This all started in our home community of Austin, Texas. Austin is the largest No-Kill community in the United States, a feat due in large part to the efforts of the Austin Animal Center (AAC). AAC provides shelter to over 16,000 animals each year. These animals are cared for and trained by staff and volunteers, and placed in foster homes or adopted into forever homes. Through our work with AAC, we have learned how to build GivePulse into a responsive, evolving, and effective volunteer management platform for pet organizations.
In humane centers and animal shelters, volunteers are used every day of the year, for jobs ranging from veterinary care to animal enrichment, from matching pets to foster parents and forever homes to working in outreach and creative capacities. This wide variety of volunteer opportunities influences how these organizations set up their GivePulse community engagement platforms. Subgroups within GivePulse can focus recruitment for particular types of positions in the shelter and allow for communication directly with that group of volunteers performing a given job. Ensuring that messages go out to the right people at the right time is critical in such a vibrant and multifaceted setting — messages need to be sent regularly to ensure that volunteers are kept informed about program and shelter changes, adoption promotions, and more.
Having an effective community engagement system is necessary for humane centers and animal shelters, organizations that are deeply rooted in volunteering. With the number of people interested and the number of tasks available, a system that allows volunteers to set their own schedules in available timeslots, record their own hours, complete an online application, fill out surveys, and more frees up time to focus on ensuring that shelters of all sizes can keep functioning in a way that is best for the pets. At AAC, Erin and Geoff from the Foster team are able to manage and coordinate over 1000 foster parents. This is critical for the well-being of pets as they wait for their forever homes; a platform allowing them to match foster parents to pets, ensuring that all of the animals they take in are cared for.
Volunteering with animals is a deeply rewarding activity, one that can strengthen ties to the community you live in. Sarah Luce, for example, started out as a volunteer with AAC, a role she held for over four years before she became a volunteer coordinator for the organization. “It was the highlight of my week,” she recalls. Her feelings have not changed now that she works for AAC. “It really does feel like the most rewarding job that I’ve ever had in my life,” she says. The thousands of positive reflections recorded on GivePulse show that Luce is far from alone in being impacted by her time at AAC — and the tens of thousands of impacts indicate that volunteers keep coming back. Perhaps this is in part due to the nature of the community these volunteers are a part of: “Austin is such an animal-friendly community and such an animal-loving community that the people who are here volunteering with us are people that really want to support this mission,” says Woods.
From AAC and the many other amazing organizations on GivePulse (Pima Animal Care Center, Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, Humane Society of the Ozarks, and Southern Pines Animal Shelter, among many others) we can see some of the key ways that pet organizations and animal centers are using GivePulse: organizing and scheduling volunteers for a variety of tasks, tracking hours through impact records, and learning and storytelling through testimonials. GivePulse is also used for assessment through surveys, application digitization through group membership options, and volunteer recruitment through event listing options.
These are just a few examples of how the hundreds of pet organizations we partner with use our services! The most important work for these organizations is to make sure that homeless or hurting animals are cared for and kept safe. Please connect with us to determine what pawsibilities exist and how you can help steer us further.
This post is part of our Spotlight series, where we spotlight our incredible partners. We are so thrilled that GivePulse has been able to work with these nonprofits, institutions, and corporations! A special congratulations to George Washington University for receiving the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification this year.
The GW Experience
George Washington University, located in the political epicenter of the United States, maintains a strong focus on the civic world. This civic interest characterizes the students who choose this campus as their home. “GW students come to DC because they are excited about being in the city and being in the nation’s capital,” says Jovanni Mahonez, Assistant Director of the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service at GWU. “We are an academic community where civic engagement and public service are integral to the ‘GW experience.’”
GW provides students “with opportunities to learn through experience and to test the theories that they have learned in the classroom with the real world around them.”
Opportunities to engage with a vibrant community enhance this experience. Mahonez believes that in order to “appropriately educate individuals,” GWU “must provide them with opportunities to learn through experience and to test the theories that they have learned in the classroom with the real world around them.” This creates benefits that extend beyond student success — academia as a whole benefits greatly from scholarship purposefully engaged with the non-academic world. Mahonez notes that research “designed to address and provide solutions to real world problems often benefits from reciprocal relationships with people outside academe: those in the community.”
