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ASU Lodestar Center offers nationally recognized training to boost nonprofits' efficiency

ASU's Lodestar Center offers new training to help nonprofits be more efficient.
December 18, 2018

Grant from governor's office helps organizations learn best practices for recruiting, keeping volunteers

The lifeblood of any nonprofit organization is its volunteers — those people who gladly donate their time for a cause that stirs their passion.

Thanks to a new grant from the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family, Arizona State University is helping nonprofits in the state to better manage — and appreciate — their volunteers. The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation won the funding last summer to offer the nationally recognized “Service Enterprise Initiative” program. Ten state nonprofits are wrapping up the training now, and the center is accepting applications for the next cohort to begin in February.

“It shows our volunteers that we’re really trying,” said Elaine Starks, executive director of Power Paws, a Scottsdale-based organization that trains assistance dogs. The nonprofit has about 30 volunteers and aims to place about 12 dogs a year with people who have diabetes or post-traumatic stress disorder or who need mobility assistance. Volunteers foster the dogs while they are being trained.

“Some of our volunteers have been with us for 10 years, and we want to show them that we’re making an investment in them and recognizing them.”

The grant allows Lodestar to offer the program at a cost of only $430 for the nonprofits, which can then begin the national certification process by the Points of Light Foundation The foundation was created in 1990 in response to President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 inaugural address, which compared service by volunteers to a “thousand points of light.”, a nationwide organization that works to increase and improve volunteer service. The Service Enterprise Initiative training is based on research that pinpointed 10 practices that nonprofits should incorporate to be most efficient, such as standardizing training, setting up a tracking system and communicating clear expectations.

The training helps nonprofits of any size to become more effective, according to Cynthia Thiede, director of professional development education for the ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Management Institute. The center is in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“They all want to do better at managing their volunteers, and they want a higher retention rate,” she said.

The Points of Light Foundation estimates that, after the training, organizations can expect a return of $3 to $6 for every $1 invested in effective volunteer engagement. The research found that nonprofits that engage volunteers in productive ways are equally as effective as agencies without volunteers, but at almost half the median budget.

Starks started to revamp the volunteer procedures at Power Paws after she was promoted to executive director a year ago, and she said the Service Enterprise Initiative training has improved that process.

“It helped me to see that we needed to provide our volunteers with more structure,” she said. “To have an invested volunteer, you need to give them an outline of your expectations.”

Previously, Power Paws volunteers had to agree to a two-year commitment. Now, in the new system, dogs will attend training more frequently, reducing the commitment to one year, and volunteers will get a better picture throughout the process of how close their dog is to being placed. In addition, other volunteers will provide short-term respite to the dog-fostering volunteers.

“Our volunteer program was put together 17 years ago, and it needed to be freshened up,” Starks said.

 The Maryvale Revitalization Corporation, which manages 2,500 volunteers a year, works to build collaboration among non-profits, faith-based communities, government initiatives, schools and local businesses in West Phoenix. Jaime Lyn Gonzales, the director of programming, said that the training included a valuable "diagnosis" of the agency.

 "Much of what we believe about our vision and practices for engaging human capital proved to be true, while some areas of improvement were highlighted," she said. "We appreciated seeing and embracing these, as many of those opportunities aligned with improvements in practices and policies that were already in development. This also provided our team and board of directors with the validation to move forward in these investments."

Pat Bell-Demers, executive director of the Sonoran Arts League, said the training revealed a lot of “aha moments.”

“It was an eye-opener to get through the diagnostic and uncover those weaknesses and those strengths,” she said.

The Sonoran Arts League, which is based in Cave Creek and has more than 400 volunteers, promotes arts in the community with exhibits, classes, artists-in-residence, studio tours, veterans’ programs and a gallery.

One of the training sessions teaches nonprofits how to calculate the return on investment for volunteers’ work.

“Being able to identify the value that these individuals bring is priceless,” Bell-Demers said. “They open up doors, bring us relationships and help further our mission.”

The training helped the league set up a strategic action plan, she said.

“Boards of directors come and go all the time, but this plan is timeless,” she said.

Top image by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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Aiming high: ASU grad student pursues dream of flight

December 18, 2018

Luke Air Force Base commander invites former Sun Devil walk-on cornerback for the ride of his life

Arizona State University graduate student Anthony Lawrence recently got a taste of what his future life could be like when he strapped into the back seat of an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

His Dec. 11 ride in a two-seat jet fighter used primarily for training student pilots marks the symbolic beginning of Lawrence’s path toward fulfilling his childhood dream of flying.

“The flight was amazing, from takeoff to landing,” Lawrence said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations of anything I could have dreamed of.”

The Georgia native’s passion for flying began around age 5 after a family trip to an air show, and it eventually led him to an aviation enrichment program at his local airport during high school, followed by four and a half years on active duty with the Air Force starting in 2011.

“I went to a few air shows growing up and then that really turned into hopefully one day becoming a fighter pilot,” Lawrence said. “So here I am.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Lawrence, who transferred from an active-duty unit in California to a reserve squadron in Tucson, will have a chance at becoming a fighter pilot when he returns to active duty in January to attend Air Force Officer Training School, followed by flight school.

While at ASU, Lawrence received his private pilot’s license in 2016, played football for the Sun Devils as a walk-on that same year and earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies this past May. He was also an active member of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center outreach team and starred in an orientation welcome video with fellow veteran Marisa Von Holten.

“All of those things are something I am passionate about, and it kind of just came easy to me to put in the work because I knew it would pay off in the long run,” said Lawrence, who also credits the Tuskegee Airmen for inspiring him to fly.

ASU alumnus Brig. Gen. Todd Canterbury, 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke, met Lawrence during ASU’s Salute to Service week in November and subsequently invited him to fly, something the service does as part of the Air Force’s Orientation Flight Program

“It really came through him, and I’m just eternally grateful for the opportunity to even be here,” Lawrence said after the flight. “An experience like this just gives you that carrot at the end of the road letting you know that this is the culmination of all the hard work that you’ve put in up until this point and beyond to try and work for.”

Currently, Lawrence is an ASU Online graduate student in the homeland security program with the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Through ASU, through networking, through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Luke Air Force Base, that’s how it’s all possible,” Lawrence said. “I’m definitely feeling inspired, more inspired than even before, knowing that the work ahead will lead to something like this in the future.”

Top photo: Future Air Force officer Anthony Lawrence walks away from the F-16D in which he just flew at Luke Air Force Base on Dec. 11. The ASU Online graduate student will soon attend the Air Force's Officer Training School and flight school. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications