As usual, I’ve been working on a few different projects lately; this is part of the fun of my job. In the recent past, I’ve been focusing on three main areas: money, performance measures, and storytelling.
Money: I’ll just be honest here. One of the biggest surprises when I became director was how much time and energy is spent on money – getting it, keeping it, spending it, being responsible with it, following the rules about it, etc, etc, etc. It’s not glamorous but someone has to do it. And when you’re leading a state agency that receives federal, state, and private funds, you bet you’re spending a lot of energy making sure you’re a good steward of said funds. I know we are and I want to keep it that way.
Which leads me to Performance Measures. I don’t think there are a whole lot of people who get into the work of the do-good-club so they can evaluate. I’ve known some wonderful professional evaluators in my time and I truly admire them. It’s not easy work and they tend to get a bad rap. Short of being a professional evaluator, I am mildly obsessive about demonstrating outcomes. I want to know that what we do makes a real and tangible difference. As our Outreach Manager Patrice said the other day, “Just having volunteers does not equal success.”
As part of our program, we require our sites to develop measurable outcomes. We ask it in the site application, provide training on developing truly measurable outcomes, and require it as part of the VMC work plan and reporting throughout the year. We take this seriously because, as noted above, I want to make sure we are being good financial stewards. Part of that is being able to demonstrate that the investment is worth it.
At VM, we want to make sure we can note a real impact on the community being served – not just the volunteer program or the organization. If we have a flourishing volunteer program, it doesn’t really mean anything if we’re not serving our community more effectively or efficiently.
So, there we are – a world of work going into effective performance measurement every day.
Then we have some of the really fun stuff for an English major like me – showing the results of service throughout Storytelling. Again, it’s not easy (sense a theme here?)! I’ve had my eye on a particular goal for a little while, and that’s the upcoming AmeriCorps Week.
AmeriCorps Week is helping me tie together these three areas – we have an opportunity, along with many other AmeriCorps programs, members, and supporters, to who how we use our funds well to make a demonstrable impact on our communities – and we can show this through stories.
Stories come in all kinds of forms – photos, essays, quotes, and more – and I’m looking forward to sharing ours with you. Over the last few weeks, when I’ve found myself bogged down in money or performance measures, spending a couple minutes reflecting on some of our stories of service really helped pick me up. I hope we’ll get to pick up some of you when we show off our stories. More so, I hope that you’ll share some of your stories. Let’s use AmeriCorps Week to have a great conversation about how AmeriCorps works in your life, in your organization, in your community.
To join the conversation, post some photos, quotes, or stories on our facebook page and/or follow us on twitter. To get involved in the national conversation, follow #ACWeek and #AmeriCorpsWorks on twitter and check out americorps.gov and americorpsalums.org. (If you’re lucky enough to be an AmeriCorps Alum yourself, join the movement to show how AmeriCorps Alums are working all over the place. Tell the story of how AmeriCorps Alumni are still serving and getting things done in their community. Find out how here.