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Guest Post: Sustainable Volunteering 101

Many people tend to question the sustainability of volunteering abroad. “Will I be able to make a lasting impact? Would I be taking jobs or roles away from locals?” The truth of the matter is, while well intentioned, some forms of volunteering abroad are more beneficial than others.

Liza Dyer: Service Done Responsibly

When I first started thinking about Connecting the Cause, I wondered about the best way to communicate its significance to the world. I wanted something substantial and impactful. Then it occurred to me, how about I do what I love? Get a couple of people together and talk about volunteerism and what it takes to be effective at giving back…duh.

So I thought about some brilliant service-centered mavens, and Liza Dyer came right to mind.

I don’t really remember when I officially “met” Liza, because number one, we’ve never seen each other in person, and number two, our interactions have been super organic and I don’t really remember a beginning. You know that feeling… when you are connected with someone, and you just start talking and realize they are really cool and so you both just stay in each other’s circle, comment on awesomeness, share resources, and cheer each other on when opportunities come around or congrats are in order? That’s Liza for me.


Liza and I share the circle and passion of volunteerism. She’s been working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector for 15+ years and is currently a Program Coordinator in Volunteer Services at Multnomah County Library.

Aside from serving as Program Coordinator and assisting over 2,000 community members connect to volunteer opportunities, I also found out she was an AmeriCorps Alum and I said, yeah, it’s official, she’s bomb. So knowing her insight, her experience, and bravery in championing this sector, I had to ask her what it means to serve responsibly. She gave 3 major keys of what that responsibility looks like:

1)    It means finding roles that speak to personal values.

2)    It means knowing my capacity and motivations so I can find the roles that best match my needs with those of the organization.

3)    Lastly, it involves doing research to find organizations that have well-run volunteer programs along with effective overall operations.

As a volunteer, this is the perfect formula for when deciding if an opportunity is a good fit. It is equally important for volunteer managers to be aware of these steps and travel alongside the volunteer as they discover their own answers in order to fully understand an individual and their effectiveness in the role. 

Volunteers must conduct their own research around finding good fit, while organizations must also do their due diligence with being transparent about roles, what they expect out of the volunteer, and the benefits and rewards that come with it.

Connecting the Cause was created to prepare organizations with the necessary tools to effectively engage their volunteers, so that individuals are deeply connected to a cause and are integrated into a lifestyle of transformative volunteerism.

Liza is the perfect example of service integration gone right.

“Throughout my life, I’ve focused my energies on different causes depending on current events and personal interests. However, I developed a deep love for ocean conservation from a young age and that continues to this day. One of my role models, oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, said: “You have to love it before you are moved to save it.” Through volunteer and paid experiences with museums and science centers, I’ve been able to transform my love of the ocean into action through citizen science, public education, and advocacy.”

This friends, is what that transformation looks like. It’s a journey about discovering one’s gifts and making space for yourself so you are able to get in tune with what you care about, and then putting it into action. Transformative service is about renewing your mind so that you develop increased empathy and serve as a catalyst for self and community change. Liza is really about that life, and is not throwing in the towel anytime soon.

Outside of the day job she loves, Liza also delivers training to volunteer-involving organizations like nonprofits, libraries, and social service agencies. Check her out here, oh and she’s a tweeter too! 

Thank you Liza for sharing your insight, and your enthusiasm for responsible service.


Breauna Dorelus is the Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, where she is dedicated to building effective volunteer programs for nonprofits through transformative volunteering strategies. As a service-driven millennial, she is dedicated to igniting others to serve through the power of volunteerism, and passionate about connecting people to their purpose.


