Nevada Volunteers wants to know your volunteer story! National Volunteer Week is April 15th-22nd and to celebrate all the amazing volunteers in our state we are holding a Volunteer Week Photo Contest. Submit your photos at https://goo.gl/jPMxdo and your story could be featured during National Volunteer Week. So show us how you volunteer and we’ll show everyone the impact volunteers have in our communities.
We know that getting started with AmeriCorps funding opportunities can be challenging, so start here! Answer the following question to find out if your organization is eligible for AmeriCorps funding:
1) Is your organization a public or private nonprofit organization – including labor organizations, faith-based and other community organizations; an institution of higher education; a government entity within the State of Nevada; an Indian tribe; or a partnership or consortia?
2) Does your organization file as a 501c3, 501c4, 501c5, or 501c6 with the IRS?
3) Does your organization’s plan for utilizing AmeriCorps members address specific unmet community needs in the areas of disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and/or veterans and military families?
If you answered yes to all three of these questions then you may qualify for AmeriCorps funding! AmeriCorps state funding gives your organization the opportunity to hire AmeriCorps members to expand your program and your reach in Nevada.
How did their service experience impact their journeys? What doors will AmeriCorps open for you?
Yoana Chavez- From Stipend to Salary
Yoana Chavez served two terms as an AmeriCorps member in Winnemucca, NV, at the Frontier Community Action Agency. After graduating high school, serving her community as an AmeriCorps member at FCAA was a great opportunity to help her community while continuing her education at Great Basin College. When asked about her experience serving as an AmeriCorps member she said, “Joining AmeriCorps was one of the best decisions that I made! It was a great opportunity to get involved in the community and meet new people. AmeriCorps supports public service as well as education. After completing my contract hours with AmeriCorps I received an education award. This helped me so much in paying for my college classes for my Bachelors degree! I would definitely recommend AmeriCorps. Not only do they help with school, it’s also a great way to meet people and create lifelong friendships as well as give back to the community!”
United States’ Presidents and National Service
Service to others is a core value of our country. U.S. presidents throughout history have been instrumental in creating the programs to support national service. This President’s Day, we remember presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their contributions to National Service and AmeriCorps.
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order on April 5, 1933 and created the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of his New Deal legislation in response to the Great Depression. This monumental initiative not only employed around four million young people, but also helped shape the national and state park systems we enjoy today. Some of the accomplishments of this program include, planting over 3.5 Billion trees, constructing trails and shelters in more the 800 parks nationwide and clearing and maintaining access roads. In 1942 when World War II began, the Civilian Conservation Corps was dissolved to utilize all resources for the war effort. Fortunately, this program was highly regarded among the public and eventually inspired the creation of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) in 1992.
To develop and manage an AmeriCorps Program is a big decision. There are many factors to consider, but you shouldn’t let the below reasons deter you! AmeriCorps Programs bring dedicated community members to address real needs throughout Nevada. Nevada Volunteers is here to help you develop and implement a great program and give community members the ability to connect with your organization, your mission, and your community–creating a stronger Nevada.
1) We don’t have the capacity to manage a federal grant
The policies and procedures needed to manage federal grants strengthen organizations. Don’t have them in place yet? Apply for a planning grant. Nevada Volunteers will provide funding of up to $75,000 for your organization to spend up to 12 months developing these policies and procedures so that you can manage federal grants. During this time, you will attend Nevada AmeriCorps trainings specifically designed to improve organizational and program capacity, meet other AmeriCorps program directors from across the state, and work with consultants who understand AmeriCorps. You’ll come to the end of the year with the policies and procedures in place to run an impactful AmeriCorps program, and your organization will become much stronger in the process.
2) The risk is too great
There is a risk that comes with accepting federal grant funds. Tax payers are understandably concerned that federal tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently. In recent years, the federal government has worked to streamline financial guidance and adjusted how disallowances are issued. We’d be happy to talk to you about more about these changes. Now, the biggest disallowances possible come from failure to comply with policies designed to protect the most vulnerable populations we serve. Protecting these clients is incredibly important and your organization should have these protections in place regardless of if you manage federal funds or not. If you have a culture that focuses on the safety of the clients you serve, the processes required by the federal government will fit in with it.
3) We don’t have the match
New AmeriCorps programs are required to match federal funds at 24%, but there are many ways to achieve this match. AmeriCorps State funds can be matched with cash, including funds from others federal grants, or third party in-kind contributions. If you have other federal grants, speak with your funder about using those funds as match for an AmeriCorps Program. You likely also have third-party, skills-based volunteers who will be providing support to your AmeriCorps program and their time and talents have tangible value. You can include the value of volunteer services contributed to the AmeriCorps program for organizational functions such as accounting, audit work, legal work, or training as match. Think strategically about how to leverage the assets you already have to meet the match for an AmeriCorps program.
