Last week, in the midst of a pandemic, Texas faced an unprecedented winter storm. Millions were left without power or water; for those who had water, it was often unsanitary. Our own team sought solutions to keep us safe and warm, which we compiled here. We saw local organizations leverage GivePulse to fundraise hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed vulnerable members of their community, and collaborated with the City to help with warming centers and shelters. We continue to work with churches and local authorities to ensure everyone has access to showers, safe drinking water, and laundry services. If we can help with any immediate needs, please let us know at email@example.com.
As we turn the corner, with warmer weather signaling safety to those in our home state, we know that COVID-19 remains a challenge to be overcome. In these challenging times, we have continued to be inspired by the speed and efficacy with which the scientific community stepped up to develop vaccines that will allow our communities to begin moving toward normalcy. As vaccine rollout progresses across the country, our team at GivePulse have been collaborating with health authorities and institutions to coordinate volunteers and facilitate the safe, secure, and accessible distribution of vaccines. These efforts are central to our mission of empowering social good.
This post highlights a few of the institutions and partners we’re working with to facilitate vaccine distribution, from our home City of Austin to organizations and institutions across the country.
If you have any questions about whether GivePulse can support your vaccination efforts, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin: Vaccine Distribution in Our Home City
In the aftermath of an unprecedented winter storm, the City of Austin is continuing to recruit qualified individuals to serve as patient representatives and administer vaccines for their COVID-19 response. The initiative, dubbed “United Against COVID” by Austin Public Health (APH), will be imperative to the city’s operations as they find, train, and manage the thousands of volunteers required to build immunity against COVID-19.
“We never imagined we’d be faced with a once-in-a-generation winter storm during a global pandemic, but we’re glad we can play a part to keep our hometown and other communities safe, whether that’s by supporting warming shelters, showering facilities, water disbursement sites or facilitating vaccine distribution.”
The United Against COVID initiative will also center on the recruitment of volunteers to their appropriate Points of Dispensing. Points of Dispensing (PODs) serve as community locations for the distribution of medical countermeasures such as vaccines, antibiotics, and more. The City of Austin willcreate a virtual hub for local PODs from which they can manage different locations at the same time, displaying vacancies for volunteers in locations near them. From this hub, APH will also coordinate communication and reporting to ensure that health administrators can seamlessly control, audit and access data to distribute the vaccine throughout the community.
Once they have found the appropriate POD for their location, volunteers can submit their availability and qualifications, along with any other information required by APH to ensure safe and effective vaccine distribution. APH will review these applications to screen potential volunteers and offer qualified applicants access to volunteer opportunities. With this designated group pre-selected, administrators for the PODs can easily message out any immediate needs via email, SMS, or SNS. This ensures that, should more volunteers be required for any situation, administrators have a list of available and qualified individuals at their fingertips.
Working With Partners Across the Nation
GivePulse is proud to be working alongside our hometown’s leadership for United Against COVID. We are taking our learnings in Austin, TX to activate other cities, states, institutions, organizations and public health authorities to get folks vaccinated.
For organizations, institutions, cities and municipalities who would like to collaborate with us, let us know how we can launch vaccination appointments, symptom checking, patient statuses, volunteer signups, community fundraising and more. Email email@example.com for more information or to set up your public health portal.
Join us on March 31 at 2pm CT for our Vaccinations and Public Health webinar. Register here.
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!
Scott Russomanno runs a small nonprofit powered by volunteers. As the only full-time employee of the organization, he manages all programming, outreach and fundraising efforts for All-Stars Club Central, an organization providing a place of belonging to community members with developmental disabilities and nights of rest for parents and caregivers. All-Stars’ programming depends greatly upon the generosity of their community and their financial lifeline, both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been recurring donations.
In this spotlight, we will share how recurring donations can be a sustainable foundation for organizations to make an impact, as well as how your organization can develop a consistent base of recurring donors just like All-Stars.
Recurring Donations Make for Better Planning
Recurring donations make All-Stars’ work easier by providing a steady stream of income that allows them to plan programming and ensure that their constituents receive important and necessary services. “We encourage our donors to make recurring donations because it allows us to plan for growth far more accurately since we can rely on a base of income each month” says Russomanno. “One time donations are great, but can make it much more difficult to project. Focusing on growing our base of monthly donors allows us to be smarter in our financial projections and far more accurate in our decision making process.”
“Focusing on growing our base of monthly donors allows us to be smarter in our financial projections and far more accurate in our decision making process.”
Recurring Donors Give More
Recurring donations have been proven time and time again to increase giving, engagement and donor retention. Although a donor may set up a monthly recurring donation at a lower amount than a one-time donation, the cumulative effect of those smaller monthly donations will quickly surpass the amount a donor would’ve given with a one-time gift. The average recurring donor gives $332 annually to All-Stars Club Central’s general donations page, while the average one-time donor gives $204. National statistics show that average online recurring donors give 255% more than one-time donors.
