Capitalize on Volunteerism and Citizen Participation

The Legislature should create a volunteerism office in the new Texas Commission on Commerce and Labor Agency to more effectively channel volunteer resources and citizen participation.


Background
According to public sector volunteerism expert J. L. Brudney: The consideration of alternative methods for the delivery of public services reflects a growing spirit of entrepreneurship and innovativeness among local officials. Volunteer personnel are an important element of this approach. While contracting out has attracted most attention as an alternative to the standard m odel of service provision through public employees, volunteers offer a highly potent means to limit the size yet increase the effectiveness of government. 1 (Emphasis added.)

Volunteers represent the largest and most cost-effective work force available to the State of Texas. More than half of all U.S. adult residents volunteer an average of 4.2 hours per week. 2 Although a great majority of volunteers report working for the nonprofit sector, public agencies enjoy a significant amount of volunteer labor. In 1985, 23 million people one in every five volunteers contributed their time to a public agency at the local, state or federal level. That same year, the International City Management Association estimated that 72.6 percent of cities with populations of 4, 500 or more involved volunteers in at least one service area. 3

Nationwide, governmental bodies face severe fiscal constraints, while the need for public services continues to escalate. Financially strapped governments find citizen participation an attractive option to augment their capacity to deliver services and to reduce dependence on a salaried work force. A Virginia legislator, defending the state s office for volunteerism stated: We re not talking about saving money we re talking about providing ser vices with money we do not have. 4 There is a need for organized, directed volunteer service.

Volunteerism in the public sector builds on an impressive foundation of altruism. According to the survey, Giving and Volunteering in the United States, 1992, Americans contributed 15.2 billion hours of service nationally. 5 The report goes on to say that being asked is a prime motivator for giving as well as for serving. People who are asked to contribute financially are more than twice as likely to do so th an those who are not asked. People who are asked to volunteer their time are more than three times as likely to do so than others. Of those who were asked to volunteer, 86 percent did so, compared to just 24 percent of those who were not asked. A massive v olunteer work force is clearly available and waiting to serve.

State Support of Volunteerism
Approximately 30 states maintain offices to foster volunteerism, and several others have contact persons with this responsibility. In a 1991 survey, the Arkansas Division of Volunteerism found that about 324,000 persons volunteered over 15 million hours for an estimated value of $174 million. Out of that work force, 86,304 persons contributed more than 6.2 million hours of service to public agencies, valued at over $70 million. The Division of Volunteerism concluded their study with this summary:

The use of volunteerism has a significant impact among state and local organizations. Volunteers help bridge the gap between decreasing revenues and increased demand for s ervices. Without these citizens giving of themselves, many requests for assistance would go unanswered. 6

Arkansas estimates that it would have needed an additional $2.8 billion of taxable personal income in order to have paid almost 324,000 statewide volunteers. Arkansas economy would have had to have grown an additional 8 percent in 1991. (The state s 1991 economic growth rate was only 4.9 percent over 1990.)

State offices designed to foster and support citizen participation perform many vital functions.

Technical Assistance
Volunteers working within state government have the right to work in well-organized and thoughtfully directed programs, which provide meaningful service opportunities. Professional liability and automobile insurance (for work-related travel) are basic requ irements safeguarding the gratuitous work force. Through the efforts of offices supporting volunteerism in the states of New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Minnesota, volunteers working in state agencies have liability insurance c overage to the same extent as paid workers using umbrella policies. Minnesota s volunteerism office aggressively tackled the problem by gathering experts to recommend ways to reduce exposure to negligence and liability issues.

In Texas, state agencies, hospitals, schools and community centers that use volunteers purchase liability policies from private insurers. The premiums range from $350 to $6,000 per year. Texas lags behind other states in charitable immunity legislation. Se curing liability coverage on an agency-by-agency basis is duplicative, costly and may discourage some agencies from initiating volunteer ventures in spite of the potential for an increased ability to deliver services.

Empowerment
Volunteerism has been an American tradition based on a fundamental ethos of empowerment. Dating back to colonial days, we have been a nation of self-help organizations. We created our own health care institutions, community betterment groups and youth serv ice organizations. Through community ownership, citizens have moved from a reactive stance to a proactive position of confronting issues and solving problems.

