By Brittany Appleton, Event & Volunteer Manager
Volunteers have always played a part in Waypoint’s mission, which is to inspire people to move forward. However, I knew that volunteers could play a much larger role, allowing us make a bigger impact on the community.
When Waypoint was asked to participate in the Service Enterprise Certification training program, we jumped at the opportunity. The national initiative created by Points of Light is described as a program that “strengthens the capacity of nonprofits to fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills to address community needs,” which is exactly what Waypoint needed to take the volunteer program to the next level. “Service Enterprise is something we've needed for a long time at Waypoint,” said Jaye Kennedy, Waypoint CEO. “This formalized educational tool is a great way to give volunteers an amazing experience and meet the needs of Waypoint. We really want our volunteers to understand the impact their role plays in the work we do.”
Once accepted into the program, we began the hardest part of the program—evaluating our organization and our current volunteer program. Volunteers, board members, and staff completed an assessment to give us a baseline of our current volunteer engagement practices to measure our progress as we move toward certification. The questions really made us think about the work we are doing and how volunteers fit into every single aspect of our organization. The results of the assessment provided insight into our strengths and weaknesses as an organization and provided areas for improvement.
Following the assessment, Waypoint, along with other local nonprofits going through Service Enterprise, completed 16 hours of orientation and training. Each session focused on different topics to challenge us to think differently about the way we recruit, utilize, and appreciate our volunteers. This was one of the best parts of the program because it helped us realize other nonprofits had similar struggles. We were able to brainstorm with each other different ways to address these challenges by utilizing current or potential volunteers. “This process has been a great way to network with other agencies while discovering new and exciting ways to leverage volunteers” said Carrie Slagle, Managing Director of Critical Services.
After the training sessions, we began to implement small changes to the volunteer program. We learned that some organizations have policies that require volunteers to complete a certain number of hours or shifts each month to remain active. Although this wasn’t necessary for all departments at Waypoint, we wanted to pilot this within the Domestic Violence (DV) Victim Services Program to support increased volunteer commitment. Starting in February, we required all DV volunteers to complete at least one volunteer shift per month (can be anywhere from one hour to 24-hours) to remain active. After a few months, we were able to move several volunteers to an “inactive status” who truly had not been active in a very long time, leaving us with a group of committed volunteers who were not only willing to complete the required one shift per month, but often would schedule themselves for more than what was required. Moving forward, this requirement will allow us to set expectations with our DV volunteers early to ensure they understand the commitment needed to work with the program.
In addition, KidsPoint, Waypoint’s Child Care Division, has seen great benefits from the Service Enterprise process. Volunteers have always worked with the child care, but it is often on a one-time basis. After evaluating our current recruitment efforts, we were able to revamp our Classroom Aide position that supports staff in our Learning Center and Preschools. For the first time in over five years, we had three volunteers assisting in the classrooms on a regular basis! After finding success with our Learning Center & Preschools, we then wanted to focus on the School Age Kids Program. Collaborating with School Age staff and with guidance from United Way, we were able to develop a KidsPoint Mentor opportunity that is being piloted in three elementary schools during the 2018-2019 school year. If all goes well, we plan expand the opportunity into our other School Age Kids sites to better support academics with the kids in our care.
Overall, the Service Enterprise process has been extremely valuable for everyone at Waypoint. Autumn Craft, Waypoint’s Chief Development & Marketing Officer, believes that this process will benefit Waypoint in the long-term as it has now become part of Waypoint’s Strategic Plan. “I believe Waypoint has a better understanding on how to leverage volunteers for more skill-based roles and create effective ways to recruit new volunteers and retain our existing ones. I know in the coming years we will continue to use the knowledge we have gained through this process within all programs at Waypoint.” Danielle Rings, Waypoint Board Member who attended the training sessions, echoes these feelings, stating that “Volunteers are a key part of any nonprofit organization's operation. The Waypoint staff have embraced Service Enterprise and it should reap measurable benefits as it continues to become an integral part of operations.”
While we are all so excited that we have now officially received our certification, the actual training and coaching process has meant so much more to me. Throughout the past year, I have been able to focus on myself as a Volunteer Manager and ensure that all of the staff at Waypoint have the skills and resources to effectively support volunteers in all roles throughout the organization. The changes I have seen have been amazing, and I can’t wait to continue on the Service Enterprise journey as we move toward recertification in three years!
To learn more about Service Enterprise, visit their website at http://www.pointsoflight.org/service-enterprise-initiative or feel free to reach out to Brittany at firstname.lastname@example.org.