The Community Service Project: Because Being Better Matters

After a successful pilot run providing pro bono performance consulting for the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia – an institution that provides high-quality instruction in music and the related arts to children and adults, regardless of age, background, ability or economic circumstances – the ISPI Community Service Program (CSP) took own a new project: helping the Quebec division of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Through the CSP, ISPI gives its members a unique high-quality volunteer experience working with other ISPI volunteers on community service projects for non-profit organizations.

Bill Yeager, Chair the ISPI Community Service Project (CSP) Committee and President of the ISPI Potomac Chapter, introducing the ISPI Montreal CSP Team
Bill Yeager, Chair the ISPI Community Service Project (CSP) Committee and President of the ISPI Potomac Chapter, introducing the ISPI Montreal CSP Team at the 2017 Performance Improvement Conference

Why the Montreal connection? The annual conference was going to be held here (if you missed it, read about it here), the Montreal chapter was ready, willing and able to take on the challenge, and there was a very personal link. A few years prior to the ongoing project, ISPI Montreal Past President Corry Robertson’s husband developed kidney failure and had to receive a transplant to save his life. Corry and her husband turned to the Kidney Foundation for nutritional counselling while he was on dialysis, waiting for a donor.

Corry Robertson, Past President of ISPI Montreal, provides the compelling and personal reasons behind the project.
Corry Robertson, Past President of ISPI Montreal, provides the compelling and personal reasons behind the project, via video.

In short order, a team of volunteers with varying levels of experience formed. It included: ISPI Montreal Society Liaison Sonia Di Maulo, volunteer Diana Farr, ISPI Montreal VP Memerbship Alice Isac, ISPI Montreal President Elizabeth Lakoff, ISPI Montreal President Elect Dalia Radwan, ISPI Montreal Past President Corry Robertson, volunteer Mat Schatkowsky and ISPI Montreal VP Events Margarita Zakovorotnaya. The team called on ISPI Past President Miki Lane to be a mentor.

A workshop on the principles of performance improvement was facilitated by Mr. Lane for the team. For this purpose, the team included Kidney Foundation of Canada Quebec Branch Executive Director Martin Munger and Director of Regional Development Bruno Tousignant.  The workshop served both to kick off the project and identify the opportunity: uncovering the reasons why the 2016 Kidney Walk had been the most successful fundraiser to date so that the results could be replicated year after year. Funds raised are invested in research to improve the quality of patients’ lives and to promote organ donation. From 2013 to 2016, the number of walks had more than doubled, a trend mirrored by funds raised: while the walks raised $257 000 in 2013, they brought in $583 000 by 2016. Clearly, the Foundation was doing something right. But there were still opportunities for improvement.

Sylvie Charbonneau, President of the Quebec Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada explains the challenges the Foundation faces and how the CSP Team helped.
Sylvie Charbonneau, President of the Quebec Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, explains the challenges the Foundation faces and how the CSP Team helped.

The ROI Methodology’s V-Model provided the team a means to define the scope of the project:

  • Business Needs: Meet funding target of $580 000 for 2017;
  • Performance Needs: Engage volunteers, donors and walkers and increase number of high performing walkers and donors;
  • Learning Needs: Increase confidence of walkers in achieving fundraising targets, standardize fundraising method for walkers, increase awareness of Kidney Foundation;
  • Preference Needs: Receive feedback from walkers, donors and fundraisers.
ROI Methodology V-Model as a framework for the project
ROI Methodology V-Model as a framework for the project

The need to engage walkers and donors as fundraisers emerged as the central means to reach the overall fundraising goal. With project activities scheduled to go until July of 2017, evaluation is still taking place and full results have yet to be known. However, the team has uncovered factors that have contributed to success as well as the challenges that could hamper it. These were shared by the team at THE Performance Improvement Conference earlier this month, In Montreal.

Support and communication were the key to success: with the administrative support, information and communication support it provides to walk organizers, the Kidney Foundation enables success. The most successful walks have a strong team of organizers that communicate well with each other.

Margarita Zakovorotnaya presents preliminary project findings as Alice Isac looks on
Margarita Zakovorotnaya presents preliminary project findings as Alice Isac looks on

Communication was also key as a challenge, from lack of media visibility for the walks or the Foundation itself, to a lack of communication between less and more experienced organizers. As with many volunteer organizations, the Foundation also must contend with high turnover of staff and volunteer retention. Additionally, it can prove challenging to manage volunteers and hold them accountable for results.

When asked what the biggest personal challenge was with regards to the project, team members agreed on two: time and communication.

“The biggest personal challenge for me was finding the time to participate”, said Elizabeth Lakoff. “I knew it would be a big commitment but I also knew that I felt very strongly about participating.” “I would say it was a challenge to juggle my work, family and this volunteer project”, agreed Mat Schatkowsky.

From left to right, CSP Team members Diana Farr, Margarita Zakovorotnaya, Elizabeth Lakoff, Alice Isac and Mat Schatkowsky
From left to right, CSP Team members Diana Farr, Margarita Zakovorotnaya, Elizabeth Lakoff, Alice Isac and Mat Schatkowsky

Margarita Zakovorotnaya elaborated: “The biggest personal challenge is the lack of time to do a better job.  Volunteering is still work. If you work full-time, you can only spend a maximum of 5 to 7 hours a week on volunteer tasks. Is it enough to perform a quality job? Definitely not. Especially for community projects.   So there is a paradox in volunteer work: usually the novices in profession want to gain more experience. At the same time, in order to do volunteer work effectively, you need to have a lot of experience.”

Alice Isac found communication to be the biggest challenge: “We were all working on different pieces at different times of the year so coordinating the project was a challenge.” “At times the volume of communication was hard to keep up with”, adds Diana Farr. “I struggled between my very demanding internship and knowing what was happening with the project.”

Being performance improvement professionals, however, they also had ways to overcome these challenges.

“I was able to overcome these challenges by relying on the team” said Elizabeth. “I never felt alone and we all had a team of people to help us.” The sentiment is shared by Mat: “I found I was able to overcome it by being creative with my time and relying on my volunteer team with the CSP to complete the project.” Alice agreed: “We really built on each other’s strengths so we came out of it successfully”.

kidney.ca/quebec
We provide much more than hope – kidney.ca/quebec

To find out more about more about the Quebec Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, including upcoming Kidney Walks, visit https://www.kidney.ca/QC-home.

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