citywide volunteer engagement

Promoting Resilience Through Citywide Volunteer Engagement Strategies

Volunteer engagement is a powerful strategy to strengthen communities and increase civic resilience; however, it is rarely seen as a key solution to community issues.  Maybe it’s time to change that.

What Keeps Communities Resilient?

The Rockefeller Foundation, in partnership with Arup, developed The City Resilience Index based on extensive research with cities. The index articulates four drivers of community resilience.  

These researchers define resilience as “…the capacity of cities to function, so that the people living and working in cities – particularly the poor and vulnerable – survive and thrive no matter what stresses or shocks they encounter.”

The four key drivers or dimensions of resilience are:

  1. Health and wellbeingSystems that ensure the health and wellbeing of people living and working in the city.

  2. Economy and societyThe social and financial systems that enable urban populations to live peacefully, and act collectively.

  3. Infrastructure and Environment Built and natural systems that provide critical services, protect and connect urban citizens.

  4. Leadership and strategyThe need for informed, inclusive, integrated and iterative decision making in our cities.

Within these domains, researchers suggests twelve goals to promote resilience:

Minimal human vulnerability
Diverse livelihood & employment
Effective safeguards to human health & life
Collective identity & community support
Comprehensive security & rule of law
Sustainable economy
Reduced exposure & fragility
Effective provision of critical services
Reliable mobility & communications
Effective leadership & management
Empowered stakeholders
Integrated development planning

It’s an ambitious list, but infinitely more doable with leadership and community support.  

That’s where volunteer engagement comes in.

In nearly every domain noted above, there is a place for citizen action and volunteer engagement either as advisors, advocates, or service delivery partners.  

And yet, most cities have yet to tap this powerful resource. 

VQ Strategies and Offero have assembled a strategy and resource — including specific case studies of cities who have successfully invested in citywide volunteer engagement. 

Why invest in building a citywide volunteer engagement strategy?

There are several benefits to developing a citywide volunteer engagement strategy, and some cities have experienced traction in the following areas …

Volunteer engagement builds resilience.
Even in global efforts, research shows that local volunteering (formal or informal) strengthens a community’s ability to not only recover from a crisis or stress but prepare for or prevent one in the future. 

Volunteer engagement strengthens economic well-being.
Volunteering is associated with stronger economic resilience and protection against unemployment. 

Volunteering leads to better health.
Adults who volunteer are more likely to experience health benefits when it comes to physical and mental health.

Engaging volunteers builds the capacity of city agencies.
Strategic engagement can free staff up to do the work for which they are uniquely qualified and extend an agency’s ability to deliver services and advocate for their cause. 

Engaging volunteers can help achieve diversity and inclusion objectives, which correlates with higher performance.
In addition to welcoming diverse perspectives, carving pathways for immigrant integration, and the like, diversifying the workforce through engaging volunteers from diverse backgrounds can also lead to better performance financially and otherwise as a city. 

Build Your Case for Your City

Despite the evidence, many city staff and residents encounter challenges when seeking to gain leadership support for citywide volunteer engagement strategies. 

To address this challenge, Beth Steinhorn, President of VQ Volunteer Strategies, and Lindsey Rehder, COO of Offero, have partnered to create a free 26-page citywide volunteer engagement guide that addresses these barriers.

The guide includes:

  • Concise research highlights on the value and benefits of citywide engagement strategies.
  • Case studies illustrating how different cities—from the City of Boulder to New York City—have built the case for citywide engagement strategies and the paths they have taken since. 
  • Tools you can use to build the case for support.  

For key research highlights, informational case studies, and tools for building the case for citywide volunteer engagement strategies, download the complimentary guide. 


About the author:

This blog post was written in partnership with 

Lindsey Rehder, COO of Offero

As the COO of Squarei Technologies and founder of Offero, Lindsey combines her deep technological understanding, entrepreneurial spirit, and innovative leadership to help companies succeed. She has 17 years’ experience as a project manager, trainer, and software developer. Lindsey specializes in helping organizations utilize technology to streamline volunteer management processes and boost engagement