Increasing Community Dedication & Donor Retention
Many of All-Stars’ recurring donors also serve as volunteers with the organization. Russomanno encourages all volunteers to set up monthly recurring donations of any size or sponsor an “All-Star” for $20 a month. In doing this, he has noted increased engagement and dedication from volunteers. “Volunteers who donate are generally far more engaged with our programs. Those who give of their time and financial resources feel a stronger sense of ownership and thus more likely to stay involved for the long term.”
In addition to being a tool to increase engagement among volunteers, recurring donations are a great way to keep your existing donors from abandoning your cause. Donor retention rates across the country run low with the average around 45%. Increasing donor retention allows your organization to focus on growing programming and support long term instead of worrying about how you’re going to meet your end of year fiscal goals. Industry research shows that recurring donors have an average retention rate of 90% and are six times more likely to leave an organization in their will or make a legacy gift.
“Volunteers who donate… feel a stronger sense of ownership and thus are more likely to stay involved for the long term.”
Sustainable Funding During Unpredictable Times
COVID-19 has caused economic uncertainty for millions of people, creating a challenge for nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits need financial support now more than ever but feel uneasy asking a constituency potentially facing financial hardship to increase their giving. Recurring giving is a simple way to create sustainable financial support that is realistic for donors on a budget. While some donors experiencing financial uncertainty may hold back on giving a gift of $100 right now, donating $10 or $20 a month can feel like a more manageable way to support your organization, allowing them to continue support and actually donate more than they would have otherwise.
All-Stars has also harnessed the generosity of their community and the power of recurring giving through a local business partner. “Local businesses who commit to your mission are incredible resources for potential donors,” says Russomanno. “We have established a relationship with a local business who offers a monthly service package but requests payments are made as donations to our organization. This is a win/win/win as the client receives great service, we receive a base of monthly donors, and the business receives an additional touch point to help diagnose larger issues that bring in greater revenue.”
Community partnerships with local businesses and corporations can be extremely beneficial to your organization, especially when it comes to recurring giving. Find businesses whose values align with the mission of your organization and rather than asking for a one-time donation, encourage them to start a recurring giving program that deducts from employee paychecks or sets up monthly gifts from customers in exchange for services. This will allow you to create a sustainable funding source and build stronger relationships with businesses and donors over time.
“Local businesses who commit to your mission are incredible resources for potential donors.”
Takeaways and Next Steps
You may be wondering how you can tap into recurring giving to reach and maintain a strong donor base like All-Stars has. Here are our top three takeaways from Russomanno’s experience:
Start a membership or sponsorship program: Just as All-Stars encourages donors to subscribe to a $20 per month sponsorship, you can create a membership program to help donors recognize the impact of their giving. Consider implementing multiple donation tiers and specifying the milestones that can be accomplished, showing the direct impact the donor’s contribution will have on the community. For example, food banks might include different tiers to correspond to a number of families that can be fed through a monthly donation.
Start a volunteer giving program: Russomanno noticed that volunteers who donate are likely to be more engaged with the organization overall. Encourage volunteers to donate by including links in communications and reinforcing how recurring donations relate directly to their work in the community.
Partner with a local business: For All-Stars, a partnership with a local business has been key to their recurring donations program. Consider partnering with local businesses to reach new donors and stay connected to your community. These businesses may even ultimately find additional ways to give back to your organization, such as volunteer time off programs, payroll deductions, and gift or hours matching.
Start Accepting Recurring Gifts
Recurring giving programs are easy to maintain through online giving platforms such as GivePulse, which offers recurring giving to all users of the platform. For Russomano, the flexibility and customization of giving pages has allowed him to bring in more recurring donors. “GivePulse has allowed us to create specific fundraising campaigns that we can use for each of our fundraising events or programs. It allows us to offer targeted campaigns with recurring and one-time options as well as opportunities for our volunteers to get involved and lead their own fundraising page.”
Here’s how you can start accepting recurring donations for your organization:
Thank you so much to Scott Russomanno and the whole team at All-Stars Club Central for your dedication and service to your community. Your work provides valuable services and a place of belonging that makes our world a better place. Learn more about All-Stars Club Central and support their work here.
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!
More than 40 years ago, Genentech founded the biotechnology industry with the invention of genetic engineering. Today, they remain a leader in the field, pursuing groundbreaking science to tackle some of the world’s most serious medical conditions. Equally as important is Genentech’s recognition that science must go hand-in-hand with the greater good, whether that is in the scientific community, patient care, or corporate giving.
While they have won awards for everything from their cutting-edge science to their workplace culture, Genentech’s dedication to making a positive impact in their community remains one of their most defining qualities. Genentech has been on People’s 50 Companies that Care list since 2017, its inaugural year, and has been one of the Top Bay Area Corporate Philanthropists for fifteen years running.
