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Volunteers more important than ever

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For Paul Downey, Debbie Case, Brad Bates and others, tough times have brought an unexpected blessing: a rise in volunteerism . Unemployed professionals increasingly offer their talents.
In addition, when money is tight, people look to give in other ways.
Downey, president and CEO of Senior Community Centers of San Diego, depends on financial experts who serve on his board and a newly-formed finance committee.
Case, president and CEO of Meals-on-Wheels, says she couldn’t survive without the caring 1,900 individuals who bring lunch and dinner to elderly shut-ins each day and check on their well-being — a  $2 million value in labor costs, not including taxes or benefits, she estimates.
Girl Scouts of San Diego-Imperial Council CEO Jo Dee Jacob has seen more interest in people wanting to serve as troop leaders and for other roles. She also offers the Girl Scouts’ Adventure Zone in Balboa Park as corporate retreat venue. Attendees can bring their children to learn about and practice volunteering in the community while engaging in team-building activities and outdoor activities, such archery, climbing towers, and a six-level, fully accessible tree house.
Other local nonprofits reporting increased volunteerism include Interfaith Shelter Network and Volunteers of America-Southwest California (VOA).

Moving forward: collaboration and transparency
Beyond seeking revenue-generating opportunities, nonprofit leaders are looking to each other. VOA and Interfaith Shelter Network join forces in seeking contracts to run programs such as Interfaith’s Rotational Shelter Program, which helps families and individuals rebound from temporary homelessness. The organizations also share offices in Mission Valley.
“We need to focus on the collective best interest of all. Folks with good mission, values and purposeful work will find ways to work together to get to the finish line, ” said VOA president and CEO Gerald McFadden.
Interfaith program manager Rosemary Johnson adds that collaboration is more important due to increase in public projects clamoring for attention and support. 
She noted that prospect of a new Downtown library, stadium, City Hall — and even corporate sponsors for city beaches — are competing forces. “Individual donors need to establish their priorities,” said Johnson.
United Way president and CEO Doug Sawyer can attest to that. As an agency providing funding support to nonprofits, he applauds those striving to become more accountable. With foundations and corporations reducing the size and frequency of grants, and narrowing giving guidelines to specific causes, Sawyer says that grant providers such as United Way are shifting to pay-for-performance models, which he sees as good.
“That’s what is happening in the industry as a whole. It’s a very positive trend because it forces people to direct their grant requests in a way that helps us meet our social responsibility goals. We pay based on predetermined objectives, and if goals are not met, that money can be reallocated,” said Sawyer.
— Janine Rojas

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: