Chad Rabago attended Service Unites in Atlanta, GA this June with funding from the ARAD Spring 2018 Microgrant. We were eager to hear about his experiences!
Service Unites is the largest service-related conference for non-profit, government, business, and civic leaders. Hosted by Points of Light, an organization dedicated to volunteer service and mobilization, Service Unites brings thousands together to collaborate and share knowledge, resources, and connections to awaken the power of people to change the world. I have wanted to attend the conference since learning about it during my year with AmeriCorps, and through a grant from the Arts Administration program I was fortunate to be able to attend for the first time!
This year’s theme was “Igniting Civic Culture,” challenging attendees to cultivate a culture in which civic engagement is the norm, and every person is inspired, prepared, and mobilized to make a difference. Throughout the conference, I attended workshops on topics like branding through social media, engaging millennial volunteers, rethinking volunteer recognition and training, developing audiences without overspending, and forming college partnerships. I heard from professionals in various sectors, including higher education, consulting, museums, PR, and corporate philanthropy. At the conference’s opening assembly, we heard from various activists, politicians, artists, and celebrities, including Brooke Shields, Adam Rippon, Jesse Williams, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, theatre producer Alia Jones-Harvey, and students from Parkland, Florida.
In addition to attending the workshops and learning from so many experienced professionals, part of what made the conference so great was being surrounded by people who were all interested in working with volunteers in so many different ways. I met and connected with students, current service members, and professionals from various fields, including non-profit management, corporate social responsibility, human resources, venue management, start-up businesses, arts administration, government, and policy, and I am looking forward to following up with people for informational interviews and thesis research! It was really humbling and thrilling to share stories and resources with people who have similar career experiences. Whether it was the house manager at a folk music venue in Michigan who works with volunteers every day, or a specialist with AARP who coordinates volunteers digitally all over northern California, their unique perspectives enlightened my own experience of working with volunteers, as well as the career possibilities in this field.
Being in Atlanta for the first time, I also had the opportunity to visit The Center for Civil and Human Rights, World of Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz Stadium, and Fox Theatre. I also did a whirlwind tour of Montgomery, Alabama, where I saw the former homes turned museums of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Dr. King, Rosa Park’s bus stop, and the abandoned movie set of one of my favorite movies, Big Fish.
It’s my hope that I will be able to attend future Service Unites conferences. Thank you to the ARAD Program for giving me this opportunity!