Youth Development Volunteer Initiative making an impact in Massachusetts

By Lisl Hacker, Director of Training and TA at the Massachusetts Service Alliance, Gretchen Arntz, Director of Philanthropy at Emmaus Inc. and Kaitlyn Berry, former Program Developer at Emmaus, Inc.

The Volunteer Generation Fund was created as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act with the purpose of “boosting the impact of volunteers in addressing critical community needs. The fund will focus investments on volunteer management practices that increase both volunteer recruitment and retention.” As the home state Service Commission of Senator Kennedy, the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) couldn’t be more determined to put these funds to the most impactful use possible. One of the ways that we do this is through our Youth Development Volunteer Initiative. This initiative awards VGF funds as mini-grants to nonprofits in MA of up to $10,000 and these funds are available for the following:

  • Establishment of a new youth development program within a youth-serving agency that will utilize new or existing volunteers;
  • Expansion of a current youth development program within a youth-serving agency in order to serve a geographic area not currently served or to increase the number of youth served through the engagement of volunteers; and/or
  • Creation or enhancement of a youth development program at a Volunteer Connector Organization (VCO).

emmaus-explorers-volunteer-recruitment-flyer-fall-2015-electronic-small-for-ccIn this post, I would like to share one of our biggest success stories with this initiative. The Emmaus Explores program was established with the 2014-2015 Youth Development Volunteer Initiative Grant and expanded with 2015-2016 mini-grant. Emmaus Inc., located in Haverhill, MA, was started in 1986 with the goal of enhancing societal and personal advancement through provision of housing and support services that empower individuals and families to reach their fullest potential. Their programs include: emergency shelters, affordable housing, homelessness prevention, housing stabilization services, case management, and education and job training to help people overcome barriers and achieve success. However, overtime the organization realized that there was a major gap in programming for the youth of the homeless families that they were serving. The instability associated with homelessness can have a devastating impact on the education of children living in emergency shelter. According to the Institute for Children & Poverty, homeless children are nine times more likely to repeat a grade and four times more likely to drop out than their peers. Over 75% of homeless children perform below grade level in reading and math. Additionally, during the summer, many youth, especially those from low-income families, experience learning loss that can affect their academic performance. Over half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth is attributed to unequal access to summer learning opportunities.

emmaus-explores-pic-1The 2014-2015 Youth Development Volunteer Initiative allowed Emmaus to create the original Emmaus Explorers summer session to serve the homeless children living in the Emmaus Family Shelter in Haverhill. The program included six Arts & Science days, six Health & Wellness days, five Math & Reading days, four family enrichment evenings, and three family field trips. In total, 24 families participated and 36 homeless children were served. On average, daily sessions served 13 children, and over 890 hours of instruction and activities were provided throughout the summer. Additionally, 206 healthy snacks and 120 field trip lunches were served. On average, parents surveyed gave Emmaus Explorers an overall satisfaction rating of 9 out of 10. Additionally, 37 volunteers served a total of 795 hours during the summer session.

emmaus-explores-pic-2The continued funding from the 2015-2016 min-grant allowed Emmaus to maintain the summer session as well as add an after-school enrichment program that focuses on tutoring, self-esteem, and exploring the arts. Additionally, continued MSA/VGF support enabled Emmaus to develop a Volunteer Leadership Program which provided volunteers with additional training to enhance their roles and responsibilities in the program. With this expansion, Emmaus was able to provide 20 weeks of programming totaling 1,520 learning hours and serve an additional 46 families and 65 homeless youth with 65 volunteers. This program would not be possible without the involvement of dedicated volunteers as they use volunteers for all aspects of the programming from daily sessions to family enrichment nights to field trips. Understanding of the importance of volunteer retention, Emmaus has also used this funding to perfect their volunteer management systems and processes. They have a proactive strategy to recruit 20-30 volunteers for each term and each volunteer goes through a comprehensive 3 hour training and receives a comprehensive newly designed Volunteer Handbook. Volunteers are also carefully tracked by program staff so absences are noted and followed up on. The Volunteer Leadership Program has also helped with retention as it strengthens relationships with volunteers by empowering them to assist with designing curriculum and leading daily activities.