Genentech’s emphasis on community good is particularly evident in their K-12 programs in partnership with the South San Francisco Unified School District. Since 2010, the Gene Academy mentorship program has brought Genentech’s innovative scientific approach to local elementary schools. In 2015, they expanded this program to Futurelab, which offers mentorship for middle and high school students as well. These mentoring programs are widely recognized for paving the way in community engagement, winning the prestigious STEM Mentoring and Making award for Excellence in Public-Private Partnership in 2016 as well as recognition for Impactful Philanthropy from the National Mentoring Partnership in 2019.
Futurelab is an intrinsic part of Genentech’s company culture. Because of Genentech’s investment in their community, 89% of Futurelab volunteers report feeling more connected to the company and to each other through their participation in these programs, and 66% of Genentech employees say that Futurelab contributes to their retention. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Genentech began to scale the impact made by Futurelab through their partnership with GivePulse to streamline the scheduling, communication and tracking of its various programs.
In this post, we will share how Futurelab has been able to continue strengthening their mentoring programs as they transition from in-person to virtual in the wake of COVID-19. We will first outline each of the three mentoring programs, sharing both how they looked in the past and how they will look in their new virtual format. We will then reflect on how these transitions relied upon Genentech’s close ties with their community. Finally, we will share Genentech’s plans to continue innovating and scaling with GivePulse, offering a new, hopeful lens through which to understand the transitions necessitated by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Futurelab: Excite, Engage, and Equip — Virtually
Futurelab is comprised of three distinct K-12 STEM mentoring programs, each with its own unique goal. Gene Academy exciteselementary students about science. The Helix Cup engagesmiddle school students through a hands-on competition. Science Garage equipshigh school students for future careers, in and beyond biotechnology. Cherilyn Cabral, Senior Manager of Corporate & Employee Giving, says, “What we’re aiming for is that the kids who graduate from our program are science literate and know the importance of science… [and] hopefully some of them will become scientists too.”
This fall, Futurelab has had to change their programs in a way they never anticipated. Their in-person, hands-on programs are transitioning to entirely virtual opportunities in response to COVID-19. However, their goals to excite, engage, and equip students remain the central facets of each program. “The way we are approaching this is to keep the goal of each program intact,” Cabral says. “The delivery is what changes.” Volunteers will continue to schedule and sign up for opportunities through Genentech’s partnership with GivePulse — only now, the experience will be remote and virtual.
This transition will not alter the emphasis on long-term and hyper-local impact. Cabral says, “South San Francisco is rich in underrepresented groups we hope will one day work at a place like Genentech.” In order to achieve this goal in the changed landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic, Futurelab has had to be adaptive and responsive, without losing sight of the most important elements of the programs.
“The kids who graduate from our program are science literate and know the importance of science.”
Gene Academy: Excite
To that end, each of the programs has responded differently to the pandemic. Gene Academy, an after-school mentoring program for third through fifth graders, seeks to excitestudents about science. Previously, students came to Genentech once a week to participate in activities that use their natural curiosity to get them excited about science.
“We have kept intact the consistency and continuity of interaction.”
Now, Gene Academy will support this same natural curiosity through virtual mentoring. Students will be paired with volunteers; these pairs will then read a high-quality science article and send digital letters back and forth responding to the article. This digital pen-pal program will allow for thoughtful discussion, natural curiosity, and individualized connection. “We have kept intact the consistency and continuity of interaction,” says Cabral.
To foster excitement among the students, the science articles are divided into units that culminate in a related project. Through this consistent interaction and tiered, engaging content, Gene Academy will continue to build on students’ natural curiosity to excite them about science.
Helix Cup: Engage
Helix Cup offers a chance to engage this excitement through a competition to counteract the falloff in science interest in eighth grade. This same competition will take place this year — only now, teams will work together virtually. “They will be building something as a team, so they need to make sure they are communicating with each other.” says Cabral. “That’s another challenge for the students, who are currently isolated at home.”
Luckily, they won’t be in this alone; the students will have help from Genentech volunteers, who will offer design consultations and provide data analysis guidance to decide on the best materials and model for the projects. There will also be a new element to the Helix Cup: oral presentations. Cabral is excited about this addition to the evaluation process. “In science, you always have to communicate,” she says. “Why did you make that mistake? Why did you choose that material? What did you learn from this? We do that at Genentech, and it’s important to get that started early.”
“They will be building something together as a team, so they need to make sure they are communicating. That’s an additional challenge.”
Science Garage: Equip
Science Garage equipsstudents with the tools they’ll need in college, no matter what degree path they take. In this four-year program, students previously got access to state-of-the-art equipment at the Science Garage biotech lab and classroom and learned lab techniques from pipetting, media prep, and chromatography to other skills like data analysis useful in and beyond Genentech.
Realizing that Science Garage could not possibly include all of its usual features, Futurelab sought to emphasize the most impactful elements and put their energy into creating virtual versions of these.