From Local to International
Washington, D.C., like many cities, offers a rich variety of opportunities for such scholarship and engagement. Here, “within just a couple of miles — and sometimes a few blocks — we can work on the one hand with powerful, highly resourced institutions and organizations and on the other, collaborate with communities with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation, with attendant illiteracy, health disparities, social exclusion, and neighborhood violence.”
“Within just a couple of miles… we can work on the one hand with powerful, highly resourced institutions and organizations and on the other, collaborate with communities with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.”
Students are offered extensive opportunities to learn and engage in this community. Whether through internships on Capitol Hill and at the White House, work with national and international NGO headquarters, or service and research in schools, community organizations, foods banks, and shelters, students can find a wide variety of options through which to put their skills and interest to work in the community.
A Robust Community Engagement System
Keeping track of this disparate and yet deeply interconnected work requires a robust community engagement system, which GWU has found in GivePulse. Prior to GivePulse, GWU used myriad of other solutions for volunteer management, to help match people to service activities and to track these activities. Some departments and organizations used spreadsheets, Google forms, and Word documents to track this information. Mahonez says that “GivePulse is easier to use and many organizations on campus have switched to GivePulse instead of tracking by spreadsheet!” The benefits from this switch go beyond ease: “We get so much more data now… We have greater success in uptake even than we expected!”
“We get so much more data now… We have greater success in uptake even than we expected!”
This is largely because GivePulse provides a one-stop-shop for GW, community partners, and the broader DC community. In addition to sending students to GivePulse to engage with community partners, GW uses GivePulse for events and programs such as the annual Community Service and Engagement Fair. GWU uses the subdomain GWServes for their GivePulse page, a simple and clear way of describing their aims: “GWServes — it’s what we do. This describes the many forms of community and civic service: direct community service, social innovation, community engaged research, advocacy, and more. GW serves.”
When asked about her advice for others hoping to set up GivePulse for their institution, Mahonez stressed the importance of working with all of the stakeholders at the very beginning — students, partners, and faculty. To help faculty learn about the program, GW pre-populated their courses and provided specialized PowerPoint presentations for them. They also worked with faculty in-person through small meetings and one-on-one conversations, as well as using screen share to guide faculty through the steps.
It is important, Mahonez adds, to also share the impact of the new platform: “This August we are presenting to faculty on how great the data is they can get out if they are more cognizant about what they (and their students) put in. As onboarding is more streamlined we are hopeful the data collected this year will paint a bigger and more detailed picture of community engagement.”
“We are hopeful the data collected this year will paint a bigger and more detailed picture of community engagement.”
For students, GW hosted a kick-off event, complete with cupcakes, to generate excitement about GWServes. “While cupcakes can get anyone excited,” Mahonez said, “the ease of use and variety of uses with GivePulse has proven to be a plus for student participation.” In addition, GW helped students to onboard at the start of the semester, and show them how to see the affiliations of their courses with community partners. “We use it in real time at our end of semester symposium on community engaged scholarship to have students reflect on their course walls and often faculty give them extra credit for this.”
By helping to get key stakeholders set up with GivePulse, GW has been able to use the platform to its fullest potential. But this takes time; they point out that new users should not expect perfection right away, and should be willing to go slowly in setting up GivePulse. Once it is set up, however, the results speak for themselves. With all the data available, Mahonez says, “Our challenge now is to decide the most important things we want to know about engagement.” Not a bad challenge to have.
On January 24, 2020, 119 campuses were notified of receiving the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in this year’s cycle. Of these 119 campuses, 44 were first-time applicants. The Carnegie Foundation has been classifying higher education institutions since the 1970s, when they organized institutions according to degree level, specialization, and more. The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification was introduced in the early 2000s, with the first classification cycle occurring in 2006. Further information about the history of the classification can be found in “The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification: Constructing a Successful Application for First-Time and Re-Classification Applicants” edited by John Saltmarsh and Mathew Johnson of the Swearer Center at Brown University.
Institutions choose to apply for the classification for a variety of reasons. It is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward. Many institutions apply to receive the classification — and by applying, institutions will put themselves into a process of evaluating their institution-wide community engagement commitments. The by-product of going through this framework will be a chance to get a multi-faceted deep dive and reflection on community engagement commitments and practices at your institution. Institutions who do not receive the classification receive feedback to inform their community engagement roadmap, and can reapply in the next classification cycle. Institutions may also recognize areas in which increased efforts in data collection will improve their strategic plans, shifting their operations to gather this data before the next cycle.