“The Explorers Program has brought so much joy to the children at the shelter,” said Director of Family Support Services, Cindy Malynn, adding that the educational programs and field trips reinforced and enhanced skills they already had gained from school. “The children were able to go back to school this fall and be excited when asked, ‘What did you do over the summer?”

In addition to providing a rich and experiential learning opportunity for the youth, there is also a clear benefit for the volunteer as well which is a key to retention. Cindy Nguyen, a Volunteer Leader, who has been with the program from the start, has not only brought a high level of excitement, energy and creativity to the program, but her experience in the program has influenced her future goals to pursue a pre-med degree so that she can help people who are struggling to afford health care. “I am grateful Emmaus has given me this opportunity. It has let me grow as a person and become more well-rounded.” 

About Volunteer Generation Fund
The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more


Service Enterprise Initiative: Changing the perception of volunteer engagement

This post originally appeared on the Volunteer Iowa blog

By Chris Juhl, Volunteer Manager with the Science Center of Iowa

sci-logo-primary-with-paddingBack in March, I wasn’t sure what I was getting the Science Center of Iowa (SCI) into when I suggested we apply for the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI) cohort, but I knew the program was in alignment with our volunteer goals.

When we started this process, I hoped SCI would enhance our awareness of the ways we view and engage volunteers in our mission. This opportunity would give staff the space to think big and create volunteer opportunities we had never imagined before.

img_5037We created an internal committee that focused on SEI, leading our staff and volunteers in the implementation of the program and its goals. That committee included staff members from each department, providing a variety of perspectives on the SCI volunteer experience and how we could improve it through SEI. We started this process with intentionality in mind, and I never expected the many ways it has already helped committee members and staff embrace volunteers in new, innovative ways.

Taylor Soule, SCI’s communications coordinator, said the program has expanded her awareness of volunteer engagement and the importance of creating skill-based service roles, specifically.

“SCI’s participation in the SEI cohort has helped me understand volunteering in ways that go beyond a single special event or shift on the floor. Now, I challenge myself to consider how volunteers could be incorporated in my position and how I can help them gain new skills. SEI energized committee participants and more broadly, our staff, and created opportunities for us to rethink how we advance SCI’s mission with the skills and passion of our dedicated volunteers.”

Though I am closest to the issues and trends in volunteer management, this program has enabled me to serve as a project manager. In leading the SEI effort at SCI, I know I am not the only one experiencing the program’s big-picture impact first-hand. We encourage each department to make this program its own, using the goals and practices that best suit its strengths and role in SCI’s mission.

day2_reflection3We are moving forward with our action plan, and we’re excited to move into the prioritization phase as we work to mirror the expectations set by SEI. I don’t know what the finished product will be, but the perception of volunteer engagement has already shifted at SCI.

About Volunteer Generation Fund
The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more

Nourishing Family Volunteerism

jhunter-good-deeds-photoby Janet Hunter, Volunteer and Community Engagement Director, Michigan Community Service

Years ago, as a Volunteer Manager for a retirement living community in rural Michigan I was professionally challenged by a delightfully tenacious 10 year old girl named Charlotte. She simply wanted to volunteer with her mother on our campus. 

Our organization did not allow for volunteers to serve until the age of 14.  Charlotte was determined to serve and called or came into my office with her mother weekly to check if I was making any progress on changing our volunteer policy to be inclusive of families.  I had opened up the conversation with the administrators and my colleagues but was met with little enthusiasm or support for the idea due to reservations about supervision and liability issues.  There was also trepidation about the time and energy it would take to create meaningful volunteer opportunities for entire families.

