Earlier this year at an educational seminar for Spokane-area nonprofits, the subject of volunteer recruitment came up.
As attendees offered ideas on how to generate interest in a wide array of causes, the representative of one newer group asked about local resources available to promote nonprofit efforts.
“Try Spokane Cares,” chimed in someone from the back of the room.
A decade ago, when Donna Orme was compiling information on community resources and volunteer opportunities as the humanitarian leader for the Spokane East Stake, this sort of random referral seemed worlds away. At the time, Orme was doing her best to locate meaningful service projects for seven wards, but soon discovered the connection between volunteers and nonprofits was less than efficient.
Orme also discovered the community had more challenges than she realized – challenges that could be lessened if volunteers knew how to help.
“I went into the community looking for service projects and just saw the immensity of problems out there,” she said. “So, I began gathering information.”
Orme plunged into the project, spending countless hours of research to create her own directory of civic groups, charitable entities and volunteer options. Over two years later, she had a compendium that included 800 pages of topic data and another 300 pages describing local causes.
Orme was supported in her endeavor by folks like Nila Hagood who helped her edit the stacks of pages and Nate Mecham who created a logo and lent technical assistance.
“This guide is intended to connect the dots,” Orme said in 2008. “I have a belief that people are good-hearted and that volunteers can make a difference.”
Orme decided on a name for the project, created a logo and purchased two domain names. She then entered into discussions with Whitworth University to start and manage the site.
“I had no experience running a business or building a website, so I handed it over to Whitworth,” she said.
The collaboration with the well-respected college in north Spokane never quite materialized. By July 2010, following personnel changes at Whitworth, Orme took Spokane Cares in a different direction. Her goal of having on online directory for good works and noble causes had still not been achieved.
“I decided to take it back and try again,” Orme recalls.
Fellow members of the Spokane Stake like Craig Mecham encouraged Orme to stick with it.
“I forged ahead, knowing that I could not allow discouragement and frustration to prevent me from completing this project and blessing the lives of thousands who would both give and receive service,” Orme said.
For close to a year, beginning in July 2010, Orme toiled away at the website but eventually realized she would need outside help. In the summer of 2011, she hired Robb Davis to build a site. As Davis constructed the online framework, Orme added data as quickly as she could. Days of 10 to 12 hours were not unusual as she entered over 1,000 pages of data in just a few months.
Finally, in September of 2011, Spokane Cares made its grand premiere. By April of the following year, Orme had secured an official 501c(3) nonprofit designation.
The site now features 400 registered causes and averages around 250,000 hits a year with visitors from all over the world. Features like a comprehensive community calendar have become popular. While the scope and visibility of the project has grown, Orme says Spokane Cares remains true to its original mission of “helping those in need find resources; helping service organizations communicate their vital messages and helping community members embrace service and find meaningful ways to serve.”
Orme said she has been impressed with the groups represented on the site.
“They each tell their purpose, the services they provide and the type of volunteer opportunities and donation needs they have,” she said. “I have spoken with people who work at the majority of these organizations and am always uplifted when I hear them talk about the services they provide. They speak with such enthusiasm for the work they are doing and the impact it is having in our community. We have so many wonderful people and nonprofits giving such meaningful service in our community.”
Orme is quick to give credit to the ongoing support from her current board of directors which includes Joyce Hanson, Malyn Malquist, Mark Orndorff, Bill Coleman and Tom Green.
The Sentinel caught up with Orme recently to talk about her long and productive journey and the ongoing mission to ensure that Spokane – and society in general – cares.
Sentinel: Tell us about what’s been happening with Spokane Cares over the past year.
Orme: We have restructured the board. We have a new logo and are preparing to present it with a mobile-friendly site. Although the website was intended to support Spokane County, it is also reaching around the world.
Q: As you look at Spokane Cares now, is it where you thought it would be when you first started the site in 2011?
