Meagan Holman is new to her job as Civic Engagement Manager at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, but not new to civic engagement or nonprofit work in Milwaukee. She took time out on a busy afternoon—think staff members’ kids helping on a clean-the-office day—to talk about her hopes and goals for the new position.
NPC: You've got an interesting background that informs your work at NPC. Can you tell us about that?
Meagan: I’m probably best known for my work in local government, especially for my time on the MPS School Board, but I’ve actually worked for over a decade in the nonprofit sector.
It feels good to be back in the nonprofit world. This is a great fit for my passion and experience. There’s so much work to be done, not only delivering specific programs, but trying to connect people and increase the capacity of their organizations.
NPC: In your new role, you'll be very involved in NPC's Volunteer Milwaukee program. Are there any changes or new directions that you can tell us about for this program?
Meagan: Volunteerism in Milwaukee is amazing. Milwaukee has the third highest rate of volunteers in the whole country for larger communities—31 percent of adults volunteer. There are things that Volunteer Milwaukee has been doing that most people don’t know, and I want to make sure people know and utilize all we have to offer.
For example, the Service Enterprise Initiative, it’s like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval for nonprofit programs. It means you value volunteers and see them as a part of your mission. We provide the path to certification for agencies in Milwaukee and we want to keep expanding that opportunity.
NPC: What does NPC mean by "civic engagement"? What does that include for Volunteer Milwaukee?
Meagan: When you say, ‘Are you a volunteer?’ people think of what we call hands-and-hearts work—serving a meal or running a book drive—and that’s crucial. Imagine our society without those volunteers.
But when we talk about civic engagement, it’s something at a different level. Do you sit on your church’s board of governance? Do you sit on the board of a nonprofit? When you write a letter to the editor or connect someone you know with a cause, you’ve been civically involved.
There are so many ways we connect to each other. It’s the informal ties that bind us as well as the more formal ones.
NPC: Why is civic engagement important for businesses and for organizations?
Meagan: We do have a really active business council, the Business Volunteer Council of Greater Milwaukee. You can imagine how active their workers are in the community. We can work with their schedules and honor their skills and that’s part of what we do, making those connections and helping people volunteer.
People are looking for work-life balance—they want to give back—and we want to give people the tools to connect what they do at work to something that gives back.
NPC: What are the programs you're working on—both ones that have existed previously at Volunteer Milwaukee, and new ones?
Meagan: I want people to know about all the really innovative things that are happening in this small building. Volunteer Milwaukee connects people to volunteer opportunities. Someone will say, ‘What can I do for Martin Luther King Day?’ Or ‘I want to tutor.’
We’re also helping our Nonprofit Center members talk to each other and bring in new members. There’s a shift in who volunteers. There are more Baby Boomers retiring who want to volunteer. There’s the Millennials who engage digitally, and want both flexibility and structure. And there’s my kids’ generation, what they call Generation Z, who have always been digital. If they participate at the rate of the others, it will be amazing.
We’re trying to move the needle toward hope and justice and all the things we believe in by meeting people where they are, with opportunities that are meaningful to them.
NPC: What was appealing to you about coming to work at NPC?
Meagan: We do a lot more work than people know, and I want to be a part of that and a part of the team that gets that message out. We want to help people make their organizations stronger and make our community stronger, and the nonprofit sector at its best does both of those things.
The bottom line for me is being able to make a difference. It’s kind of an honor to wake up every day and do that.
NPC: What do you like to do when you're not working?
Meagan: I have a big family, and I love to take our kids out to participate in everything Milwaukee has to offer. I love food, so you will often find me cooking or checking out a new restaurant. When I have the time, I like to travel or participate in volunteer service myself.