University of Iowa – On Iowa!

You’ve been accepted. Now what?

Going to college can be terrifying and exhilarating all at once. In late August, Freshmen students arrive in droves – with bags, boxes, expectations and frazzled parents. Campus maps and freshly minted student ID’s in-hand, these bright-eyed initiates quickly find themselves surrounded by coolly intimidating upper-classmen and no-nonsense professors who won’t accept ‘getting lost’ as a valid excuse for tardiness. College can be an abrupt immersion into a completely foreign environment: new rules, new classrooms, a new school mascot and – perhaps most jarring of all – a strange new roommate.

At the University of Iowa, however, first-year and transfer students are given a warm welcome to help alleviate those new-school-blues. This introductory, week-long celebration includes campus tours, goal-setting workshops, tools to succeed in the classroom and a pep-rally themed run-down on Hawkeye traditions. It’s called On Iowa! and it culminates in a Convocation Ceremony on the Pentacrest, followed by dinner with UI President Sally Mason at the Block Party on her front lawn. Completing the On Iowa! new student orientation includes committing to the IOWA Challenge, which tasks students with embodying five Hawkeye principals: Excel, Stretch, Engage, Choose and Serve. Did we mention the free t-shirts?

“Three cheers for VolunteerLocal!” – Kate Sojka, Director of New Student Programs, Office of Retention at the University of Iowa

On Iowa! requires the helping hands of over 650 volunteers each year – and with VolunteerLocal’s customized registration form, the volunteer coordinators for this event can collect data unique to Iowa’s campus volunteer recruitment, including student organization names, student ID numbers and ‘Squad Colors.’ Branded integration into the University of Iowa’s website design makes the sign-up process seamless for student volunteers, and the Group Signup feature allows On Iowa! volunteers to bring friends along for the experience.

Happy Volunteering – and Go Hawks!

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The start of the school year can mean lots of things: new school supplies, new homeroom teachers, even new clothes. For many in Des Moines, however, it’s most importantly a marker for their childrens’ annual health screening, thanks to a program called Jumpstart. Jumpstart is a back-to-school health fair that provides free physicals, dental checks and screenings for local students entering grades K-12.

“Ideally, every family would have a relationship with a family doctor,” says Brianne Sanchez, the event organizer and volunteer coordinator at Jumpstart. “But we know that isn’t always the case. Jumpstart makes sure that every child has access to a healthy start to the school year.”

“You don’t have to be a doctor to volunteer at Jumpstart (although we do have an important role for licensed providers),” says Sanchez. “The majority of our volunteer needs are for hospitality roles: Helping families with registration, making sure the lines are organized and moving smoothly, running supplies and supporting fellow volunteers.”

Jumpstart offers behavioral and mental health screenings, physical check-ups and options for after-school programming. Every attendee receives a free toothbrush, toothpaste and information on how to stay healthy, in addition to a list of community partners who provide school supplies to students in need. Those who qualify can even receive free vaccines.

“Students who face health barriers often struggle with school,” explains Sanchez. “Participation in regular physicals help identify students in need of additional services and attention, and connects families in need with healthcare resources.”

This year’s Jumpstart takes place on July 26th, from 9am – 5pm at East High School in Des Moines. The Jumpstart program is a collaborative effort of Des Moines University faculty, staff and students, the Polk County Health Department, and – of course – volunteers. Want to get involved? Click here to volunteer today!

Waste Warriors Assemble!

What’s a party without waste? Awesome, that’s what. Take the challenge this Saturday, April 19th to find out how to have a good time without waste at Des Moines’ first ever waste-free festival: the Recycle Revolution.


RecycleMe Iowa was founded after Chief Recycling Officer Ciji Mitrisin saw a lack of opportunity for apartment residents and local businesses to live waste-free. A few conversations, brainstorming sessions and nine months of hard work later, the Recycle Revolution was born.

Get to the festival for free: VOLUNTEER!

“It’s an Earth Day event that also immediately implements an earthly solution,” says Mitrisin. “Music and arts are two great ways to inspire the community. Recycle Revolution is our grassroots way of exhibiting just how much the community wants to become more eco-friendly, given the right tools.”

Don’t be confused, this is no ordinary revolution. The family-friendly event begins with a block party – completely waste free (yep, you heard that right). The fun starts at noon on East 5th Street between Grand and Locust in the East Village. Special perks to those who bring a hard-to-recycle item to donate: $5 off concert admission, 1 free food or drink token, 1 raffle ticket, or five free UP/DOWN tickets.

Designing your very own recycled tee is just one of the many fun and innovative ways Recycle Revolution is keeping the community waste free. A local screen printer will be onsite to print your designs on recycled tees from Goodwill. Committee members even did some experimenting to come up with a recycled spinning paint machine to make spin art. Recycled paint is used on you guessed it, recycled paper, with a repurposed fan. Get in the groove by heading over to the Jam station with some instruments made from recycled materials.

