Building Effective Volunteer Programs

CalSERVES with Groceries

The Need

The recent economic downturn hit communities hard – especially nonprofits and other service-providers that are most needed in times of trouble. Supports that were once provided gave way to cost cutting and other priorities.

Assistance from service providers has decreased. But community needs continue to increase.  As of December 2013, over 1.5 million Californians are left unemployed – giving California the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation: 8.3%.  According to CalFresh, the number of households receiving food stamps reached 1,576,047 in the 2010/2011 financial year.  This is more than a 45% increase from 2008 – and the numbers stay consistently high.

The combination of the high unemployment rate and state budget cuts has created the perfect economic storm for low and middle-income families in California. All program partners share the VIP vision that a thriving volunteer program is an effective approach to meeting the otherwise un-met needs of these families.

Interested helping meet the needs of California’s communities? Apply to join our VIP AmeriCorps team.

What We Do

We serve. We lead. We get things done. We are VIP.

Through the Volunteer Infrastructure Project (VIP), teams of AmeriCorps members are placed in communities to provide infrastructure support for volunteer programs in service organizations across California. Through 1700 hours of service, they are building the systems necessary for organizations to have volunteer programs for years to come, ensuring that services can continue to those most in-need. VIP Fellows work “behind the scenes” of service, allowing volunteers to take part in necessary programs, and ensuring that the community’s needs are met.

Each of 100 VIP Fellows will work to build quality, sustainable volunteer management systems at Partner Sites. This will include:

  • Recruiting at least 50 volunteers each to serve at their Partner Site.  Fellows will focus on engaging “High Value Volunteers”: highly-skilled volunteers or volunteer leaders who make a high-value contribution to the organization and the clients it serves.
  • Building business partnerships that support the Partner Site through volunteer involvement and financial support.
  • Creating systems that build the organization’s capacity to utilize volunteers, like the creation of position descriptions, development of tracking systems, and implementation of volunteer training programs.

VIP Fellow positions require a mix of volunteer infrastructure building, member training & coaching, community strengthening, and building of business partnerships.

Our Program Results

In 2009-2013, VIP ran four successful years of programming that engaged hundreds of thousands of volunteers.  Through our new grant cycle that started in 2013, we expect to continue to see impactful results.

See what some of our partnering organizations have said about the work of VIP:

From a VIP Fellow: “I took over the Family Service Team, increasing the membership from 54 families to 82 families this year. I also helped create an entirely new model for the program, recruiting seven Team Leaders to help run each team of families for the projects. It is wonderful to see the program grow and become a successful and sustainable model.”

From a staff member at a VIP Partner Site: “The VIP position has enabled us to establish a “culture of service” that is pervasive resulting in hundreds of connections and hours of service realized in surrounding community agencies, schools and civic organizations.”
From a staff member at a VIP Partner Site: “Through VIP service our organization has increased the number of volunteers as well as the quality of the volunteer program that enables implementation of services to local families in need. Through the service and efforts of the fellows, we can continue its high quality of needed services to low income families throughout the local community.”