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!
Whether you are an expert at full stack or just starting out, coding and software engineering are powerful tools to make a difference, one line at a time!
Tomorrow, September 21, 2019, is the seventh annual National Day of Civic Hacking. This year, the National Day of Civic Hacking is focused on restoring rights to those impacted by the criminal justice system, particularly through expungement and other forms of legal help. It coincides with the first day of National Expungement Week. According to the Code for America website, fewer than 10% of those eligible for record clearance receive it — yet expungement is shown to boost wages and reduce recidivism (relapse into criminal behavior).
GivePulse cofounder George Luc was honored as a White House Champion of Change after developing GivePulse at the ATX Hackathon for Change 2013 with cofounder James McGirr.
We asked George why he thinks it’s important to participate in National Day of Civic Hacking.
Here’s what he said:
Cultivate new friendships and perspectives, or even find your next business co-founder(s): On the National Day of Civic Hacking, you work alongside people with a variety of backgrounds. You may jump in with a team of people you’ve never met before! You get the chance to meet like-minded and similarly motivated people working in your field and in fields that you care about. These may become future colleagues, mentors, mentees, or close friends. Sometimes (or many times) it can be a great crash course to dating or determining your next cofounder for a business. 🙂
Step out of your comfort zone with new coding languages: In order to participate in the hacking challenges you are presented with, you may need to code in a language that you don’t find familiar or comfortable — or even a language that you have never worked with before. This is a great opportunity to increase the languages you know, improving your coding skill set (which you can add to your resume) and offering an exciting chance to branch into new knowledge.
Gain more project management and collaborative experience: You’ll be working to solve problems that span disciplines, meaning you get to experience collaborating with and managing groups with diverse skill sets and knowledge bases to make change. You may be working alongside leaders in activism and nonprofits, as well as individuals whose coding experiences are in different languages and contexts than your own. As you plan together, you will learn to manage many facets of the project, even beyond your own knowledge base.
Immerse yourself in a fast paced environment with the goal of making quick decisions and delivering on work products: The National Day of Civic Hacking takes place over the course of a single day (or sometimes a weekend). Because you are trying to work toward a technological solution to a social justice or inefficiency problem in this brief span of time, you will learn to dive headfirst into problem, iterate and deliver products as effectively as possible.
Get a pulse of all the potential issues and challenges technology can help address: Everyone has a skill to contribute. If you’re thinking about participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking, you likely have a skill or a desire to help change the world for the better. Your participation will open you up to more ways where you can do just that. You’ll be inspired by the change-makers around you and will have the chance to expand your own view of what is possible.
For further hacking inspiration, check out this list of amazing civic hacking work that’s already happening across the nation. Want to attend an event? Find your local event here.
Learn more about expungement through the National Expungement Week website, and check out the Rights Restoration Project and other groups working to restore rights to millions of Americans. Whether or not you participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking, learning more about this issue will help you be an informed voter and engaged citizen.
And of course, check out GivePulse — we are proud to support work that changes the world and look forward to seeing the future of civic hacking. If you have any collaborative ideas with GivePulse, please do reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connie Brown has been volunteering for the majority of her life. When she was a young girl growing up near Cleveland, she would shovel snow to clear driveways for neighbors who weren’t able to do it for themselves. “I just have a heart for people,” she says. “I enjoy serving others. No one made me do it; I just enjoyed doing it.” She adds, “That was a long time ago. I’m 72.”
You can see Connie’s love of volunteering in the impacts she logs on GivePulse. Between June and August of 2019, she recorded over 400 volunteer hours with four different organizations — and that’s just a scratch on the surface of her volunteer efforts. “I’ve had and enjoyed a lifetime of volunteering,” she says.
Unique giving culture
Her recent volunteer efforts have been in Northwest Arkansas, where she says there is a unique giving culture.“We have Walmart, we have other large businesses; we have a diverse community, a diverse population, and everybody gets along,” she says. “It’s very unique I think — I came from an area where that was not the case, it was a very divisive community over race and ethnicity. But here everybody gets along, everybody helps each other — it feels like we all partner to help those who need help.”
