Championing Volunteerism: The Invisible Arm of the Philanthropic Sector

As the third live program in celebration of the RGK Center’s 20th Anniversary, Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg, expert in volunteerism and one of the Center’s first faculty members, hosted a panel discussion in early April on “Championing Volunteerism: The Invisible Arm of the Philanthropic Center.” For those unable to attend, we hope you will enjoy the recording below. Additionally, we have compiled key takeaways from the discussion for your convenience.  

Curtis Meadows, founding director of the RGK Center, opened the event by placing volunteerism within the context of the creation and growth of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. Curtis emphasized how voluntary community action lies at the heart of the structure of the nonprofit sector. Dr. Rehnborg then highlighted the Center’s contributions to the field as well as the challenges to volunteerism as an academic field of study. For the remainder of the session, the panelists shared their diverse perspectives on the changing field of volunteerism.  

For a detailed recap of the panel discussion and links to materials shared during the event, click here



"Big Ideas" on Volunteerism


Greg Baldwin

Greg Baldwin, VolunteerMatch

"The Independent Sector has recently drafted an executive order that would create a new White House Office on Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector . . . So I hope when the invite comes to show up at the White House Office on a Zoom call, that all of you will show up and be ready to speak up and speak loudly and make sure that the next generation of young people can benefit from all of the amazing work that volunteers do in their local communities.”  


Jane Leighty Justis

Jane Leighty Justis, The Leighty Foundation

"It’s a good time for these partnerships to start happening and for us to make sure that as we rebuild, after COVID, the nonprofit sector as a whole, that we don’t keep building the same houses on the same cliffs—So how do we take this opportunity to really think about how we rebuild the sector to be a stronger sector.”  


Mike King

Mike King, Volunteers of America 

“I think this year, in particular the last twelve months, is even more critical than last year . . . The dilemma and polarity that all nonprofit leaders are going to face in this coming year is that balancing act between providing stability and at the same time capitalizing on the opportunity for innovation.”  


Jerome Tennille

Jerome Tennille, Marriott International

“I’m going to share a thought of optimism . . . I’ve seen people become much more open-minded to new ideas of change and systems and structures, and so to me, there’s no time better than the present as we work to solve so many critical issues that volunteers are oftentimes at the forefront and often engaged to solve.”


 Noel Landuyt

Noel Landuyt, Institute for Organizational Excellence

“This idea of being nimble . . . that’s going to stay to some extent, so we need metrics and measurements and data to help us be more nimble and see how we move forward.”  


In closing, Curtis Meadows recounted a 1995 quote from John Gardner, member of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s cabinet: “A community lives in the minds of its members, in shared assumptions, beliefs, customs, ideas that give meaning, ideas that motivate. The civility that gives dignity to our common life is not instinctive, and it is not accidental. Decency is learned, civility is habit. Let’s say it to everyone who will listen—Lend a hand, out of concern for your community, out of love for our country, out of the depths of whatever faith you hold—lend a hand.”  

Please see here for a detailed recap of the panel discussion and resources shared by panelists and audience participants, including VolunteerMatch’s recent report and The Leighty Foundation’s and the RGK Center’s guides for strategic volunteer engagement.  


Panelist Bios


Sarah Jane Rehnborg, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

Sarah Jane Rehnborg joined the RGK Center at its inception. An expert in volunteerism, Dr. Rehnborg is a published author and serves as a consultant and trainer to organizations including the Points of Light Foundation, AARP, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the OneStar Foundation, state governments and local groups.

Dr. Rehnborg directs applied research and community outreach for the RGK Center.  She led the cross-disclipinary University team that developed the Service Enterprise Diagnostic, a valid and reliable survey tool to assess programs engaging volunteers and national service participants for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Her work with Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas resulted in a Performance Based Assessment System for the state’s 65 Children’s Advocacy Centers. She has studied volunteer engagement in state agencies and analyzed Texas data collection practices in the field. Her work with United Jewish Communities (UJC) examined the effects of intensive service learning experiences on the development of Jewish identity. With funding from the Volunteer Impact Fund, Rehnborg examined the perceptions of executive directors about volunteer engagement and developed the Strategic Volunteer Engagement Guide for Nonprofit and Public Sector Leaders. See full bio here

Curtis W. Meadows, Jr., Founder, RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service

Curtis W. Meadows, Jr. retired as Founding Executive Director of the RGK Center in January 2005. Meadows' long career in the independent sector includes 18 years of service as President, CEO, and Director of the Meadows Foundation of Texas. During that time, the foundation's assets grew from $60 million to almost $735 million, while dispensing more than $270 million in gifts and grants to assist the work of charitable and community organizations in Texas. At the time of his retirement in 1996, the Meadows Foundation was the third largest private foundation in Texas and the 39th largest in the United States. Meadows now holds the title of Director Emeritus of the Meadows Foundation.

