Volunteerism in the Twin Cities
The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, have benefited from a long and rich history of volunteerism. In fact, a 2009 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service listed Minneapolis/St. Paul as No. 1 for large cities with populations over one million.
According to the study, while charitable giving declined in current dollars between 2007 and 2008 for the first time in over 20 years, in contrast the volunteer rate in the United States increased from 26.2 percent to 26.4 percent. That change represents an addition of almost one million volunteers serving the country. Previous research indicates that a concurrent decrease in volunteering rates could occur during a time of economic recession, especially when there are decreases in home ownership and increased in unemployment rates. The fact that volunteer rates held relatively steady during such a time is a positive sign for service moving forward. Nonprofit organizations striving to meet the needs of families across the country are also hard-pressed by the economic situation, and are finding some relief by using more volunteers to achieve their goals. Many report that they have not only increased their reliance on volunteers of late, but also project that they will continue to increase their reliance on volunteers over the coming year.
The ability of communities to keep volunteers engaged year after year (known as volunteer retention) is strongly related to the volunteer rate. The right types of volunteer opportunities and strategic management of volunteers can encourage individuals to continue volunteering.
In many ways, the Corporate Volunteerism Council–Twin Cities (CVC-TC) has played an important role in developing, nurturing, and sustaining the high rate of volunteerism in the Twin Cities.
Established in 1980, CVC-TC was one of the first CVCs in the nation, and has consistently been recognized for its work. Today, there are nearly 100 CVCs located across the country.
CVC-TC was formed when representatives of five companies involved in the formation of the Management Assistance Program, MAP for Nonprofits, decided to continue the work of sharing best practices. Those companies were Bemis, First Bank Minneapolis, Honeywell, NSP, and The St. Paul Companies (now known as Travelers). The United Way of Minneapolis provided additional support.
In its early years, CVC-TC members met for a variety of programs and networking, while also establishing the organization as one that brought corporations together to meet community needs.
In 1983, CVC-TC’s board of directors formally documented five organizational goals:
- To promote corporate volunteerism.
- To build bridges between corporations and the nonprofit sector.
- To communicate new developments in the field of employee involvement and of new opportunities for employee volunteers.
- To develop cooperation and communication between companies.
- To promote professional development of corporate volunteer coordinators.
Those goals, developed in the infancy of the organization, have helped to guide the organization ever since.
Volunteerism: Corporate Style
In 1983, CVC-TC published Volunteerism: Corporate Style, a manual containing information to help companies start, strengthen, and sustain employee volunteer programs. The manuals were offered to CVC-TC members and others. Orders even came in from out of state: a group in Toronto, Canada, purchased manuals for its members. The manual was revised and updated in 1987 and 1992.
The manual helped to raise the visibility of CVC-TC and its work. In addition, the manual was a successful source of revenue, generating total sales of nearly $20,000 between 1983 and 1996. Since much of the printing and assembly of the manual was provided through in-kind donations from CVC-TC members, most of the revenue was profit for the organization. The organization’s annual budget during those years ranged from $5,000 to $12,000; thus, this additional revenue provided great financial assistance to CVC-TC and its mission.
Corporate Volunteerism Survey
In 1984, the CVC-TC board initiated a survey of members regarding corporate volunteer programs. The purpose of the survey was to identify the types of programs and projects member companies were currently supporting. Some of the data captured in the survey included individual placement projects, group projects, retiree programs, loaned executive programs, nationwide programs, placement of employees on nonprofit boards, and more.
The results of the survey were published in Corporate Volunteerism 1984: A Report to the Community. Since this type of comprehensive survey of corporate volunteerism was unprecedented, CVC-TC received requests for copies of the report from all over North America.
The survey was repeated in 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1993. While the survey was unique in its early versions, new electronic technologies emerged that enabled improved communication among members. Since member communication needs were being met in other ways, the board of directors voted in 1995 to discontinue the regular comprehensive survey. Since that time, CVC-TC has occasionally conducted surveys of its members on a range of topics and published the findings.
As part of its 10th anniversary celebration in October 1990, CVC-TC coordinated the Minnesota Corporate Volunteerism Summit.