When she first moved to Northwest Arkansas eleven years ago, Connie says, “I was looking for volunteer opportunities, places where I fit in, where I liked their mission. I just kind of slowly tried different places out, and saw that I fit, and that I liked their mission and I liked making a difference with them.”
“You end up having that community of new friends when you volunteer… When you get acquainted with them, they become your friends, your family.”
For Connie, these organizations offered a community of like-minded individuals. “Many of the volunteers are long-term volunteers who have volunteered faithfully at the same place for 35 years — here they are week after week, day after day. To me, it’s amazing. It just shows the commitment of people in our community to organizations that make a difference and that help others in our community that need our help.” For example, Connie recalls fellow volunteer Jan from Helping Hands, who worked alongside her on Wednesdays until she moved away last year. Connie says, “When I’m working alongside Jan, who is 100 years old, I’m thinking ‘Oh my gosh, when I grow up I want to be like Jan!’”
By returning to these same organizations on a regular basis, Connie says, “you end up having that community of new friends when you volunteer… When you get acquainted with them, they become your friends, your family; you get so much more than you give… I enjoy the volunteers that I meet; I enjoy serving the guests we have for lunch at the Samaritan Center, or the VA hospital, or the people who come to the food pantry at Helping Hands.”
A heart for people
Connie believes that volunteering is a crucial part of life. “For the people who don’t volunteer at all, they’re just missing out on so many opportunities. It takes a village of all of us, and I’m just so glad to be a part of that village.” She adds, “Giving to others will never lessen what you have — it increases what you have exponentially. You give and you get so much more back.”
“Giving to others will never lessen what you have — it increases what you have exponentially. You give and you get so much more back.”
The key tenet of volunteering, she says, is to have a heart for people. “You need a heart for people. You don’t need to be judgmental. You just need to have a heart for people and a willingness to serve.”
For those who have not volunteered much before and are looking to start, Connie has this advice: “Look at areas you’re interested in. Try a place… Just try it. If you don’t like it, move on. You don’t have to be on the frontline of anything that’s done, you can be in a supporting role. I’m not the one leading the band; I’m a band member. But to just simply try it, and take that risk. You might like it, you might not like it. Ten to one, you will find a place where you really fit, where you really support their mission of what they’re doing, and where you found a new place to make a difference.”
A new place
Discovering something new about your community is another critical benefit of volunteering. Through volunteering, “you get opportunities to be with people you would not ordinarily be with — face to face with a homeless person, face to face with childhood hunger. When you’re serving those children lunch, and they’re eating and eating and eating.You get to see a side of what’s going on in your community that you may not in your own circle get exposed to… There’s people that kind of stand out, who you meet, and they make their mark on you just like you make your mark on them.”
“You get to see a side of what’s going on in your community that you may not in your own circle get exposed to.”
Two years ago, when Altrusa International celebrated their one hundred year anniversary, Connie took this idea of trying new things to another level. Altrusa International, a nonprofit focused on children’s literacy, asked their volunteers around the globe to volunteer one hundred hours that year. Connie recalls, “I thought, ‘Well, I do that in a month, what would be a challenge for me?’ This wasn’t required. I thought, ‘I’m gonna try 100 new places to volunteer.’ Now that was a challenge! It was something worthy of celebrating Altrusa International’s 100th birthday.”
In this personal challenge, Connie says, “I did all kinds of things — I did things I was interested in, things I had never done before, and it was just really eye opening and challenging, and a lot of fun.” In one of her new adventures, Connie volunteered for Trifest MS, a weekend long triathlon event that encourages participation for adults and children with disabilities. Connie was an encourager on the bike course: “I would holler at each one and high five.” Connie says that at first she wasn’t sure about the fit of this, thinking, “A bike course? Me?” She loved the experience and says it reminded her that “you just have to be open to new opportunities, and be willing to say ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I help serve 2000 hot dogs in an hour?’ ‘Yes!’”
