Making a Service Enterprise City: Helping New York Nonprofits Better Leverage Volunteer Skill Sets

Oct 14, 2016
Members of the Asian American Federation and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, the New York Immigration Coalition, Partnerships for Parks, Project Hospitality, and Youth INC. gathered in New York City for the launch of the NYC Strategic Planning-NYC Service Enterprise Initiative.

During a March 2016 Volunteer Summit hosted by New York Cares and NYC Service at UJA Federation in New York City, Paula Gavin, the city’s chief service officer announced to a room filled with nonprofits that she wanted to increase the volunteer rate in New York from its current 18 percent to the national average of 25 percent by 2020. Attending this seminar was Points of Light’s Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnerships and Program Expansion Teri Johnson.

For the last seven months, Teri and Paula have been working together to develop a way for New York to increase volunteerism citywide. The NYC Strategic Volunteer Planning-NYC Service Enterprise Initiative is launching this October to help nonprofits in New York City meet this goal in collaboration with Points of Light’s Service Enterprise Initiative.

Paula Gavin and Teri Johnson collaborated to create the NYC Strategic Volunteer Planning-NYC Service Enterprise Initiative.

A Service Enterprise is an organization that fundamentally leverages volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization to successfully deliver on its social mission. Nonprofits operating as Service Enterprises outperform peer organizations on all measures of organizational capacity, thereby allowing them to more effectively address community needs and operate at almost half the median budget.

This week, five nonprofits that represent the five boroughs of New York City have been selected to become volunteer Service Enterprise Hubs: the Asian American Federation and the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, the New York Immigration Coalition, Partnerships for Parks, Project Hospitality, and Youth INC.

On Oct. 13, these organizations gathered for a special launch event where Teri Johnson and Lori Jean Mantooth, director, knowledge center at Points of Light, lead an orientation with New York’s five hubs and 20 organizations to kick off the program. This launch will make New York City the first Service Enterprise City.

“More than 80 percent of our Service Enterprise organizations report an increase in both volunteers and skills-based volunteers and more than 60 percent report an increase in volunteer hours,” said Teri. When an organization leverages volunteers and achieves an effective volunteer management model, not only do they lead and manage their organizations better, but they also become significantly more adaptable, sustainable and better resourced to do their work – therefore they are able to scale more effectively. 

New York and the participating hubs join the growing network of more than 500 organizations certified as Service Enterprises. By 2018, NYC Service plans to establish 100 organizations certified in Strategic Volunteer Planning-Service Enterprise. Each of these organizations will increase their number of volunteers by 23 percent.

Including the current New York Service Enterprise organizations certified through UJA Federation in the last three years, each averaging a 22 percent increase in volunteers, New York City will experience a significant increase in volunteer rates and organizations will be able to deliver their services more effectively.

“Points of Light believes that Service Enterprise is a powerful solution to building critical organizational capacity,” Teri said. “Organizations that participate in Service Enterprise increase their volunteer rates on average by 23 percent a year.”

With the Service Enterprise Initiative helping to strengthen the capacity of these nonprofits to fundamentally leverage volunteers and their skills to address community needs, this program signals a new era of impact for nonprofits in New York.

Robert Montgomery