The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward.
Moving forward, the classification is renewed every six years and reclassification is available every two. Between the 2015 and 2020 classification cycles, a total of 359 institutions are now classified as Community Engaged campuses. Of the 119 campuses that were either newly classified or reclassified in the 2020 cycle, 67 were public and 52 private. 3 were two-year institutions, while the remainder were four-year. Institutions that received the classification were wide-ranging in their research interests, program offerings, and location, with 47 of the 50 states represented.
GivePulse is excited to have provided tech and platform support to the Carnegie Management Team, housed in the Swearer Center at Brown University, as they revised and streamlined the process. Georgina Manok, Assistant Director of Research and Assessment at the Swearer Center at Brown University, says that having everything together in one online portal allowed real time evaluation. Updates to the online Carnegie framework included the creation of a review process to evaluate and maintain reviewer notes on an application, an improved workflow, and access to data critical to the evaluation process. For Manok, “to access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.” “Now we are beginning to think about how to use this technology to maximize transparency and participation in the review process for the 2023 cycle,” says Mathew Johnson, Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Executive Director of the Swearer Center at Brown University.
“To access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.”
Revision of the application process has gone well beyond the application portal. According to a document created by the Swearer Center, the revision process considered “both changes in the field and gaps in the framework.” Oversight of the framework revision process was led by Manok, Johnson, and Saltmarsh. Primary goals of the revision were to incorporate input from scholars in the field, to review current literature, to listen for emergent fields at national convenings, and to solicit formal input on identified issues. These revisions incorporated changes proposed by members of the National Advisory Committee. In her informational work for campuses, “So You’re Carnegie Classified, Now What?”, Manok suggests that classification is the moment “to plan what the next chapter of community engagement looks like on your campus.” Many campuses who receive the classification use this recognition to guide strategic planning for the institution, particularly looking forward toward reclassification in ten years’ time. The momentum of the classification process can be used to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate a campus (its departments, programs and institution) about the importance of the classification and commitment to it.
The momentum of the classification can be used “to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate your campus about the importance of the classification and your commitment to it.”
The collective community engagement data captured through GivePulse from the applications in this 2020 cycle as well as earlier ones, has benefits beyond those to individual institutions. The aggregate dataset can help tell a national story about how community engagement ebbs and flows, particularly regarding how engagement continues to evolve and be prioritized by in institutions as a way to develop the next generation of citizens and leaders for our communities.
The continuous improvement exemplified by campuses who continue to evolve their practice will be embodied in the revisions for the 2023 classification cycle. Those revisions are already in the works. The 2023 revision cycle will open an online portal for contributions to the revision process in the next month. The classification is also piloting internationally. “It’s been really enriching to see the context of community engagement in different places,” Manok says. “This brings a lot of great learning back to the US.” They are halfway through the pilot project, with representatives from institutions in Canada and Australia doing their midpoint convenings this month. Looking forward, we hope to do more collaborations in the global south and in non-English speaking countries.”
“We are learning a lot from the reciprocal process we have been following in the international pilot that will undoubtedly be iterated onto the 2023 revisions,” said Mathew Johnson. ”We are grateful for the tech support that GivePulse volunteered for this round of application submissions and look forward to utilizing their tech expertise to also add to our continuous improvement.”
GivePulse has had an incredibly exciting 2019! Between the product enhancements and business operation improvements, we’ve been investing further to ensure our platform performs as efficiently and effectively as possible to empower social good. We are so grateful to all of our clients and to all of the amazing volunteers and organizations whose work is making an impact in their communities! Read on to learn more about what we have accomplished this year.
