British born, but an American citizen since 1994, Margot Pritzker has worked extensively with nonprofits most of her adult life—founding, serving and chairing many of the organizations while raising three sons with husband Thomas. She saw nonprofits’ need for volunteers with professional skills like law, accounting and marketing (Pritzker herself holds degrees from Northwestern University and University of Chicago). She also saw the large pool of talented women naturally inclined to help give back.
Putting her innate strategic thinking and matchmaking skills to good use yet again, Pritzker created WomenOnCall, which pairs nonprofits in need of specifically skilled volunteers with women who possess those necessary skills. This elegantly simple concept not only helps the nonprofits, but also empowers the volunteers by strengthening their employment skills, growing their confidence and enhancing their resumes.
Most of the matchmaking work is done through an easy-to-use online database for potential volunteers and nonprofits. However, at least once a year, WomenOnCall holds an event called Meet & Match for the two cohorts to meet and vet each other in person (think volunteer speed dating).
MIB: When and why did you found WomenOnCall?
Margot Pritzker: I launched the site in 2005 after realizing the time and commitment it took to sit on boards, as well as the limited resources nonprofits have to find help. Limited resources meant that if they needed assistance in accounting or public relations, they either had to find the money or beg for pro bono work. After seeing this for many years it occurred to me that you could put these two things together: nonprofits that needed the professional skill set and women looking for opportunities.
What lessons for well-educated women have you learned as it has evolved?
Pritzker: [First,] be confident in your abilities. We often hesitate to call ourselves “experts” or to value the skills that we have built throughout the years, whether through professional or personal experiences. By recognizing and applying those skills, women have the ability to impact the community in profound ways. We all have a unique expertise that we can continue to hone and give.
[Secondly], women have always helped to build their communities, and their innate concern for others has been a driver of their volunteer activity. Volunteering skills, in particular, not only increases the value of their volunteerism, but [also] provides great opportunity for women to feel empowered in the process of giving back. Applying your skills in a new setting offers wonderful occasions for growth and can inspire personal development, while gaining the satisfaction of making a difference.
What are your hopes for the future of WomenOnCall?
Pritzker: We are working to become the premier resource for nonprofits that are seeking high-caliber volunteers to add value to their organizations, and the go-to place for professional women to make an impact by leveraging their skills. We always envisioned WomenOnCall as a global organization but want to focus on the U.S. first. Currently, nonprofits and volunteers throughout the country can connect on virtual volunteering projects, and we plan to launch several new markets in 2015 to facilitate additional in-person connections.
What is the best way for a woman to take advantage of WomenOnCall’s services?
Pritzker: Simply register online at www.womenoncall.org and fill out your profile. Registration is free for our nonprofit and volunteer members. Projects that match your skills and interests will be sent directly to you, and you can begin a conversation with organizations of interest. The more detail you provide about your areas of expertise, the better we can match you with projects that are relevant to you. We are in the process of upgrading our technology, so be on the lookout for faster, more effective ways to connect with our nonprofits in the coming months.
Anything else you want to tell our audience?
Pritzker: Make sure to join us on Thursday, Feb. 19 for our annual Meet & Match—our signature event that connects nonprofits and volunteers in a fun and fast-paced evening of speed-networking. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet face-to-face with nonprofits in need of your skills and expertise and to discuss short-term projects on which you can make an impact. Justice Anne Burke will kick off the evening with inspiring remarks, and it is always an exciting and productive evening of networking with local nonprofits and like-minded peers. For more details and to register, click here.