With the support and guidance of the Arkansas Division of Volunteerism, a network of 53 Unified Community Resource Councils (UCRC) has been developed. The Division of Volunteerism provides ongoing technical support and assistance in forming the councils an d in networking. Each UCRC is made up of local people who work to share community resources and coordinate efforts to help meet community needs. E ach UCRC is community owned and operated independent of state or federal agencies. Operating as a nonprofit entity, the UCRC acts as a problem solver that can receive assistance, donations and grants for the benefit of the community to meet the problems of that community. Volunteer personnel contributions to the UCRCs in 1991 totaled $6.2 million.

Operating through the Department of Administration, the Minnesota Office on Volunteerism relies heavily on its community-based advisory committee. Composed of r epresentatives from government, foundations, businesses, higher education and all facets of the volunteer community, the board has been instrumental in forming nonpartisan alliances and developing partnerships to address significant community concerns. Leg islators regularly call upon the office to explore innovative approaches to community participation. Volunteerism is no longer seen as an addendum to significant issues of governance it has become an integral part of the solutions to concerns facing the state.

Texas can boast about its community participation supporting social needs. Through volunteer-service councils authorized under the Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3), both the Texas Department of Mental Heath and Mental Retardation (TxMHMR) and the Te xas Youth Commission (TYC) gain valuable volunteer and monetary contributions to augment their programs. Operation Bootstrap, organized by the Department of Aging, has successfully created permanent funding sources to underwrite many senior centers across the state. Each effort is laudatory and should be supported.

Creative models demonstrate the potential to empower communities. In this technical age, citizens with firsthand experience with community problems need help to navigate the legal and bureaucratic systems in order to address and solve community concerns.

Training
In Reinventing Government, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler assert that bureaucracy has undermined the confidence and competence of citizens and communities. We create dependency, they argue. Likewise, our system of big government agencies too often revolves around maintaining control and sustaining the power of the professionals and the bureaucrats. Working cooperatively with citizens who believe in their power to act and are co mmitted to solving their own problems is a new and revolutionary way of doing government. Training is imperative, and new reward systems are critical.

State offices of citizen participation provide training. Through its Certified Volunteer Manager Prog ram, the Arkansas Division of Volunteerism, in cooperation with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, prepares managers for all facets of volunteer administration. Minnesota achieves comparable results by encouraging university sponsored programs and offering training programs. Virginia operates a network of conferences which provides valuable volunteer management education for state agency and nonprofit personnel.

In Texas, the chiefs of volunteer services in state human service agencies have develop ed a regional network of training events. The cooperating parties include the Department of Human Services (DHS), TxMHMR, Texas Department of Health, the TYC, the Attorney General s Child Support Enforcement Division Office, the Department of Aging and the new Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS). The Governor s Office on Volunteerism sponsors an annual conference, a one-day event in December, which includes training and the presentation of the Governor s Awards for Volunteer Service. The conference and awards presentation are important functions, yet neither adequately addresses the massive need for preparing officials in state government to effectively collaborate with citizen groups.

The Texas University System, the Governor s Leadership Program and the Governor s Management-Training Program each present valuable opportunities to reeducate state officials to rethink citizen participation and to explore creative options for shared leadership.

Truly integral citizen participation in the business of government is a radical departure from traditional administrative practice. Not only are volunteers capable of solving problems and expanding service delivery beyond fiscal restraints, but they represent the capacity to leverage scarce resource s. For TxMHMR alone in fiscal 1990, every dollar appropriated by the Legislature for volunteer services netted a $3.59 return in goods and services. 7 DHS and DPRS together estimate a 20:1 ratio of services leveraged for state dollars expended. 8 No other program offers greater fiscal impact or long-term potential benefit.

Expertise
A commonly misapplied definition of volunteer is amateur. The term volunteer, like the term amateur, may reflect a salary status, but no aspect of the definition should be confused with skill level, dedication or expertise.