GivePulse continues to grow and improve constantly. Our fantastic team of engineers, in addition to working around the clock to ensure that any bugs are quickly fixed, have heard suggestions from clients, and have used these, along with their own ideas, to make GivePulse more intuitive and efficient. Early in the year, we combined the Sign-In app with the GivePulse app to make our mobile functions more extensive. We then made additional mobile app improvements on our administrative kiosk mode to collect additional custom fields, and added the abilities to verify impacts on the go and the usage of a QR Code for clock-in/out. If you haven’t yet, download the GivePulse app on iOS or Android so you can record and verify hours in addition to our mobile web responsive experience! In the spring and summer, we improved our SMS capabilities and calendar functionalities, particularly with the addition of a deeper integration with popular calendar applications like Google Calendar (email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or to activate these additional functionalities!). Later in the year, we made significant improvement to our internships functionality to help scale placements for institutions. Beyond these, we have continued to make all aspects of our site more customizable (for example, we have added the ability to add images and tables to email templates, the ability to customize confirmation emails for each specific event, and an increase to the amount of recurrences allowed in a recurring event), among the many, many other changes we have had the chance to make. These are just the tip of the iceberg — for more updates, check out the Recent Updates section of our support portal, attend our product meetings, join our listserv by creating an account, or schedule a time to chat with us!
This year saw us attending over 20 different conferences, including IARSCLE, Gulf South Summit, The Impact Conference, Campus Labs Connect, and much much more. Some key takeaways from our time at these conferences includes the importance of hyperlocal engagement, the need for deep institutional commitment in order to sustain change, and the need to assess and tell stories about the work being done. We use what we learn at these conferences to aim enhancements and changes to GivePulse toward making the most effective and sustainable change, so we are always excited to learn from these fantastic opportunities!
We were thrilled to get the chance to highlight the work of many of our incredible partners this year on our blog. This year, our spotlights focused on how GivePulse could be used at universities large and small, on how GivePulse is used to help engage communities to fight food waste and education inequity, and on amazing volunteers engaging with GivePulse. We also looked back on our team’s adventures and offered ideas for how to recruit volunteers and celebrate important holidays in community-oriented and engaging ways. We are excited to continue to spotlight our fantastic partners next year — we already have some great pieces in the works for you!
This year, we welcomed new engineers and business teammatesto our Austin office, and have benefited from their insight and enthusiasm already. We can’t wait to see what is in store for this team next year! We certainly anticipate more eating and more bonding — and perhaps we will welcome some more folks to join us in these adventures next year. Stay tuned!
With 2020 coming up, GivePulse is entering a new decade for the first time since its founding in 2012. Between 2012 and now, we have grown extraordinarily, and that is entirely due to the amazing efforts of folks who use our platform for the greater good. Let us know what you would like to see from 2020, and we can’t wait to connect with you in the new year!
With the end of the year (and the decade!) fast approaching, our team took a few days to rest, look back at our growth this year, and bond as a team. We gathered in beautiful Marble Falls, Texas, just over an hour outside of our home base of Austin.
Although the week leading up to the retreat was chilly and grey, our holiday retreat was filled with sunshine and warmth, both from the people and the weather. Here’s a glance at our weekend, and some takeaways for companies hoping to encourage a productive and tight-knit team:
Clear air, rocking chairs, hammocks and rivers — between all of these elements, we were able to enjoy a truly restful few days. Our team took time to sit and talk on the comfortable porches, to watch beautiful sunsets, to play a game or two of soccer (as well as of Mafia), and to sing songs by a bonfire. All of these moments, while seemingly the most simple, were among the most important for our team. They drew us closer together, encouraging comfort and vulnerability that our team can call upon in the office whenever we have any questions, need help, or are excited to share good news.
Takeaway: It’s the quietest moments that can make all the difference in a busy office environment. Giving your team unstructured time helps them to forge the connections that will bring your company together in times of both stress and joy.
Whenever we gather together, we enjoy preparing and eating big meals (see, for example, our recent Worksgiving)! When we arrived at Marble Falls on Friday afternoon, we immediately set about preparing dinner — and snacking in the meantime. Every day, our team worked together to prepare, cook, and clean, always looking for ways that we could help, checking in with one another to plan an efficient and delicious process. And at night, we sat down for family dinners together, laughing over wine and food, sharing stories and hopes in our cozy cabin. Cooking highlight: five hours spent making delicious mutton and chicken karahi! All agreed that the end result was well worth the time.
Takeaway:Food brings us together, and cooking as a group teaches us to delegate tasks and consider ways to nurture one another. These are skills that are vitally important both in and out of the office, and will help your team to work together efficiently while never losing track of the people that your work nurtures at the end of the day.