Recycle Revolution leaves no waste. Nothing. None. Not only will activities be waste-free, but vendors like Local Yocals and Mo’ Rub will serve up delicious menu items using only compostable and recyclable materials. Through innovative ideas, Recycling Revolution is out to create Zero Waste Warriors.

“Zero Waste Warriors are our volunteers who manage zero waste stations at Recycle Revolution, but they are so much more,” says Mitrisin. “Your title and work connection becomes who you are; how you view trash. For our cause, it’s saving the planet through teaching the difference between compostable and recyclable items.”

At 6:00 p.m. the block party moves off the street for a concert at Wooly’s featuring: SHEL, Dustin Smith and the Sunday Silos, James Biehn Band and River Glen. Tickets for the concert can be purchased on Tikly for $15.00 prior or $20.00 the day of the event.

Hy-Vee Road Races

The second annual Hy-Vee Road Races at the Drake Relays combines three major distance competitions, a 5K race, a 10K race and a Half Marathon – all in one day.

On Sunday, April 27th, Hy-Vee Road Race runners will storm the streets of downtown Des Moines (earning this event it’s namesake). Runners will start and finish their respective courses at the Drake Stadium, home of the Drake Relays. The Hy-Vee Road Races Half Marathon boasts the largest prize-purse in the world, $80,000, with a total prize-purse of $120,000 for all three races combined.

What makes this event truly special, however, is the impact it has on the Greater Des Moines community. “The Hy-Vee Road Races puts Des Moines on the map,” says Michael Zimmerman, a Hy-Vee Road Races Organizer. “We are fortunate to have a company like Hy-Vee that’s willing to offer a huge prize purse, and willing to work with Drake to bring in this great talent to Des Moines.”

The Hy-Vee Road Races brings together athletes of all types. “There isn’t a separate race for the pros,” says Zimmerman. “Everyone stands at the start-line together, and everybody crosses the same finish line.” In addition to the notoriously large prize-purse for the top finishers of each race, this event offers a lot of good prizes for mini-categories, which Zimmerman believes helps to invigorate the local running community. “Des Moines is really a health-centric community,” he says. “And not just in the way that encourages everybody to healthy, but to make the city itself this mecca of fitness.”

The Hy-Vee Road Races is powered by a rock solid volunteer force. “That’s another great thing about putting on events in Des Moines,” Zimmerman adds. “You get so many people who might not be able to participate in the event – but still look to get involved through volunteering.” Whether it’s distributing medals at the finish line, holding it down as a course marshal or working the gear bag station – volunteers make it all happen for the Hy-Vee Road Races.

There are plenty of volunteer spots available – sign up today and get involved in this spring’s biggest, boldest celebration of athleticism!

Dirty Girl Mud Run

It’s a dirty girl nation.

Mud, sweat, tears, obstacles…and empowerment.


For the past three years Dirty Girl Mud Run has left a pretty empowering trail across 25 cities in the United States. The women-only, non-competitive 5K run (complete with mud pits, rope ladders and slides), is a partner organization to the nonprofit Bright Pink which provides support for women who have been affected or are at-risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

With 25 events across the nation, and more than 100,000 participants conquering 12 obstacles, all while managing 10,000+ volunteers – a more streamlined process that balanced differentiating markets and a consistent brand image became a necessity. Luckily, Dirty Girl’s Operations Manager, Mindy McPherson, recognized the need for a technology solution right away and set to work on finding the right provider.

“(I) was researching other events to see what people needed and how they managed volunteers, VolunteerLocal just seemed to fit the bill,” says McPherson. “VolunteerLocal gives us the opportunity to manage the program according to our own needs, versus managing multiple spreadsheets.”

cancersurvivorsarefreeUnlike many 5K runs, Dirty Girl isn’t about finishing first. In fact, it isn’t even timed! To McPherson (and Dirty Girl runners everywhere), this event is about empowering women to conquer fear and overcome obstacles, even in the face of a foe much more terrifying than a slippery mud pit: cancer. Combine this passion for women’s health with their executive team and the thousands of volunteers who make it happen in every city – and you can see why the Dirty Girl Mud Run (despite it’s noncompetitive nature) is sweeping the competition in every other way.

With VolunteerLocal, McPherson believes 2014 will be the best year yet. “We love the program’s flexibility and VolunteerLocal’s consideration to build out and tailor it to our needs,” she says. “It’s truly a comprehensive volunteer program. We’ve asked for some custom features, and they delivered.”

We are proud to empower the Dirty Girl Mud Run and join the fight against breast and ovarian cancer. If you’re a woman reading this, we encourage you to visit their website at and register to run (you can do it!), or simply explore some of the great strides this organization has made on behalf of Bright Pink.

Go ahead – get your hands dirty. Sign up to volunteer for the Dirty Girl Mud Run in your city today!

Peace. Love. & Mud.


Hello, I’m Theresa!

Hey there people of the internet!

