Arlington County established its Volunteer Arlington Advisory Task Force in October 2014 to consider whether outsourcing the Volunteer Arlington program now in the Arlington Department of Human Services would lead to an enhanced level of volunteer activity throughout the community.
Regardless of any change in delivery, the County’s goal was to ensure that all residents and workers — regardless of their background, age or socioeconomic status — have access to reliable avenues that lead to volunteer opportunities in Arlington’s non-profit and public sectors.
The Advisory Task Force was composed of 10 community representatives and the director of the Department of Human Services. Members included representatives of non-profit organizations that use volunteers; persons who volunteer, including teens; persons who serve or represent the immigrant communities; and the business community. The Task Force was co-chaired by Northern Virginia Family Services Executive Director Mary Agee and Department of Human Services Director Susanne Eisner.
Background: Task Force Methodology
The Volunteer Arlington Advisory Task Force conducted a thorough outreach effort to stakeholders:
- Electronic surveys garnered 780 responses from volunteers, nonprofits, commission members, County staff, the business community, youth, Arlington Public Schools staff, faith-based organizations and civic associations.
- Two volunteer forums, hosted by the task force, gathered more information. One forum, with 24 participants, was for nonprofit partners; the other, with 95 participants, was for new Americans.
- Other programs researched, to determine best practices.
The task force made a number of recommendations to be incorporated in the Volunteer Arlington public-private partnership model, including:
- Increased outreach and promotion to recruit volunteers: Feedback from the community surveys and forums indicated the need for more aggressive outreach and promotion to attract and recruit volunteers. Especially needed are strategies to target potential repeat volunteers, as well as to recruit for skill sets most needed by nonprofits and County agencies.
- Improved technology solutions: The current online volunteer matching tool needs improvements. Data tracking and reporting options are limited, making performance measurement a challenge. The web-based tool does not adequately serve tablet and smart phone users.
- Enhanced promotion to diverse populations: The Task Force also recommended that Volunteer Arlington conduct outreach targeting a broad range of demographics to include teenagers, young adults, new Americans, seniors and low-income residents who may lack the technology tools increasing used to connect volunteers to volunteer opportunities.
Other recommendations include establishing an advisory board, noted as especially important during the first year or two of startup, better engagement with the business community, holding a yearly appreciation event to recognize and celebrate those who volunteer with County programs and community nonprofits, and diversification of funding sources.
The County hopes to issue a Request for Proposals this summer.