This led to the creation of two main events: a biotech field trip and a poster session. The poster session involves input from Genentech volunteers during the poster creation and research, student presentations to practice their scientific communication skills, and feedback from volunteers on the presentation. During the virtual biotech field trip, students will hear from Genentech employees about their career journeys across the different functions they work on — research, development, manufacturing, and commercialization.
In addition to learning about these four stages that lead from the creation of the medicine to its delivery to patients, students will have opportunities for career conversations online via the GivePulse Zoom Integration, where they can learn about career journeys and gain a stronger understanding of what an employee does.
Responding to community needs
Over the course of transitioning to virtual programs, Futurelab needed to consider several elements. The first, and most critical, was how to respond to the changing needs and challenges within their own community. “We can move fast,” Cabral says, “but there are bigger challenges at the [South San Francisco Unified School District] than what we are trying to do… At the end of the day, the school district and Genentech agree — the students need us now more than ever.”
“We rely on the support of our teachers. We cannot move forward with these programs on our own.”
The Futurelab programs are not just about academics — they are also about social and emotional factors. During these times, this aspect has become even more critical. In a period of significant disconnection and isolation for these students, “another adult that really cares about you is important,” particularly when some students may not have parents at home who have the time or capacity to check in on schoolwork. “Focus on the connection,” says Cabral. “They don’t have to learn all of these science concepts by the end of the program — it’s making sure the students feel like they’re cared for, and they’re connected to someone else.”
Security, too, has become of the utmost importance. “We have to protect the children,” Cabral says. All mentoring interactions will be monitored by a teacher; for the younger students, there will be no video interactions, and the digital pen-pal letters will be moderated by a Futurelab team. Maintaining compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is critical, as is ensuring that students are safe in these online interactions.
“The way we are approaching this is to keep the goal of each program intact. The delivery is what changes.”
Meeting the needs of the students is critical; equally important is meeting the needs of the teachers. “We rely on the partnership with our teachers,” says Cabral. “We could never move forward with these programs on our own.” With teachers potentially overwhelmed by changing expectations for distanced or hybrid learning, recognizing the elements that can remain the same is important. For example, rather than creating a new competition for the Helix Cup, Futurelab will be using the same egg drop challenge that teachers are familiar with from previous competitions. Maintaining familiarity where possible, while adapting where necessary, helps all stakeholders to be involved in the implementation and success of the programs.
Making an impact through innovation
Genentech, as a biotech company, sees challenges and uncertainty as the jumping-off points for learning and growth. In line with this way of thinking, Futurelab recognizes that the challenges of these times encourage innovation and growth. “I think we are able to really focus on more impactful events and do them more efficiently,” says Cabral.
Futurelab volunteers are learning crucial skills for engaging audiences virtually — skills that can carry over beyond mentorship. The volunteers have to be “very dynamic” in their online interactions, Cabral says; “You have to double your engagement factor when you’re doing it online. That’s a skill you can apply to work — how to interact virtually.” Volunteers understand the relevance of their work in Futurelab — 87% of volunteers reported feeling that their skills are strengthened through Futurelab.
To teach these new skills for a virtual environment, Futurelab has had to alter its trainings. Rather than the one-time training offered in previous years, Futurelab will now feature multiple bite-sized trainings, with tips and tricks throughout the year.
Training volunteers effectively for this new reality is of the utmost importance to the students: Cabral notes that during the virtual sessions, “You can’t step out; you’re in it. You have that one and a half hours to engage that student. If you don’t engage that student, you’ve lost that opportunity.”
“The students need us now more than ever.”
Because of this, Futurelab volunteers will need to make sure they can schedule and commit to consistent engagement. For example, all Gene Academy volunteers will need to write their digital pen-pal response letters every week. “If there’s no letter uploaded, it’s very hard to explain why your mentor didn’t write you a letter,” Cabral says. With the GivePulse Google Calendar Integration, volunteer schedules are synchronized with their office/work calendar to simplify management and coordination efforts.
Looking ahead: Opportunities for scaling
With the help of their community and platform partners, as well as the innovations and learnings from this new period of volunteer engagement, Futurelab is looking ahead at the possibility of scaling to include more school districts in their virtual efforts. There are several different ways this scaling could look in the near future. One is expanding beyond the South San Francisco Unified School District to offer an online version to students across California. Another is scaling the virtual opportunities to other Genentech sites across the United States.
“These could very well be our next generation of scientists and innovators.”
All of these programs, whether in-person or virtual, aim to change some staggering statistics: only 6% of United States high school students pursue a STEM degree in college. Additionally, underrepresented minorities make up 27% of the country’s population, but 11% of the STEM workforce. One-third of students lose interest in STEM by fourth grade. By eighth grade, that number jumps to fifty percent. Genentech hopes their efforts will help increase the diversity of the STEM workforce, particularly given that 90% of the students in the South San Francisco Unified School District are people of color.