Meadows has also held leadership positions with more than 60 charitable and community organizations, including the Board of Trustees of Austin College, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, the Murrell Foundation, and the Dallas Bar Foundation. He served as President and Director of the Center for Nonprofit Management, the Center for Housing Resources and as President and Board Chairman of the Conference of Southwest Foundations. Meadows holds B.B.A. and J.D. degrees from The University of Texas at Austin.

Greg Baldwin, President and CEO of VolunteerMatch

Greg joined the founding team in 1998 as its Chief Imagination Officer to create better ways to put the world's generosity to good use. Today Greg oversees the expansion of a network that is already serving 130,000+ nonprofits, 150+ enterprise clients, and a quarter of a million interested volunteers a week. Since 1998 the VolunteerMatch network has helped the social sector engage more that $14 billion worth of volunteer services.  

Jane Leighty Justis, President and Program Director, The Leighty Foundation

Jane Leighty Justis is the President of The Leighty Foundation, founded in Waterloo, Iowa by her father in 1985.  For thirty-five years she has spearheaded their local and national initiatives to ensure that strategic volunteer engagement is embraced as a core strategy to meet rising community needs as well as affect systems change. The Foundation's vision is that effective utilization of volunteer energy will be recognized as a standard principle and best practice by funders and nonprofits alike. She is also a national speaker for family philanthropy and former board member of Women's Philanthropy Institute, National Center for Family Philanthropy, Exponent Philanthropy and Pikes Peak Community Foundation.

Mike King, CEO of Volunteers of America, RGK Center advisory council member 

Mike King has served as national president and CEO of Volunteers of America since 2010, leading an organization with an annual budget of more than $2 billion, 16,000 employees and one of the nation’s largest affordable housing portfolios with more than 25,000 units. King spearheaded Volunteers of America’s first paid advertising and marketing campaign, and established a number of major corporate partnerships in recent years, including a growing relationship with Humana, The Home Depot, CBS EcoMedia, Niagara Cares and Capital One.

King has been a major advocate for Volunteers of America both on Capitol Hill and among other human service organizations. His work has focused on preserving federal funding and other resources that support populations in need. In 2013, King testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in support of preserving the charitable tax deduction. He sits on the executive committee of Leadership 18, an alliance of the nation’s largest nonprofits, as well as the chair of the public policy committee for LeadingAge, an organization representing 5,000+ members and partners which include not-for-profit organizations representing the entire field of aging services, 38 state partners, hundreds of businesses, consumer groups, foundations and research partners. He will assume the role of board chair for LeadingAge in the fall of 2021.

King previously served as CEO of Volunteers of America Texas. He has held executive positions with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, the Volunteer Center of Dallas, ChildCareGroup and Volunteer–The National Center. In 1986, he was awarded the White House’s Outstanding Volunteer Action Award by President Ronald Reagan.

Jerome Tennille, CVA, Manager, Social Impact & Volunteerism, Marriott International and Architecting Social Good

Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Social Impact & Volunteerism for Marriott International. Jerome is also an independent consultant and advisor in the subject matter of Sustainability and Social Impact. He recently joined the Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism for the state of Maryland. Prior to that Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome also served on the board of directors of Peace Through Action USA for four years and also serves on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

Jerome's work has been published by VolunteerMatch, Nonprofit Information, Impakter, Business 2 Community and more. Through his consulting firm, Architecting Social Good, Jerome has collaborated with numerous organizations, including America's Service Commissions, Volunteer Fairfax, Serve Ohio, and Northwest Oregon Volunteer Administrators Association.

Noel Landuyt, Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Organizational Excellence

Dr. Noel Landuyt is an Associate Director for the Institute for Organizational Excellence and Lecturer in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. At UT, he coordinates various research projects in the area of organizational development, customer service, leadership, supervisory effectiveness, and employee attitudinal and engagement assessments. The primary project he coordinates is the Survey of Employee Engagement, an employee assessment instrument widely used throughout Texas governmental agencies, child welfare, health and human services, and other not-for-profit organizations across the country. He serves as a consultant for various organizational settings and provides assistance with strategic planning, organizational design, assessment methodology, non-profit management, and delivery of social services. Dr. Landuyt has written and conducted presentations on the use of 360-degree evaluations, leadership, customer and organizational assessments as well as on other topics related to human resource utilization and organizational development.