New York City shows a tremendous need for robust social services. Nearly 3.8 million people (45 percent of residents) live in poverty or just above the federal poverty level—and income inequality continues to increase. The scope and scale of these issues, among others, require an extensive mobilization of resources to respond effectively, but organizations often lack the capacity to do so. Approximately 5,000 community-based organizations in NYC provide education, health, economic opportunity, or emergency management services, but staff and budget constraints are common.
The Office of the Mayor recognizes these challenges in its long-term strategic plan, One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City, and, as part of its vision, seeks to build the capacity of the civic sector through its NYC Service office, which oversees civic engagement. The NYC Service administers the NYC Civic Corps program and connects 100 NYC Civic Corps members, all of whom are AmeriCorps members, with indirect service positions at 50 community-based organizations and city agencies. These connections supply additional support to recruit and manage volunteers.
The Urban Institute conducted an evaluation of the NYC Service Civic Corps program in 2017–2018 to assess how much organizations benefit from the Civic Corps members. The evaluation sought to answer whether NYC Civic Corps members have significantly greater volunteer management capacity, on average, than similar organizations that do not host AmeriCorps members provided by NYC Civic Corps.
The evaluation found that NYC Civic Corps sites report significantly greater benefits from volunteers than the control group and that they tend to place a larger dollar value on service provided by volunteers. Other key research findings include:
- NYC Civic Corps sites were significantly more likely to have implemented a plan that identifies community partnerships.
- Almost all NYC Civic Corps sites reported that volunteers provided cost savings, were more attentive to clients, improved community relations, and increased quality of services.
- Although volunteer retention is a concern for NYC Civic Corps sites, the site representatives credit members for contributing to volunteer trainings and management plans.
- NYC Civic Corps sites are more appreciative of the specialized skills that volunteers bring to the table and are more likely to entrust volunteers to manage other volunteers.
- NYC Civic Corps members generally met the expectations of the partner sites, contributed to the capacity and goals of the partner organizations, and appear to have made volunteers more effective.
Overall, the study reveals that NYC Civic Corps members benefited their host sites and helped the sites manage additional volunteers, enabling them to improve procedures for volunteer recruitment and management.