When you commit to stepping out of your comfort zone, Connie says, “You get to see what other organizations are doing, you get to be a small part of it.” She adds, “That was a really fun different experience for me. It was amazing when I was done. I was thinking, look at all the things I’ve done! Look at all the places I’ve done in NWA! Look at all the things that I’ve learned. It was a cool experience.”
Connie is passing this love of volunteering on to her grandkids. Her granddaughter has been volunteering alongside her in the food pantry at Helping Hands since she was four years old. “She couldn’t reach the tables,” she recalls, “but she was willing, and we worked side by side. I flipped over a plastic container that she could stand on. We would fill the bags with the staples that each family got, we would get the shopping carts out of the parking lot, we would recycle the cardboard and select the bread. I can vividly remember the first day we took her — when we came home, her mama asked, ‘Did she enjoy it?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you wanna go back?’ ‘Oh yes — they need me.’ She felt needed, she felt wanted.”
Connie herself has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. “I hope the day I die I’m volunteering somewhere.”
We highlight partners and volunteers in this “Why I Give” blog series to showcase why they are passionate about their work and ultimately inspire others to be passionate as well.
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.”
Volunteer recruitment is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a successful nonprofit. The question of how best to connect excited, authentic community members with impactful work remains critical for organizations to consider. Below, we have compiled a list of tips that we have gathered from our experience with nonprofits using the GivePulse platform.
1. Post Opportunities Effectively
Volunteers learn about community engagement work through many different sources. Determine ahead of time whether there are specific groups that might be particularly interested in volunteering with your organization and target your outreach appropriately. Are you looking for help from students? Do you think that retired teachers might be ideal for an education program? Find ways to ensure that your work reaches these audiences. Talk to higher education institutions and high schools, talk to churches, talk to corporations that offer giving programs. Aim your message directly toward the right people, and they will quickly make their way to your opportunity. Many of our partners, for example, post opportunities to university pages, amplifying their outreach for students.
2. Post Opportunities Digitally
Using online resources, whether social media or online platforms, can increase the range of people who see your opportunities. Options such as VolunteerMatch, Points of Light, and GivePulse provide online platforms to list opportunities and match them to interested volunteers; GivePulse and others offer the ability to link these posts to social media, maximizing the range of volunteers who might learn about your organization. Volunteers can also connect with opportunities via web and downloadable native app presence — joining a platform that offers both a web and downloadable app presence provides volunteers the ability to view opportunities no matter what device they prefer.
3. Partner Up
Your nonprofit is one of many in your community, all engaging in important and overlapping ways. These nonprofits work with community members who would be excited to discover new opportunities. Engage with these nonprofits, sharing opportunities with each other’s volunteers. If you can illuminate the ways that your efforts coordinate and aid one another, and reiterate that an impact to one benefits all, you will encourage community members to volunteer widely and often, sharing their time across nonprofits. Such affiliations can expand the scope of the volunteers you reach.
4. Discuss the Impact of the Work
We believe that it is crucial to show volunteers that they are making an impact; this manifests in the very language that we use to describe volunteer hours and donations. How are your volunteers making an impact? What will their engagement change in their community? If volunteers understand how their work will impact their community, they are more likely to want to volunteer. Include both stories and statistics to show how truly impactful their volunteering can be. You can use reflections and testimonials from other volunteers to reinforce these conversations. On GivePulse, volunteer reflections offer feedback to nonprofits that can help them to improve or can reveal the crucial ways in which their work benefits both themselves and the community.
5. Offer Information Up Front
Volunteers may be wary of participating in a volunteer opportunity when they are not sure of its exact details. In addition to ensuring that the time, date, and location are easy to find, make sure that you explain how volunteers will be engaging if they choose to sign up. Our partners often write detailed descriptions of upcoming events to ensure that volunteers have sufficient insight to make an informed decision. In addition, offer clear instructions about how to apply and how volunteers will be expected to report hours after the fact. Knowledge is a powerful catalyst for action.