15 Affirmations for the Service-Driven Change Maker

We are constantly bombarded with negative news stories, world disasters, and an overload of gut wrenching information. As service-driven change makers, we deal with the hard stuff. Domestic violence, hunger, systematic injustice, police brutality, and refugee rights are just a few of the issue areas we operate in on a daily basis. As we fight for a better world, it is so essential that we practice self-care, feed ourselves positive energy, and have a clear mind and heart about who we are and why we serve. Here are some affirmations I've personally created in order to keep me grounded. Feel free to meditate and think on these affirmations in order to stay centered, focused, and ready for the journey ahead. We need you to be your best self, for you and humanity’s sake.

I am confident in my abilities, gifts, and talents to change the present state of the world.

I am intricately connected and tied to my community and understand its needs. I then use this information to make informed decisions about change.

I am a light to the world and it is my responsibility to give a damn about where we are headed as a planet.

I continuously help people who are in needed and offer my time, knowledge, dedication, and energy to those who are designed to accept them.

I am a passionate individual who thinks critically about life’s challenges and offers viable solutions.

At this moment, have every characteristic within me to change my community and the support from dedicated loved ones to make it happen.

I am a part of transformational change and I see the impact of my work on a daily basis.

I am unselfish in my pursuit to give back and seek nothing in return as my service is my gift to the world.  

I am honest with myself and my pursuits for achieving social impact. Ego has no place in my service-centered heart.

There is nothing holding me back physically, emotionally, or mentally. The door is open for me to love, be loved, and have all of the support I need in order to make sustainable change.

I create love, I design impactful ideas, and I implement effective plans that change the lives of the individuals I serve.

My mind is open to learning new information about myself and how I see the world in order to make effective change.

My energy to serve and my power to give is everlasting. There is nothing that I cannot accomplish.

Giving back is not a burden for me. I find ways to serve every day in the smallest ways that in turn make the highest impact.

I am not only serving, but I am also the one being served. Through my gifts to the world, God and the universe bless me over and over again with love that feeds my soul.

BONUS AFFIRMATION: I ask for advice and help when needed, and do not vie for any accolades and honors that come with giving back. I serve because that is my purpose on this earth. When I fulfill my purpose, I am in turn, a better human. This is my reward.

Are there any affirmations you personally subscribe to? I'm always looking to add more to the list. 


Breauna Dorelus is the Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, where she is dedicated to building effective volunteer programs for nonprofits through transformative volunteering strategies. As a service-driven millennial, she is dedicated to igniting others to serve through the power of volunteerism, and passionate about connecting people to their purpose.

How to Combat Personal Mission Drift

Everyone has a mission, a why, a reason to tick. Fortunately at a pretty young age, I recognized my mission, and my mother nurtured it into its maturity. Once I honed in on my mission in life, I haven’t looked back since. It serves as a compass for my actions, relationships, and for how I approach new opportunities. So now, working in my purpose as a volunteer manager and a program director for an AmeriCorps state program, I get to ignite people to serve on a daily basis and reveal to them the power of volunteering. I’ve even been able to witness those rare but transformative times where a volunteer experience reveals one’s mission and passion. Those are the best.

 It is also my responsibility, from an organizational lens, to build a volunteer force that strategically ties into the organization’s overall objective and mission, essentially creating a program that embodies that “mission in action.”

Based on the fact that I align mission on a daily basis, I have now adopted some best practices. I have strategically developed a gauge for when to pursue certain personal interactions, relationships, and projects.  My mission, defined for me as “purpose in action” serves as a living breathing measurement for my personal happiness and wellbeing, but I have definitely run into those times where I am faced with an opportunity where I may have to say no to something new. If not, I run the risk of mission drift.

Mission drift in my personal opinion, is defined as a sharp or gradual disconnection to one’s intended goal, a goal deeply rooted in purpose. Mission drift can come in a variety of forms, and for professionals it can come in the form of a new opportunity, a new collaborative venture, or new position. When one of these things comes across your doorstep, it’s important to have had a rubric developed that will serve as your safety net to test mission drift. Over the years, I have been more comfortable with passing something over, or just saying no. Here’s how I do it:

I think of my mission as an actual living entity, with its own personality, its own quirks, and its own flavor and style, manifested out of myself to help me and guide my way.

