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Building better community advocates

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s VIP program has transformed volunteers into leaders for more than two decades

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Volunteer Involvement Program has helped transform volunteers into community leaders for the past 25 years.

The goals of the United Way’s VIP program are simple. This is a program that raises a diverse group of community leaders to serve on boards of nonprofit organizations and in leadership positions in the Greater Atlanta area.

“It gives volunteers a different viewpoint of what the United Way does,” Senior Director of VIP Janice Robinson said. “There were some [participants] who didn’t have any engagement with United Way at all, and there were other individuals who wanted to continue to volunteer in their community and become better advocates for the community.”

The training program gives a perfect chance to engage in the communities where these people live, work and serve.

The programs are offered twice in the spring and fall and once in the summer, Robinson says. In the spring and fall they meet once a week in three-hour sessions at the Loudermilk Conference Center. The summer course has four sessions on Saturdays and those are full-day sessions.

Those workshops, which range from fundraising, strategic planning, marketing and financial and legal decision making, are led by Robinson and taught by number of different trainers. “The program focuses on board service and board governance,” Robinson says. “We teach them their roles and responsibilities, which are the basics. All of those topics are related to them serving as board members.”

Robinson said the program has graduated more than 2,500 people since it began in 1992. She’s been with the program since 1996. She said she took over the role after the previous director left following the summer 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. It was something she enjoyed. She liked watching these people transform from volunteers to leaders in a short time period.

VIP Alums have gone on to serve on boards for Senior Connections, HouseProud Atlanta, Inc., Fulton County CASA, Center for Black Women’s Wellness, Georgia Law Center for the Homeless, and many others.

“We want to make sure to lay the correct foundation,” Robinson says. “Their sole role is to lead the organization. They need to know that success or failure lies on their shoulders, and they want to make sure the organization has the funds in order to operate. They need to be a fundraiser and advocate for this organization.”

There will be a VIP Board Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 23 from 5-7:30 p.m. at The Loudermilk Center at 40 Courtland St., Atlanta, 30303. Admission to the fair is $20, and that includes parking and heavy hors d’oeuvres. The VIP Board Fair offers the opportunity to connect with a variety of leaders from nonprofits and discover where you can make a difference while fulfilling personal goals.

To learn more about VIP and how to apply, email [email protected] or visit the VIP official page. The next course -begins in March, but you can look for application packet in November.

Bradley Roberts is the Salesforce.org Philanthropy Cloud Content Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta.

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