On Saturday, we spent the day at Candelight Ranch, a nonprofit offering outdoor opportunities to special needs and at-risk children. Here, the wonderful volunteers guided us through team building exercises that solidified our belief that there’s nothing the GivePulse team can’t do. Some highlights from this day include resourcefulness on the island-hopping activity, where a lost wooden plank couldn’t dampen the good mood as we hopped from platform to platform; support as we helped one another over a sheer wooden wall, helping our team to learn that we were capable of more than we even believed; and facing fears through ziplining and the Canyon Crawl, a tightrope walk across the canyon! We also, of course, enjoyed befriending some four-legged friends through horse groundwork.
Takeaway: Our team worked closely together in a setting that pushed us all outside of our comfort zone — and in doing so, we learned the power of positivity, listening, problem-solving together, and pushing ourselves past our perceived limits. These are all critical skills to a productive, vibrant, and efficient work environment!
This retreat gave us the opportunity to gear up for next year. We did so by looking back at some of the highlights from this year (learning and sharing more about our rockstar volunteers, nonprofits, universities, and corporations; improving both our mobile and web presences, particularly through advances to our app, our corporate matching platforms, and our internship capabilities; growing our team of incredible engineers and success managers), and used this period of reflection to think about what comes next. We are excited to continue growing our team of incredible, community-motivated individuals, and to continue working toward our mission of transforming everyone into engaged citizens.
Takeaway: At the end of the year, make sure to reflect over the many advances you have made, and to share your appreciation for the growth your team has enabled. Sharing this love and gratitude will give everyone the boost they need to engage whole-heartedly in the New Year, helping you to meet your 2020 goals.
With a team like this, we know we can’t go wrong. For any office, time spent relaxing together is crucial to maintaining individual mental health and to strengthening the company. In the end, this time spent resting together is indicative of what is most important to GivePulse — people.
We hope that you have the chance to rest this holiday season and to spend time with the people you love most. Keep an eye out for an upcoming product summary of GivePulse in 2019, and we look forward to sharing more stories in the New Year!
This Thanksgiving, we hope you had the chance to reflect on everything you are grateful for. To kick the season off, a Worksgiving is a must — together as a team, we cooked up a storm in the office kitchen and sat down to a feast that kept us fed for the rest of the week! For those looking for fun times who have an office kitchen, give everyone a task and get cooking! Just make sure you have enough pie. There’s no such thing as too much pie.
Between the bird, the sweets, the pizza, and the amazing company, we found a must-have tradition. Why not do the same with your office this holiday season? Bonus points: ask everyone coming to this holiday gathering to bring a nonperishable food item that you can donate to a local food drive.
TLDR; Cooking and eating together is even more meaningful if we are able to intentionally find a way to also make an impact on our community.
In addition to participating in a food drive, we are also ensuring there are devoted timeframes to use our volunteer time off perks, and a place like GivePulse to find one-time, ongoing, and probono opportunities.
Below are a few of us spending time educating festival-goers to recycle. It’s always great to see one another outside of our daily work routines, while simultaneously doing good and having a blast. If you need volunteer ideas for yourself or team or want to learn how to implement community engagement at your company or organization, let us know how we can help!
In addition to food drives or volunteering, another opportunity is to engage folks to donate during Giving Tuesday (today!), celebrated annually on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Since the first Giving Tuesday in 2012, this occasion has garnered international support. Last year, 400,000,000 dollars (you read that right!) were donated in the United States. This came from 3,600,000 individual gifts. Why not encourage everyone in your office to donate this Giving Tuesday as well?
The holiday season is just starting and we are excited to keep the fun going with our winter retreat in the next week— stay tuned for a wrap-up of this retreat! We are excited to sing some carols, come up with resolutions for ourselves and for GivePulse in the new decade, and of course, to eat lots of food.
Let us know if you are going to bring your office together using any of these ideas this holiday season! Enjoy a healthy, heartwarming, and joyful start to your December.
Anyone who has worked with a service-based nonprofit can attest to the remarkable work of volunteer managers. Volunteer managers act as guides, leaders, problem-solvers, and organizers to ensure effective community engagement. We at GivePulse are so excited to celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMDay) on November 5, 2019!
This year marks the 20th celebration of IVMDay. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Change the Tune.” This theme was chosen as a response to a common frustration: rehashing issues without finding a solution. IVMDay hopes organizations will take this opportunity to think about how they can change the tune of these conversations.
