Organization: Autism Society of Minnesota
Volunteer Service: Since 2017
How did you get involved with the organization?
My first experience with AuSM was as a participant with my own family. Two of my three children have autism and we’ve used their services. Then, through my role as Chair of Associated Bank’s Forward Abilities Colleague Resource Group, I began working with them in a volunteer capacity. I took over the board position for colleague Paul Schmidt, Head of Commercial Real Estate and Forward Abilities’ Executive Sponsor, when his term ended. I was happy to take on the role because I felt strongly about the organization and its mission.
In what ways have you volunteered with them?
In 2018 and 2019, I helped plan Associated Bank’s Into the Wild sensory event in partnership with AuSM and the Minnesota Wild. Through my participation on their board, I’ve been able to utilize my HR experience to influence policies and projects within the organization. Last year, I joined the board’s development committee to help leaders find other ways to fundraise, in lieu of traditional in-person events.
What is the most rewarding part of volunteering?
It’s been very rewarding getting to know other board members and making connections in the autism community. Individuals at a nonprofit are so passionate about the work they do. Serving on the board helps me see and drive the impact of the organization.
Can you share a memorable experience you’ve been a part of through your community involvement?
This past year, AuSM, like many other nonprofits, was unable to host its key fundraising events as a result of the pandemic. However, as a board, we made strategic decisions for the organization so that AuSM could still collect much-needed funds to continue its services in the community. This included shifting to virtual fundraising events and conferences, reassessing operational costs, applying for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, and getting creative with how we interact with the community. It was a lot of work, but very satisfying in the end to help the organization and the people we serve.
Why is it important to give back to the communities we serve?
As an Associated Bank colleague, I feel fortunate that the organization prioritizes community involvement and provides us with resources to contribute. We all have something to share in the community to help it thrive, which in turn helps us thrive as well. There are so many people in our communities who are less fortunate and in need of help.
What advice would you give other colleagues looking to start volunteering?
To get started, pick a topic or cause that is near to your heart or that you’re passionate about. It’ll drive your interest in the community. Start out small and find the right balance for you. Many nonprofits rely on volunteers and will be so appreciative of any amount of service you can provide. Where possible, use your talents to share the wealth in your community. Just by sharing my HR expertise as a board member, I’ve contributed to the organization in many ways.
How can colleagues get involved with AuSM?
We are preparing for AuSM’s 21st annual Steps for Autism event. This informational resource fair and fundraiser is the organization’s biggest event of the year. With COVID, we moved the event to May so that we could host it outdoors to ensure everyone’s safety. Associated colleagues in the area are welcome to volunteer or stop by for resources from a variety of vendors who specialize in products and services for people with special needs. Details will be shared soon on the AuSM website.