Tag Archives: national service

Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers

There is a partnership between the US Office of Surface Mining (OSM), AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), and community/watershed improvement organizations that coordinates and trains OSM/VISTAs who live and work in host communities throughout seven states in the Appalachian coalfields and the hardrock mining belt of Colorado and New Mexico. These VISTAs, in their role as national service volunteers, work on projects that promote economic redevelopment, community engagement and environmental stewardship in rural areas that have been hit hard by economic downturns and environmental degradation. “The OSM/VISTA Teams believe that restoring local environments is an opportunity for long-term solutions to severe poverty in mining regions, and the foundation for community mobilization and economic redevelopment in communities. OSM/VISTAs work side-by-side with volunteers in local community/watershed improvement organizations to support community revitalization and engagement efforts.”

The OSM/VISTA Teams completed a three-year research project on rural volunteerism throughout Appalachia and the Rocky Mountain West with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds. After engaging in place-based research in 34 rural communities, the partnership created the Toolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers to share approaches to volunteer recruitment, management and retention that are successful in rural settings. It’s USA-centric, but the recommendations are great for places outside the USA as well.

One part of the toolkit, Rural Volunteer Management Practices – Case Studies, summarizes 25 different volunteer practices that work for this partnership. “We know they work because we first identified practices that were working well in a rural community, transplanted those practices to 50 other places and then watched them for a year to see how they worked in a different context.”  I love that, in this section, they talk about partnering with off-road and 4×4 groups, with mandatory service volunteers, and with student-athlete volunteers. When do you EVER hear any volunteer management consultant talk about how to partner with these three groups? I think outdoor groups in particular, like motorcycle riding groups, hiking organizations and others are amazing targets for volunteer recruitment campaigns – and largely under-utilized.

There is also a section of worksheets, templates and checklists that any organization working in rural areas (or, frankly, ANYWHERE) will find useful as they begin a project or as they carry that project out to success.

You can also download the complete pdf workbook: oolkit for Working with Rural Volunteers. (Select “File” > “Download” under document title).

Well done Appalachian Coal Country Team (ACCT) and the Western Hardrock Watershed Team (WHWT) for this AWESOME resource. It represents what I love so much about AmeriCorps VISTA: it’s not only about helping local people, it’s not only about giving the volunteers an amazing experience they will take into their post-national service work, it’s also about learning and sharing what works and what doesn’t with everyone. I am such an AmeriCorps VISTA fan girl!

Thank you, Energize, Inc. for bringing this to my attention via Facebook!

I have worked with AmeriCorps members many times. I helped put together a handbook for AmeriCorpsVISTAs in charge of managing school-based volunteers for Sanchez Elementary School in Austin, Texas, written by various AmeriCorps members over the years in the program. I also have frequently trained AmeriCorps members on volunteer management 101, and I have a page especially for AmeriCorps members that curates the volunteer management resources I reference in my workshops.

Also see:

AmeriCorps, VISTA, other CNCS programs could soon be gone

Corporation for National and Community Service needs a makeover?

Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities

Screening Volunteers for Attitude

My resources re: volunteer support / engagement / management

AmeriCorps, VISTA, other CNCS programs could soon be gone

On February 17, 2017, The New York Times reported that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) may be among the federal programs being considered for elimination in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

As a federal agency, CNCS is the nation’s largest grant-maker in support of service and volunteering. The agency manages AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund. AmeriCorps alone engages more than 75,000 men and women in intensive service each year at more than 21,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.

If you are a US citizen, I strongly encourage you to:

  1. Call your Congressional Representative and two US Senators and share your opinion about national service funding. Calling or sending a postal letter is most effective; emails are too easily ignored.
  2. Sign up to participate in the National Peace Corps Association’s National Days of Action, March 3-15, to convey to your elected leaders why these programs matter.
  3. Support the efforts of those speaking up for the Peace Corps nationwide on social media March 3 by joining the NPCA’s “thunderclap”, a coordinated social media blast.
  4. Contact your local newspapers with a letter to the editor in support of CNCS programs.

News stories & blogs re: AmeriCorps cuts:

Agencies in Oklahoma worry about fate of AmeriCorps

Denver schools brace for Trump’s proposed AmeriCorps cut

The Republican Case for Saving Americorps

Also see:

Germany needs 90 thousand volunteers immediately

(Gehen Sie für diese Abhandlung auf Deutsch hinab)

Germany is getting rid of its compulsory military and community service for young men, and German hospitals, retirement homes, hostels, Red Cross chapters, agencies serving people with disabilities, and other social service and community agencies across the country are deeply worried about how they will now staff their organizations.

