CPDC’s Turning Point (2005 – 2010)
Tribute #10 – Our Volunteer Engagement: Strengthening Communities through Service
Since 1989, CPDC has established itself as an affordable housing developer that seeks to build strong communities. CPDC believes that while communities may begin as places for people to live; communities have the ability to become vibrant neighborhoods when residents are engaged. One of the many ways in which residents and members of the broader community can engage is through volunteerism. To that end, CPDC created a formal volunteer engagement program to encourage contributions of service in and around its properties and to support continued community growth.
In 2006, CPDC created a formalized program for engaging volunteers to serve in its communities. CPDC staff had worked informally with volunteers in years past however; the need to enhance the volunteer experience and be more intentional about leveraging their skills and talents caused CPDC to structure its program. The goals of the volunteer engagement program were to create a more organized and effective approach to volunteering and to initiate an experience of mutual benefit for each of the parties involved. Volunteers would gain from having a worthwhile cause to support that was related to their background and interests and CPDC would benefit from additional staffing and support in its communities.
Headed by Marcia Fuoss, former Volunteer Engagement Director, the program involved a strict process of recruiting, screening, training, and placing volunteers across CPDC communities. The recruitment and screening processes ensured that potential volunteers were community-minded and enthusiastic to serve. The placement process enabled the organization to match volunteers’ skills and interests with the unique needs of each community. This way, volunteers could find a niche in the community and CPDC could train them to use their talents more fully. Formalization of the program also brought with it a strong evaluation component. CPDC maintained a volunteer database that allowed staff to track levels of participation via hours served, types of service, and total program growth.
Overall volunteer participation began increasing almost immediately after CPDC implemented its formal process. In the first four years, the number of hours served increased from 7,617 in 2006 to 16,250 in 2010, with an estimated value of those service hours at $400,000. In addition to an increase in service hours, the organization observed more diversity in the types of volunteers involved. Residents served as hallway ambassadors to inform their neighbors of upcoming events. College students spent time serving in after-school programs and reviewing schoolwork with youth. And businesses looking for opportunities to provide pro-bono services found an organization with strong ties to the communities and a structured process for reaching those communities.
Senior Vice President of Community Development Pamela Lyons noted that, “when an individual volunteers, he or she invests in the community’s future.” By formalizing and organizing the efforts of generous contributors, CPDC synergized the contributions of individuals who believed in its mission, and helped strengthen communities through service.