Courtesy of DBSA

Humana employee Michael Kuhl for years has been leveraging his data analysis expertise while volunteering for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance in Louisville and at the national level.

He has helped the nonprofit track and analyze web traffic, as well as foot traffic at support groups to make sure that the organization is using its resources to its greatest effect.

The Humana Foundation, the insurer’s charitable arm, this year is encouraging more employees to make use of their work-related skills while volunteering. This more business-minded approach to volunteering aims to maximize the volunteer hours’ impact on the nonprofits’ limited resources. It also should produce a greater impact on the nonprofits’ community improvement efforts, which, Humana expects, ultimately will lead to a healthier city and lower health care costs.

Michael Kuhl

For Kuhl, that approach comes with another bonus: He gets to support an organization that has played a critical role in helping him deal with his bipolarism.

Kuhl said that both Humana, where he has worked for two decades, and the DBSA, have served as anchors to him: Humana, because it provides him with a job and critical health insurance, without which he would not have been able to afford therapies and medications for his illness, and the DBSA, which has provided him with a network of peers and provided support to him when he badly needed it.

At Humana, Kuhl primarily analyzes and compares the insurer’s network of health care providers to those of competitors. At the DBSA, where he serves as national board chairman, he provides data analysis to assure that the nonprofit uses its resources wisely.

Analysis at any organization is important, Kuhl said, because without being able to measure where they are, organizations cannot determine where they’re going or whether they’re properly allocating their resources to achieve their goals.

Many smaller nonprofits often do not follow the best businesses practices, Kuhl said, which means they sometimes miss opportunities to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and how to improve their operations.

The DBSA consists of about 250 local chapters, including the one in Louisville, and about 650 support groups around the nation that see attendees every week. The organization offers services as varied as online support groups for parents with children who have a mental illness to training peer support specialists at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Maureen Fifer

Maureen Fifer, president of the Louisville chapter, said the organization’s support groups — Mondays at Clark Memorial, Tuesdays and Thursdays at St. Paul United Methodist Church, and Wednesday’s at Baptist Health — allows people with depression and bipolar disorder to spend time with people who have similar experiences.

“A lot of times, people who have lived it really have a lot of insight,” Fifer said.

Fifer, who also was diagnosed bipolar, said that few people talk about depression and bipolar disorder, which means that those who suffer from those illnesses often do it by themselves, which can make the conditions worse.

“Socialization … is a big part of healing,” she said. Studies have shown that people who attend support groups are less likely to be hospitalized for their condition.

While patients may see a counselor once a week or a psychologist once a month, support group members are there for one another around the clock, she said.

The local alliance, which is exclusively volunteer driven, also hosts movie nights and other get-togethers at least once a month and hosts events with guest speakers about every other month.

Fifer got to know Kuhl when she was secretary of the local alliance and he served as president. Fifer said that Kuhl remains active at the local level and leads two support groups, but his involvement at the national level also allows her to bounce ideas off him, which is very helpful.

Last year, Humana employees volunteered 108,000 hours in the Louisville area, and the foundation announced in late July that beginning this year it would encourage more Humana employees to use their business skills while volunteering.

“This will result in more Humana employees in Louisville putting their strongest business skills to work for area nonprofit to increase their capacity, access, and sustainability,” the foundation said in a news release.

The push toward more skills-based volunteerism is part of the foundation’s new Community Relations Initiative in Louisville, which also will award $2 million to Louisville area organizations this year. Slightly more than half will be awarded in grants from $25,000 to $100,000.

Walter D. Woods

“With this new Community Relations initiative in the Louisville area, the Humana Foundation has an opportunity to support organizations doing great work that align with Humana’s four dimensions of well-being: health, purpose, belonging and security,” Humana Foundation CEO Walter D. Woods said in the release. “The organizations that receive these grants will be those with proposals that improve the quality of life in this area, as well as quality of place proposals that make the metropolitan Louisville area a more appealing place to live.”

The deadline to apply for the grants is Friday.