Pratt Nature Center

For small nonprofits with limited resources, finding quality, affordable professional services is hard. And finding volunteers who can provide those services for free is even harder. Thanks to a new partnership with Catchafire made possible by the Connecticut Community Foundation, it just got easier.

Catchafire is an online platform that connects local nonprofit organizations to a network of over 50,000 passionate and skilled volunteers throughout the country. The Foundation now offers a free subscription to Catchafire for up to 150 of its past and current grantees.

For Diane Swanson, executive director of Pratt Nature Center, a 205-acre wildlife preserve and environmental education center in New Milford, Catchafire was a game changer. The organization employs only two full-time staff—including Diane—two part-time staff and a cadre of seasonal staff in the summer. As the Center readies itself for growth, Diane struggled to find the time and space to shore up its infrastructure to expand its programming, take on more staff and refine board roles.

“Through Catchafire, I was able to find volunteers to help us develop our board and staff manuals, and create an infographic about the benefits of spending time outdoors,” said Diane.

Catchafire has an extensive list of suggested projects that helped Diane and her board chair select ones that would best help them further the Center’s goals.

“Each suggested project came with a checklist of everything we would need to have in place for the project to succeed. So, if we didn’t have one of those things, we could step back and start there, building a much stronger foundation on which to grow and achieve our mission.”

She then posted the selected projects, received applications from interested volunteers, and selected the volunteers that were the best fit for her projects and the agency.

“The volunteers were all very professional and knowledgeable,” said Diane. “The added benefit is that as we worked to build out our manuals, it sparked conversations with our board and staff about everything we do.”

With their first three projects completed, Diane and her board will use those conversations to determine next steps and next projects to tackle through Catchafire.

“The idea that a connection to nature supports mental and physical health is coming to a head in our country, creating an incredible opportunity for Pratt Nature Center to fill a growing need,” said Diane. “With the professional help we are able to access through Catchafire—thanks to the Connecticut Community Foundation—we are ready step up and meet that need.”

Top photo: Courtesy of Pratt Nature Center