For more than 40 years, young German men, age 18 to 20, were drafted into military service — it was originally a two year commitment, but over the years, it was reduced to 15 months, then reduced to 12 months, and most recently, reduced to six. The reductions have been a result of cost-cutting. Men could substitute community service at German social service agencies for military service; the community service commitment was usually a bit longer, by a few months, than the military service. Men who opted for community service instead of military service are known in Germany colloquially as “Zivis.”

But the days of compulsory service — and the Zivis — are over as of 2011. Hundreds of charities across Germany that have relied on almost 100,000 conscripts to run their organizations are bracing for a severe labor shortage. Many charities don’t believe they will be able to find enough volunteers willing to do the grunt work that Zivis have done – washing dishes, cleaning rooms, preparing meals, etc.

Can Germany recruit 90,000 volunteers to replace Zivis? Yes – but it will take a sweeping, fundamental rethinking of how Germany charities perceive the role of volunteers, and a LOT of training and support to implement this new thinking.

Germany already understands the value of volunteers in fire fighting. Germany has the most volunteer fire fighters, per capita, of any country in the world. In Germany, for a community served by volunteer firefighters, the first truck must arrive within eight minutes. Volunteer firefighters train alongside professional firefighters — there is no two-tiered training system, one for professionals and one for volunteers. Volunteers stay for years, not just weeks or months. And volunteer fire fighters fight fires, protecting humans, businesses and property. Yes, they also do grunt work, but they also fight fires. Whether they know it or not, Germany already trusts volunteers with critical services; Germany needs to build on that for other community services.

The place to start: German charities need to involve volunteers in more than grunt work:

    • They need to think about volunteers in the ways organizations here in the USA that are staffed primarily by volunteers do. Volunteers deliver the majority of services provided by the American Red Cross and the Girl Scouts of the USA, for instance, staffing not just the grunt work but leadership positions as well. Many of their volunteers stay for years, not just weeks or months, because they do much more than grunt work. Volunteering varies across cultures in many aspects, but one thing that is always the same, culture-to-culture, country-to-country: volunteers want to feel like the work they are doing is critical, not just nice, but necessary.
  • In addition, volunteering needs to be tied to high school and university work, where appropriate, giving students practical experience applying what they are learning in classrooms — service learning. Certain community service should earn the volunteer high school or university class credit.

To make this transformation possible, however, will take intensive, advanced volunteer management training for charities, for universities and for government agency staff. It also may mean paying people to do the grunt work, while reserving positions with high levels of responsibility for volunteers – that’s a radical way of thinking for many people.

I trained a few times in Germany, and I was taken aback at how far behind the country is with regard to volunteer management:

    • Representatives from volunteer centers told me they would not use online databases of volunteering opportunities because “then no one will use our volunteer center.”
  • Residents who are not ethnically-German are vastly under-represented among the staff of most charities and community service organizations in Germany; you can go to a village in Germany with a significant ethnic-Turkish population, for instance, but you won’t see volunteers from this population at the local fire house. In my eight years in Germany, I never found any charity or community service organization that involved volunteers that was undertaking recruitment activities targeted on minority communities specifically — yes, I looked.

This is a challenging time for Germany, but it’s also an amazing opportunity for Germany to ramp up its involvement of volunteers, and transform its society in a number of positive, sustainable ways. It could become a model for the rest of the EU! Attention Germany: I’m ready to help!

Read more at this story at NPR.

— Übersetzung in Deutsch —

Die Tage der Wehrpflicht – und der Zivis – sind vorbei ab 2011. Hunderte Wohlfahrtsorganisationen in ganz Deutschland, die auf die Arbeit der fast 100.000 einberufenen vertraut haben, sehen sich jetzt einer radikalen Verringerung ihrer Arbeitskräfte gegenüber. Viele Organisationen glauben nicht, daß sie ausreichend Freiwillige finden können um die Routinearbeit zu erledigen, die bis jetzt von Zivis erledigt wurde – spülen, Räume reinigen, Mahlzeiten zubereiten, usw.

Kann Deutschland 90.000 Freiwillige rekrutieren um die Zivis zu ersetzen? Ja – aber es verlangt ein fundamentales Umdenken wie deutsche Wohlfahrtsorganisationen die Rolle von Freiwilligen verstehen, und VIEL Übung und Unterstützung um dieses neue Denken auch umzusetzen.