4) We don’t need AmeriCorps members, we have volunteers
AmeriCorps members are people who have decided to dedicate up to a year of their life specifically to the service of the community. They are a devoted, dedicated group of people, and while all volunteers are great, bringing their time, talent and treasure to our communities, AmeriCorps members agree in advance to serve for up to 1700 hours and one full year. Reaching their hour goal makes them eligible for an education award they can use to pay off student loans or to attend college or trade school. This makes AmeriCorps members a more reliable and driven force than volunteers. AmeriCorps members become informed, involved citizens who make communities stronger and bring additional resources into Nevada communities. They will make your organization stronger too.
5) AmeriCorps is too complicated —VISTA, NCCC, AmeriCorps State, what’s the difference?
Trust us, we know that national service can be complicated! Below we have broken down the three types of AmeriCorps programs. If you still have questions, move through our AmeriCorps Decision Matrix, or give us a call, 775-825-1900. We can help you determine which stream of national service will work best for your organization.
• AmeriCorps State programs are for organizations who want members to engage in direct service like mentoring children, repairing hiking trails or helping community members access health services. Usually AmeriCorps State programs have at least 10 members. Smaller programs are possible, and require approval from Nevada Volunteers. If this is what you are looking for, apply for an AmeriCorps State grant here: https://nevadavolunteers.org/americorps/americorps-funding/notice-of-funding-opportunities/
• AmeriCorps VISTA programs are for organizations who want a small number of members for organizational or programmatic capacity building only. These members do not provide direct services. They also must be working on poverty alleviation. If this is what you are looking for, view more information on AmeriCorps VISTA here: https://nevadavolunteers.org/about-americorps/americorps-vista/
• AmeriCorps NCCC sends teams of members to work on specific projects for short terms (3-8 weeks). These members might work on cleaning up a school over the summer or deploy to natural disasters. For more information about NCCC visit: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-programs/americorps-nccc/sponsor-americorps-nccc-team
AmeriCorps week is here and Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (TMPF) is ready to celebrate. The leadership at TMPF believes in the true power of National Service and what AmeriCorps does for our community, which is why they chose AmeriCorps as the best way to grow our Student Stewards Program.
The Student Stewards Program at TMPF gets kids excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects through hands on experiential outdoor adventures in local parks. Our AmeriCorps members have helped thousands of students steward our parks through citizen science, which is certainly something to celebrate in my book.
As if that wasn’t enough to celebrate, raising $100,000 per year in matching funds is an annual challenge that luckily our community supports. Our community has come together through local grants, donations, and sponsorships to ensure this valuable program continues. Without your support we would not be able to impact so many children.
Nevada Volunteers is proud to announce the second certified Service Enterprise (SE) in Nevada, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association (TRTA) that achieved certification on June 6, 2016. While the Tahoe Rim Trail Association has always been a volunteer-centered organization, they began the Service Enterprise process in the summer of 2015 with the goal of strengthening their volunteer practices. Going through the Service Enterprise process required the staff to pause and reflect on practices, regardless of if they were working well, to see if they could be strengthened to better leverage volunteers.
The Service Enterprise process teaches organizations how to calculate Return on Volunteer Investment (ROVI) and then requires staff to calculate ROVI for the organization and each program. TRTA staff noticed in their ROVI that the free-guided hikes program, while utilizing volunteers didn’t have a high return on investment. TRTA made adjustments such as making sure every guided hike has an educational component through which participants learn useful skills and knowledge. This added educational component assured TRTA the effort made by volunteers in offering the program is also strategically aligned to help them meet their mission.
When organizations go through the Service Enterprise process they assess not only the roles volunteers play in the organization, but also staff roles and responsibilities around volunteer engagement. This assessment can lead to transformative change. For TRTA, it meant recognizing the value strong volunteer management brings to the organization and a new requirement that every employee take on volunteer coordination duties for the volunteers they work with instead of the responsibility falling on one person’s shoulders.
When TRTA went through the Service Enterprise certification process they had to prove they fundamentally leveraged volunteers across all levels. TRTA explored non-trail volunteer opportunities to achieve this. Before starting the Service Enterprise process, volunteers were mainly used for direct service, like maintaining trails and assisting with hikes. TRTA assessed their needs and added volunteering opportunities that supported the organizations internal capacity. Now skilled volunteers help with things like office work on a regular basis. TRTA staff makes sure this component of leveraging volunteers is not lost by, discussing upcoming projects and tasks volunteers could help with at every staff meeting. In addition to keeping it at the forefront of planning, TRTA has a designated staff member who organizes and delegates the tasks to the volunteers when they come in throughout the week. Examples of the tasks include data entry, filing, organizing, or assisting with preparation for larger projects.