I’m Theresa Kelly, new Content Marketer/Intern/Person at VolunteerLocal hailing all the way from Elk Grove Village, IL or as I’d like to refer to it … “Chicago.”  Currently I’m a senior at Drake University studying public relations, entrepreneurial management and any other class I can take relating to health, the arts or design.

photo of theresa kelly

A little about me; behind my new found love for yoga, sick dance moves and smile which all happen to be very mellow sounding, my music playlist tends to lean more alternative. My Chemical Romance’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge album – love!

As an experienced volunteer and music lover intrigued by Des Moines’ startup community, I am so excited to be a part of the VolunteerLocal team. I get to work with a great team of passionate people in a cool work environment where I get to see technology innovators and big thinkers make ideas come to life every day. Not only that, but the software serves people and organizations who do a variety of really cool things for great causes like Habitat for Humanity, Des Moines Arts Festival and Summer Camp Music Festival.

I’m excited because I know VolunteerLocal is succeeding with the variety of clients we work with and the impact our software has on a client’s event planning experience, yet we still have so much room to grow and be known. The possibilities are endless at VolunteerLocal. I’d like to see our festival clientele grow, get more news media features and in general, generate more conversation with current and potential clients on the web.

If you’d like to connect follow me on Twitter at @teeekelly, on LinkedIn, or take a peek into to see some of the other cool things I’ve done, I’d love to meet ya!


-       T

Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival

What kind of event sells 12,000 tickets in 42 minutes, with ticket-holders in 41 states and countries as far away as Brazil, China, Denmark and Puerto Rico? Nope, not Justin Bieber. Not even Beyonce. It’s the annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, and it happens right here in Des Moines, Iowa.

Now in it’s seventh year, ’BaconFest’ (as it is affectionately coined) has become as much a staple holiday as it is a food group to many of its most devoted fans. This year’s BaconFest staff expect around 13,000 bacon enthusiasts in attendance – and when we say bacon enthusiasts, we mean it.

Each year, BaconFest is produced by the fabulous team at In Any Event, a full-service event planning company in Des Moines. “In Any Event started about ten years ago,” says Mindy Toyne, Owner of In Any Event and Event Director for the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival. “Our first event was Des Moines’ Oktoberfest. Since then, large scale public events have become our company’s core focus.”

The Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival was born when the original founders (now dubbed the ‘Bacon Board’) sat down with Toyne over a happy afternoon of drinks and brainstorming to hammer out the concept: a festival to celebrate Iowa beer, Iowa bacon and general buffoonery. “It was pretty popular that first year,” says Toyne, “and the next year it doubled in size.”

The Bacon Board continued organizing the event on their own until it became so large that In Any Event needed to jump back in, this time with VolunteerLocal in their toolbox. “We’re able to partner with VolunteerLocal to fill crucial jobs and shifts during our major events,” Toyne explains. “A lot of times our needs from a staffing standpoint can’t be provided through an internal structure, which is what makes volunteers so important to us.”

For Toyne and the entire Bacon Board, however, it’s about more than just the bacon. It’s about improving the quality of life for Central Iowans, supporting local farmers and building that sense of camaraderie in the Midwest. “Many of these events have charity components to them as well,” adds Toyne. “BaconFest is one that gives a considerable amount of money to a handful of charities every year.”

For more festival or ticket sales information go to, “like” Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival on Facebook, or follow @BRBaconfest on Twitter.


Operation: Make a Difference

Calling all nonprofits! Far Reach, a software, web-design and internet marketing company is hosting a contest for one nonprofit to win a free development project (website, software, or app) – custom-built and lightning fast. “Make a Difference is the first of our company’s eleven core values,” says Megan Horn, Marketing Specialist at Far Reach. “We decided it would be awesome if we could take one project and do it – from start to finish for a nonprofit organization in need.”

Interested nonprofits can submit their applications for consideration via Far Reach’s Facebook page. Applications are due by Sunday, January 26. Far Reach will choose up to five finalists, based on information submitted in the application, including project scope, potential impact, level of need, and more. Those finalists will collect votes to determine the final winning project, which will be announced February 17.

“The community gives to us and we want to give back.” – Megan Horn, Marketing Specialist, Far Reach

“It’s really open,” says Horn. “We purposefully didn’t put a lot of limits on what we’re willing to build. We want to see what’s out there and what people need.” Whatever it may be, the Far Reach team will attempt to finish the winning project in one weekend – a feat that touches on the company’s second core value: We’re a Team. ”The weekend project is going to be a true test of that,” laughs Horn. “There’s no room for picking up slack!”

I mean, technology. Am I right?!

Operation: Make a Difference isn’t a surprising endeavor for those who are familiar with Far Reach and the active role this company takes to support and empower the greater community. Far Reach is a sponsor of the Technology Association’s networking event, Tech Brew, and many of the company’s employees participated in a kick-ball league last year. Horn adds, “a lot of our business is local, too.”

Want to apply? Throw your name in the hat before the January 26th deadline! And from all of us here at VolunteerLocal, may the odds be ever in your favor.