The Summit, a think-tank-style gathering, provided 30 of Minnesota’s senior executives with a day-long opportunity to examine the role of corporate volunteerism in meeting business needs. The Minnesota Summit was a result of recommendations by participants who attended the 1989 National Summit on Corporate Volunteerism hosted by the National Council on Corporate Volunteerism.
The Summit’s purpose was to provide a forum in which senior-level executives could explore the relationship between work force issues and corporate volunteer programs. Following keynote addresses and small-group working sessions, attendees agreed on the Minnesota Summit Statement on Corporate Volunteerism. The statement appeared in half-page advertisements in two local newspapers and was intended to serve as a charge to champion volunteer programs within the Minnesota’s companies.
Corporate Access Fair
In February 1991, CVC-TC hosted the Corporate Access Fair, at which more than 15 corporate representatives shared information with nonprofit organizations seeking opportunities to partner with corporations. More than 200 people attended the Fair. Since that time, this concept of sharing information has been incorporated into CVC-TC programming.
CVC of the Year
In June 2009, the Corporate Volunteerism Council Twin Cities (CVC-TC) was awarded the 2009 Corporate Volunteerism Council (CVC) of the Year Award at the 2009 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. This award recognizes one of the 64 CVCs for its success in employing the CVC Principles of Excellence. These principles acknowledge that CVCs exist to meet the needs of businesses and the community, commit to assisting businesses interested in developing employee volunteer programs, and target CVC efforts to address serious social problems based on real community needs.
CVC-TC Celebrates 30th Anniversary
Programs that assist CVC-TC members in their professional education have always been a key benefit of membership. Typically, programs have been held six to 10 times per year. A variety of formats have been used, including speakers, panels, and roundtables. Frequent topics have included:
- Volunteer councils
- Retiree programs
- Volunteer recruitment, recognition, and retention
- Risk management
- Time management
- Corporate/nonprofit partnerships
- Measuring success
- School-based volunteering
- Communication tools
- Greening your volunteer program
- Generating publicity for volunteer programs
- Workplace giving campaigns
In 1983, CVC-TC published its first newsletter, CVC Response, and its first annual report. CVC-TC continues to publish both.
CVC-TC launched its first Web site in 1999. An initial enhancement was made in 2000. An extensive redesign was completed in 2008, adding a members-only section and other features.
To stay connected with members on an ongoing basis, CVC-TC implemented a variety of social networking tools in 2009, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages. With these tools in place, members can share best practices, resources, news and other discussions anytime.
Connections to Other Organizations
From its origins, CVC-TC has sought to work with other organizations within the community that focus on volunteerism. Initially, close involvement with the Volunteer Center of Minneapolis and the Volunteer Center of St. Paul provided valuable ties to the nonprofit sector.
An early decision to create an “Associate Members” category in CVC-TC allowed selected nonprofit organizations an opportunity to join with the corporate members in the cause of workplace volunteerism.
Around 1990, when the Points of Light Foundation (POLF) was doing some work studying corporate volunteerism, CVC-TC members provided input and feedback on the POLF plans.
In 2002, the Minnesota Office of Citizenship and Volunteer Service (MOCVS) closed, so the newly-formed Minnesota Associate of Volunteer Administrators (MAVA) was asked to continue some of the work of the MOCVS. CVC-TC played a role in launching and supporting MAVA and continues to maintain a close relationship today.
In 2006, CVC-TC members voted on a bylaws change to create a “Partner Organizations” category for membership. This category is limited to a small number of organizations that have a broad perspective on community needs related to volunteerism. These organizations are not charged dues, but are required to participate fully in CVC-TC’s mission through programming and board and committee work.
Administrative Support for CVC-TC
In its early years, CVC-TC received administrative support from the Volunteer Center–Minneapolis, which was a program of the Minneapolis United Way. The Volunteer Center–St. Paul, a standalone 501(c)(3) organization, was a member and provided other support to CVC-TC.
In 2000, the two Volunteer Centers were merged into a new, separate organization. Support for the CVC-TC followed and was assigned to a staff person at the newly-formed Volunteer Resource Center.
In 2003, CVC-TC hired Nonprofit Solutions, a St. Paul company, to provide administrative support. In 2012, Nonprofit Solutions changed their name to Ampere!, which then became Synergos, AMC after acquisition in 2014 and continues to serve CVC-TC.