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Case Study: Community Commons, MD

Americorps Volunteer Recruits 103 New Volunteers for Community Commons (MD)

Community Commons, a non-profit organization in the Monocacy (MD) watershed, hired an America Corps to manage some of its on-the-ground conservation work. As a small office, hiring an Americorps staff person helped Community Commons reach its goals and objectives and develop and grow its volunteer program.

In order to hire an Americorps volunteer, Community Commons first applied to Volunteer Maryland, a program of the Governor's Office of Service and Volunteerism. This application was similar to applying for a grant. After Communities Commons was selected as a Service Site, it was responsible for recruiting, interviewing, and filling the Volunteer Coordinator position. Americorps volunteers serve for one year.

Community Commons felt hosting an Americorps volunteer was successful, because its Volunteer Coordinator really cared about the people she supervised. She went out of her way to acknowledge them for their community service. She created a Volunteer Handbook and a volunteer orientation program. During her year of service, she recruited 106 new volunteers and managed 320 new and existing volunteers. Thanks to her efforts, a number of these individuals are trained to provide service to Community Commons on a regular basis.

In addition, Americorps was cost effective. Employing an Americorps volunteer cost Community $4500 for the staff person for the year plus cost of regular office and equipment expenses (e.g., computer and printer; extra phone line and additional monthly charges; regular supplies like printer cartridges and paper). In comparison, the program staff person was making about $30,000, not including payroll taxes and health benefits. So, employing an Americorps volunteer was a huge savings when compared to the cost of hiring a full time volunteer coordinator.

In Community Commons' experience, it was difficult to find a diverse applicant pool; many local environmentalists or conservationists who had inquired about employment opportunities in the past were not interested in this position. The Americorps Program is perfect for people interested in serving their community. However, volunteers receive only a modest stipend and an educational award. Therefore, it isn't appealing to everyone.

Lessons Learned
The Americorps program has restrictions; in particular, Community Commons' volunteer could not fundraise, perform administrative tasks, or attend events that require participants to pay a registration fee. This was very limiting to Community Commons and to the Americorps member. While she wanted to help by answering phones and filing or to attend a canoe trip that had a registration fee, she could not. Additionally, she wanted to learn how to write a grant and was not allowed.

For more information, visit the Community Commons Web site (www.communitycommons.org)Exit EPA Disclaimer or E-mail Community Commons (info@communitycommons.org).

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