We asked listening session participants about the barriers they perceived or experienced with regard to formal volunteer opportunities. Below are the barriers most frequently discussed throughout the listening sessions.
Formal systems, including forms, logging hours, background checks, and lengthy processes
Time commitment and schedule
Lack of compensation and incentives Unwelcoming environment
Lack of trust of organization Not invited to participate
Prioritizing organization over people
STEPS TOWARD EQUITY
MAVA was fortunate in that listening session participants not only shared with us their experiences, but also their ideas for advancing equity in volunteerism. We grouped these ideas into the following themes:
Create different ways of volunteering, which may include different pathways for different people, removing barriers, and/or compensating volunteers Prioritize BIPOC leadership at organizations engaging volunteers Built trust between nonprofit organizations and BIPOC communities Foster a welcoming environment and culture within the organization and volunteer program
Value people over organization – put the community’s needs first Understand systemic barriers – tear down and re-build when necessary
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
MAVA analyzed the information provided through these listening sessions, reflected on our racial equity work in volunteerism over the past 5 years, and developed ideas for next steps to help you take action on the ideas communicated through these listening sessions.
First, it’s vitally important to listen to BIPOC voices. Therefore, we recommend you take time to read the full report, absorb the information, challenge your own viewpoints, and revisit uncomfortable sections. While we recognize this report reflects the viewpoints of a limited number of BIPOC individuals in a particular geography, the themes provide a great starting point for work at your own organization or in your own region.
Next, we recognize the role of volunteer engagement leader within (sometimes) complex nonprofit organizational structures. Therefore, we have grouped potential next steps into 3 sections: Organizational, Volunteer Program, and Individual.
AT THE ORGANIZATIONAL LEVEL:
Advocate for equitable hiring practices at your organization: Inform leadership of the importance of representation at both the staff and volunteer levels
Promote an inclusive organizational culture by making equity, diversity and inclusion education a priority for you and your volunteers; speak up when you encounter biased or racist practices
AT THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM LEVEL:
Listen to BIPOC voices: Convene listening sessions of BIPOC volunteers at your organization and potential volunteers within new communities you would like to engage; compensate participants and let them know how you use the information they provide
Review policies and systems with an equity lens, including your volunteer application, handbook, background check policies, onboarding system, training practices, and recognition Educate volunteers on race equity topics: Build antiracism into your new volunteer orientation and present additional trainings on a variety of race equity topics
Build relationships in BIPOC communities: Reach out to culturally-led organizations in your area, be present at community and cultural events, and do the long-term work to build authentic partnerships based on mutual trust
AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL:
Prioritize your own equity education: If you have a budget for professional development, devote a significant portion to equity; spend time educating yourself through articles, books, movies, podcasts, and other resources
Network with others doing work on race equity in volunteerism: Reach out to volunteer engagement colleagues at other organizations to help and support one another Influence other groups or organizations you’re involved with: Consider equity when
encountering any volunteer systems, whether as a staff, volunteer, or community member, and challenge groups to prioritize equity in volunteerism
These potential action steps are not designed to be prescriptive, but rather to offer volunteer engagement leaders ideas for how to use the information in this report to begin making change toward racial equity in volunteerism.
Find more information and download the report here.