We often think of low-income communities as service recipients; however, it is time for a paradigm shift to also see these residents as contributors. Contributors of time and talent to our nonprofits through volunteer efforts that engage them fully in the issues that impact them daily. Traditional volunteer recruitment efforts may not work in these communities, but the power of individuals improving their own communities is worth rethinking our recruitment plans.
Considerations for low-income communities:
- Building trust. You need to create relationships with trusted community leaders (both formal and informal), faith-based organizations, and potential volunteers.
- Get creative to overcome barriers. Child care, transportation, living wage employment are often cited as major challenges to getting involved. Think outside the box on how to address these challenges. Create partnerships with other local organizations to pool resources.
- Create a system of incentives that speaks to the volunteer. Provide gas cards, food cards, etc that would assist volunteers in meeting basic needs. Communicate with the volunteer how skills learned are transferable to the job market.
- Design trainings appropriate to literacy level of volunteers. Take into consideration the educational level of volunteers and ensure that material is clear and easily understood by all.
We need to stop seeing low-income communities as mere recipients of service and as the resources they are to create change in Indy as a whole. Residents of these communities are uniquely suited to address the challenges of their neighborhood and are truly assets to creating a thriving volunteer culture in Indianapolis.