The value of the arts in a community is best reflected in the strength of volunteerism that exists. In the Lehigh Valley, that impact is tremendous. The 2017 Arts & Economic Prosperity Study 5 reported that 6,952 volunteers donated 323,354 hours to 98 arts nonprofits in 2015.
Across the rich, culturally diverse landscape of the Lehigh Valley, arts administrators all agree that their organization couldn’t exist without volunteers. I sat down with several of them to speak about their relationships with this valuable asset.
How do volunteers and the work that they do benefit your organization?
“The 90-member choir is entirely composed of volunteer singers who donate more than 10,000 hours of their time each year for rehearsals, concerts, and festivals. Others help with mailings, ushering at concerts, and cleaning up after performances.They are the eyes and ears we need to make sure the audience experience goes as smoothly as it can.”— Renee James, Director of Marketing, Bach Choir of Bethlehem
“We are a completely volunteer organization. Without them we can’t function.”—Elena Shackleton, President, Lehigh Art Alliance
“The Dance Exchange is made up of three co-directors and an intern, all of whom work together to recruit professional dancers and put together master classes and festivals. Volunteers allow us to put on the programing that we offer. They help a lot with festivals, orchestration, t-shirt sales, transport services, and photography.”— Sarah Carlson, Treasurer and Media Director, Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange
“Touchstone Theater benefits from a variety of volunteer services, everything from serving on the Board of Directors to ushering at shows and assisting in the cafe. Many actors are also recruited to volunteer for larger community shows.”—Lisa Jordan, Managing Director, Touchstone Theatre
“The Storytelling Guild is made up of professional and amateur storytellers who love to listen to other stories or perform their own. Our volunteers help arrange partnering events with Godfrey Daniels and local libraries. They also help with daily tasks, such as maintaining the website and social media platforms, creating posters and videotaping events.”—Charles Kiernan, President, Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild
What attracts volunteers to your organization?
“The volunteers themselves are telling me that they are coming because of the music—and they come and they stay. Some who are new to the area often want to become more involved and meet new people. They forge new friendships with each other that last outside of volunteer work.”—Renee James
“One of the greatest opportunities given to volunteers for the Lehigh Art Alliance is the elevation and education received from other artists. Many artists volunteer their time to help people learn about work opportunities and encourage and educate other artists about the creative process.”—Elena Shackleton
“We think of ourselves as a family of tellers. There is a great amount of mutual support between our members and for the Guild. Storytellers enjoy and appreciate the camaraderie.”—Charles Kiernan
“Many of the volunteers who come to Touchstone have an affiliation for the theater and a general passion for the art of theatre.”—Lisa Jordan
“Volunteers get to attend 4-6 master classes a year—free of charge—and work with professional choreographers from around the Lehigh Valley.”— Sarah Carlson
How do you recruit volunteers?
“The Dance Exchange will advertise when volunteers are needed, but many volunteers approach them on their own time asking about how they can still be involved.”— Sarah Carlson
“I include my contact information in concert and festival pamphlets and e-newsletters. All volunteers are additionally recognized in their programs and at events and festivals.”—Renee James
“Touchstone allows many people to get in contact with volunteering by offering opportunities on their website and through their volunteer newsletter.”—Lisa Jordan
Giving of one’s time to a cultural nonprofit positively impacts both the individual and the organization. There are more than 125 cultural nonprofits in the Lehigh Valley, representing the performing, visual, media and literary arts. If you are looking to connect with the arts community and fuel your passion for the arts, the Lehigh Valley offers many choices.
Testimonials compiled by Lauren Balbierer, Intern at Lehigh Valley Arts Council, Student at Moravian College