For example, the loaned executives supporting the work of Texas state government illustrate the impact of these skilled volunteers. Governor Richards office benefits from the services of an executive on loa n from Xerox. The original Texas Performance Review team encompassed private sector volunteers, and the Comptroller s Renaissance Project has used the expertise of executives on loan from private sector firms.

Loaned executives and volunteer consultants greatly enhance the work of the public sector. The Fellows Program in the Office of the Mayor of Chicago matches the skills and expertise of private sector executives with short-term public projects needing speci al assistance. United Airlines trained all of the city s telephone operators and their supervisors in customer service techniques. IBM helped public health nurses reduce the time devoted to paperwork through a hand held computer system, freeing nurses for additional patient contact. A marketing plan is being developed for a new recycling effort. A local bank developed an integrated accounts receivable program for the city. Both the Benefits Office and the worker s compensation system are being overhauled. All of these projects have been leveraged through the director of the program and the two voluntary advisory committees with whom she meets.

A conflict of interest statement signed by the company prevents it from bidding on any contract work that may emanate from a service assignment and safeguards the integrity of the volunteer and recipient. The Benefits Office has not computed actual dollar savings because funds were never available for these projects, and while the projects added value, their existence was a bonus of creative resource utilization and corporate responsibility.

Developed in response to the curtailment of federal funds to city, county and state governments, the Volunteer Consultant Services Program in Arkansas enlists volunteer consultants with professional skills so regular services can be maintained and new projects undertaken. About 230 projects have been undertaken in the program s eight-year history. Volunteer consultants have planned water and sewer systems, fire stations, drainage and street paving projects, municipal pur chasing systems, traffic flow projects, personnel policies, pension plans, street numbering, computer networking, historic renovation and handicap accessibility work. Architectural and engineering firms have called to request opportunities to provide servi ce. One out-of-state company has offered its expertise. (A slightly dated fiscal analysis finds that every dollar in state funds leverages a $10 return in professional services.)

Retirees are a valuable resource to the Arkansas plan. The legal department of the Department of Human Services requested and secured the services of a retired state employee to read and highlight the Federal Register on a weekly basis. The gentleman and his wife pick up the Federal Register each week and return an annotated version when they pick up the new issue.

Texas has benefited from the expertise of volunteer consultants as well in a less systematic and comprehensive manner. Over 300 people helped rebuild Mother Neff State Park on a volunteer work day in August 1992 after the park was damaged by a flood. Dr Pepper bottling company provided drinks, and the Lions Club fed the volunteers. McLennan County Electrical Cooperative used their equipment to trim dead limbs from trees. The Department of Parks and Wildlife uses volunt eer park hosts each summer.

The Added Expertise of the Retiree
There is phenomenal potential in the retiree work force. Retirees in any sector of the economic community represent a storehouse of knowledge, skills and abilities honed through a lifetime of work. As Dr. Ken Dychtwald says in Age Waves, Maybe one of the purposes of aging is to have the time, the longevity, to make the world better . . .there is so much that needs to be done . . .why not create elder corps?

Corporations across the country are doing just that by actively helping their retirees organize volunteer services. The Honeywell Retiree Volunteer Project now has 1,250 active volunteers. Dr. Jim Renier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Honeywell, shares part of the company s rationale for encouraging and supporting retiree volunteerism:

We don t do it just because it s a good thing to do; it s very self-serving. Look at the taxes and burdens corporations bear due to the problems of our society. Those costs are packaged into the products we sell worldwide.

When we help our communities, we help reduce society s problems, and that can help us reduce the cost of our products and become more competitive. Some studies estimate that we spend in excess of $700 billion addressing societa l ills. If you could reduce that amount by even 10 percent, the cost savings would be enormous. Retiree volunteer programs are an effective way to reduce social costs. 9

This same logic applies to state government. As of September 1992, there are 5,000 full-time classified Texas state employees over 60, each averaging 14 years of state government experience, and an additional 3,034 full-time higher education employees over 60, each with an average of nearly nine years experience. If on retirement, the state could enlist 25 percent of those persons each year in creative volunteer opportunities, the wealth of expertise and wisdom would greatly enhance the state s power to undertake new endeavors and sustain existing projects. These recruitment projections may be low. We know that 72 percent of persons 55 and older are volunteers, and we know that 40 percent of American retirees would rather be working but with flexible, part-time hours. 10