Becoming a certified Service Enterprise requires an organization’s leadership to be engaged. That level of engagement is reflected in this quote by Mary Bennington, the Executive Director who was with TRTA during their SE process, “Going through the process of Service Enterprise Certification has provided the TRTA many opportunities to improve our processes, better leverage our volunteers across all program areas, and confirm that many of our systems are already humming along like a well-oiled machine! This process has helped us quantify the amazing value of volunteer effort in a way that has helped the board see the direct benefit to our programs.”
Nevada Volunteers is proud to support the Tahoe Rim Trail Association throughout the Service Enterprise process. As Nevada’s only Service Enterprise hub, Nevada Volunteers has trained and supported 11 organizations total; two organizations have achieved certification and nine are implementing strategies and working toward certification. Through the Service Enterprise Initiative, more organizations are learning and implementing strategies to effectively leverage volunteers and engage skills-based volunteers. At Nevada Volunteers we think this means not only more volunteer opportunities, but more organizations with high-quality volunteer programs offering more high-quality volunteer opportunities.
Nevada Volunteers will host a Service Enterprise training cadre in Las Vegas this fall. If you would like more information or to apply for the fall 2016 cadre in Las Vegas please contact email@example.com or call (775) 825-1900. Applications are due August 12, 2016.
Stephanie D’Arcy and Valerie Gillette, of the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum, jumped for joy as they accepted the Service Enterprise Certification from Nevada Volunteers on March 28, 2016. They are the first certified Service Enterprise (SE) in the state of Nevada and among only 210 nationwide. A week before receiving the certification, Mat Sinclair the Executive Director, Stephanie D’Arcy, the Visitor Services Director, and Valerie Gillette, the Volunteer Coordinator, sat around their conference table with the SE Certification team from Nevada Volunteers and discussed all they accomplished in the past eleven months since they began the SE process. The Discovery Museum staff made huge strides in incorporating volunteers at all levels of the organization and embedding the change into their culture.
The Discovery Museum began their Service Enterprise journey last spring and as a result of the Service Enterprise process, incorporated new SE strategies into their volunteer program and organization. They refined the process for bringing volunteers into the organization and supporting them throughout their time at the museum. They added information to the volunteer handbook and expanded and improved the volunteer position descriptions. Because of the new strategies, the Discovery was able to recruit more skilled volunteers and find volunteers that fit the roles they needed.
Service Enterprise strategies were incorporated in the Discovery Museum’s training programs. Volunteer training programs were improved and volunteers are invited to all trainings offered by the Discovery Museum, including staff trainings. Staff and volunteer leaders are trained on how to effectively work with volunteers and learned ways to make volunteers more comfortable during their service. This training built confidence in employees when working with volunteers and changed the organizational culture to a more volunteer-centric and volunteer-friendly culture.
The Discovery Museum had leadership support throughout this process—an essential component to a successful transition. The board was informed monthly of how many volunteer hours were reported and the other changes the SE transformation brought. Mat Sinclair had frequent contact with Stephanie D’Arcy, who was part of the guiding coalition for the SE process and knew all the changes that happened. This contact kept Sinclair in the loop and allowed communication about needs and progress for SE to flow openly.
What is the benefit of all this effort? As Sinclair stated, “We have strengthened relationships with our volunteers, increased retention and buy in, better utilized volunteer skill sets, created a comprehensive training program and improved the overall effectiveness of the program.” “We appreciate the guidance we have received through this program and look forward to our continuous improvement moving forward.” Congratulations to all the hard work and improvements made by staff and volunteers at the Discovery Museum!
Walking into the offices of Volunteer Services at Washoe County School District (WCSD), the first thing you will notice among the close desks and cubicles are the smiles of the staff and the volunteers that work with them. It hasn’t always been this way though. There was a time when the offices of the people in the department were in multiple buildings, some blocks away from one another, and the grinning faces weren’t so apparent.
A couple things have changed that brought these positive vibes to the office place. Volunteer Services moved to a new office building in March of 2015; now all the staff are located in one place. They also started the process to become a certified Service Enterprise. A Service Enterprise is an organization that leverages volunteers across all of levels of the organization through a facilitated change process that creates positive changes for the staff and the culture of an organization. This change process is about more than volunteer engagement, it builds capacity by incorporating volunteers into every area of the organization.
Volunteer Services at WCSD was a part of the spring 2015 cadre, the first group of organizations in Nevada to go through the Service Enterprise training offered by Nevada Volunteers. They completed the training on April 30, 2015 and started implementing the strategies. The staff was surprised to see changes so quickly. Volunteers commented on how the department seemed like a happier place to be, a place they wanted to be involved in more. Not only were they hearing the positive feedback, they were seeing it as well.
