Profile in successfully increasing volunteer diversity

Here’s a really inspiring story of how Voices for Children very thoughtfully and effectively recruited more diverse volunteers. Regardless of what group(s) an organization is trying to engage, whether for staff or volunteers, there are some very useful insights.

VCF recruits and trains Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) to assist and advocate for children in foster care. While they deeply appreciate their existing corps of volunteers, they recognized that the volunteers don’t reflect the demographic makeup of the children they advocate for and that there had to be more people in the community who would make excellent CASAs but hadn’t been recruited.

A number of factors led them to decide to focus on recruiting members of the LGBT community. VCF collaborated with Human Rights Campaign (an LGBTQ advocacy organization that already had a framework for helping organizations recruit and retain LGBTQ staff and volunteers). The organization changes they implemented took more than a year, but VCF is tremendously pleased with the results.

These are some of their lessons learned:

1. Increasing diversity and inclusion required internal change first.

2. One of their most important realizations was that they needed outside expertise.

3. They needed to understand and listen to the real needs of the LGBTQ community, without assuming that they knew what the needs would be.

4. Commitment to diversity requires “transparency, humility, and the willingness to ask questions, admit where one still has room for improvement, and maintain openness to listening and learning.”

5. It takes time — they expected the process to take two months and they ended up taking a year.

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