JDRF: Improving Lives, Curing Type 1 Diabetes

Photo cred: jdrf.org

If you’ve ever stood in line at a Casey’s gas station or purchased groceries at Walgreen’s or Hy-Vee, chances are, you’ve seen those colorful paper sneakers posted all over the walls and windows. These sneakers are part of a fundraising campaign for JDRF, a charitable organization that funds research for Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Their mission? To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through support of research.

“I think the community impact [of JDRF] is very widespread,” says Toni Mortensen, Development Coordinator for the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter. “The sneaker, an iconic symbol used for our Walk to Cure Diabetes program, is a staple. It’s recognizable.”

Photo cred: www.jdrf.org

Interestingly, although many people have seen–and likely even purchased–a JDRF sneaker of their own at the checkout, some still believe that T1D only affects children. “In fact, we know that 80% of people living with T1D today are adults,” says Toni. “You don’t have to be a little kid, you can be diagnosed when you’re 50!” JDRF is an organization for all ages, at all stages of the disease.

JDRF is about 80% efficient in fundraising dollars going directly to research for T1D. The Greater Iowa Walk to Cure Diabetes is about 97% efficient and the Hope Gala is about 85% efficient. “We’re pretty proud of our efficiency, meaning revenue to research,” says Toni. The Greater Iowa Chapter also features a program called Fund A Cure through the Hope Gala that was a startling 100% efficient–meaning all proceeds went directly to funding research.

“What really motivates me is that there are many people at these events that have a connection to T1D, but many that don’t,” says Toni. “These people latch on to our cause, even though they don’t have someone in their lives with the disease. They just want to help.”

Before VolunteerLocal, JDRF used hard-copy volunteer applications that prospective volunteers would have to fill out and then fax, mail or email back. “I had to input each form into a spreadsheet, then place those volunteers based on our need for each job. I made email lists for each job and sent out schedules and job descriptions,” says Toni. “For the walk this past year, I spent probably six full days organizing volunteers.”

Now, with VolunteerLocal on her side, Toni can spend her time and resources focusing on raising money and awareness for JDRF. “If I want to see how my volunteer database is going, I can just click the link and look at how many have signed up, where we need more–everything.” Automating the Walk to Cure Diabetes and the Hope Gala volunteers through VolunteerLocal has saved JDRF time and money–meaning those dollars can go towards finding a cure. “This has been an amazing transition for us.”


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You’ve Got Questions: Confirmation Settings

To auto-confirm, or not to auto-confirm…THAT is the question!

VolunteerLocal gives you a couple of options when it comes to confirming your volunteers: you can allow our system to do it automatically when they select a shift, or you can force your volunteers to confirm themselves via the ‘confirmation link’ sent to them in an e-mail.


We think it’s time to de-mystify this almighty impasse: the choice between an e-mail confirmation or auto-confirmation within VolunteerLocal. It’s a divisive topic among our volunteer coordinators–but here are some key arguments for parties on both sides of the field (and a tip or two from us)!

Auto-Confirmation: All the Cool Kids Are Doing It.

Auto-confirmation is the simplest, easiest option. The volunteers select a shift, they answer the questions, and “wa-bam!” They’re in. If you’re coordinating a small event, working with volunteers you mostly know, or maybe you just don’t want the hassle–go hands-free. Pick auto-confirmation. Click “Events”–>”Your Events”–>”Confirmation Settings” and check the box underneath the header that reads, Automatic Confirmation Option. Don’t forget to change the content of the e-mail below this checkbox, as there will no longer be a link in the e-mail to confirm your volunteers.

E-mail Confirmation: Knowledge is Power.

Running a particularly large event? You may not get a chance to interact with your volunteers personally, but you need them–a lot of them. You’ll also need to ensure that the e-mail addresses they submit are valid, and that they are truly committed to working for your event. The e-mail confirmation sends the volunteers a link in the confirmation e-mail after they sign up–they are not confirmed until they click this link and confirm themselves.

Beware: Sometimes, using the e-mail confirmation option can lead to unconfirmed volunteers (those who don’t click the link in the e-mail to confirm their spots). You can access this unconfirmed list by clicking “Volunteers”–>”Unconfirmed List.” Here, you’ll have the option to confirm them yourself from the back-end.



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Youth Emergency Services & Shelter

Photo cred: mentalfloss.com

When we are young, there are few things more exciting than the prospect of running away from home (well, except maybe these). My own “great escape” was a true Goonies-inspired adventure, complete with enough Baby Ruths to sustain myself (plus one lovable antagonist) as we sailed into the sunset on an old pirate ship. No parents, no vegetables, and no chores. (Did I mention Baby Ruths?)

For most of us, this fantasy never makes it past the blanket-boundary line where we dream it up, huddled with friends and flashlights under impenetrable “forts” on the living room floor. The reality of childhood homelessness, however, is quite different from what any nine-year-old could possibly imagine.

Everyday, children from all walks of life face emergency situations that leave them without a caretaker, without basic provisions and without a home. That’s why Des Moines’ own Youth Emergency Services & Shelter (YESS) is so vitally important.

Youth Emergency Services & Shelter
Youth Emergency Services & Shelter

“We are a shelter for children and infants through age seventeen,” says Jana Daisy, Community Activities Manager at YESS. “We provide a safe space for these children to learn and grow–through counseling, programming and education.”

Few nonprofits can hold a candle to one of this organization’s most successful fundraisers of the year, the YESS Duck Derby. Each spring, thousands of adopted rubber ducks “race” to the finish line across the water at Jordan Creek Town Center–the select winners receive $10,000 cash (1st place), a years supply of groceries at Dahl’s (2nd place), or a complete landscaping makeover by Ted Lare Design Build (3rd place). One lucky duck has the chance to win the grand prize of $1,000,000. Feeling fortuitous? Throw the dice.

Photo cred: Des Moines Register
Photo cred: Des Moines Register

Although YESS boasts over 1,000 volunteers annually, the Duck Derby alone adds around 250 helping hands to that number. For Jana Daisy, switching to a fully-automated volunteer registration process was a painless transition. “VolunteerLocal has been simply amazing,” she says. “I love that people can go on and see all the events, all the jobs and shifts themselves–they can sign up for what they want to do and what they’re available to do.”

As a crucial fundraiser for YESS, the Duck Derby must go off without a hitch each year. “We’re so thankful that the [VolunteerLocal’s] format is really easy to access and really easy to use. Our volunteers love it just as much as we do!”

YESS provides a safe and supportive environment for these children in need. It’s better than a pirate ship and candy bars–it’s the kindness of strangers, the power of community and the professional guidance of counselors. In short, it’s just a little piece of the magic that helps us to realize we’re all in this together. Want to help? Join the cause, feel the love.

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