A: Yes and no. I stopped volunteering with individual nonprofits to spend my time setting up the Spokane Cares website. I am able to help far more people with this website than I ever could have helped by myself in a lifetime. When I started the website, we were only receiving a small number of hits per month. Although we are now receiving more than a quarter million hits a year, many people in Spokane still don’t know about Spokane Cares, have not been on the site, and are not benefiting from the information that is there. When I launched Spokane Cares in 2011, I had no idea that the Internet would so quickly replace the phone book and many printed sources of information from newspapers to books and lists of information. Spokane Cares is a valuable library of information online that is helping to meet the needs of many people, both locally and around the country. People are drawn to Spokane Cares for countless reasons, many with broken hearts and in need of hope, comfort and peace.
Q: Can you share a couple of Spokane Cares success stories?
A: One of the meaningful things Spokane Cares does, is to help with prevention. We present research and professional advice on many topics, from depression to pornography, alcohol and pregnancy, health, caregiving, parenting and even emergency preparedness. As an introduction to the following success story, the state conducts a survey among students in our schools every two years. The last survey was done in October 2014, and the results were printed in 2015. Referring to the 2014 results, I asked the SRHD what their greatest concerns were, and was told that 33 percent of our youth (grades 8, 10 and 12) are depressed; not just having a bad day, but depressed for days and weeks at a time. With 75,000 students in Spokane County, that is about 25,000 students who are depressed and that doesn’t include the thousands of adults in our County who are also depressed. That being said, a Yakima therapist said, “This past week I visited for the first time with a young woman who has been experiencing a major depressive episode. When I asked her why counseling, and why counseling now, she expressed that she was researching depression on the Internet and felt concerned enough that she felt like she needed to do something about it. When I asked what website she looked at she indicated www.SpokaneCares.org.”
A registered nurse from Arizona wrote, “The first page on Spokane Cares that caught my attention was “Working with Addictions and Compulsions.” I have had a family member recently reach a pornography addiction crisis and I have shared this page with many family members and friends. I love the information, because I am not willing to give up on any of my friends and family who struggle. I have known too many people who struggle with addictions and it was refreshing to find this page giving hope and constructive counsel.”
One man from another state wrote to thank Spokane Cares for its information about pornography. He said he had been trying to quit pornography for a long time, and that reading the information about pornography addiction on our site was a great help to him in his fight to overcome.
Q: What can people do to help you further this cause?
A: We would love to find some volunteers who can help us maintain the website. Working with Spokane Cares may not be the same as working one-on-one with someone in need, but it can provide a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you are helping countless people, from Spokane to cities across our country. Our analytics program shows that this website is also sweeping the entire world and being viewed in many other countries. We have a need for volunteers with simple computer skills, who can help with data entry, help read, edit and write, research a variety of topics to keep information current, research and invite additional organizations, help with Google Analytics and Adwords campaigns, help promote the site through various social media and help with website development, including PHP knowledge. Our volunteers can make a difference from their home and in their spare time. We invite people to look at the features and topics on SpokaneCares.org. Anyone who has an interest in contributing to the work and influence of this great resource, is invited to contact Donna Orme, (509) 927-6842, SpokaneCares@gmail.com.
Q: Where would you like Spokane Cares to be in the next few years?
A: We have confined the Spokane Cares resources to those which reside within Spokane County. However, we have had many organizations in nearby counties ask to be allowed to participate on our site. With these requests, plus inquiries from other states to set up a similar site in their community, I would like to reproduce and share this unique website structure with other communities that would like to duplicate what we are doing. I would like to feel satisfied that we have invited most of the nonprofits onto the site, which are providing meaningful services in Spokane County.
Q: How about 20 years?
A: I hope that Spokane Cares is continuing to serve and strengthen the people in our community and that it is still an influence for good in the lives of countless people around the world. Spokane Cares provides insightful information, and helps to break down the silo effect by placing everyone on the same page – nonprofit, for-profit, government – to encourage everyone to share information, collaborate and work together.