Whatever the capacity you work in, there are many ways that you can celebrate IVMDay:
Just saying a simple “Thank you” can go a long way.
Inform the organization’s board members the valuable work your volunteer managers do and how the volunteers are so critical. Make sure the executive director is informed too!
Gather up a group of volunteers together and do a surprise “Thank you!!”. Throw in a hug and that will mean the world!
Write a letter to your local newspaper highlighting the efforts of volunteer managers in your community.
Send a thank you note or gift basket to a volunteer manager in your life.
Host or attend an event in support of volunteer managers.
If you are a volunteer manager, educate others in your organization and in your community about your role.
These are just a few ideas we put together — for additional ideas, check out the following IVMDay website. How will you celebrate the individuals who change lives through their work as volunteer managers? Let us know in the comments!
In addition, to celebrate IVMDay, GivePulse is kicking off our GivePulse Hero Campaign! If you or someone you know is a superhero volunteer, you can fill out this survey to explain why you think the person you are submitting for consideration deserves to be a GivePulse Hero. Some qualities we look for in a Hero are dedication, enthusiasm, and a deep rooted love of community.
This year, our GivePulse Hero will win a set of prizes and GivePulse swag (details are to-be-announced). We will also feature a spotlight about your efforts on our blog!
The GivePulse Hero Campaign is open until November 30th — so start nominating! We can’t wait to hear your stories.
It’s the spookiest time of year, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about tricks. Treat your community by volunteering and giving back this Halloween!
We’ve got a list of ideas to get you started:
Volunteer at a trunk-or-treat If you have a car, you can participate in a trunk-or-treat! By decorating your car and offering candy in a preset location, you can be part of a safe and fun Halloween experience for your community. Check your local community organizations for Halloween volunteer opportunities for a trunk-or-treat, or for other safe trick-or-treat events. Volunteer to pass out candy, work a game booth, or dress up to entertain the trick-or-treaters!
Donate food and treats to your local food bank For many, the highlight of Halloween is sharing food (in most cases candy) through trick-or-treating. This is also a perfect opportunity to think about food rescue and hunger. Members of your community experiencing food insecurity often rely on food banks — help make their Halloweens brighter by donating what you can!
Organize a post halloween cleanup Fake spiderwebs, candy wrappers, and glow sticks — oh my! Halloween events can leave behind a lot of waste. Organize a neighborhood cleanup! Litter is bad for the environment as well as for morale. Make sure that Halloween doesn’t leave a spooky trace behind, and your whole community will be much happier.
Compost jack-o-lanterns Jack-o-lanterns are the treat that keeps on giving. These fun pumpkin decorations can be composted after they make their Halloween debut. This reduces the waste created by the Halloween festivities — and, even better, can improve the quality of your soil. That jack-o-lantern will keep your thumb a bit greener the rest of the year!
Goodwill or repurposed costumes Buy your costume from Goodwill or another thrift shop and ensure that your purchase has a positive impact. In doing so, you will be supporting these organizations in their work while also recycling a Halloween costume (instead of buying an outfit that will end up shoved in the back of your closet until next October). Better for the budget, the earth, and the community!
Participate in a fun-run Halloween is the perfect time to join a fun-run! These runs, open to participants with any level of running experience, raise funds for causes that will impact your community. Bonus — this may give you a chance to wear that costume again! Run away from ghouls and goblins while supporting a good cause.
Have an idea that we didn’t mention? Leave us a comment!
This post is part of our Spotlight series, where we spotlight our incredible partners. We are so thrilled that GivePulse has been able to work with these nonprofits, institutions, and corporations!
Fighting food waste and hunger
University of Georgia has been affiliated with the Campus Kitchens Project since 2012. While the project’s national arm, DC Central Kitchens, recently announced that they will be moving on to their next phase, UGA’s close relationships with community partners will help them to continue fighting food insecurity.
Their operation is shaped by the seven years working alongside the network of Campus Kitchens. Brad Turner, the Campus Kitchen Coordinator with the Office of Service Learning at UGA, says this has given students different perspectives on the commonalities and differences of fighting food insecurity in different parts of the country. He believes that the benefits are mutual: the Campus Kitchen at UGA hopes to “give people encouragement that really wonderful things can happen when you’ve got people all rowing the boat in the same direction.”