6. Stay in Contact
Sometimes a volunteer may express interest and then suddenly stop responding to emails. Follow up! Keep track of volunteers who have filled out applications but have not joined any volunteer opportunities. It never hurts to make sure that you have tried your best to reach these volunteers. If they decide to engage, they will make a lasting impact in your community.
7. Volunteer Management
Effective volunteer management is its own form of recruitment. When done well, volunteer management maintains existing relationships — and these current volunteers will recruit others of their own accord. When someone has volunteered in the community, reflect and have the volunteer coordinator chat with the volunteer about their experience and about opportunities to improve. This is also an excellent time to reinforce for the volunteer how they made an impact to the program and the organization.
Do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments! And if you use GivePulse, feel free to share how GivePulse has supported volunteer recruitment or where we could improve. We love to hear your feedback.
To learn about how GivePulse can help you with volunteer recruitment, please contact email@example.com.
Indeed, Dominican University of California is deeply focused on community engagement, as evidenced by the institution’s approach to service-learning. Dominican defines service-learning as “an educational approach that integrates meaningful community engagement with academic curriculum emphasizing critical reflection and analysis.” Dominican has built a service-learning program that create sustainable, reciprocal partnerships. These “deep, long lasting partnerships in the community” have emerged from a focus on quality over quantity — a focus that Dominican purposefully maintains.
These “deep, long lasting partnerships in the community” have emerged from a focus on quality over quantity — a focus that Dominican purposefully maintains.
“Even if our students are only there for fifteen, sixteen weeks a semester, we have more students coming the next semester,” says Julia van der Ryn, Executive Director at the Center for Community Engagement. “A lot of times we do retain students, but this way it’s not about getting students to stay at a partner — it’s about us being able to sustain the partnership by constantly sending students to work with the partners every semester.”
Reflection and Retention
While Dominican has created a system in which the partnership lasts beyond individual involvement, retention of students is certainly important, and van der Ryn says that use of GivePulse correlates to student retention at a given community partner. Use of GivePulse suggests “something very indicative about the organization — their effectiveness and the culture they’re interested in creating.” The partner sites at which “students have really the most sense of belonging and really are excited to be there, making strong connections” are “the same partners that really value reading the GivePulse reflections of our students.” Indeed, some partners even print out the reflections; reflections are a key tenet of community partners’ learning about how community members are engaging.
Community partners with whom “students have really the most sense of belonging… are the same partners that really value reading the GivePulse reflections of our students.”
Dominican University of California thinks that this interest in student reflections might point to “the particular people who are supervising our students, and their approach, and the culture they want to create at their site.” The sites with cultures that support sustained student involvement are the same ones “who tell us how interesting it is to get the insights of the students.” The benefits are mutual; these same partners say that they “take ideas back from the students” to their organization and leadership.
Dominican plans to “form a group of our community partners” to talk more about the culture they can create: “We know it creates more sustainability in terms of our students wanting to return to those partners, which translates to more success in helping the people they’re serving in their community.” GivePulse, according to van der Ryn, has “helped strengthen these sustained relationships — they’re more relationships than just partnerships.”
Becoming Part of the Community
The degree to which community partners were using GivePulse came as something of a surprise to Dominican. Dominican “had no idea the extent to which they were accessing or reading” reflections.
This extensive use of GivePulse shows how much it has helped community partners. Community partners see the value of this system. It “inspires them to hear from students,” particularly given that they “welcome feedback to improve their programs.” Additionally, nonprofits are able to use the data gathered from GivePulse for grant applications, and are able to build program capacity through the influx of Dominican University of California students.
This is crucial given the many ways that partners engage with the community. Some partners, like Canal Alliance, have a variety of aspects, including “adult ESL, middle school and after school programming, legal services, a food pantry — all these multiple, wrap around services.”
With GivePulse, the university becomes “part of the community” working toward these varied goals. Before using GivePulse, an Excel spreadsheet that needed regular manual updates was used to maintain an accurate record of student involvement. Now, Dominican can keep track of student engagement “in real time,” and can know exactly where students are engaging.
