Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

October 21, 2013

Film, innovative classes boost volunteering, strength of nonprofits in Wilmington

Special to Philanthropy Journal

Michael Walton

Dr. Jeffrey Brudney speaks at NC State.
Innovation is coming to nonprofit education and community engagement in Wilmington.

The Institute for Nonprofits’ Community of Nonprofit Scholars (CONS) welcomed Dr. Jeffrey Brudney to Raleigh Oct. 8 to discuss his recent endeavors to improve the health of Wilmington and North Carolina’s nonprofit sector through innovative student and community involvement.

One new approach introduced by Brudney is promoting volunteerism through filmmaking. With Brudney as executive producer, University of North Carolina Wilmington students put together an original film profiling volunteerism in the Wilmington community, Building a Better Wilmington: Giving and Volunteering in the Port City. The 12-minute film features interviews highlighting volunteers’ motives for giving of themselves and the rewards they receive in return.

Employing the medium of film brings greater recognition to volunteers in the community and shows how easy it is to become involved. Those efforts will receive a considerable boost next month when the film is screened as an official selection at Wilmington’s annual Cucalorus film festival.

Brudney, UNCW’s first Betty and Dan Cameron Family Distinguished Professor of Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector and academic director of Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO), arrived just over a year ago with the goal of bringing new and different approaches to strengthening local nonprofits.

He has two more films in production. One will explore the results of volunteer efforts, focusing on the beneficiaries of volunteer work who have gone on to volunteer themselves. Brudney highlights this reciprocity by calling volunteering a “renewable resource.” He hopes the film will help raise the level of appreciation and knowledge about the nonprofit sector in Wilmington, ultimately attracting more people to volunteering.

UNCW is also getting students involved through an innovative course offering, which will be documented in the film Beyond the Classroom: Learning to Lead. Students enrolled in Brudney’s Nonprofit Leadership Experience course receive 40 hours of classroom instruction from Brudney and numerous guest speakers from the nonprofit sector.

One class session becomes a nonprofit fair in which organizations present results-oriented project ideas to the students. Students then choose to complete the project that best suits their interests.

Matching students with nonprofits has advantages for both groups. Benefits to the organization go beyond what is gained from the completed project. Brudney says, “The fair is as much for the nonprofits as the students.” Working with QENO to develop project ideas before the fair, organizations gain experience thinking strategically about designing a viable project – a process that enhances management capacity.

At the same time, students can select the project that most appeals to them, enabling them to put to use their own particular skills and abilities. Delivering tangible results provides students with real résumé-building experience.

The course has only been offered once so far, but an impressive list of student projects is already taking shape: developing a training program for one agency, creating a marketing brochure for another and revising a curriculum for an agency that implements after-school youth programs. At the end of the semester, students take part in a poster session to present their projects and receive feedback from the nonprofit community.

Innovative means of engaging students in working with nonprofits creates mutually beneficial ties. In an early testament to the success of these efforts, many students have remained involved with the organizations for which they worked. These initiatives in Wilmington show that student engagement may prove to be yet another renewable resource capable of bolstering the strength of nonprofits.

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  • At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Browning said…

    Wow! The Wilmington area is most fortunate to get this huge boost. I expect this project will be amazing for the nonprofits! Hope it gets replicated across NC !


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