“Really wonderful things can happen when you’ve got people all rowing the boat in the same direction.”
In the case of the Campus Kitchen at UGA, this direction aims toward food security for senior populations, particularly for seniors raising grandchildren. This focus came about after an assessment conducted by the Athens Community Council on Aging and a group of Women’s Studies students as part of their service learning project. The assessment found that among the families served by the ACCA, 78% were food insecure. The Campus Kitchen at UGA focuses their efforts on this population. Turner notes that UGA, the 33rd Campus Kitchen to be established, was one of the first to focus on senior hunger.
An interdisciplinary project
UGA’s motto, “To teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things,” is well suited to the university’s Campus Kitchen. Turner says that Campus Kitchen certainly fits these three models of what service learning aspires to do. Students volunteer with the Campus Kitchen at UGA for a variety of reasons. Some want to combat food waste, and in doing so learn more about older adult issues; others are invested in issues facing senior communities and ultimately learn more about food justice. In its nature, this is an interdisciplinary project. No matter what the reason, all students engage with Campus Kitchen, Turner says, “in the spirit of not only growing professionally, but also serving their community, meeting a need that affects the public.”
This service can change the lives of students involved. The interdisciplinary nature of this work prepares students for careers that may require them to work on teams that involve many different roles. “That’s something we’re seeing more around the country,” Turner notes. “You need a diverse range of experiences, especially if you’re in a nonprofit or direct service sector — you need to understand the context in a lot of different factors (societal, interpersonal) that are impacting the needs and assets in a community.”
Feeding the community
The Campus Kitchen at UGA influences volunteers in another way — it teaches them to cook. “We’re getting people who are learning how to peel a potato or dice an onion for the first time at Campus Kitchen,” Turner says. “That wasn’t at all our intention, but what that tells us is that people are willing to step outside of their comfort zone for the sake of love and for the sake of their community. You get students who might not want to go to a cooking class, but they are interested in serving their community. It’s a really humbling, great privilege to be a part of that for a student, and to honor their humility by giving them this great experience.”
“People are willing to step outside of their comfort zone for the sake of love and for the sake of their community.”
The actual kitchen of the Campus Kitchen at UGA has made a conscientious shift to avoid seeming like a commercial kitchen, while still maintaining, first and foremost, health and safety standards. They must manage operating at an economy scale while creating an environment where people have room to be novices. “We’re trying to balance both feeding the community and making the student experience one that’s going to have a regenerative effect on the student’s life on campus,” Turner says. To do so, UGA has implemented a model in which each shift has less students and more time. In these two hour slots, Campus Kitchen provides a tangible outlet for students to explore an issue that they may be learning about in class.
The students get the chance to learn about food waste firsthand, as the Campus Kitchen at UGA must work to avoid waste in their own kitchens. One method they use is composting vegetable scraps, which they can then take back to the campus garden that in turn grows vegetables for Campus Kitchen. For items not suitable to the garden, Campus Kitchen uses the university’s bioconversion plant, which converts these items into usable forms.
Waste avoidance will continue to be a challenge as the Campus Kitchen at UGA grows. Turner notes that the larger the scale of operation, the greater risk there is for waste. However, food waste is not necessarily something to be pessimistic about — Turner considers it an untapped asset in the fight for food justice. Through asking grocery stores to donate food and ingredients that otherwise wouldn’t be eaten, Campus Kitchen is using food that typically might be wasted to combat food insecurity.
A commitment people are willing to make
This, of course, relies on a number of partners in the community who can provide food that Campus Kitchen uses. Their main partner for food recovery is a local Trader Joe’s, which donates anywhere from 500 to just shy of 1300 pounds of food per donation day. They provide goods that are cosmetically imperfect or are nearing expiration. Other donors include the UGArden, the Foodbank of Northeast Georgia, Athens Farmers Market, and Collective Harvest.
The Campus Kitchen at UGA also works with the Athens Community Council on Aging to ensure that the program is sustainable and safe. The UGA Campus Kitchen works with 54 of the ACCA’s clients and their families; because of this close relationship, the Campus Kitchen complies with ACCA’s trainings and background checks. Turner says that this organization has been incredible to work with, particularly in the mutual trust and willingness to take risks that has allowed their Campus Kitchen to grow.