Genentech’s work is clearly of the utmost importance. And with all that they’re learning from the challenges of COVID-19, they may be able to expand their programs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. For Futurelab, the story of their COVID-19 response is one of hope — hope that will strengthen communities and lay the foundation for the future. As Cabral says, “These could very well be our next generation of scientists and innovators.”
Swearer Center staff, pictured above, celebrate partners, students, staff, and community
In this time, it is crucial to be socially close, even while we are physically distant! Now, more than ever, community engagement requires us to reevaluate existing relationships and double down on cultivating them further. Your program, no matter where or how you work with the community, can deepen connections and plan alongside others in this period of uncertainty.
This is an opportunity to take important steps:
Foster community both with like-minded partners and within your organization
Dig deep into the wicked challenges and social justice issues behind the work you do in the community through advocacy and public policy
Listen to a variety of voices, working together to find creative solutions and sharing these findings with peers and affiliates
The relationships that you build now, and the ones that thrive even in these deeply challenging circumstances, are the ones that will be strongest on the other side. In this post, we share how our partners at the Swearer Center at Brown University are building on and working toward the ongoing strength and success of their community, and share our takeaways to help you do so as well as you work in or alongside community organizations.
Cultivate relationships with like-minded partners
Associate Dean and Interim Director of the Swearer Center Betsy Shimberg recalls the Swearer Center’s first Community Partner meeting after Rhode Island went into lockdown. “We thought three community partners would show up,” she says. “Over twenty showed up. We were thrilled to be in that role. The vision we had for the network is finally being realized.”
Now more than ever, communities are looking for spaces to ask questions and offer support. Consider how your organization, business, or campus can foster these community connections. Perhaps, like the Swearer Center, you can serve in a convening role. Maybe you can offer space, web conferencing tools, and other resources for community meetings, or create an informational network where volunteers and partners can share their successes and learnings from these times. In addition, you can work with partners to develop safe in-person engagement opportunities and virtual alternatives, as well as to evaluate program readiness to create virtual or safe in-person opportunities.
Strong partnerships and affiliations will help communities to thrive, together — and the relationships that are fostered in these times will be vital after the pandemic. #StrongerTogether
Create and engage community within your program
This community must be internal as well as outward-facing. Whether you are a business connecting to employees, an organization maintaining volunteer engagement, or a campus supporting students, you are likely figuring out how to foster a strong community with little or no in-person connection.
This is certainly true at the Swearer Center. For many students at Brown, Shimberg says, the Swearer Center “functions as their community on campus. It’s their social life; it’s their cohort.” Because of this, it is crucial that they work to maintain this sense of engaged and active community. To do so, the Swearer Center is developing new virtual workshops, meetings, and Zoom orientations for the fall 2020 semester. “Now, more than ever, people want to be connected,” says Shimberg. “It’s just figuring out how to do it in a way that’s best for the students.”
This is an opportunity to ensure that your community is accessible after the pandemic. The communities that are able to strengthen now will be able to maintain accessibility and connectedness moving forward. At Swearer, Shimberg recalls that community partners would often be unable to contribute to trainings and orientations for students due to the time it took to reach campus; now, she says, these partners can contribute pre-recorded video footage in order to facilitate reflection. Offering video options in addition to or as an alternative to in-person workshops and orientation makes opportunities more accessible to students and volunteers.
Because this accessibility is so widely beneficial, Shimberg says that the Center is planning to keep these alternatives even after the pandemic. Changes you make now can improve accessibility and retention moving forward. For example, creating regular video content with information from community partners and offering smaller group in-person or remote reflection opportunities provides both greater input from the partners whose voices must be amplified and greater opportunities for students and volunteers to connect. Make sure that these efforts occur at regular intervals that all of your community can benefit from.
Focus on project-based opportunities centered on advocacy, policy and social innovation
“Direct service is really important, but there are a lot of other tools in our social justice toolbelt that we want students to learn about,” says Shimberg. “We’ve been asking ourselves, okay, how might we pivot and go beyond direct service? That’s the innovation you see lots of places doing in this time around COVID.”
Shimberg notes that virtual options such as advocacy and public policy are areas where student and volunteer voices can make immense change, particularly in an election year. These opportunities can “get to the root cause of social justice,” Shimberg says, adding, “we think it’s important that people donate a can of food for the food drive, but can the Swearer Center be a place where we ask, ‘Why are other people hungry?’” Advocacy and policy are tools to address these underlying systemic issues.
Both virtual and in-person engagement can incorporate advocacy and public policy work, such as writing legislative briefs and researching best-practices for partner organizations to move the needle. In this way, these project-based opportunities are transformative and accessible tools in our social justice toolbelt.
These can also be opportunities where skills-based and pro bono volunteering are effective. There are many areas – legal research, marketing and social media, fundraising, insurance, and more – where businesses and individuals might be able to offer expertise pro bono. In other cases, organizations or universities can support training in these fields, shifting their volunteer bases and students to focus on these imperatives.
