By Toni Irving, Ph.D.
Every year, thousands of employees at companies across the country admirably set aside a day or even a week for community service projects – planting trees, painting murals, distributing food, the list goes on. There is no doubt that employee volunteer programs boost community engagement, morale and loyalty within companies. However, how many of these companies ask community organizations what they really need?
In one instance, a young woman who coordinated volunteers at a local food bank admitted that her staff put in significant effort to find projects. While the flowers volunteers planted and the fresh coats of paint they applied brightened the building, these endeavors made little impact on the day-to-day challenges faced by the people frequenting her food bank. Many organizations continue hosting service groups in hopes that the efforts will lead to additional investment – whether financial or skill-based – by the companies or their employees.
At Get IN Chicago, we have learned a thing or two about capacity through our work with organizations serving acutely high-risk youth. Get IN Chicago funds and studies violence-prevention programs working with this group of young people, who are at the greatest risk for gun violence based on factors such as school absenteeism rates, mental health issues, justice system involvement, and the presence of a previously or currently incarcerated parent.
In partnership with the Chapin Hall Research Center at the University of Chicago, we conducted an organizational capacity assessment of 125 community-based organizations (CBOs) in seven urban communities around their resources, structures and processes to conduct strategic planning, staff training and fundraising.
This is how we identified their strengths and needs, and by extension the needs of other organizations of similar size and scope likely facing the same challenges. In our experience, we found there were significant gaps in capacity in the very organizations on the front lines supporting acutely high-risk youth.
However, these same issues can be found at the majority of nonprofit groups or community-based programs today, whether they’re trying to solve hunger, homelessness or inequality. And yet, the bulk of funding dollars are targeted to program delivery without attention to capacity-building for those implementing the work.
Community organizations cannot afford to defer capacity any longer. Simply put, no matter how proven an intervention is, it is unlikely to have impact if organizations lack the capacity to implement with regularity.
Link to original Triple Pundit article: http://www.triplepundit.com/2017/03/forgo-annual-days-service/?utm_source=Daily+Email+List&utm_campaign=653618d486-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9dedefcee3-653618d486-220487841