After weeks of brainstorming with Charlotte and her mother, we came up with a list of viable activities a family could do serving on our campus.  Definition of a family would also be challenged to include any two or more caring and supportive individuals consisting of at least one adult over the age of 18.  We started with a pilot program that eventually grew to include mothers with babies and toddlers, grandparents with grandchildren, older sisters with younger sisters, Big Brothers Big Sisters and their littles and many more combinations of families.   

Families in America come in all shapes, sizes and ages which only presents an even wider door for organizations to have their needs met and a chance to offer and create new service opportunities. Volunteering as a family is something we can all do. Whether it’s two of us or an extended family.  What a great way to begin a new family tradition.

o-family-volunteering-570We often frantically pursue exposing our children to extracurricular activities like dance classes, clubs, sports teams, music groups and the theater at an early age in hopes it creates lifetime skills but we often forget that early habits of service to others may just as importantly help our children develop into more caring, compassionate and giving citizens of the world. 

Charlotte changed the fabric of life at this retirement community by introducing us to the value of family volunteering.  It would not have happened without her mother and father’s encouragement, desire to teach valuable lessons in giving and the willingness to come out of their own comfort zone to participate in some of her chosen volunteer activities.

I’ve wondered over the years, if I had not taken up the challenge of this 10 year old girl how different the culture of this organization would have been. Fast forward 15 years and the family volunteering program continues to be a vibrant, enriching and important program in the life of the residents and staff of this retirement community.  The acceptance of younger volunteers has also grown.  Later, we went on to create after school programs for elementary and middle school youth, where parents and older siblings were welcomed. Our pool of volunteers soared!

National Family Volunteer Day is Saturday, November 19, 2016.  As we enter the holidays and our search for finding the true spirit of the season, here are some simple ways to explore with your family meaningful ways to engage and perhaps begin your family on a yearlong journey of giving and community service. 

25 Ways to Nourish Family Volunteering this Holiday Season

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives purpose and meaning.” – Mitch Albom, Michigan Author & Philanthropist

  1. Support our Troops by packing a Christmas shoebox with some of the comforts of home for Operation Shoebox.
  2. Record an audiobook for others by going to Librivox a free public domain for audio books.
  3. Make “blessing bags” by filling zip lock bags with small useful items like protein bars, pair of socks, fleece gloves, travel size personal care items, and wet wipes to give to those who ask for handouts or are homeless. Don’t forget to put in a personal “I care” note or simple drawing of encouragement.
  4. Create a Family Giving List – add to your many holiday lists one that lists 12 ways your family can give in the community or provide service for the upcoming 12 months. Make sure the kids have input!
  5. Learn about philanthropy and spread financial stewardship with your child, by funding a micro-loan and tracking how the loan is paid back via the organization KIVA.
  6. Decorate a senior’s home in your neighborhood with holiday lights or offer to help with putting up and taking down a Christmas tree for them to enjoy throughout the holiday.
  7. Deliver hot drinks to someone who’s been outside in the cold all day, like a Salvation Army bell ringer, 
  8. Partake in an Angel Tree.  There is bound to be one in your community if not start one. Check with your local United Way to find one or where to offer to organize one.
  9. Help end world hunger. The gift that keeps giving. Give a goat to a family.
  10. Establish a “family giving box” by having the kids decorate a large box or container to serve as the family collection box of outgrown or unused items that can be tossed in. When the box is full, take it as a family to a local charity.
  11. Eat at least one meal this holiday season as a family at a community meal or shelter to provide an opportunity to talk and share with people in tough situations. If appropriate, volunteer ahead of time to help serve meals and/or clean up as well.
  12. Together as a family choose toys to give to a local toy drive.
  13. Create a batch of thank you cards to give throughout the year to share how your family appreciates their civic service – the mail deliverer, snow removal personnel, the garbage & recycling collectors, etc.
  14. Read holiday stories or join a scheduled activity with seniors living in a nursing home or assisted living campus by contacting their activity director. 
  15. Sing carols with a shut-in, you can get a list of who will be all alone this holiday from a local church or senior center.
  16. Make and give environmentally friendly cleaning products to share with neighbors.
  17. Walk and pet animals at your local animal shelter or animal rescue mission.
  18. Contact your local food pantry, alongside your children and request what food item is most in need. Check your cupboard to see if you have the needed item to spare and donate it.
  19. Mail a card to reconnect with a relative that your family has not seen in a while.
  20. Go on a trash walk and help clean up your neighborhood or section of your community.
  21. Help clean up after social hour at church or the school Christmas program as a family.
  22. Create a get well card together and drop it off at your local hospital for a child suffering an illness.
  23. Make and tie a fleece blanket to donate to a homeless shelter in your community.
  24. Deliver cookies or treats to the volunteer staff of a local food or clothing pantry.
  25. Gather school supplies for a family in need by asking your school Principal if there is a family in need and donate the items anonymously.