With GivePulse, Dominican can keep track of student engagement “in real time,” and can know exactly where students are engaging.
Dominican can also keep track of any issues or “things that need to be ironed out,” both by accessing student reflections and by accessing logistical information about which students have registered for courses and site placements. This provides an “overview of where the [service-learning] class is at any time.” In this way, GivePulse provides a snapshot of engagement.
Faculty members appreciate this snapshot in their service-learning classes, describing GivePulse as a “go-to” for making sure that their classes are “on track.” Faculty incorporate GivePulse in different ways — some ask only that students record their hours, while others use the platform as a repository for prompts, essays, and other qualitative forms of information.
In all of these cases, student usage is mandatory; faculty include GivePulse usage in evaluating students, incorporating grades for both hours and for impact reflections.
Faculty members describe GivePulse as a “go-to” for making sure their class is “on track.”
Student participation sometimes starts at this mandatory level and grows into individually motivated use of the platform. One student, Michael Gomez, began using GivePulse to record his hours for a service learning course. From this course, he was hired for a service-learning job, and ultimately took over the position that trains students for service-learning at Canal Alliance.
Another student, Karla Hernandez, also works with Canal Alliance. She took a service-learning class and “just became so impassioned” that she declared the Community Action & Social Change Minor and became an SL student leader in the organization. Her belief in the importance of using GivePulse’s capabilities is palpable: when in charge of verifying student hours, Hernandez refused to verify reflections if students did not write enough or were “vague and slapdash,” writing to tell them that they “need[ed] to write more.”
Service Learning Opportunity
These stories do not just point to students become increasingly adept at GivePulse — they also reveal the importance of service-learning as gateways to opportunities in community engagement organizations. Dominican is aware of the importance of community engagement not just to the community, but also to the students involved.
On their website, Dominican cites studies that show that “Service-learning and student-faculty research can boost your learning and other gains like personal and social development by 81%,” and that “69% of employers are more likely to hire someone who’s done a community-based project.” The university offers mentorship through integrative coaches and academic advisors to direct students toward community engagement opportunities aligned with their personal and professional goals.
GivePulse helps the university to leverage students into positions that provide increased access to work in areas in which they are interested. By seeing which students “really seem engaged” on GivePulse, the university can “tap” these students for future roles in student leadership, and can encourage them to consider majors and minors that call upon their work in the community. In this way, GivePulse offers growth opportunities for students invested in community engagement.
GivePulse offers growth opportunities for students invested in community engagement.
Students can also use hours and reflections recorded on GivePulse to propel them into new roles and opportunities. The records maintained on GivePulse help students to access “their history and use for future references, jobs, etc.”
The data GivePulse maintains must be organized in such a way that users can easily find and use their records. Dominican feels that having a detailed implementation plan is the most critical factor for universities intending to use GivePulse. Even though they describe themselves as a small university, there are many questions to answer; according to Jenny Bray, Service-Learning Program Coordinator, key questions include: “Who owns what information and who wants to share hours? Who wants to play?” Understanding the interests of different parties using the platform can help to set GivePulse up in a way that offers the most benefit to all.
This involves, crucially, “thinking ahead of time”: figuring out where information should fall in regards to partnerships and departments, which individual contacts to set as admins for nonprofits and how best to make sure that the information all comes back to the university at the source. There are “tons of layers,” Bray says, which “makes GivePulse great.” Her advice “is really think out first how you want to use it and then kind of go from there.”
“I can’t imagine going back to life before GivePulse.”
Elements that they suggest planning before beginning the implementation include deciding which departments will use GivePulse, determining how to make sure partners can be shared between different subgroups, and establishing single sign on to streamline the login process.
They also stress the importance of having someone on the staff who knows GivePulse well and can train others. Creating trainings and Powerpoints that help users understand exactly what workflows to use makes the process “easier and easier.”
“In terms of the logistics and being able to have that bird’s eye view of what’s going on at the beginning of the semester — that is priceless.”
