Originally appeared in Dallas Morning News
In nonprofit circles, some organizers track volunteers through three stages: awareness, involvement and commitment. Nonprofits realize that a person doesn’t become deeply committed to a cause as soon as they become aware of it. They need time for that cause to grow in their affections, wrap its tendrils around their heart.
The same is true of civic engagement. Before citizens invest deeply in the flourishing of their city, state or nation, they need exposure, awareness and a role to play.
And that doesn’t happen enough in North Texas. In fact, according to 2017 statistics from AmeriCorps, Dallas-Fort Worth ranks 32nd among major U.S. cities for volunteering. An estimated 27.3% of residents volunteered that year, the last for which data is available, contributing 175.6 million hours of service. And D-FW is below the statewide ratio; 28.4% of Texans volunteered, ranking 37th among states.
That’s one reason The Dallas Morning News and our partners created FWD>DFW, and we’re thrilled to announce that it’s making huge strides.
FWD>DFW is a forum that connects companies, causes and the community around issues like education, wellness and the arts. It includes a campaign to promote volunteerism and to match volunteers with serving opportunities. Since January of 2019, FWD>DFW has mobilized 11,191 volunteers, registered 36,525 service hours and contributed more than $929,000 in economic impact through its volunteer engagement platform VOMO. All 23 of The Dallas Morning News Charities participate in the project, and those have contributed more than 100 opportunities for volunteers to serve.
The pandemic hasn’t slowed down the effort. Early in 2020, FWD>DFW partnered with VOMO on a campaign called Be A Neighbor. It created a widget to mobilize communities, not only in D-FW but across the country. More than 35 publishers and media outlets participated, leading to 227,000 hours of service by 49,200 volunteers, and an economic impact of $5.74 million in participating communities.
None of this is to crow about our own efforts, but to point out that D-FW residents are generous and caring if only given the chance. We believe D-FW deserves to rank higher than 32nd because we know the kindness of our community. We’ve seen it when disaster strikes, as it did during last year’s tornado. We’ve seen it in the way the region has responded to the coronavirus crisis. We see it every year when the holidays arrive. And now we’re seeing it in real data from FWD>DFW.
So on behalf of all the charitable organizations who participate and, by extension, all the neighbors helped by their services, this is a holiday thank-you to everyone who helped make Dallas-Fort Worth a more compassionate place this year. That’s an important step in cultivating a more socially connected and civically engaged city.