Volunteers that only wanted to commit a few hours a week started coming in for more hours. People that wanted to volunteer for a short time kept coming back after the original agreed upon time. What did Volunteers Services at WCSD do to make their volunteers so happy? They implemented strategies from their action plan created during the Service Enterprise process.
One of their action plan items was to create an onboarding packet for each of the specific roles a volunteer could be placed in. The onboarding packet includes a summary of what Volunteer Services does, an application, a placement survey, training and confidentiality agreement, maps to the schools and a contact list for Volunteer Services’ department. This onboarding packet has made the matching process much easier for the whole team, but especially Dex Thomas, the Program Services Technician. Now when he interviews potential volunteers he can ask more detailed questions about how the volunteers envision their experience with WCSD instead of background information, which is now in the onboarding packet. Each onboarding packet also includes information on how to take classes with the school district, how to apply for jobs in the school district, and how to become a substitute teacher. It has enhanced the process and made the volunteers placed well informed and much happier.
Another change that has resulted from the Service Enterprise model is the quarterly volunteer recognition potluck. Volunteer Services hosts a potluck for volunteers and invites them from every area of the district. It gives the volunteers a chance to meet one another and interact with staff. There has been nothing but positive feedback from these potlucks, and the only complaint is people want them more frequently. Volunteer Services has also found other ways to recognize volunteers. They have sent out cards and awards to celebrate the efforts of all their amazing volunteers and have even started to highlight individual volunteers on their blog and in social media. This has really helped volunteers become more comfortable and happier.
The journey to becoming a Service Enterprise isn’t always easy and comes with some hardships. It takes a lot of time and effort to make this process work. The staff meets once a week to go over processes and implementations. Each staff member has items of the action plan assigned to them they must complete and implement. This has been a large lesson in trust as well. The department has had to trust in each other and support each other to implement these changes. Change can be frightening and having the support of people around you, people that are all striving for the same goal, has been not only beneficial to achieving the goal but also to the culture of the organization. The Volunteer Services team has really bonded over this experience.
Since Volunteer Services is a department within the school district it has served as a Service Enterprise model for the rest of the district. There are some strategies they have tried to pass onto other departments causing the other departments to adopt some aspects of Service Enterprise. For example they have an orientation and tour for volunteers who are assigned to their department when they start. They have urged other departments and programs to do the same. The Service Enterprise Initiative is meant for all organizations that engage volunteers, but it is geared towards nonprofits or stand-alone organizations so as a department within a larger organization, they have had to adapt some aspects of the training to fit their organizational needs. They have also had to get some changes approved by the board before being able to implement them.
On December 8, 2015 Lisa-Marie Lightfoot, Volunteer Services’ Administrator presented the progress the department has made to the Board of Trustees. She spoke about all the positive feedback from volunteers and the changes they have made. The onboarding process was mentioned and how it has improved placements. Job descriptions were also created for volunteer positions. Lightfoot mentioned volunteers are now offered classes and training that used to be exclusive to employees. She spoke about more changes and listed the positive outcomes; the board was extremely impressed and pleased about the department’s progress. They understood the importance of the change and received the changes well. The board members applauded Lightfoot and the Volunteer Services team. Everyone, the Board of Trustees, the volunteers, and the staff are happy with the changes Service Enterprise has brought.
Volunteer Services at WCSD is going to try for certification in the spring, about a year after they started the process. There have been changes, stressful moments, and many moments of gratification when they were able to see all of their hard work pay off. Laurie Bennet, the secretary for the department offered this advice for anyone wanting to become a Service Enterprise, “Be committed to the process making it a priority or standard to work by. Be patient and open minded to try new things.” The entire process generally takes about 9-12 months and sometimes longer to see the full effects. Volunteer Services at WCSD is proof that the Service Enterprise process improves not only the efficiency of the organization but also the culture and happiness of the whole organization.
A reflection on the power of volunteerism
by Amber Martin-Jahn Executive Director Nevada Volunteers
Last week I spoke at our 13th Annual Governor’s Points of Light Awards. What an inspiring event! At the morning reception honoring all the finalists I was awed by the ability of these individuals and organizations to transform volunteer service into good for their communities.
The finalists and award recipients re-affirm that volunteerism is powerful. It is powerful and it is good for Nevada.
Volunteering is also a purposeful act. It is a choice. At some point each of the finalists, individuals and organizations decided to take action and that action resulted in a power of good for Nevada. It might have started as a little spark of wanting to make a difference, or wanting to change something and today it is something so much bigger, something deserving of recognition, something that is powerful.
Volunteerism is powerful and it is good for Nevada. But what is it that moved each of these finalists to get involved?