With these steps in place, gathering information becomes as easy as the push of a button. As van der Ryn points out, “The student reflections, all of that — that’s all great, that’s all the icing, but in terms of the logistics and being able to have that bird’s eye view of what’s going on at the beginning of the semester — that is priceless.” Bray agrees, adding that GivePulse offers vast benefits in terms of “the history” and being able to see who was where and for how long. “For the students, faculty, and administrators,” she says, “it is amazing to be able to so quickly access that data.”
Perhaps it is for all of these reasons van der Ryn says of the platform, “I cannot imagine going back to life before GivePulse.”
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!
Bringing community to the university
The vision statement of the University of Alabama at Birmingham affirms the university’s dedication to “inspiring and empowering the creation of knowledge that changes the world.” This is perhaps natural given UAB’s location in a city historically invested in community change. Emily Wykle, project director in the Office of the President at UAB, emphasizes the importance of Birmingham’s “really deep commitment” to community engagement. The city itself offers “very fertile ground” for civic work, she says, adding, “You don’t have to be browbeating people to get involved. You have the appetite.”
This community-wide energy for change is evident in UAB’s broadly reaching implementation of GivePulse. UAB established their GivePulse domain (dubbed “BlazerPulse”) in the fall of 2018. According to Wykle, GivePulse has been “kind of the overlay” for the city’s work. “There’s already exciting things happening,” she notes. With GivePulse, the university can “give others a way in.”
“There’s already exciting things happening,” Wykle says. GivePulse can “give others a way in.”
Before using GivePulse, connections between the university and the work happening in the community were sometimes, in Wykle’s words, “kind of random.” Faculty members looking for organizations with which to engage often experienced difficulty in locating the greatest community need, while community partners did not always know how to access the university’s resources. In addition, to track data, UAB used “a kind of homegrown survey that I don’t think I would be speaking out of turn to say was a big disaster. There was no way to analyze it, not a great response rate.”
GivePulse provides resources that analyze both qualitative and quantitative information. One example that Wykle sees as particularly beneficial is the engagement heat map, which she says “gets people so excited, and I think that’s really driven a lot of exciting partnerships.” She recalls working with Hands on Birmingham, a United Way sponsored organization, for their Back to School Beautification Day. The UAB community was invited alongside the broader Birmingham community to work with people in the neighborhoods where each of the city’s schools were housed. Wykle considers this a key facet of being part of the various communities in Birmingham: “This has been a way for us to work alongside them. A more opportune way.”
“[GivePulse] gets people so excited, and I think that’s really driven a lot of exciting partnerships.”
Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
Through GivePulse, the question of how to create a mutually beneficial partnership is answered by design. Community partners can see the forms of engagement supported by UAB and can open aligned opportunities; in turn, students, faculty, and staff at UAB are able to find and engage with the opportunities that most need their help.
In this way, UAB has found in GivePulse “essentially a civic giving form” through which community partners and nonprofits can consider how to connect their needs to the strategic goals of the university. UAB, meanwhile, can see both “the strategic connection” and “whether that organization is invested in what [UAB is] doing.” This helps UAB “to make better decisions around who [they] support, and also democratizes the process.” Any nonprofits can sign up on GivePulse; no longer reliant on hearing about engagement opportunities through connections and networking, nonprofits now have a “front door” to the resources of the university.
GivePulse helps UAB “to make better decisions around who [they] support, and also democratizes the process.”
In addition to accessing information about the possibilities available, UAB can now also see the work with which staff and students have already been engaging. Wykle recalls using the system to determine who had logged the most hours on BlazerPulse and finding a woman who, unbeknownst to Wykle, had been working night shifts at a crisis center. This user logged more than 700 hours with the center. Through GivePulse, this record was suddenly easily accessible, allowing UAB to “highlight her and recognize her for her work.” Furthermore, this knowledge allowed UAB to strengthen connections with the crisis center, helping more volunteers to engage in this work.
