Metro Volunteer Coordination and Engagement

A smiling assembly line of volunteer workers load or unload boxes of supplies from a box truck.

Our Challenge

Volunteers make Nashville a better place to live and work. But, without proper support systems in place, it's hard for volunteers to know when they are needed and where, as well as what skills and help they can provide. And, without feedback, communication, and encouragement, it's hard to keep volunteers coming back. 
Nashville Metro Government has 50+ departments and agencies and more than one-third of them work with volunteers, according to research by the Ideas to Reality Cohort. Half of the departments that work with with volunteers note a need for additional resources to manage volunteer programs. Yet the city does not have a coordinated volunteer infrastructure. Volunteer hours and work done is not tracked, making it hard to measure volunteers' impact or keep them engaged in long-term participation.

Coordinating volunteer engagement within the government will allow Metro to achieve three main goals: 
  1. Supplement Metro's services to the community 
  2. Provide volunteers with more opportunities and ways to engage with their community
  3. Track the impact and value volunteers add to Nashville 
The goal of this Public Investment Planning (PIP) program is to tap into Nashville's strong volunteer spirit. As well as encouraging volunteerism in Metro employees, funding for this PIP will increase departments' engagement with volunteers. 

Nashville Is Committed to Volunteerism

More than 200,000 residents helped with the Metro area's recovery from the Nashville Flood of 2010, a 1,000-year natural disaster. Nashville's spring and fall clean-up days also mobilize thousands of volunteers, who are eager to help even when there isn't an emergency. 
A house partially submerged in flood waters.
Metro has a long-standing passion for volunteerism. In 2009, Nashville became one of the founding members of Cities of Service, a coalition of over 200 cities with signed declarations of commitment to volunteerism. The Mayor’s Office, Hands On Nashville, and the Center for Nonprofit Management also launched the Excellence in Volunteer Engagement (EVE) certification for volunteer programs, which allows nonprofits to optionally apply for a certificate verifying the quality of their volunteer program using an objective set of standards.

What Can Volunteers Do? 

Aid with Code Enforcement 

Because Metro staffers are not permitted to work on private property, volunteers provide a way to offer home improvements or lawn care for senior or disabled property owners with pending property standards violations. 

Provide Essential Services 

Volunteers can help Metro Government extend its resources, from providing tutoring to teaching healthy food prep to lending a hand at big events like the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. 
A group of four young volunteers with cleanup equipment picking up trash in a public park

Why It Matters

Metro is on a growth trajectory, with the Census estimating that one million new residents will move into the region by 2040. With limited resources available to the government, volunteers can play a massive role in ensuring that Nashvillians' needs are met, and, in fact, can revolutionize city government by incorporating citizens into Metro's service delivery.
Here are some of the ways centralizing and standardizing key processes and procedures for volunteers in Metro Government will help: 
  1. An improved volunteer experience: With better recruitment, schedules, and planning volunteers will have a better experience, and be more willing to volunteer again or in reoccurring positions. 
  2. Increased human capital: With more volunteers available, Metro Departments will be able to do more. Plus, volunteers can sometimes lend a hand in ways that staffers cannot. 
  3. Operational efficiencies: Instead of siloed volunteer efforts, a centralized program will allow departments to work together, increasing efficiency for all teams. This will reduce forms and paperwork, and make it easier for both volunteers and departments. 

Volunteers Provide Value

For every $1 an organization invests in volunteer engagement they can expect a $6 return on investment.
By examining three Metro agencies with volunteer programs, we can see that the volunteers provide the equivalent of 15 full-time employees, or more than a half million dollars worth of value to the city. According to findings from the TCC Group and Deloitte LLP, the return on investment for engaging volunteers in service with organizations is $4-6 for every $1.00 invested.

How It Works 

Through a partnership with Hands On Nashville, a volunteer organization aimed at connecting volunteers with opportunities, Metro departments will participate in the Service Enterprise Initiative, which will help them to engage volunteers more efficiently and to effectively address community needs. 
Training in the Service Enterprise Initiative will provide departments with:  
  • A research-based assessment of existing volunteer engagement practices
  • 16 hours of training to reimagine the ways they engage volunteers
  • Individualized coaching to address unique opportunities and challenges
  • The opportunity to become certified as a Service Enterprise
The Service Enterprise Initiative is a holistic and customized change management approach to help organizations gain a greater return on volunteer investment and better achieve the mission. Diagram of a cycle proceeding in the following fashion: Application, Orientation, Diagnostic, Pre-Training Meeting, Training & Coaching, Certification, Follow-Ups & Continuous Improvement, then back to Application. The cycle continues.

A Volunteer-Driven Before-and-After

Before image of items and bags cluttered on a messy and disorganized porch.
After photo of a clean and organized porch.
What happens when Code Inspectors are required to issue citations to property owners who are not capable of bringing their property to standard because of disabilities, age, and/or lack of financial resources? There's no formal network to help, but sometimes, inspectors try to connect with private citizens to see if they can lend a hand. 
That's what happened with the property above, which was owned by an elderly woman who did not have the strength to mow her lawn and clear items from her patio — but also couldn't afford to hire someone. Ruby Baker, the Bordeaux Hills Neighborhood Association President, worked with a Code Inspector to assess the property owner's needs and resolve the issues. With a formal infrastructure in place, Code Inspectors could more regularly provide property owners with volunteers who can offer assistance. 

How We'll Measure Success 

Some meaningful metrics for the Metro Volunteer Coordination and Engagement program are:  
  • Additional volunteers, both from Metro staffers and the community 
  • Increased number of volunteers within schools 
  • Mechanisms in place to track volunteer work and hours 
  • Plans to train managers and coordinate volunteers 

Our Partners

  • Office of Neighborhoods and Community Engagement
  • Hands On Nashville 
  • Metro Nashville Public Works
  • Metro Codes Department

Program Costs 

Total costs for the Metro Volunteer Coordination and Engagement PIP: $2,500
• Development of messaging/outreach: $1,500
• Ongoing Cost: $1,000 per year

See More PIP Projects

Public Investment Planning is an innovative approach to budgeting, launched in 2016, that challenges Metro departments and agencies to think creatively about how they can collaborate on pilot initiatives to better serve Nashville-Davidson County residents. Learn more at