Brad Grundmeyer was having a hard time getting to sleep one fall night in 2006. The manager of public affairs for Cox Communications New Orleans, Grundmeyer had recently met with execs at Cox to discuss company volunteerism—and Cox had agreed to allow each of the 700 employees in that storm-battered city a paid day off for volunteer work (at a potential total cost of $130,000).
Grundmeyer knew that in time, “the national and international help would start declining, so locals needed to step up. We needed to go back to that typical definition of volunteering.”
Grundmeyer, a native of the Big Easy, had to figure out how to pull that off. Late on that sleepless night, he looked online and was surprised to find that no post-Katrina central resource had been established connecting all the organizations. Right then and there, Grundmeyer bought the domain name Volunteer New Orleans (VNO). The next morning he found a Website vendor who, pro bono, got the site running.
Suddenly, Grundmeyer had created a clearinghouse both for individuals at Cox—and beyond—looking for a chance to help out locally, and for his newfound nonprofit partners and other businesses in the area looking to inspire volunteerism. “We average about 50,000 visits a month,” Grundmeyer says, adding that Cox generated several hundred employees volunteering their time in the first year. (They recently had a crawfish boil as a party to kick off their second wave.) Many corporations and local businesses are participating, and Grundmeyer continues making presentations throughout the area on the subject.
And next month, for the second year, Cox will host a volunteer fest at a local mall. This year's fest will also be promoting a week-long effort during the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina meant to “turn the event on its head” as a celebration of the spirit of the city, expressed through volunteerism.