Are you registered for the annual Points of Light Conference on July 14 – 16? Are you still considering if you’ll attend? We interviewed this year’s very first conference registrant, Natalie Wood, director of community engagement at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. Natalie tells us all about her organization, why she registered for the conference right away and what she’s hoping to gain from her conference experience!
Can you tell us more about your organization and the role you play?
I work for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. We’re the largest hunger relief organization in the state of Oklahoma, serving 53 out of the 77 counties in the state. My role as the Director of Community Engagement uniquely positions me to work with donors, volunteers and community leaders in the fight against hunger. In addition to leading our organization’s efforts on the recruitment and retention of volunteers, I also oversee food and fund drives, our young professional programs and hunger education.
How many volunteers does your organization activate each year?
In a typical year, we have more than 44,000 volunteers who help fight hunger through our different volunteer programs. Starting at the end of March 2020, we closed our Volunteer Center out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We just recently opened our Volunteer Center again after 14 months of being closed to the public, but with much smaller volunteer shift sizes of 50 people per shift.
Have you attended the Points Of Light conference before?
Last year was supposed to be my first Points Of Light conference attending in-person. When it shifted to a virtual format, I was so pleased with the online experience that I just knew I had to attend again. I will be joining virtually again this year and can’t wait!
What has been your most memorable conference moment?
I was in awe of the virtual conference last year. I felt connected, even while being virtual and thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and speakers. I find the ability to learn from others invaluable and I knew the Points of Light Conference would provide me the opportunity to hear and learn from many leaders in our industry.
What are you hoping to learn or gain from the conference this year?
I love attending conferences because I walk away with a new set of ideas and a fire ignited inside me. I am hoping to gain ideas around deepening the volunteer experience to help volunteers, donors and community members understand their full impact.
Let me start by saying that narrowing down what sessions I want to attend is no easy task! There are many sessions I am looking forward to, but really excited to learn more from Cairn Reisch in “It’s a Win-Win! Utilizing Volunteers in Meaningful Work.” Our organization is about to launch our skills-based volunteer program and I know I will glean a lot from this presentation. Our current volunteer opportunities are wonderful, but I am looking to identify roles for those volunteers that want to take a deeper dive in the fight against hunger.
What is your hope for the next year for the volunteer/civic engagement sector or your community?
Through this past year, we learned that people are extremely eager to help and stand up for those that need it most, especially in times of increased need. Volunteers want to do more and know more to make a real change. My hope is that we all take the time to equip volunteers to not only serve, but to lead through advocacy and action.
Are you ready to reserve your spot for this year’s power-packed conference? Register now for this exciting virtual event!