All of these options will remain equally important after the pandemic is over. The planning and transitioning that you work on now can create new, crucial facets of your community engagement program after the pandemic, helping to alleviate the many social justice concerns endemic in our country.
At the Swearer Center, a lot of the most critical innovation is coming from students and community partners collaboratively. From creating English as a Second Language lessons to help communities order takeout and drive-through, to compiling lists of how volunteers can be involved in assisting people experiencing homelessness, students have been “leading the way.” Kate Porter, Swearer Center Assistant Director of Communications and Public Engagement, says, “If we’re able to follow their lead and help implement their ideas, that’s huge.” Swearer has made space for these collaborations by virtually sharing ideas, feedback, and resources.
Your organization and community can facilitate the important and innovative conversations that will allow for creative changes to happen. This is the most crucial aspect of successful community engagement in these changing times: make sure that you have actively sought out the input of your communities in order to understand what “successful” means to them.
Innovation, pivots, changes during these times are a good thing! We see people of all backgrounds come together to help one another. Whether or not you have settled on a plan for the upcoming months, starting a dialogue and working on the fundamentals of sustaining your community will lay the foundation for real and ongoing change.
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!
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.”
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!
With programs spanning the Providence public school district, Inspiring Minds maintains deep ties to the Providence, RI community. Inspiring Minds has several programs that work with elementary school students in Providence; according to Melissa Emidy, Executive Director of Inspiring Minds, “the underlying theme of all of our programs is that adults go into classrooms in Providence public schools and create relationships and support academic success.”
These relationships rely upon effective and consistent engagement from volunteers and the nonprofit. Emidy defines engagement as “being authentic and listening to the needs of your community, and providing services that are impactful and effective and to the benefit of your community.” This focus on authenticity and impact has shaped the recently updated mission of Inspiring Minds: “Inspiring Minds empowers students for success in school and life by supporting them with trusted relationships, tutoring and mentoring from inspired community members.” Trusted relationships are at the forefront of Inspiring Minds’ mission.
If volunteers are to create trusted relationships in Providence public schools, they must recognize how their own backgrounds and those of the students impact their work.
To accomplish this mission, the volunteers need to understand the context of their work. In order to create trusted relationships in these schools, they must recognize how their own backgrounds and those of the students impact their work.
“Both students and teachers come with background information, most from different places,” says Emidy. “We work with elementary school kids only, and 95% of those kids are students of color, 86% are poor, and our teachers are overwhelmingly white middle class women. They have different backgrounds.” This is where the volunteers come in: “By bringing community members into the classrooms, we build a bridge between those two worlds.”
While many teachers commute in from towns and cities beyond the Providence border, volunteers are members of the Providence community. Through Inspiring Minds’ programs, Emidy says, “Kids build a relationship with someone who’s in their supermarket — how cool is that? Having community members in the class is awesome.”
Functioning within dysfunction
The work being done by Inspiring Minds and their volunteers is necessary and complicated. Providence public schools were recently the focus of national attention when an investigation by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that students in Providence public schools were performing drastically below the national average, with 90 percent of students not proficient in math and 80 percent not proficient in English. The reasons for this are widespread, including extensive issues of bullying and fighting, low student engagement, and low teacher morale. Emidy describes the report as “93 pages of absolute heartbreak.” While she notes that there are good practices happening at some schools, the underlying conditions surrounding Inspiring Minds’ work remain complex: “We are a community agency functioning within dysfunction.”
“The underlying problem,” Emidy adds, “is systemic racism, and that’s a big issue to grapple with, especially for people who haven’t been on that journey to understand their privilege.” In this context, training and volunteer management are crucial, particularly as the volunteers’ actions in the school can be life-altering for students. “In a lot of cases,” Emidy says, “these trusted relationships between community members and students makes [the student’s] day.” To build this trust, volunteers must learn how to communicate with and inspire these students.
“We are a community agency functioning within dysfunction.”
Before Inspiring Minds started using GivePulse, volunteer management took up a significant amount of time that could otherwise have been used for training volunteers and interacting with schools. But with GivePulse, “We are so much more efficient,” Emidy says. “We can spend more time in schools supporting volunteers; our whole entire agency has shifted because of GivePulse. We don’t spend nearly as much time matching and placing — we spend much more time at schools.”
This shift in focus from volunteer management to program enrichment is evident in the roles of the Inspiring Minds staff. “In our new model,” Emidy says, “we have a program director who is going to be meeting with teachers and learning what our kids’ needs are through data and conversation.” With the extra time provided by a responsive management system, this director “can then go into a classroom and coach [the volunteers] in how to work with that kid.” According to Emidy, this is “transformational from where we were two years ago.”
