Equipping nonprofits to advance social change

Report Back on “Making it Real with 5% Shifts”

Written by Caroline McAndrews

On Tuesday, BMP Co-directors Frances and Sean led a webinar on 5% Shifts for Grassroots Grantmakers.  The webinar included what we’ve learned so far about how small shifts can create a ripple effect of change in organizations and throughout a community.

Featured on the webinar was Melinda Lewis, Policy Director for the Assets and Education Initiative.  She shared key lessons from her work with reStart, Inc in Kansas City – one of the organizations profiled in Asking Powerful Questions, the third report in the 5% Shift series.  When describing how they engaged volunteers as partners in their program for homeless people and advocacy to end homelessness, she highlighted some key points:

  • Mission as Direction: Adding “ending homelessness in our community” to the mission of a homeless shelter was “a risk and rather daunting,” according to Melinda.  Yet it gave staff and volunteers a way to expand what they thought of as their work.
  • Achieving a Vision Takes More: While careful to point out the inherent value and importance of service provision, Melinda noted that expanding their mission primed reStart, Inc. to take on a more social change role since their services alone would not be enough to achieve that.
  • Now is the Time: It’s clear that making a shift towards social change requires resources – time, money, education and learning – but when you’re ready, it’s time.  Melinda noted that the shift at reStart, Inc. came about during the recession, but the need was clear so they moved on it.  They developed an orientation and debrief as part of the volunteer program, and have seen great changes as a result.

Since initiating the orientation and debrief as part of the volunteer program, reStart, Inc. grew its committed volunteer network from 900 to 2,300 unduplicated volunteers in one year. Prior to this program, they had a few key volunteers but many came once and did not return. In contrast, current volunteers act as effective outreach workers who speak positively about their volunteer experience at reStart, Inc. and refer others to the organization.

Melinda noted that a key part of the success of this shift was because the organization’s actions were about building community as well.  They invited people to participate more fully, and including their volunteers as co-creators allowed them to be partners in a cause, in addition to assisting in service delivery.

To learn more about restart, Inc. and other organizations making small shifts to create big change, check out our 5% Shifts series. And to see the whole presentation and download materials, visit the Grassroots Grantmakers website.

Service and Social Change service delivery Small Shifts Big Change Series webinar