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Innovation + Job News

Engine hopes to drive better engagement between nonprofits, young professionals

A new venture in Minneapolis is innovating ways to connect nonprofits with young professionals who want to give their time and skills.

Jim Delaney, a former director with The LEAD Project, started Engine L3C after an experience as a board member at the YMCA.

"I wanted to do more than show up once a quarter and provide my advice and raise a little bit of money in the meantime," says Delaney. "I wanted to use what I thought were my skills and capabilities a little bit more directly to solve the problems that the 'Y' was facing."

So many nonprofit volunteer opportunities consist of one-day opportunities, helping out here and there with events and fundraising, he thought. Meanwhile, he understood that most directors were too busy with day-to-day demands to tackle big-picture challenges.

Delaney's idea: put together small strike teams of young professional volunteers to tackle big-picture projects. He pitched it to the YMCA and recruited 24 volunteers to work on six projects. One team created a guide for social media use. Another created a 140-page best practices handbook after analyzing the best practices at each of the local YMCA's 14 branches and camps.

Delaney recruits and matches volunteers to the project teams that best match their skills. A typical project lasts about six months, after which the volunteers are free to move on or get involved in a different way.

The young volunteers, most of whom are between the ages of 25 and 35, get personal and professional development, as well as a more satisfying volunteer experience. Meanwhile, the nonprofits, which pay $1,000 per month per project, get professional services for a fraction of what they would otherwise cost.

After 10 projects with the YMCA, about a month ago Engine started another project with the Neighborhood Development Center. Next, Delaney hopes to get corporations involved by offering the program to their employees as a professional development tool.

Source: Jim Delaney, Engine L3C
Writer: Dan Haugen
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