UAB brought community partners onto GivePulse “really early, like before we really knew what we were doing,” recalls Wykle, adding, “I can’t believe we did that!” UAB organized a meeting with about fifty nonprofits in Birmingham that they had “deep relationships with, deep history” — nonprofits that the university knew “would go out on a limb” for them. Community partners soon began to expand their presence on GivePulse. Now, they are not just “using it for UAB,” Wykle says. “They’re really using it to get volunteers to sign up from other parts of Birmingham.”
Nonprofits are really using GivePulse “to get volunteers to sign up from other parts of Birmingham.”
UAB maintains the community energy that first brought the partners to GivePulse by meeting with them twice a year, which, particularly in the early days of using GivePulse, offered an opportunity to hear what was — and was not — working. Wykle recalls learning that the Office of Conduct, when assigning students community service, did not count GivePulse as a valid way to track service hours, something that she would not have known had community partners not brought this to her attention. This opened an opportunity to have a conversation with the Office of Conduct, resulting in the confirmation of GivePulse as the primary method of tracking service hours across the campus.
Since implementing GivePulse in fall of 2018, UAB has created over 200 subgroups and recorded over 30,000 hours of community activity. While these numbers might seem overwhelming to build into any platform, UAB maintains an organizational system that calls upon feedback from across the institution. Wykle emphasizes the importance of building a system of liaisons across departments, colleges, and organizations on campus, all of whom can offer feedback throughout the implementation process. At the start, “there were some hiccups,” but with the help of a diverse group of faculty members, UAB was “able to say, ‘Here’s where faculty are getting stuck, here’s what’s sticky.’”
Wykle also emphasizes the importance of support at the top tier of the institution; because she works in the president’s office, the engagement “has really has come from the top down.” This is critical: “Having it come from the top down gives it a sense of [being] something we are really committed to and interested in.” Perhaps more importantly, every department and college at the school is focused on community engagement. “Each of the schools has a community engagement part of their strategic plan,” she says, and adds, “We can meet them where they’re at… [it’s] not just a central helping us kind of thing, but can help at a school and department level.” While each department and college may have had different practices of engagement prior to the implementation of GivePulse, centralizing the data and the tracking system allows for these different colleges to share knowledge, opening the university to stronger community engagement in every field.
It helped that faculty members immediately recognized the need for this platform from their own experiences with community engagement. As Wykle notes, “They were going to be with us from the outset. This was something that was important to them.” This was true both of faculty members whose time was spent primarily in the classroom and of faculty whose focus was primarily on research. The latter group is important to UAB: “We are a research university,” Wykle says, adding that it is important to the university to figure out how GivePulse can “help you leverage the research and work you’re already doing and use it to translate… [to] actual value in people’s lives.” The main question UAB still hopes to answer, she adds, is, “How are we taking the teaching, research, all of the knowledge being generated here, and [translating] it to making people’s lives better in Birmingham?” Accentuating this focus for the research side of the university supports UAB’s vision of changing the world through acquisition and creation of knowledge.
It is important to the university to figure out how GivePulse can “help you leverage the research and work you’re already doing and use it to translate… [to] actual value in people’s lives.”
While faculty interest and recognition of the valuable ways GivePulse could be used were critical when establishing the platform, Wykle feels that equally crucial to successful implementation was positive student response. Students quickly adopted GivePulse, providing feedback and recording hours at a rate that surprised even the most enthusiastic faculty members. Because of their consistent use of GivePulse, students create data containing detailed information that UAB can use to understand how and why they are interacting with the Birmingham community.
When asked if she had any advice for other universities implementing GivePulse, Wykle says, “If we had waited until everything was flawless and then invited community partners in, that would have been a major misstep.” Instead of waiting until their implementation seemed perfect, UAB was “really honest about building the plan,” asking for feedback and input from community partners, students, faculty, and staff throughout the process. Ultimately, it comes down to seeking feedback from a variety of sources to ensure that everyone — community partners, students, faculty, staff — can engage in a way that changes the community for the better. As Wykle advises, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”