Productivity does not stop at some arbitrary age. There is an unpreceden ted demographic shift in this country. We must understand this new population distribution and respond to this resource with opportunities to match the skills, education and good health of this rapidly growing group. Organizations, such as the National Ret iree Volunteer Center, assist companies in harnessing the retired volunteer work force. The State of Texas should enlist the appropriate expertise to capitalize on the ability and interest of the elder corps.

Networking
Effective state offices on volunt eerism develop extensive networks within their state by establishing important relationships and learning the key concerns of their constituency. A solid knowledge base is essential to capitalize on opportunities, support creative endeavors and to be prepa red to act on grants and contract opportunities. The distribution of funds from the National and Community Service Act illustrates this point. States with established, functioning divisions of volunteerism are the most successful in the competitive grants process.

Pennsylvania, with its PennServe operation, secured $1 million in Serve America funds as well as $2 million to support existing service corps and another $5.8 million over three years to set up new service corps. Arkansas was identified as the grants administration center for the three-state Delta Service Project, a model national se rvice corps program. In fiscal 1992, $3.4 million were allocated for this demonstration grant plus additional funding for the Department of Education and its Serve America thrust. Minnesota received three times its state allotment in Serve America funds, Vermont two times its allotment. Each of these states was well positioned, had key working relationships established and had mechanisms for comprehensive planning efforts.

A centralized office supporting volunteerism, working in cooperation with the governor s initiatives, could reap substantial benefits for Texas.

Support Youth Service
Under the heading Differences Between Generous Volunteers and People Who Don t Volunteer, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported these findings from the survey Giving and Volunteering in the United States, 1992:
Percent of Percent of generous generous
Statement volunteers non-volunteers

Personally saw someone they admired helping
others when they were young 63.0 32.6

Belonged to a youth group or something
similar when they were young 65.9 35.2

Did some kind of volunteer work when they
were young 60.9 29.1

Youth service is unequivocally a predictor of adult service. We must encourage youth service. Although isolated school districts in Texas do encourage service, there is an untapped potential waiting to be mobilized.

The national focus on youth community service must be harnessed and brought to Texas in a planned and organized way if we are to assume our responsibility for developing new generations of citizens concerned for their country. PennServe has had considerabl e success in mobilizing youth through directed attention to school districts. Texas should study this model closely.

Recommendation
A volunteerism office should be established in the new Texas Commission on Commerce and Labor.

Another recommendation in this report consolidates many work force development functions within various state agencies. This volunteerism office could be established within the new agency or another appropriate agency. The office s emphasis should be in three main areas: loaned executive/volunteer consultant programs, retiree corps and youth corps. Three staff members would be re quired to start up the executive/volunteer and retiree corps office: a program director, a professional level person with expertise in volunteer or related programs and an administrative assistant. The director should be a knowledgeable and experienced man ager in volunteerism with a national perspective and solid contacts in the volunteer community. This office should be responsible for supporting city, county and state agencies in meeting service needs using the expertise of loaned executives and volunteer consultants. The office should work with the federal government and private firms to obtain funding to administer the state program and to distribute grants to local government and private nonprofit organizations. Duties should include establishment of a loaned-executive program, a retiree corps of volunteers and a youth corps of volunteers. The office should use the expertise of the National Retiree Volunteer Center to establish the retiree program.

The volunteerism office should coordinate closely with the governor s efforts and collaborate with other state agencies and community groups that need volunteers and conduct volunteer efforts within their agencies. The office should be required to consult with top-level government and community personnel as we ll as volunteer administrators in other state agencies to ensure the best use of the state s resources. Top-level government and community personnel should advise retirees of significant government initiatives that need support.

State volunteer program pe rsonnel should research statewide liability coverage and charitable immunity protection for volunteers working in all aspects of state government and recommend such coverage to the 74th Legislature. In addition, the report should include an assessment of t he volunteer services staffing in state agencies and recommend better ways to coordinate and leverage the state s volunteer resources.

