How One Nonprofit Engages Women Volunteers

As part of its Women Build program, Habitat for Humanity engages tens of thousands of women volunteers for a national build week every May to help honor and empower them.

This week women across the country will be picking up hammers and helping build houses as part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week, which has mobilized more than 52,000 women volunteers since its inception six years ago.

We really feel that for Habitat to make a difference that women really need to be involved.

That’s a number Lisa Marie Nickerson, associate director of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program, said she is really proud of: “We really feel that for Habitat to make a difference that women really need to be involved, and we feel that Habitat’s capacity has increased when we do empower women to get out and learn to build.”

To help mobilize so many volunteers, the national organization provides grants to about 300 local affiliates that then coordinate volunteer activities throughout the week. In addition to hosting home builds, affiliates may also host events to raise money and awareness for the organization. Habitat, like so many other organizations, has also been experimenting with social media over the last couple years in an effort to recruit more volunteers.

Nickerson said the organization works to keep volunteers engaged after the week is over via advocacy events and other home builds throughout the year. But for a lot of volunteers, the skills they learn while building a home and the good they feel in helping their community is enough to keep them coming back.

The week-long initiative is part of Habitat’s Women Build program that began in 1998 to recruit, educate, and inspire women to build and advocate for simple, decent, and affordable houses. Since it started 16 years ago, the Women Build program has created more than 2,200 houses from the ground up.

Nickerson said excitement for the program caught on fast and never died, which is a testament to women’s volunteer spirit.

“To me it just shows that women do have the excitement and the passion to be able to make a difference in their community,” she said. “Look at ways that you can engage women and impart new skills, and also trust and believe that they will respond.”

Orlando volunteer Yadira Hernandez drills railing during National Women Build Week. (photo by Jason Asteros/Habitat for Humanity International)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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