Volunteer Generation Fund Supports Volunteer Engagement In Minnesota

Since 2014 ServeMinnesota has partnered with the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) and HandsOn Twin Cities to deliver the Volunteer Generation Fund grant activities across the state of Minnesota.

The major activities supported by the grant include: 1.) Delivery of trainings to help organizations implement best practices for volunteer engagement and mobilization of skills based volunteers, and 2.) Facilitation of the Service Enterprise Initiative, a research based assessment, training, consultation and certification process designed to move organizations to higher levels of volunteer engagement.

Volunteer Engagement Training
In two years VGF supported more than 50 training events in 18 different communities across the state of Minnesota. These events provided training to support increased volunteer engagement to more than 750 individuals representing 350 organizations supporting more than 120,000 volunteers who have contributed over 1.5 million volunteer hours. Of those completing a post-training survey, 85% of participants reported improvement in three or more key areas of volunteer management; on average, participants reported improvement in over 8 of these key areas due to the trainings.


Service Enterprise

Over the two year period, with funds from the Volunteer Generation Fund, the Minnesota Association of Volunteer Administrators (MAVA) and HandsOn Twin Cities (HOTC) partnered with Points of Light, the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service, to offer Minnesota nonprofits access to the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI). This research based assessment, training, consultation and certification process helps organizations gain a greater return on volunteer investment and better achieve their social mission.

  • MAVA and HOTC organized 7 SEI cohorts over the two year grant period, with 44 organizations participating.
  • Over 260 people from 44 different organizations participated in SEI training sessions.
  • To date 28 organizations have met the rigorous standards required to achieve SE certification from Points of Light, and many others are making progress toward certification.

Service Enterprise Impacts

In an effort to learn more about the impact of participating in Service Enterprise, HandsOn Twin Cities and MAVA held a focus group with certified service enterprise organizations and conducted in-depth interviews with staff and volunteers from organizations that participated in the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI). Staff providing input had job titles such as Supervisor of Volunteer Services, Executive Director, City Manager, Director of Nursing and Head of Archeology. Here are highlights of the feedback they provided about the impacts of SEI:


  • Realized the importance of taking a strategic planning approach to volunteer engagement
  • The process provided a structure of accountability to make changes
  • Valuable to have staff throughout the organization involved
  • Useful focus on organizational development  and change management


  • Staff have increased interest in working with volunteers and vision of how volunteers can be  involved
  • Increased buy-in  from top management and whole organization on volunteer involvement
  • Volunteer engagement more integrated into the organization
  • SEI helped in clarifying roles
  • Better understanding of resources needed for the volunteer program and allocation of resources
  • Better experience for volunteers; volunteers feel more connected to the organization
  • External relation benefits;  value to funders; public acknowledgement; stamp of approval
  • Contributes to overall health of organization


  • Since Service Enterprise, volunteers now train other volunteers
  • Volunteers provide assistance that supports staff
  • Volunteers are now not afraid to suggest changes
  • Volunteers help with strategic planning and this has a big impact

About MAVA:
The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration is a powerful force for leaders of volunteers that facilitates exchange of relevant information and ideas and effective professional development through multi-level training opportunities.
Contact: Sara Wessling,

About HOTC:
HandsOn Twin Cities is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting and facilitating meaningful volunteerism, education and leadership development in the Twin Cities Metro Area.