No I’m not joking, this is serious. Hear me out.

 So if mission is a form, that holds your hand through life, it’s important to consult it when faced with a new opportunity, and it’s important that you know your mission the back of your hand, because, essentially it’s the closest thing you will ever have to you. It’s a part of you! This is how you can get acquainted with your mission, and know when to make that boss move or not:

1)      Do I trust my mission? Have you built a deep relationship with your mission to the point where you know it inside and out?  Do you trust it enough to lead you?  Ask yourself these questions. The answer of YES is a must in order to truly battle mission drift. You can’t fully put your all behind something you don’t fully trust and believe in. Embrace your mission, and let it serve as a guide for your ultimate impact.

2)      Does my mission advocate for me? Have you ever been in a position where someone asks you your why, or how come you do something a certain way and you automatically spout out your reason, and are confident in that? Let me give you an example. I get this question all the time: “Why are you working to help refugees when there are homeless veterans in your own backyard?” I politely respond, “Do you go to Burger King and ask them why they aren’t selling high fashion designer clothes?” No, because that’s not their intended purpose, or their foundational goal. I doubt Burger King wouldn’t even be able to sell clothes the right way, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t want to!  The same goes for all of us. My response is actually my mission going to bat for me and advocating for my purpose. I can confidently stay put right in that niche because I know that’s where I belong, and your mission will make that clear for you. No need to be apologetic. You can always fall back on your mission to give you direction and support.

3)      How does my mission act in different environments?  My mission is happy when I connect a volunteer to a new position. My mission is nervous but fulfilled when I am up on a stage and have to present knowledge around engagement. My mission is completely pissed off when I am trying to justify her (mine is a her) and fit her in a box that’s too small. She is angry and punches me in my gut when I push her to the side and try to figure out my own way. How does your mission respond to certain opportunities, professional relationships, and sectors?  It will let you know, you just have to listen, and when you do, you will feel so much more comfortable steeping into unknown spaces.

Be in alliance with your mission, for it is rooted in your purpose. Get to know your mission and how it operates, so that you both don’t drift apart from each other, because essentially, it’s you drifting apart from yourself. Feel when mission drift is coming, challenge it head on.


Breauna Dorelus is the Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, where she is dedicated to building effective volunteer programs for nonprofits through transformative volunteering strategies. As a service-driven millennial, she is dedicated to igniting others to serve through the power of volunteerism, and passionate about connecting people to their purpose.




Dear Nonprofit Professionals, I'm Upset With You

Dear Nonprofit Professionals,

There is something that's been on my mind that I must share. About two weeks ago, I was viewing an article someone posted on LinkedIn and happened to read the comments. One in particular stood out to me. It was centered around bigotry, ignorance, and complete lack of empathy. This individual also happened to be a service provider in the nonprofit sector serving the exact people they spoke so harshly about. Last week, I witnessed something similar. As a volunteer manager, consultant,and nonprofit professional whose dedicated my life to service professionally and personally, I now have some burning questions to ask you:

  1. As nonprofit professionals should we be held to a higher moral standard due to our mission and the people we serve?
  2. I directly connect my values as a person to my professional work. Is this not the norm? Am I in a dream world?
  3. Are we differentiating our personal brand and opinions from the service we provide? Should we?  

When I see a nonprofit professional, or any professional for that matter spew inaccurate information, ignorant opinions, or writing degrading comments, for me, it lessens their ability to serve clients and customers. I don't want to do business with them, and to be quite honest, I want them to quit their job....okay, or at least receive additional training, SOMETHING. I believe that our ability to empathize and connect with our clients allows us to create effective programs and services that truly assist in accomplishing our mission. But isn't this a duh??

Now mind you, most of us are absolutely amazing, but I have witnessed (firsthand may I add) a divide between empathy and service on several occasions. I know that exists, but is the divide not something to be fixed? Based on comments I've seen, some people don't think so.


