appreciated how both Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps work with the sites as a team to accomplish their mission and vision and I wanted to be included in this effort!”

As for Jessica’s aspirations serving as a Peer Leader for the VM31 cohort, Jessica is most looking forward to working with the Volunteer Coordinators and getting to know them. “I am hoping that I can be a helping hand of support when they need it during their service year. I know for me personally, my site and my community was a huge support in helping me accomplish my professional goals. I truly enjoyed my service year of working with the staff and volunteers and I will continue to volunteer at End Hunger In Calvert County at every opportunity. I hope that in my service year I can serve the coordinators and guide them as they serve at their site. I am hoping that the relationship cultivated of trust, loyalty, and friendship I feel towards EHCC, could be established for other coordinators who serve at their site. I know I will be cheering them on every step of the way!”

To learn more about how Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps members are making a difference to Maryland communities please visit us at