Inspiring Minds worked to set up GivePulse in the summer of 2018. Emidy says that the best thing Inspiring Minds ever did in setting up GivePulse was to hire an intern whose role was to learn and train others in the platform. “Anyone that’s going to change and have a new system is going to have an implementation plan,” Emidy says. “You’ve got to have a subject matter expert, and you’ve got to have someone who’s going to do the tedious work and then train your staff.”
In regards to these trainings, Emidy adds, “Be patient.” It may take time for volunteers and coordinators to engage fully with GivePulse, but once they do, the organization will transform. Overall, Emidy says that switching to GivePulse “has changed our organization tremendously. I’m happy with it; I tell people all the time.”
With GivePulse, Emidy says, “We don’t spend nearly as much time matching and placing — we spend much more time in schools.”
A key facet of this change is the information Emidy is able to gather through GivePulse. Before using GivePulse, Inspiring Minds wanted to get everything on one sheet of paper, and because of this did not ask any demographic information.
Emidy says that switching to GivePulse “has changed our organization tremendously.”
With the online application she has added through GivePulse, Emidy says, “Now I can tell what the demographics are of my volunteers. I now know their employment information, and the big question — does your job do matching gifts? I can look at their employer and know that XYZ employer matches gifts and get that information to that volunteer, so that I can not only get the volunteer’s participation and time, but I can also get a corporate gift.”
Interactions with both volunteers and donors have been altered significantly by implementation of the platform. “We interact so much more. If you go back to when I first got here, we didn’t even know how many volunteers we had out there on any given day.” Now, when Emidy wants a funder to come and visit a program, she “can just log in to the system and do a little magic and find out how many volunteers [she has] at one location at any given time.”
When she wants a funder to visit a program, Emidy “can just log in to the system and do a little magic and find out how many volunteers [she has] at one location at any given time.”
Moreover, these operations can all take place at the very start of working hours: “Operationally, I can do everything I need to do before I hit the office, which in a small shop is beautiful.” She can access critical aspects of volunteer management “anywhere. It’s all in one spot.”
Volunteer tracking and coordinating benefit from this easy access to information. Emidy can easily “message people who need to know one certain thing. I can message all of my RIC students a RIC notice; I can email all my Brown work-study students and tell them their timecards are due; I can message an entire school and tell them that next week is eighties day.” These targeted messages allow for efficient volunteer coordination, opening time for actions that more directly impact the elementary school students.
Now, Emidy can focus on creating trusted relationships through both work and play. Inspiring Minds is currently planning for trainings that will address how to move forward after the Johns Hopkins report, including a panel discussion on the report’s findings.
In addition, Inspiring Minds will be working with an Americorps fellow to manage volunteers with GivePulse. Beyond this, they have “a couple of new things in the works,” including a burgeoning work-study partnership with Providence College.
Even as these elements change, Inspiring Minds’ emphasis on mutual trust and growth remains the same. Their play-based model relies on understanding how different contexts and backgrounds influence interpretation. Emidy says that in her trainings, she can watch this understanding grow. Students are far from the only ones who benefit from this engagement: “It’s such a cool, eye-opening thing when you say that to adults… having that community member in the classroom, it’s learning on both sides.”
“Having that community member in the classroom, it’s learning on both sides.”
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!
The right reasons
JB Hunt has a long history of giving back to their community. As a Fortune 500 transportation company, their culture of giving thrives in part because of their trucking roots. Amy Bain, Executive Assistant to the Chairman and Manager of Company Giving and Volunteering with JB Hunt, believes this attitude permeates the company all the way to the individual truck drivers. “If something bad happened to you,” she says, “you wanted one of our trucks to stop, because they’d always get out and change a tire. That’s the culture we started with — we did things for the right reasons.”
“We wanted to be like those drivers changing tires. We wanted to get our hands dirty.”
It was that desire to make a direct impact with their community that led the company to reevaluate their model of giving. In the past, “No one ever got to get their hands dirty,” remarked Bain. “I think we wanted to be like those drivers changing tires. We wanted to get our hands dirty.”
JB Hunt also wants to make sure that they are giving for the right reasons: for the good of the community rather than for public approval. She finds that often, “people will say, ‘I didn’t know you did that,’ and that’s because we really want to keep our roots of doing it for the right reasons. And if we do it for the right reasons, people will come to us as their authentic selves.”
Part of giving for the right reasons involves working with employees to find the best way to make an impact. That’s why JB Hunt has shifted from the term “corporate giving” in favor of the more employee-oriented “company giving.” “The company may be giving money,” says Bain, “but the employees are giving the impacts and the culture back to us.”
“The company may be giving money, but the employees are giving the impacts and the culture back to us.”
This shift in focus from company to employees has altered the entire culture of JB Hunt. Employees “reinvest in their community,” says Bain, “but when they come in our doors, we’re a community. So whatever they do outside these walls, it affects the people we are inside these walls. We’ve just seen such a change.”