Every effort should be made to harness the volunteer potential of youth. Attention should be given to supporting existi ng service corps programs within the state, to starting new programs and to encouraging guided community service projects through the schools.

Funds in the amount of $168,000 should be set aside from the Advance Interest Trust Fund (the balance in this fund cannot be used for its original purpose). Another recommendation in this report proposes using the remaining fund balances as grant funds for youth corps programs. That recommendation proposes additional staffing to monitor these grants.


Implications
Volunteers leverage scarce resources and maximize the expenditure of public dollars.

A volunteerism office provides the state with an avenue to directly access the expertise of the private sector. Having the functions discussed above consolidated in one office will result in the state being able to bring together youth, private sector exec utives and retirees to accomplish common goals. While these programs volunteer loaned executives, retiree volunteers and youth may be separate, there are benefits from having one director oversee all functions.


Fiscal Impact
The costs associated with a volunteerism office are offset by its ability to leverage resources and to add value to government services. Equivalent worth should be ascribed to volunteer output, yet one must remember the phantom nature of these dollars. Ser vices provided by volunteers are often beyond the purchasing capacity of the government; however, the assistance provided can generate enormous cost savings. Likewise, there are non-quantifiable components to service in terms of goodwill and positive customer relations. No dollar value can be placed on these intangibles, yet their existence greatly enhances government and maintains a positive relationship between the taxpayer and the public instit ution. Further, the volunteers may gain a sense of worth by contributing time and energy to make things better.

The cost to the Advance Interest Trust Fund consists of salaries, benefits and other standard FTE costs for the three staff members.

Fiscal Cost to Advance Change
Year Interest Trust Fund 935 in FTEs

1994 $168,000 +3
1995 168,000 +3
1996 168,000 +3
1997 168,000 +3
1998 168,000 +3

The Volunteer Consultants Project in Arkansas can document a 10:1 ratio of resources leveraged for each public dollar. They manage approximately 25 projects a year each averaging $13,000 in professional services rendered (total benefit = $325,000). Intangible benefits to the state can be calculated by applying Arkansas statistics as a basis for the Texas program. Assume Texas generates 60 percent of Arkansas professional services rendered in the first year and 100 percent in subsequent years.

In Texas, the various human services agencies document a high return on their administrative investment on volunteer resources. This return can be enhanced through the elimination of unnecessary duplication, centralized promotion and grant administration, coordinated training for staff and volunteers, coordinated policy management and support for new volunteer efforts. T he office could be instrumental in establishing close working relationships between the economic sectors and finding creative ways to enhance the quality of life for all Texans.



Endnotes
1 J. L. Brudney, Fostering Volunteer Programs in the Public Sector (San Francisco: Bass Publications, 1990), p. 10.
2 K. A. Goss, Economy s Legacy: A Big Drop in Giving, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, vol. 1, no. 1 (October 20, 1992), pp. 14- 17.
3 S. Duncombe, Volunteers in City Government: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Uses, National Civic Review, vol. 74, no. 9 (1985), pp. 356-364.
4 S. Milliard, Voluntary Action and the States: The Other Alternative, National Civic Review, vol. 72, no. 5 (1983), pp. 262-269.
5 K. A. Goss, Economy s Legacy: A Big Drop in Giving, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, vol. 1, no. 1 (October 20, 1992), pp. 14- 17.
6 Economic Impact of Arkansas Volunteers - 1991, Involvement, vol. 92, no. 7 (September 1, 1992), p. 10.
7 Report of Gifts, Grants, Contracts and Donations Received During FY 1990, Office of Strategic Planning, TxMHMR, 1990.
8 Interview with Susan Smith, DHS and PRS, Austin, Texas, November 24, 1992.
9 At Honeywell Corporate Responsibility Makes Good Economic Sense, NRVC Roundtable, vol. 3, no. 3 (1992).
10 The Nation s Great Overlooked Resource: The Contributions of Americans 55+, NRVC Rountable, vol. 3, no. 3 (June 1992).