Each class consists of 20-25 people who participate in five program days over five weeks (one day per week). Program days last seven hours, with lunch and snacks included. Day 1 includes a half-day orientation that enlightens classmates about issues surrounding poverty and other economic and social trends affecting the city. After lunch, the class boards a bus and tours three nonprofit organizations.
The Day 1 orientation is key to why the program works. Through a series of heat maps and other information, classmates get a thorough look at issues and opportunities affecting Springfiedians’ quality of life, learn how these issues interrelate, and see how our community is working together to address both the “upstream” and “downstream” aspects of poverty. They also learn about the challenges policymakers and other community leaders face in their work to address priority issues. “It’s a deep dive,” Scott says. “It’s a luxury to teach an audience of citizens deeply interested in learning ways to improve the community and willing to invest the time to learn how and why it’s so important.” “And these are frequent voters,” adds Burris. “These are citizens you want on your side actively supporting your community with an increased feeling of ownership and pride.”
Program days 2-5 each begin with a one-hour classroom session consisting of presentations by selected community leaders. Some provide additional insights into our community; others highlight additional volunteer opportunities. Participants then board a bus to visit five nonprofits on their home turf. At least one guide is with the class at all times and coordinates each program day. Each class session is interactive, fun and social. Visits to nonprofits allow participants to “see behind the curtain” to better understand the types of volunteer opportunities available and the role these organizations play in the community. Each host organization plans an interesting, interactive and informative presentation. During the five program days, the class visits 23 nonprofits, all aligned with addressing poverty. They also learn about key volunteer opportunities within city and county government.
“We’ve literally dropped 20-25 highly skilled and motivated potential volunteers on each nonprofit’s doorstep. Their goal is to tell their story in a compelling way that attracts the class members and makes them want to volunteer there. They are competing for talent,” Burris said.
After the final regular program day, participants are offered an opportunity to commit to a volunteer opportunity (or two or three or four) and a short “graduation” celebration wraps up the program. Those who are ready to commit may do so through a “signaling of intent” ceremony at graduation, pledging to volunteer at any nonprofit of their choice at least five hours per month for the following six months. Some participants are creating their own volunteer opportunities based on their unique skills and passions.
Upon graduation from the Give 5 program, alumni are publicly celebrated and valued. These graduates intuitively become ambassadors for the myriad of volunteer opportunities in the community and the Give 5 program.
“They become super volunteers,” Burris explains. “They’ve learned about the challenges in the community and how those challenges are being addressed, and armed with that knowledge, now are ready to roll up their sleeves and use their expertise to make a difference.”
“It is a fast-paced program that keeps the class on their feet, peeking behind the curtain of the community’s selected nonprofits; and on their toes, analyzing the sometimes challenging things they are learning about the community they may have never noticed before,” Burris said.
“The key difference between Give 5 graduates and a typical volunteer is that Give 5 teaches our participants the “why” — why volunteering is important in their community — and then the “how” — how they can be a part of the solution. Most people want to be part of the solution. The most interesting dynamic happens when Give 5 classmates have their eyes opened about the things going on around them, right in their own community.”
The sense of purpose people get from a lifetime career can fade in retirement. “The thing our Give 5 classmates keep mentioning is that they want to feel relevant. Being part of the solution helps them feel relevant,” Burris says.
By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age.
“Baby Boomers are also projected to possess 70% of all U.S. disposable income,” Burris continues. “Not only that, about $30 trillion will change hands over the next 25-30 years during the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world,” Burris said. “They are an asset to any community, and any community that is able to recruit and retain seniors is going to have a massive competitive advantage, compared to communities that ignore this wave of talent.”
Joel Kotkin, an internationally recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends, agrees. He reminded an audience of community leaders at a Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce meeting in early 2018 that “seniors are growing the fastest of any segment of the population. By 2030, the Boomers will have three-times as much money as the millennials. Any community that can attract seniors will find that their banks all of a sudden have a lot more money to lend. They have a lot of skills . . . they’re still active. They can be mentors to local businesses. They can be volunteers at churches or other nonprofit organizations. They’re very active.”
Springfield Give 5 has graduated 112 individuals in the program’s inaugural year, and there is a waiting list of nonprofits wanting to participate. Burris and Scott are working with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri State University and others to help assist with performance and input measurement. They hope to quantify Give 5’s impact on four levels: the impact on the program graduates; the impact on the capacity of the participating nonprofits; the impact on the community the nonprofits serve; and the impact on the host city’s economy and quality of life.
While the total economic impact of the volunteer service provided by Springfield/Greene County Give 5 volunteers is not yet fully known, Burris and Scott have done an initial estimation of the impact of the first five classes. Using the commonly recognized volunteer value rate as identified by Independent Sector and assuming an average of 20 volunteer hours per graduate per month, Give 5 graduates have already donated $297,405 worth of time to nonprofits this year as classes have graduated throughout the year, and even assuming a 10% attrition rate, these same graduates will contribute an additional $500,000 in volunteer services during a full year in 2019.