“The biggest change that I’ve seen,” Bain adds, “is how people interact. When you’re in a Salvation Army line, serving food to someone who can’t afford a Thanksgiving dinner with a fellow employee, the next Monday at work when you guys are having a problem… it’s a lot easier to communicate when you know that person is a good person at heart, rather than just being mad over a dropped load.”
“It’s easier to communicate when you know that person is a good person at heart.”
Bain recalls that before shifting their model from corporate to company giving, JB Hunt’s donations were based on what was most important to the executives rather than on what was most important to the majority of individuals working with the company. “We thought writing a check and getting a plaque would matter to people,” she says. Now, however, JB Hunt recognizes that “what matters to people is nailing a nail into a roof alongside a fellow coworker with Habitat for Humanity. It matters that they’re working with the kind of people who want to make the world a better place.”
“It matters [to our employees] that they’re working with the kind of people who want to make the world a better place.”
With this in mind, JB Hunt has developed a giving plan that incorporates employee ideas and values, allowing employees to vote on where the company gives money. Not only has this provided employees a stronger say in the company’s actions, enhancing a culture in which employee contributions to the community are fully valued, but this has also increased the scope of JB Hunt’s giving. “By letting the employees vote and go back to their organizations, we got so many different organizations that we had never heard of, and we were able to give them a donation that was employee-driven,” Bain says.
Individual impact, company culture
Rather than keeping giving separate from the daily working environments of employees, JB Hunt now ensures that giving is an intrinsic aspect of the culture. Bain notes that this allows for a new degree of authenticity. Employees “can come to work and be themselves, and know that there’s a group around them that will also help them overcome their obstacles and life-changing events. It makes such a difference. It helps us be more diverse; it helps us to build community. This year, we spent time educating our employees and treating them more like a nonprofit, to give them empowerment to get on GivePulse and go out [into their community].”
Bain believes that “GivePulse helped us move corporate giving to company giving.” She says, “GivePulse has allowed employees who may not previously have volunteered to “get to an area where they feel safest, dip their toe in and get involved. And once they know, ‘I can do this, I can make a difference with just one hour’ — I just keep going back to the word ‘empowerment.’ I mean, it’s been really empowering. It’s giving. It’s empowering.”
“It’s giving. It’s empowering.”
This empowerment of employees has ramifications beyond their work with nonprofits. “When people feel good about themselves,” Bain says, “they plan for the future, they want to get ahead, they want to be in leadership.”
JB Hunt further empowers employees by calling upon the diverse skill and knowledge sets that they bring with them, as seen in JB Hunt’s participation in Wreaths Across America. JB Hunt works with many veterans, who “can step up and they can show their knowledge. They teach us how to lay a wreath at a ceremony; they teach us what it means to honor our veterans. I now know what a gold star family is. I know what someone in New York did for Wreaths Across America. It pulls us all together in a community, even if we are across a nation.”
This sense of community across the country has also changed how JB Hunt responds to natural disasters. Previously, Bain says, if there was a natural disaster, “You were on your own.” Now, however, she says, “We as a company, we can get together, we can help each other, we can get help to those communities. We can use our trailers to haul products donated by our customers. I don’t know any disaster area that doesn’t need a trailerload of fresh water. It’s not just about the nonprofits; it’s also allowed us to mobilize and engage for real life disasters that hit our employees.”
Continuing to evolve
JB Hunt is continuing to increase efforts that will bring the company together across the country to give back. Last year, they tested their first “field event” in Chicago; Bain says, “it worked out so well, so we are going to do from California to Pennsylvania.”
Simultaneous giving spread across the country allows employees to feel united in a common cause. “Employees from five different field offices, thousands of employees, are going to be able to participate in events together. We can do that because of GivePulse. I can’t wait. We really want to spread it. We want to throw money where our mouth is.”
Growth like this relies upon a robust volunteer management platform: “We are able to do it because we can coordinate it and get everybody on the same page through GivePulse.”
Bain also notes that GivePulse’s ability to build capacity for company giving is evident in WalmartGivesNWA. “Walmart came up with the NWA giving where they match — and we’re even able to tap in to that.” JB Hunt has been able to engage their employees through WalmartGivesNWA to increase their impact on the community. “It’s crazy that GivePulse can bring us even more attached to our communities. Different people, maybe they don’t work at JB Hunt, but we can still be attached to the good they’re doing in the community. Who would’ve thought that another company could benefit from a company’s giving? It just intertwines us so much.”
“GivePulse can bring us even more attached to our communities… It just intertwines us so much.”
At the end of the day, this feeling of connection stands out to Bain: “It pulls us all together in a community, even if we are across a nation. I just feel so much more connected. I’m respectful of more people. I’ve been able to learn by working with them and volunteering with them, their stories. Sometimes the grumpiest person is just trying to survive. They have a sick child, or an elderly father they can’t find care for.”
“I talk about this all day long — I don’t feel like I can talk about it really professionally, because I get so worked up about it personally, because it means so much…I know all the bad, but there’s so much good too.”