About Volunteer Generation Fund
The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more

Seriously Effective Volunteering

By Teri Johnson, Senior Vice President, Strategic Partnerships & Program Expansion at Points of Light

Even organizations that regularly engage volunteers can struggle with recruitment and retention – especially when trying to incorporate volunteers in their capacity building efforts. The Service Enterprise Initiative is a change management process that helps nonprofits of any size transform from one that just signs up volunteers to one that effectively engages them in meaningful capacity building work.

serv_enterprise_landing03aAs part of Service Enterprise expansion, Points of Light developed a partnership with United Jewish Federation of New York (UJA) in order to help them build capacity among their grantee organizations. Cathy Caples, one of the CaliforniaVolunteers founders of Service Enterprise and now a Service Enterprise Consultant, was assigned to train and coach 12 UJA Live with Purpose organizations. The tremendous growth of each participating organization is exciting.

One recently certified organization, Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (SJCC) has some powerful early results. SE transformation played a role for the Nancy Marx Cancer Wellness Center, adding two capacity building volunteers to their staff of one. They recruited a volunteer with database development skills who quickly realized a need for expansion of the team to fully execute against the center’s most critical need: patient outreach. She also saw a role for a program development skills-based volunteer. With two Volunteer Leaders and one FTE in place they are now modeling Service Enterprise at the Center. SE enabled volunteerism to be integrated deeply into the organization, increasing human resources by the equivalent of two staff or approximately $300/hour in skilled service. Now services for this department are being expanded for the cancer patients the center serves.

CEO David Black stated that SEI created a major cultural shift for SJJCC. Prior to SEI, there was a perception within the organization that volunteers were members of the board’s fundraising program. As CEO, he knew there were other volunteers serving in different roles but they were invisible. After SEI, David said, “Volunteerism at SJJCC is now a part of how we define our organization – what enables us to flourish. It’s in our DNA. This is fundamentally what we should be doing if we are true to our mission. It conceptualizes connectivity.”

As with other organizations that undergo SEI, part of the culture shift at SJJCC is in how volunteers are viewed by staff – the culture has transitioned away from “them vs us” to a one of professional colleagues with shared goals and vision. Mr. Black sees the volunteers as the bridge to the community defined for each generation. His professional staff are committed to SEI and they have results with skilled volunteers to demonstrate the benefit.

Other program success being experience by SJJCC in response to SEI participation include several changes at the Specialized Senior Services Adult Day Program for the Memory Impaired:

  • A targeted volunteer recruitment plan
  • Engagement of a much needed Pharsi-speaking volunteer
  • Strategic training of existing volunteers to work with memory-impaired individuals

The success of SJJCC is just one example of the capacity building measures taking place in the more than 250 Service Enterprise Certified (SEC) organizations across the country. The average SEC organization experiences a 23% increase in volunteerism each year after it undergoes SEI. For more information on how your organization can benefit from seriously effective volunteers, look for a local Hub or connect with Points of Light at

The Service Enterprise Initiative is a national initiative led by Points of Light that started as a partnership between CaliforniaVolunteers and Reimagining Service. The Service Enterprise Initiative serves to strengthen the capacity of nonprofits to fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills to address community needs. Through a comprehensive research-based assessment, training, consulting and certification model, selected nonprofits are equipped with the tools and technical assistance necessary to support nonprofit Service Enterprise transformations.


The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more

The Volunteer Impact Program (VIP): A Review of Results after Seven Years

The Volunteer Impact Program (VIP) was developed in 2009 by the United Way of King County and 501 Commons, in part with the support of a Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant. The program was a response to a surge in public and private sector campaigns for volunteers. These campaigns emphasized the mobilization of volunteers to address community needs, but paid little attention to the challenges of involving volunteers and optimizing their impact.