All of these partners have had to be willing to trust that Campus Kitchen was going to work in the best interest of their community. “When people hear that it’s a food recovery network run by students, the knee-jerk reaction is to question,” Turner says. “It’s a well-founded concern to wonder about the sustainability. We just made it a point that when we establish a relationship, we quickly document how the shift is best done and recruit students to serve in a specific role for a semester at a time. And students just want to be a part of this. They love having a clear role, seeing how this connects, so it’s a commitment people are willing to make.”
The Campus Kitchen at UGA uses GivePulse to schedule and track student engagement with their organization, and has found that the organization has grown to 372 students, with more and more referrals coming through word of mouth.
As they grow, the Campus Kitchen at UGA utilizes GivePulse’s reflection features to incorporate student feedback and ensure that the program remains productive for everyone involved. They can also use this to better verify volunteers even as their numbers grow. Prior to GivePulse, they often had service-learning students that were using paper sign-in forms and requiring signatures, which Turner says was difficult to manage centrally. But with GivePulse’s verification system, Campus Kitchen “transitioned to coaching students to report impacts and share that data with their professor, knowing that any verified impact has already been signed off on by the staff of our program. That has been great for improving efficiency, particularly as we’ve grown and incorporated more students.”
Doing everything they can
As they grow, the Campus Kitchen at UGA plans to continue looking into ways to address the underlying issues that lead to food waste. Turner is confident that given the right inspiration and connection, people are going to find innovative solutions. He believes the role of the Campus Kitchen at UGA is “to give people encouragement that it can be done, that you really can do amazing things in your community, that incredible trust is built through food.”
“Incredible trust is built through food.”
The Campus Kitchen at UGA also wants to help supply other organizations engaging in food security, doing more work with homeless shelters, food kitchens, and similar organizations.
Turner doesn’t lose sight of the bigger picture — solutions need to occur at a higher tier. “The data suggests that the further up the supply chain you go to reduce food waste, the better the savings, reduced environmental impacts… the producers are gonna be getting smarter, it’s in their best interest to cut food waste from their stores.”
Because of this, he sees reason to hope: “It’s my belief that a time could come when there won’t be as much waste in grocery stores. The question that remains for us, what are we gonna do until that day comes? I’m convinced that we need to do everything we can. People are still literally hungry and in dire need, so we have to do everything we can while today is still today. Our goal right now is to do as much as we can for the time we’re graciously given, and do the best good we can.”
“Our goal right now is to do as much as we can for the time we’re graciously given, and do the best good we can.”
Our democracy sits on the foundation of a government by the people, for the people. As active citizens, it’s our duty to make sure that all eligible voters are able to participate in elections, referendums, and primaries at every level — state, local, and national. Our elections should reflect the voices of everyone in our community.
Tomorrow, September 24, 2019, is National Voter Registration Day. National Voter Registration Day, the fourth Tuesday of September, aims to make sure that everyone can exercise their right to vote.
In the 2016 national election, about 25% of eligible voters were unregistered, and these numbers are even higher for underrepresented communities. Voters may be unable to vote if their registrations are outdated or if they miss the deadline to register (particularly given that only twenty-one states offer same-day voter registration).
This year, between the House, the Senate, and governor races nationwide, our votes will decide over 500 officials.
Here are some steps you can take to empower democracy this #NationalVoterRegistrationDay:
Register to vote! There are many tools that can help you register to vote. The National Voter Registration Day website will help you to register in less than two minutes by filling out a simple form. They also provide official voting information pulled from your state’s elections website. You can also register to vote and check on your registration status through the United States government website. Lastly, TurboVote is an online service that provides text and email reminders with important election information, key dates, and deadlines.
Already registered? Make it trend. Let us know that you registered to vote on social media by using the hashtag #NationalVoterRegistrationDay. Go ahead and tag us in your posts and share this piece!
Ask a friend to join you. Check in with the important people in your life and ask them if they have registered to vote. Help a friend or relative make sure their registration is up-to-date. Don’t be afraid to cross party lines. Remember: the more people who are able to vote, the closer we get to a government by the people, for the people.
Engage with volunteer efforts for registering voters — and with other opportunities in your community. Civic engagement in every form is critical to a healthy democracy. Check GivePulse for local voter registration opportunities and other ways to get engaged!