Deutschland versteht bereits den Wert von Freiwilligen in Feuerwehren. Deutschland hat die meisten Freiwilligen Feuerwehrleute pro Einwohner aller Länder weltweit. In einer deutschen Gemeinde mit einer freiwilligen Feuerwehr muß nach 8 Minuten erste wirksame Hilfe durch die Feuerwehr geleistet werden. Freiwillige Feuerwehrleute erhalten die gleiche Ausbildung wie Berufsfeuerwehrleute, es gibt keine zwei Klassen-Ausbildung. Freiwillige bleiben für Jahre, nicht nur für Wochen oder Monate. Und freiwillige Feuerwehrleute bekämpfen Feuer, retten Menschenleben und schützen Sachwerte. Ja, sie machen auch Routinearbeit, aber sie bekämpfen auch Feuer. Ob sie es wissen oder nicht, Deutsche vertrauen bereits jetzt Freiwilligen mit Aufgaben von entscheidender Bedeutung; Deutsche müssen dies auf andere soziale Aufgaben ausdehnen.

Der Anfang: Deutsche Wohlfahrtsorganisationen müssen Freiwillige für mehr als nur Routinearbeiten einsetzen:

    • Sie müssen sie genauso ansehen wie Organisationen in den USA, deren Mitarbeiter hauptsächlich Freiwillige sind. Freiwillige übernehmen den Grossteil der Leistungen, die das Amerikanische Rote Kreuz und die `Girl Scouts of the USA` (Girl Guides) anbieten, so übernehmen sie nicht nur die Routinearbeit, sondern auch Führungspositionen. Viele ihrer Freiwilligen bleiben für Jahre und nicht nur für Wochen oder Monate, weil sie viel mehr tun als nur die Routinearbeit. Das Ehrenamt variiert in verschiedenen Kulturen in vielen Aspekten, aber eines bleibt immer gleich, Kultur zu Kultur, Land zu Land: Freiwillige wollen merken, dass ihre Arbeit wichtig ist, nicht nur nett, sondern notwendig.
  • Zusätzlich muss ein Ehrenamt mit Hochschulen und Universitäten verbunden werden, wo dies angemessen ist. So, dass Schüler und Studenten praktische Erfahrungen sammeln und anwenden können was sie in Unterricht lernen — “service learning.” Bestimme Ehrenämter sollten den Freiwilligen bei der Hochschule oder Universität angerechnet werden.

Um diese Transformation möglich zu machen, benötigt es intensive und fortgeschrittene Freiwilligen-Management-Schulungen für Wohlfahrtsorganisationen, für Universitäten und für Regierungsbehörden. Es kann auch bedeuten, Angestellte zu bezahlen um die Routinearbeiten zu erledigen, während Positionen mit mehr Verantwortung für Freiwillige reserviert werden – für viele Leute ist dies eine radikal Denkensweise.

Ich habe ein paar Schulungen in Deutschland geleitet und war erstaunt wie weit zurück dieses Land ist im Bezug auf Management von Freiwilligen“? :

    •  Vertreter von Freiwilligen-Zentren erzählten mir, sie würden keine Online-Datenbank für verfügbare Ehrenämter benutzen, weil “dann wird niemand unsere Freiwilligen Zentrum besuchen.”
  • Einwohner mit Migrationshintergrund sind weit unterrepräsentiert in der Belegschaft der meisten Wohlfahrtsorganisationen und gemeinnützigen Organisationen in Deutschland. Man kann z.B. in eine Gemeinde mit deutlichem türkischem Bevölkerungsanteil gehen, aber man wird keinen Freiwilligen dieser Bevölkerungsgruppe im örtlichen Freiwilligen Feuerwehrhaus antreffen. In meinen acht Jahren in Deutschland habe ich nie eine Wohlfahrtsorganisation oder gemeinnützige Organisation, die Freiwillige einbezieht, gefunden, die Anwerbung speziell auf Minderheiten zugeschnitten hatte – ja, ich habe danach gesucht.

Es ist eine herausfordernde Zeit für Deutschland, aber es ist auch eine einzigartige Gelegenheit für Deutschland, um die Einbeziehung von Freiwilligen zu steigern; und um seine Gesellschaft in einer positiven und nachhaltigen Weise zu transformieren. Deutschland könnte zu einem Vorbild in der restlichen EU werden! Aufgepasst Deutschland: Ich bin bereit zu helfen!

Lesen Sie mehr in diesem Bericht auf NPR (nur in Englisch).

(Thanks to Stefan Dietz and Lis Mullin Bernhardt for the translation)