It's clear that transformative service is not just for volunteers, but for nonprofit staff, service providers, entrepreneurs, and business professionals alike. A change in heart and mind of the service provider increases respect and hightened empathy, a necessary tool to bring about lasting change.  


 Breauna Dorelus is the Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, where she is dedicated to building effective volunteer programs for nonprofits through transformative volunteering strategies. As a service-driven millennial, Breauna has provided various forms of support for every aspect of volunteer programming including orientation and training, program development, volunteer recruitment, and retention. She is a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in International Studies and holds a MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University(’15 Summa Cum Laude).

How I Work-Overseeing Everyone Who Wants to Get Involved!


Originally published on Work for Good By Marc Schultz

Published: May 06, 2016

Breauna Hagan began working for New American Pathways in early 2015, taking charge of volunteer operations for the Atlanta-based refugee resettlement organization. We caught up with her over coffee to discuss the responsibilities and rewards of her work as Service and Volunteerism Manager.



My un-official title: Master People Connector. (Though that might be aspirational!)

My role, the short version: Overseeing the programs that engage everyone who wants to get involved directly as a volunteer.

My role, the long version: Individuals, groups, faith-based partners, corporate partners, AmeriCorps members, interns—I oversee the volunteering process for each of these demographics, with the help of two AmeriCorps members. Part of that is working with my coworkers to determine the volunteer opportunity attached to each department, and how to fill it correctly. I’m also responsible for compliance regarding an AmeriCorps State reimbursement grant—something I had not done in my previous work. Fortunately, I get assistance with that from our resource coordinator.

Most rewarding part of my job: Seeing my coworkers get to take a breath, because engaged volunteers mean they have more capacity to address other, oftentimes overlooked, departmental needs. And when a volunteer wants to come back, wants to deepen their involvement, wants to become a champion for the cause—that’s really rewarding.

How I got here: My mom taught me always to give back, but also to be careful about how you do it. I’ve always been interested in international issues and global humanitarian aid: I was in Model UN from a young age, and in college I took service trips abroad. After volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras, I knew that I wanted to devote my life to service—but even with an International Studies major, I still didn’t know what a profession in service looked like until I took a senior seminar on career possibilities for my degree, which introduced me to the world of nonprofits. After that, I spent two years as an AmeriCorps Vista—one as a communications VISTA, one as a VISTA leader—and went to Georgia State University to get my MPA in nonprofit management. I wanted to combine my passion with my formalized knowledge, skills, and training, and this position connected all those dots.



What the role requires: Being a people person. You’ll find that people from all walks of life want to volunteer, so being able to relate to everyone in some way is important. Experience in supervising people, and in creating a volunteer program that accounts for the “three Rs”: recruitment, retention, and recognition. The discipline to stick to a mission-first approach, and inspire the same priorities in volunteers—that is, teaching volunteers that the impact you make should be at the forefront, not making yourself feel good. (Though that happens too, when you do volunteerism the right way!)

The job skill I’m working on now: Public speaking. Another part of the job is talking in front of people—speaking to community and faith-based groups who are interested in getting involved, and weighing in during staff meetings with updates and opinions. To get more comfortable, I recently joined Toastmasters.

My favorite way to support coworkers: By getting to know them and expressing support in a way that’s meaningful to them: some appreciate public praise, while others appreciate a note of thanks or being taken out to lunch. When you show team members you’re invested in what motivates them individually, they in turn want to invest in a productive environment.

How the organization supports me: I wouldn’t be here if not for the mission, but I wouldn’t have stayed if it weren’t for the direction I’ve received from leadership, and I wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much if not for my team. Everyone here is invested in making sure our volunteer program is the best it can be. As problems arise, I always feel I have the room to come up with creative solutions, and I’m also allowed to make mistakes and learn from them. All of these pieces propel me to be a better leader, manager, and employee.