Volunteer management training series had been offered in King County for 15 years.  Though well attended, the training series had not resulted in the kind of organizational change necessary to effectively involve volunteers.  To accomplish that, there was a need to engage the whole organization in evaluating their volunteer efforts. The Volunteer Impact Program was developed to address that shortcoming.

The intent of VIP was to provide a rigorous program that would:
  1. Assess the effectiveness of organizations’ volunteer involvement efforts
  2. Identify challenges they need to address with their volunteer involvement efforts
  3. Develop a volunteer impact plan to better prepare volunteer manager to involve volunteers with their organization.
In order to increase success, VIP encouraged involvement at all levels within the organization. The program included these elements:
  • Volunteer-staffed consulting teams to support participating nonprofits’ assessment of volunteer involvement efforts, creation of action plans for improving volunteer management, and development of new opportunities for engaging skills-based volunteers.
  • Cohort training and peer learning for executive leadership, volunteer program managers and the volunteer consulting teams.
  • Small grants to VIP organizations to help implement key elements of their action plans.

A Team of Volunteer Consultants

501 Commons provides the key administrative and logistical support to VIP.  In addition to recruiting and screening the VIP volunteers and matching the volunteer consultants with VIP organizations, they facilitate the working relationship between the volunteers and their assigned organization. They also provide the overall project management and host the online communication and collaboration tools.

A critical component of VIP is the engagement of skilled volunteers to work with VIP organizations to ensure the successful completion of the program. 501Commons, a Seattle-based nonprofit, uses VGF funds to help recruit, train and match these skilled professionals in teams of two with each VIP organization. The volunteer consulting teams work with the VIP organization to review volunteer management assessment results, discuss organizational needs and capacity, agree on assets, issues and priorities, and develop volunteer involvement action plans with specific goals and timelines for implementation.

VIP volunteers bring a broad range of skills and experience to the program. Many are seasoned human resource professionals, others have significant training and development expertise and still others come from executive positions. The volunteers work as consultants in the nonprofit, technology, financial, manufacturing and human services sectors.

>All VIP volunteers receive orientation and training in program expectations, the basics of volunteer management, the culture of nonprofits and the use of the volunteer management assessment tool. To support the volunteers throughout VIP, VIP staff convene volunteer consultant ‘roundtables’ where volunteers meet with their consultant peers to share challenges, progress and opportunities for collaboration,

At the heart of the VIP model – and its starting point – is conducting a volunteer management assessment.  Based on the Volunteer Management Audit by Susan J. Ellis (Energize, 2003), each organization conducts an intensive assessment of their volunteer management practices to identify key issues or challenges. This assessment provides a benchmark for current volunteer management practice and a road map for the 12-18 month volunteer impact plan to address those issues.

To prepare VIP for the assessment phase, VIP organization staff receive training on volunteer program management and standard practice and identify two or three staff or volunteers to comprise a Volunteer Leadership Team (VLT).  Over a three-week period, this team conducts a comprehensive assessment of the agency’s volunteer management practices. Based on the assessment results, and assisted by the volunteer teams, each VLT identifies three key issues that need attention to strengthen their volunteer engagement efforts.

Volunteer Impact Action Plans

The key issues identified in the Assessment phase become the basis of that organization’s volunteer impact action plan. With the support of the VIP volunteer consultants, the VLT drafts goals for each key issue, identifies objectives and actions steps to meet those goals. The teams then develop at least three outcome measures and targets so the organization can assess if they achieve their goals.

During the assessment and planning process, staff in participating organizations gather with their peers to learn from each other’s experience in moving through the program and to receive guidance on planning questions. The volunteer consultants also meet twice for peer sharing and learning.

Evaluating Impact

image002-1Periodic evaluations have assessed the key elements and impact of VIP. One is conducted at the end of the ten months, and assessed the immediate impact/change resulting from participation in VIP. Nine months following completion of the program, follow-up evaluation discovers longer-term impact on volunteer numbers, types of volunteers, and mission impact, as well as progress on their action plans.  Recently, all past participants were interviewed again, to discover the longer term impact.

