Mando Rayo is a punk rocker

Mando Rayo, of Hands On Central Texas for United Way, was kind enough to meet me for lunch this past week at Vivo! on Manor Road. Apparently it’s a regular spot for him. “I was just here yesterday with the new president of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce,” he told me. “He was looking for advice on how to get more people involved in what they do.”

Mando is the go-to guy for this stuff, and I felt lucky to have his attention. Hands On and the United Way are undergoing a massive change in the way they approach volunteers, and Mando was obviously excited about it. “We’re starting this project for what I call ‘super volunteers,'” he said. “These are the people that can go out and engage their friends and family and co-workers in these volunteer opportunities where they say, ‘Come out and spend a few hours sorting cans or cleaning up a park.’ We want to tap into their energy and get them on our team.”

He’s also working with nonprofits themselves to help them develop better volunteer experience. We’ve all had those experiences where we’ve stepped up to help on a project but then just kind of stood around not really knowing what to do. “What happens is that nonprofit staff is more concerned with serving its recipients, its customers – and they should be,” Mando said. “But then you get these volunteers just standing around. So we want to show them how important it is – and how easy it can be – to make sure those volunteers are put to good use, and that they enjoy the experience. Because then those volunteers will keep coming back.”

Mando said he’s specifically focused on younger volunteers. We talked about this surge in volunteering and donating since Septemeber 11th in 2001, followed by the tsunami in 2004, and then Hurricane Katrina’s flood of New Orleans in 2005, and how there was this whole generation of young people coming out of college who have come to see volunteering and donating as widely practiced acts. Mando said he believes volunteering is the first step toward activism – and you could even argue that the new environmentalist push is rooted in the philanthropy brought out by those disasters.

“When we get younger people to volunteer, they get more involved in the community. And then they start to show this activism in the community because they’re learning about all the important issues. I think of volunteering as punk rock, you know? It’s a way for young people to demonstrate that they’re just not satisfied with the way things are. And this is what they can do to make things better.”

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