The Ripple Effect

Originally posted on New American Pathways website 


All of us have had those “ah-ha” moments that take our breath away. I personally had one of those moments that forever changed my life and pushed me to commit my life to service.

When I volunteered in college at El Copprome Orphanage in Honduras, I remember a small boy crouching down playing in a muddy rain puddle. His friends were trying to push him in, and all he wanted to do was throw rocks in and watch the ripples. Seeing his enthrallment in the waves he was creating took me back to my high school physics class. We were there in the classroom, dropping pebbles in large buckets during a lesson on transferring energy. Once we “transmitted” our energy to the pebble, it turned into kinetic energy that then made the water move, creating a new current.

When I was at the orphanage volunteering, I saw my fellow classmates and the effect the volunteer opportunity had on them and me. I knew right then that I wanted to create my own current that would manifest into something sustainable and tangible. I wanted to make a difference and I wanted to use volunteerism as the medium.  In that moment, I connected the dots and became fascinated with the ripple effect. Since then, I have used that experience as a metaphor for my passion in using service for change.

Now, years later, as a Service and Volunteerism Manager and Program Director for an AmeriCorps program, I am constantly reminded that I deal with the exchange of energy on a daily basis. Volunteers embody this capacity every day, and I get the chance to utilize that energy to foster change and deliver critical services to a society of people that desperately need it. This energy, which I also like to describe as pure passion, should be nurtured, reworked, and focused, to cause an overflowing of volunteer impact. Because of these individuals, service work is forever changing and growing and multiple ripple effects are created within themselvescauses they care about, and the communities they serve.

Through the use of their own inherent energy to give back, volunteers are able to develop intrinsic values, purpose, and passions while also learning knowledge and new skills. The opportunities they experience can foster a change in perception and in the heart, and further build passion around a cause that matters to them. This is the beginning and the foundation that urges them to act and continue to seek change.

Throughout my career, due to that initial beginning, I have seen countless volunteers turn to nonprofit service as a profession, and regular citizens turn into champions of the field by becoming AmeriCorps members and board members. These individuals bring their own resources to the table that facilitate further connections between different sectors, resources, and in turn build overall capacity for the service world.

Another ripple effect of this innate energy is that on the community around them. Volunteers feel and have an intentional stake in what they perceive society should look like. That is what volunteerism is all about. It is a personal attempt to change the landscape of present circumstances. Birthed out of this space are new innovations and initiatives, new nonprofits, and changes on local and national levels. Volunteering creates a strong and cohesive society where every individual has the opportunity to take part in how they want their community to be impacted.

As a Service and Volunteerism Manager, capturing passion starts at the very first meeting, making sure the processes are in place to create an environment of growth, support, and opportunity. I am fascinated daily by the capacity of humans to give back and their undying commitment to pass it forward. There is an art to connecting an individual to a mission, a skill in marrying a passion to an action. The true grounds keepers and cultivators of this energy are volunteer managers, and they serve as the force behind connecting people to those causes. I want to continue to facilitate those experiences – because one meeting or one volunteer orientation could potentially change the course of their life, and the course of an entire community.

Energy. It cannot be created nor destroyed, only transferred. It is my duty, and all of ours in our own special way, to cultivate it and produce advocates for the field of service – and facilitate that ripple effect.


Breauna Hagan is the Founder and Chief Cause Consultant at Connecting the Cause, dedicated to building stellar volunteer and internship programs for nonprofits. She is also the Service and Volunteerism Manager at New American Pathways. In her current role, she manages the volunteer, intern, and AmeriCorps program at the organization. In the past, Breauna served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, then VISTA Leader at Georgia Center for Nonprofits. She then became Programs Associate at MedShare, assisting in facilitating and coordinating over 10,000 volunteers a year. As a service-driven millennial, Breauna has provided various forms of support for volunteer programs in the areas of volunteer training, facilitation, volunteer recruitment, and retention. She is a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a degree in International Studies and holds a MPA with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University(’15 Summa Cum Laude).