One of the organizations recently interviewed was the Rainier Valley Food Bank. The Rainier Valley Food Bank (RVFB) provides food assistance to close to 10,000 low-income residents in southeast Seattle each month.

RVFB focuses on seniors, families, individuals with disabilities and the homeless, and is dedicated to serving all who meet the food bank’s broad criteria for assistance. RVFB distributes an average of over 14,000 pounds of food per day.  Their small staff depends on volunteers to get the food out the door. RVFB saw an immediate benefit from their participation in VIP: a 100% increase in the number of volunteer hours per month (from 900 to 1800 hours per month).

When RVFB enrolled in VIP, their volunteer program consisted of a telephone, some scraps of paper, several disparate spreadsheets stored on different off-site computers, a draft volunteer handbook, a sign-in sheet and a whiteboard calendar. Volunteer recruitment consisted of one recruitment event each year, which they struggled to staff.  They also struggled to manage the volume of calls and e-mails from prospective volunteers. When they received offers of help they would take down names, but were not able to return many of these calls.  They simply did not have a system in place to respond. Recognition for RVFB volunteers was non-existent.

2010 was also a year of transition and growth for RVFB. They had experienced higher client numbers than ever before and were planning a move to a new, larger facility over the summer. They needed to leverage volunteer support in new ways to meet these challenges.  At the time they applied for VIP participation, they were in the process of finalizing a job description for a new paid administrative position that included volunteer management.

image004The VIP volunteer program assessment process helped RVFB to identify key issues impacting their volunteer engagement efforts:
  • The lack of data management and record keeping systems to track volunteers.
  • Haphazard or “on the fly” management and supervision of volunteers.
  • The need for improved recruitment efforts that that would match the skills of their volunteers with the needs of the food bank.

Assisted by their VIP volunteer consulting team, RVFB developed a volunteer impact action plan that focused on addressing these issues.  They also submitted a grant request for an implementation consultant to help them improve existing job descriptions and develop an online application form.

As a result of participation in VIP, the number of volunteer hours at the Rainier Valley Food Bank had increased from 900 to 1800 hours each month. By the end of 2010, the total contribution of volunteer time was the equivalent of eight full-time employees, a dramatic increase from 2009.  In 2016, they reported that they have quadrupled the number of clients served, and cut their wait time 70%, from their pre-VIP results.

The RVFB staff was pleasantly surprised to find that this increase in hours did not require twice the work; they achieved this increase by managing their volunteers more efficiently. RVFB attributes this directly to VIP and the training and support their staff received. RVFB now has an official volunteer recognition program, they track their volunteers and they have a new online form for applications.


Volunteer-Generation-Fund-logo-2The Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. There are 17 state service commissions administering VGF grants to expand volunteer infrastructure by supporting volunteer management practices that increase volunteer recruitment and retention. Learn more at

Inaugural ASC Honor Roll Inductees

In September, we were pleased to announce the creation of a new recognition program, the America’s Service Commissions Honor Roll. The ASC Honor Roll recognizes former state service commission staff and commissioners who have made a lasting impact on the field of national service and volunteering. 

With the establishment of the Honor Roll, we were pleased to welcome the inaugural 2016 Honor Roll class including:



Tom Devine who recently retired as the Executive Director of Serve Wisconsin after more the 18 years of service. Tom was presented the award at his retirement party in Merrimac, WI.  







Bill Basl, who currently serves as the Director of AmeriCorps and formerly served as the executive director of Serve Washington for 18 years as well as an ASC Board Chair. Bill was presented the award at the 2016 ASC Annual Recognition Reception.



Wendy Spencer, the current CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service and formerly served as the CEO of Volunteer Florida (2003-2012) and an ASC Board Chair. Wendy was presented the award at the 2016 AmeriCorps Symposium.


