A project of the Michigan Nonprofit Assocation
Volunteer Centers of Michigan (VCM) began in 1988 as an informal network of volunteer center directors who sought to support each other and discuss key issues faced by volunteer centers across the state. This network was formally incorporated in 1992, with volunteer center directors serving as a governing board. Then in 1994, VCM became an affiliate of the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA), which acted as its fiscal agent. However, in 2000, a successful statewide fundraising effort led to the creation of a new statewide volunteer infrastructure organization, the ConnectMichigan Alliance (CMA). VCM became an affiliate of CMA, separating from the Michigan Nonprofit Association. In 2007, MNA and CMA merged, and VCM was moved back under the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s umbrella, though it continues to be supported by the ConnectMichigan Endowment.
Over the course of these changes in organizational structure, the Volunteer Centers of Michigan’s mission of strengthening existing volunteer centers, providing leadership in developing new centers, and promoting and strengthening volunteerism statewide has remained steady. The VCM achieves its mission by employing a variety of programs and initiatives — often by partnering with other organizations at both the state and national levels.
One such service that member organizations receive is informative mailings that provide updates on current state and national initiatives, funding opportunities and relevant legislation, promotion of local events, and celebrations of local centers’ accomplishments. Member organizations are also provided with toolkits and advice for legislative advocacy, and local centers may request consultation visits. As a network organization, one of VCM’s primary concerns is facilitating communication and partnerships between its members, which it accomplishes through network meetings and an annual retreat, where volunteer center directors are able to discuss current issues in the field, plan strategically, and build trust.
VCM’s partnership with MNA has led to a variety of statewide services and programs. VCM members are offered opportunities to participate in seminars or workshops sponsored by MNA. Additionally, MNA and VCM partnered during the early years to hold a two-day Volunteerism SuperConference. This SuperConference brought representatives from all segments of the volunteer field together for workshops, networking, and resource sharing. After several years, this conference was transitioned to the Nonprofit SuperConference.
Another key outcome of the partnership with MNA was the establishment of the George W. Romney Fund for Volunteerism in Michigan. As former governor, George Romney was a strong supporter of volunteer centers, and this endowed fund built local infrastructure (establishing local volunteer center endowment funds), provided mini-grants to support innovative volunteer projects and programs across the state, and supported a public relations campaigns to spur participation in volunteer programs.
VCM also partnered with the Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) on several occasions. Two particularly noteworthy partnerships were the Volunteer Investment Grants and the Volunteer Generation Fund. The Volunteer Investment Grants were developed by VCM, administered by MCSC, and funded by the state of Michigan. These grants were used to build endowments, totaling $1 million annually, and were available to community-based, volunteer, nonprofit agency partnerships that designated and supported an agency that functions as a community volunteer resource center. The Volunteer Investment Grants had two goals. The first was to support and increase volunteerism and community service, and the second was to leverage local funds supporting local community foundation endowments that help sustain the activities of a community volunteer resource center. Volunteer Centers of Michigan provided either a 2:1 or a 1:1 match, and the match dollars for those grants were endowed in community foundations across the state. Because of these grants, volunteer centers that chose to participate were able to build endowments and increase their long-term financial stability.
Similar to the Volunteer Investment Grants, the Volunteer Generation Fund was created by the federal government (through the Serve America Act), to engage volunteer connector organizations in expanding their outreach to increase volunteers at the local level. Michigan was fortunate to receive one of 19 national awards that supported the enhancements of volunteer engagement with 14 centers. Funding was used to strengthen and update the technology used by volunteer centers in order to increase ease and accessibility of posting and finding volunteer opportunities, and to assist in the building of local collaborative models to address community issues.
Video: Watch leaders discuss the Volunteer Centers of Michigan: