Build a community.

Published on January 22nd, 2018

Photographer: Amanda Armstrong

This is an excerpt from a longer article written by Chris Rovzar and originally published in Bloomberg Pursuits’ These 27 Strategies Will Make Philanthropy an Effective Pursuit,— Let nonprofit leaders, philanthropic advisers, innovators, investors, and hardworking volunteers show you how on December 14, 2017.

Co-founded in 2003 by Louise Langheier, Peer Health Exchange Inc. (PHE) has sent more than 13,000 trained college students nationwide to teach 150,000 ninth-graders about safe sex, mental health, and substance abuse.

Over the past 14 years, Louise Langheier, 36, has learned what works when it comes to recruiting thousands of student volunteers and keeping them involved: More than half of PHE educators return year after year. Langheier believes that three lessons can be learned by volunteers of all ages.

ONE. “Right now young people care very deeply about equity,” she says. Equity in the world of political action means righting systematic wrongs in society. Politically motivated college students want to find charity work that doesn’t just fix an immediate problem but moves toward righting injustice long term. “They are really discerning about whether a volunteer opportunity is going to fight racism and oppression of marginalized groups,” Langheier says.

TWO. “Our volunteers make it personal. College students are going through their own mental and sexual health challenges and substance challenges,” she says. “This woman in the Bay Area last year had two kids and was finishing her degree as a thirtysomething at SF State, working a job, and doing PHE. When I asked her, ‘Why are you doing this?’ she said, ‘Because I had a kid as a young person. This stuff is really important for young people who share my background. I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure they have choices.’ ”

THREE. “People crave community, and when a volunteer opportunity brings them together with their peers and has some social component, it’s an opportunity to hang out,” explains Langheier. “At Columbia University, for example, we have 350 applicants for 140 spots. It happens because this is the thing to do at Columbia. It is not only personal, and a movement for equity, but it is also the community to be a part of.”

These connections can last for years, creating a long-term bond with the charity as well. “Our college students have ended up marrying each other or being best friends,” Langheier says. “Actually having something that you are a part of, that you’re a community working for, is really special.” —Chris Rovzar

 

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