2016 Outstanding Commissioner – Carolyn Bloodworth

Carolyn Bloodworth (left) and Kaira Esgate, CEO of ASC (right).

Carolyn Bloodworth of the Michigan Community Service Commission recently received an Outstanding Commissioner award as part of the America’s Service Commissions 2016 Innovation and Leadership Awards.

The award recognizes the accomplishments and leadership of state service commission staff, commissioners and service programs throughout the country.

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Bloodworth to serve as a commissioner of the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) in 2008 and Gov. Rick Snyder appointed her for two more terms. Bloodworth served as chair of the commission for five years from 2011 until 2015. Her service will end in October.

The Michigan Community Service Commission utilizes service as a strategy to address the state’s most pressing issues and empowers volunteers to strengthen communities.

“Carolyn has been an incredible advocate of national service and volunteerism,” MCSC Executive Director Ginna Holmes said. “Her leadership has made a tremendous impact across Michigan and she has helped the state use service to meet critical community needs.”

Bloodworth, of Jackson, is a 35-year employee of Consumers Energy and currently serves as secretary/treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation and the CMS Energy Foundation. In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the foundations, Bloodworth is also director of Corporate Giving and Education for CMS Energy and Consumers Energy.

“We’re pleased to present Carolyn Bloodworth with this honor,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions. “Carolyn’s service is a testament to the importance of board leadership and community partnerships.”

2016 Outstanding Commissioner – John Albright

1158At a reception in Alexandria, VA, John Albright, Vice Chair of the Missouri Community Service Commission was announced as a 2016 Outstanding Commissioner as part of America’s Service Commissions Innovation and Leadership Awards, recognizing the accomplishments and leadership of state service commission staff, commissioners, and service programs throughout the country.

“John is  an active member of the commission and represents our commission well,” says Don Stamper, executive director of the Missouri Community Service Commission. “He is constantly looking for opportunities to advance and promote the commission, national service and our programs.”

John Albright has served the Missouri Community Service Commission in a variety of roles including chair of the Legislative and Education committee, committee member of the Development and Service committee, and currently serves as vice chair of the commission. In 2015, John founded and serves as the chair of the Missouri Coalition for National Service. In addition, John is a faculty member for the  Corporate Institute at Points of Light and is a board member for America’s Service Commissions. He is a veteran and retired.

“We’re pleased to present John Albright with this honor,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions. “John’s service has benefitted not only Missouri, but the greater state service commission network, as a true advocate for national service.”

Outstanding Commission Staff – Emily Steinberg

Kristen Bennett, Service Year (left) and Emily Steinberg (right).

At a reception in Alexandria, VA, Emily Steinberg, Director of National Service Programs at OneStar Foundation, the Texas state service commission based in Austin was announced as the 2016 Outstanding Commission Staff as part of America’s Service Commissions Innovation and Leadership Awards, recognizing the accomplishments and leadership of state service commission staff, commissioners, and service programs throughout the country.

“Emily Steinberg has distinguished herself as an exceptional leader and innovative partner in service not only within the State of Texas, but also among her peers across the country,” says Elizabeth Darling, CEO of OneStar Foundation. “Under Emily’s leadership, OneStar’s AmeriCorps team excels in part because of the emphasis on professional development and continued learning.  Her team gets consistently high marks on annual surveys from our grantees – a testament to our approach as partners in this work called service.”

In her role, Emily directs OneStar’s AmeriCorps State grant program, oversees a team of six and a portfolio of 28 subgrantees representing $14.2 million and more than 2,400 AmeriCorps State members.  Additionally, Emily oversees OneStar’s Statewide VISTA intermediary project which consists of one staff and 25 AmeriCorps VISTA members placed with 18 organizations across Texas.

“We’re pleased to present Emily Steinberg with this honor,” said Kaira Esgate, CEO of America’s Service Commissions. “Emily has proven to be an asset not only for the OneStar Foundation, but also for the national service network due to her willingness to share and learn with commissions across the country.