I’m a guest blogger again for VolunteerMaine, leading up to their annual conference where I will present next month, building on last year’s workshop on building community partnerships.
Should MA fund Americorps? My unpopular view.
The BBJ has a good article describing AmeriCorps’ potential “do or die” funding situation in Massachusetts.
Although many of my colleagues, AmeriCorps alumni, and friends are lobbying for full funding of AmeriCorps in MA due to the federal match and their livelihoods, I find myself unsure when direct needs like food and housing subsidies, education, day programs for the needy, counseling, and substance abuse treatment are being cut in the state budget process.
I’ve been unconvinced that subsidizing below-minimum-wage positions is the best way to maximize volunteer engagement since AmeriCorps began, and now I question whether saving the Massachusetts Service Alliance should be a priority given the direct needs of the least able among us and the core educational needs of the next generation.
Direct philanthropic investment in experienced volunteer recruiters and volunteer managers paid to serve on charity staffs may be a better route to increase volunteer engagement, versus “hiring” inexperienced people with limited training and resources for short stints without long-term vision and commitment to volunteerism from charity leaders. (And if volunteers are so important, how can we be equal opportunity if we expect them to live on less than minimum wage or limited health coverage?)
There are certainly more active volunteers who are NOT in AmeriCorps than those who are in AmeriCorps, and I contend that broader, more long-term growth will occur if charitable donations are invested directly into community charities like Tenacity in the BBJ article and possibly PMD (rather than passed through a middleman-like agency operating with bureaucratic, government-imposed funding restrictions that impossibly attempts to serve our whole state and all of its communities). More charity boards of directors, executive directors, CEOs, and other leaders must encourage, support, and reward excellent volunteer programs that engage and retain volunteers, and respect, assign, and use volunteers’ time and talents effectively for ongoing and project-based commitments.
If the Massachusetts Service Alliance would expand to assist the majority of charities NOT funded by AmeriCorps that seek to increase their volunteers’ roles and numbers (as evidenced by the many applicants for Commonwealth Corps funding that I wrote about last year), then could we make more progress in our state? This need used to be addressed somewhat by the United Way of Mass. Bay until it reorganized into such tight focal areas such that volunteerism became hidden and disjointed with minimal training and services and a redundant database instead of experienced leaders at the forefront.