Written by Shala Hainer Tuesday, February 14 2012Snapshot: Margot Pritzker, Founder, WomenOnCall
Margot Pritzker is no stranger to philanthropy, particularly with groups helping women and children around the world. During many years of working on initiatives creating schools in the Himalayas and Afghanistan, building leaders through organizations such as the Aspen Institute and the Asian University for Women, and focusing on other international issues through groups like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the International Board of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, she recognized a need that could change the way women connect and volunteer with nonprofits.
In 2006, Pritzker founded WomenOnCall, an online network designed to match professional women with nonprofits with short-term, specific needs. Through on-site and virtual volunteer opportunities, WomenOnCall.org members provide short, high-impact, skills-based service, making giving back realistic and efficient. The organization went national in May 2010 and has over 3,000 members across the country.
A native of England but now a U.S. citizen, Pritzker lives in Chicago with her husband Thomas. They have three sons.
Womenetics: What inspired you to found WomenOnCall?
Margot Pritzker: I launched the site in 2005 after realizing the time and commitment it took to sit on boards, as well as the limited resources nonprofits have to find help. Limited resources meant that if they needed an accountant or PR person, they either had to find the money or beg for pro bono work. After seeing this for many years it occurred to me that you could put these two things together – nonprofits that needed the professional skill set and women looking for opportunities.
Womenetics: Why did you focus specifically on women for your organization?
Pritzker: Throughout the generations, women have been called upon to be the caretakers of their communities. Their innate concern for others has been a driver of their volunteer activity. Women, though, have much more to offer their communities: they have multiple skills, talents and expertise that not only increase the value of their volunteerism but provide greater opportunity for these women to feel empowered in the process of giving back.
Womenetics: How does your organization meet the needs of both nonprofits and professional women?
Pritzker: WomenOnCall functions as a volunteer matchmaker, connecting women who want to donate their professional skills to nonprofits in need of their specific expertise. Our primary goal is to maximize the impact that volunteers make in the world through virtual and on-site volunteering.
- Nonprofits can connect with highly-skilled professional women who are seeking opportunities to volunteer. Our searchable database gives nonprofits access to a wide variety of committed, professional women and educates those organizations on how to leverage that volunteer talent.
- For professional women, WomenOnCall provides an opportunity to efficiently and effectively impact the community. With tremendously busy schedules, many women cannot find the time to take on traditional volunteer positions. WomenOnCall allows a woman to give back on her own terms and on her own schedule, often volunteering remotely from home or while commuting.
Pritzker: Volunteers can connect with a local organization or volunteer virtually on projects for nonprofits throughout the country. Via phone and email, volunteers can provide remote assistance to an organization outside of their own community. For example, a woman in Portland could volunteer for a nonprofit with offices in Boston by drafting a news release about an upcoming event.
Womenetics: You've volunteered around the world. What plans do you have to make WomenOnCall a global organization?
Pritzker: We always envisioned WomenOnCall as a global organization but want to focus on the U.S. first. Our current geographical focus is in Chicago, Ill., and Milwaukee, Wis. We plan to launch several new markets in 2012, though volunteers and nonprofits from across the country can now join the WomenOnCall network.
Womenetics: In these tough economic times, what benefits do you offer professional women who are out of work, trying to expand their resumes to apply for a new job or taking a break as stay-at-home moms?
Pritzker: WomenOnCall projects are a great way for women to keep their skills sharp during times of transition. They can add a substantive element to their resume, while having the opportunity to network with wonderful organizations and their dedicated and passionate staff.
Womenetics: Your work with the Aspen Institute helps build leaders worldwide. How is WomenOnCall helping build leaders in the United States?
Pritzker: Our volunteers are challenged with projects that require them to apply their skills in a new setting. These are wonderful opportunities for growth and can inspire personal development, while gaining the satisfaction of giving back. Each woman walks away with a better understanding of not only an organization but also a cause or a need that impacts her community and the world around us.
Womenetics: As part of your work as a trustee of the Aspen Institute, what devices do you use to develop leaders around the globe?
Pritzker: We focus on global leaders -- successful entrepreneurs, really -- who average 40 years in age. They've proven their ability to succeed against the usual metrics of titles and dollars. We ask them the somewhat rude question: "So what? We know you've been successful. But are you doing anything truly significant?”
Our goal, of course, is to get them thinking of how they can stretch in their leadership -- to paint, as we like to say, on a broader canvas. We want them to apply their proven talents to the greatest challenges of our times through projects and by stepping up to assume roles that will permit them to make a real difference -- Governor, Secretary of Education, Minister of Trade. And, to spur them on, we put them in rooms with others from around the globe -- equally successful entrepreneurs who are also looking for creative ways to make a real "dent in the universe."
Womenetics: Part of the Aspen Institute's mission is to foster values-based leadership. How is this different from the traditional leadership focus? Why is this idea sometimes challenging to share with leaders in this country and other countries?
Pritzker: Traditional leadership programs focus on the "how.” Seven steps to effective leadership and the like. We focus on the "why." We want leaders to have taken the time to explore and to clarify the values that drive what they do. What is their view of a "good society?” What values would they like to see prevail? Is it efficiency? Equality? Community? What is their view of enlightened leadership? How is that different from mere effective management? Far from being difficult to communicate, we find that this resonates with the leaders we engage. They're old enough to have seen lots of examples of poor leadership. They want to excel.
Based near Atlanta, Shala Hainer has been writing and copyediting since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the Marietta Daily Journal and the Atlanta Business Chronicle, she most recently wrote and edited articles for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a bachelor’s in communications from Jacksonville State University.