Earlier this month, I figured that I had a civic responsibility to do more than just criticize the governor’s new Commonwealth Corps (CC), so I volunteered as one of nearly 100 citizen grant reviewers, to make sure that our tax dollars are spent as effectively as possible.
Our task was to read (in 4.5-6 hours) eight proposals, then come to consensus in one of ~20 small groups about their relative ranking. Actual funding decisions will be made by the commission.
What made this RFP unique were parts about what corps members would specifically do to generate more volunteers for the recipient charities, beyond direct service to people in need, which is presumably addressed by their existing volunteer pools.
Sadly, of the eight nonprofits whose proposals I read, only a couple indicated any existing infrastructure to recruit, screen, manage, and expand volunteer roles, and I heard similar observations from two other volunteer grant reviewers. While I don’t doubt that some corps members may have human resources/recruiting talents, none of the proposals I read targeted these professionals, and I am doubtful that a 9-12 month stint by 3+ corps members will change this capacity of these nonprofits for the long term.
As I wrote in December, I believe that what is really needed are resources made directly to nonprofits to develop their capacity to work with potential and actual volunteers effectively (like developing a strategic volunteer plan) and the staff (or part-time equivalents) to carry out the plan would make a more lasting difference.
Since there were many more applicants than funding, my fellow small group readers and I wondered whether the CC Commission will offer training and resources to the many nonprofits that will not receive funding but still need more volunteers to service their needy populations throughout the state. Commissioner David Roach indicated some interest to me after he noted that the commission does not have any hands-on volunteer managers serving on it yet, but the commission’s first, big milestone is to award its first round of grants. I think that someone with direct volunteer recruiting, screening, and management experience should join to commission, to help the commission identify barriers to volunteer participation that can be addressed through the CC and/or other programs.
Here’s hoping that the CC or some funder will recognize the huge need for deliberate, resourced volunteer recruitment and management in the nonprofit sector and address it directly.
While PMD can continue to service a handful of Boston-area nonprofits with episodic needs who lack the resources to maintain ongoing volunteer programs and to serve as the fiscal sponsor of the Directors of Volunteer Administration (DOVA), there are still many more nonprofits that have ongoing volunteer needs and insufficient staffing and expertise to begin or to sustain volunteer programs that are integrated into their organizations.