The Volunteer on a Mission: Kathleen Ashelford

04/03/2019 8:24 PM | Paul Venderley

To continue our series of profiling “model volunteers,” in which we explore the goals that drive individuals to volunteer and their strategies for making the most out of the experience, we spoke with Kathleen Ashelford, who recently concluded her latest term on the ATD-OC board, this time as the VP of Talent Management.

It turns out that when you volunteer for as many positions as Kathleen, you’re likely to be profiled more than once; and not surprisingly, there is a great interview with Kathleen written by Paul Venderley back in September 2015. If you didn’t catch it the first time around, it’s worth a read. Kathleen shared about her past efforts as the Chapter President, the skills and friendships she developed, and what inspired her to volunteer:

I just wanted to contribute, to connect with others, and to make a difference. Every role since has been an opportunity to do what I love—to help an organization grow its ability to serve its stakeholders and fulfill its mission.

It’s a sentiment that Kathleen reiterated during our more recent interview. In fact, her experience in the intervening years connecting with other volunteers and other non-profits has been like gasoline on a long-burning fire, stoking her excitement with the growing trend of corporate social responsibility. For Kathleen, volunteering is about the people.

“Being able to make a positive impact is really important to me,” she said.

The connection to a mission and a greater good leads many people to volunteer. Kathleen saw this firsthand during her time last year working as an AmeriCorps Fellow with OneOC, an organization that provides professional services to local non-profits. She divided her time between working in OneOC’s Organizational Development Department and helping to organize community service projects for corporate employees. She was impressed at the outpouring of corporate-supported volunteering, seeing organizations like the Home Depot Foundation, Taco Bell, Wells Fargo, and Ingram Micro send employees to contribute to community service projects during and after work hours: building playhouses for the families of veterans; making repairs at the Giving Farm; building homes for homeless veterans.

The benefits of these kinds of volunteer experiences need no enumeration. But with all the worthwhile charity organizations, locally and across the globe, why dedicate your time to a professional organization like ATD-OC?

“ATD-OC is focused on the betterment of people, making a positive impact on an organization’s people; not just giving them skills,” Ashelford said. “Most people want to do a good job. As talent development professionals, it’s our charge to help them find that sweet spot between their organization’s mission and what they do best.”

It’s this sense of ATD-OC’s mission that led Ashelford and other board members to look for ways to offer skill development programs to members. They partnered with OneOC on two such projects: the first was to facilitate leadership development courses for Orange County non-profits, and the second was to design an eLearning module for OneOC’s member organizations on how to post volunteer opportunities to their website. Both projects would be led by seasoned talent development practitioners and staffed by ATD-OC members looking to grow their skills. The effort was such a success that ATD-OC received the Spirit of Volunteerism award from OneOC.

Like any other worthwhile endeavor, there were challenges along the way. Finding members who were willing to serve as “learning advisors,” finding the right projects, finding the right learners with just enough experience—all of these added up to make it difficult to easily replicate the project’s success.

But Ashelford hasn’t given up. As she passes the torch to the newly elected VP of Talent Management, Ashelford noted that she and the board (outgoing and incoming) have talked about a new model for engaging members in their own development and giving them the tools to make an impact in the lives of the people they serve.

It’s a mission we’re eager to accept.

More About Kathleen

Kathleen Dvorak Ashelford is a program developer and team leader passionate about making a positive impact through nonprofit organizations. She has worked as a volunteer, staff member, and consultant to nonprofits serving a range of causes including STEM education, veterans issues, and Native American youth.

She served as ATD-OC President in 2014, and has held several other Chapter Board offices, including Vice President of Technology and of Talent Management. In 2016, she co-founded a partnership between ATD-OC and OneOC (formerly, The Volunteer Center of Orange County), through which ATD-OC members volunteer their skills in exchange for professional development and networking opportunities.

Last year, as an AmeriCorps Fellow, Kathleen worked in OneOC's Organizational Development Department, where she helped build and deliver training, leadership development, and other business services for Orange County's non-profit organizations.

She has held leadership roles in the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, the Military Support Ministry at Mariners Church, Irvine, and the National Veterans Foundation. Other nonprofits with which she has been involved include Malibu Global Awareness (a fund-raising organization for Doctors Without Borders), the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, Astronomers Without Borders, and the Cheyenne River Youth Project.

Before transitioning to the nonprofit world, Kathleen was a project manager, business analyst, technical writer, and process improvement specialist in the information technology industry.

She earned her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership with highest honors from Biola University, and has a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute.

Kathleen’s passion for helping others has led to several volunteer commitments, including one Saturday each month spent at Griffith Observatory, where she and her fellow members of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society show visitors the sky through their telescopes.

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