During the past year, volunteer engagement organizations in Minnesota faced unique challenges: maintaining volunteer involvement during the pandemic and social unrest while meeting critical needs, bringing volunteers back to changed environments as organizations shifted focus, and working to meet community needs with reduced staff, programming, and resources. MAVA’s Service Enterprise Initiative also rose to the challenge of helping organizations facing change, sharpening its focus on organizational transitions, and moving to an entirely virtual model. The Service Enterprise (SE) change management model offered organizational teams a way to reflect, assess, and get reenergized to tackle challenges together, as they gained new tools and ways of thinking about volunteer engagement. When faced with change, organizations participating in the SE process took the chance to hone their effectiveness to meet the challenges of the moment.
Seven organizations started their Service Enterprise journeys in 2021. Despite – or maybe due to – their essential roles in providing food, shelter and transportation, they embraced innovation in volunteerism to better serve their communities. This group included organizations addressing food insecurity - ACBC Food Shelf, CEAP, Every Meal, and ICA Food Shelf; organizations providing shelter, support and a fresh start to unhoused community members - St. Stephen’s Human Services/House of Charity and Union Gospel Mission; and an organization offering critical transportation for isolated seniors - WeCAB. They formed MAVA’s largest SE cohort in several years, their commitment to the process made even more extraordinary by the urgency of their missions.
MAVA took a chance on change, piloting a new way to bring Service Enterprise resources to individual organizations. MAVA worked with the Basilica of St. Mary, helping staff and volunteers of this large congregation plan ways to support a big volunteer workforce through changes driven by the pandemic. As all of the SE participant organization adapted their services to keep community members and volunteers safe, they also improved their processes to enhance their volunteerism culture. The director of one participating organization said, “It's helped us organize what we need to accomplish to take our program to the next level.” The volunteer manager at another organization commented, “We are beginning to implement best practices and changes across all program areas. This is something we never did before. SE has helped us break down barriers.”
Organizations also used the Service Enterprise process to build their capacity by engaging volunteers more strategically. The Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MAC-V) earned recognition as a certified Service Enterprise in 2021; the lead staffer for this effort reported, “We have learned that it is important for us to do the following things in order to fulfill our SE mission: Build staff support, dedicate a staff position for volunteer management, engage volunteers with skills needed by us…Service Enterprise taught us the methods to accomplish these goals and gave us the tools to succeed.” Six other organizations demonstrated their commitment to excellence in volunteer engagement in 2021 by maintaining their status as Service Enterprises three years after initially earning SE certification; they were: Catholic Charities – St. Cloud, DARTS, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP), Park Nicollet Foundation, Second Harvest Heartland, and Winona Volunteer Services, with both DARTS and IOCP maintaining their certification status for a second three-year cycle. These organizations sustained their efforts to be responsive and nimble, readying them for unforeseen challenges; as a reviewer from the Service Enterprise certifying organization, Points of Light, noted about one of them, "Their continued demonstration of excellence as a Service Enterprise affords them the perspective that, as they so elegantly stated, "volunteers provide the opportunity for the organization to staff up when needed, to leverage skilled professional resources from the community, and grow through the fresh insights, ideas and perspective of our volunteer leaders. It is clear that volunteer engagement has been key to our past success and will be an important resource far into our future."
As we look to 2022, it’s clear that change will be a constant, and volunteer managers’ skill in leading change will be crucial to thriving in an emerging volunteer landscape. MAVA’s next Service Enterprise cohort will center organizational conversations, team training, and action planning on taking charge of change to create opportunities for innovation and invention. We invite you to learn more at our upcoming SE information session, "Thriving in a Shifting Environment: Managing Change with Service Enterprise", on January 20th from noon to 1 pm.