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The Scarlet & Black

Volunteer for cash…with a catch

By Kevin Hong

Since 1999, Grinnell College has run a volunteer initiative program for faculty and staff who volunteer for local non-profits. Faculty and staff who volunteer for more than fifteen hours per semester are eligible to apply to have $100 donated to their organization.

“It is a way for the College to get to the town, and a way for faculty members to support the local community,” said Tyler Banas ’13, who works for office of Community Enhancement and Engagement.

Last year, a new volunteer initiative program (VIP) was set up that is open to students. Now, students who volunteer fifteen hours per semester are also eligible to have $100 donated to their organization.

Organizations with student volunteers such as the Grinnell Area Arts Council and The Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS) stand to gain from this initiative. Other examples of organizations that may qualify for VIP are Drake Library, Second Mile, Big Brothers Big Sisters, MICA and Blank Park Zoo.

Unfortunately, most College programs don’t count.

“Many have asked me about the Prison Program and the local food co-op; they don’t count because they are not their own independent programs, whereas SEG (Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell) is its own non-profit organization, so students who work for SEG can ask us to donate $100 to them,” Banas said.

VIP does not support individuals, business ventures and organizations without IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status that are not governments.

The $100 donation happens after the volunteer work.

“[If] you’ve worked for an organization for a while and feel really passionate about this cause and want the College to donate to the organization, then you can apply,” Banas said.

Students can apply throughout the semester, and the deadline for submissions is the Friday of the last week of normal classes, not finals week. Last year, about 25 students applied.

“Everybody gets it. It’s not even an application; it’s more like a donation request,” Banas said. “The only limitation that we have our budget, which is pretty big. If people put 15 hours of work in and want money to be donated to this cause that they care about, they should definitely apply. It’s not a rigorous thing at all.”

The budget comes from the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement. This is just one way of giving money to the organizations that students care about.

“The Volunteer Initiative Program is a great way for students to make a noticeable change in Grinnell while supporting a cause they are passionate about,” Banas said. “In the past, organizations have used the $100 donation to host special events, purchase new arts supplies and fund fishing outings for kids.”

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