California’s drought: Update from the front-line

As our state’s drought now stretches into a fourth year, L.A. Works is looking for ways to increase steve_waterawareness and conservation efforts among our volunteer and nonprofit community. I recently joined a site visit with the Metropolitan Water District to see for myself just what our water supplies look like.

Metropolitan provides water to 19 million people in 6 counties of southern California, and uses a variety of aqueducts, canals and reservoirs to maintain our access to it. Due to the drought and lack of conservation, our supply is alarmingly low.  What a wake up call!water3

An artificial lake in the eastern part of the county intended as an emergency reserve is now regularly accessed to meet needs, and reduced by 60%.

But extensive droughts are not a new phenomenon either in California, or other parts of our planet. Australia recently experienced a severe water crisis lasting over 10 years, but managed to drastically shift their usage and adapted to the new normal. While our massive population in Los Angeles County currently requires us to import huge quantities of water to survive (our population is 10 million but local water sources only provide an adequate supply to about 250,000 people), there are tremendous opportunities for all of us to become much more active, and effective in our water conservation.water2

Here are a few lessons and easy steps that I learned on this Metropolitan Water District trip to make a difference in water conservation:

1. Change out those old appliances for water-friendly new ones. Check out the many rebates and programs to help save water, and save money:
2. Take the 3-5 minute shower. And get a low-flow shower head. Adapt.
3. Swap your thirsty and expensive lawn and landscaping for native plants and tress. They’ll do just fine and you’ll save money and water.
4. Take the “Dirty Car Pledge”.  What’s wrong with a little dust? Do your part and make a difference.

Share your success stories!  Post, blog and tweet about what you’re doing to conserve water.  #LAWorksSavesWaterNow

Steve Gratwick, LCSW
Director of Special Programs
L.A. Works


What’s the Future of LA?

Future of Cities: Leading in LA

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Los Angeles is a hub for innovation and creativity. We have brilliant entrepreneurs, passionate changemakers, amazing cultural institutions, and cutting edge universities. As with most major cities, however, Los Angeles is a series of contradictions. Along with great wealth; incredible weather; and fabulous cuisine – Los Angeles has a rapidly growing homeless population and serious income inequality that affects the quality of life for thousands of residents. As the largest volunteer action center in Los Angeles, LA Works’ mission is to help bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots. We do so by

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

making it easy to volunteer and help others. We also help Angelenos understand important social issues affecting our community.

On June 2nd LA Work’s co-founders Bob Johnson and Donna Bojarsky unveiled a new civic initiative: Future of Cities: Leading in LA. The initiative seeks to raise public awareness and create a higher level of civic engagement and responsibility among leaders in LA. A standing room VIP crowd gathered at the home of philanthropists Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker, to hear: LACMA’s Michael Govan; The California Endowment’s Robert K. Ross; Los Angeles Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Mary Melton; Director of the

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, Dr. William Deverell; Zócalo Founder and Publisher, Gregory Rodriguez, and others discuss the unique character, challenges, and opportunities facing Los Angeles. L.A. Works is a leading Community Partner of the Future of Cities initiative. Here’s how you can help. Los Angeles ranks 45th among the top 51 U.S. cities in volunteerism. Service to others is an important form of civic engagement. It helps make Los Angeles a livable city for all of us.

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, (Moby, Eric Kressler, Bob Johnson). Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015, (Moby, Eric Kressler, Bob Johnson). Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015,  Michael Govan, David Ryu (Councilman-Elect). Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Future of Cities event in Beverly Hills, Calif., June 2, 2015,
Michael Govan, David Ryu (Councilman-Elect). Photo by Jonathan Alcorn

Now Hiring: AmeriCorps VISTA Nonprofit Relations Coordinator

About AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps VISTA is one of three main service programs of AmeriCorps that connects full-time members to community organizations and public agencies to create and expand programs that build capacity and ultimately bring low-income individuals and communities out of poverty. Members gain valuable professional, educational, and life experience. The term of service lasts for 1 year. A Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) Training is required for all members.

Position Overview: L.A. Works seeks a passionate, dedicated, highly motivated individual who is capable of managing L.A. Works’ nonprofit and volunteer relationships and is ready for a transformative year of growth as an AmeriCorps member. The L.A. Works Nonprofit Relations Coordinator will become familiar with the diverse organizations and volunteer opportunities throughout Los Angeles. This AmeriCorps VISTA member will help transform our nonprofit partners’ volunteer programs through more effective volunteer recruitment, placement and engagement practices. The ideal candidate will have strong communications skills, be a self-starter who can multi-task, and have experience working in nonprofits or with nonprofit volunteers. L.A. Works is an equal opportunity employer committed to workplace diversity.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Develop relationships with a core group of nonprofit agencies, providing them with consultative support to assist them in identifying challenges and areas of growth in their volunteer program and guiding them through action plans to address the needs;
  • Meet multiple deadlines and benchmarks set by L.A. Works and the AmeriCorps grant;
  • Identify new, creative volunteer roles at nonprofit partner sites;
  • Conduct targeted recruitment efforts online and offline to improve volunteer matches and increase the number of volunteers placed at the nonprofit sites;
  • Manage the online volunteer management and recruitment system for Community Connections with a high degree of autonomy;
  • Contribute to quarterly and annual grant reporting;
  • Serve as a community ambassador at L.A. Works events to recruit volunteers for a wide variety of volunteer opportunities;
  • Serve as a resource for volunteer management inquiries and recruitment efforts;
  • Assist with the logistics and delivery of the Service Enterprise Initiative to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations’ impact via leveraging the time and talent of volunteers; and
  • Participate in staff events and projects including large scale Days of Service.

Key Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree;
  • Commitment and understanding of the AmeriCorps principles and values including the one year of service
  • Ability to adapt to the living allowance and other lifestyle challenges common for AmeriCorps members;
  • Comfortable and effective in a “coaching” role with nonprofit professionals;
  • A track record of delivering results while juggling competing priorities under intense time pressure;
  • Engaging public speaker and networker with ability to connect successfully with a wide range of individuals, especially nonprofit leaders;
  • Strong customer service skills with professional demeanor in person, in writing, and on the phone;
  • Superior, persuasive, and proven writing and marketing capabilities;
  • Proficient in developing processes and procedures to track data;
  • Interest in nonprofit work and belief in the value of community service; and
  • Access to personal car for travel throughout Los Angeles County.

Additional Requirements:

  • Valid driver’s license;
  • Must be at least 17 years of age and a U.S. citizen, national, or legal permanent resident alien of the U.S.;
  • Some evening and weekend commitments;
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite;
  • Knowledge of databases and Google products a plus.

Duration: One-year commitment.

Application Deadline: Applications are due by Friday, June 19th @ 5 p.m. If you are interested in growing professionally within an innovative, highly respected organization through a year of service, please email a cover letter and resume to Gyasi Ross, Director of Programs, at

L.A. Works is committed to providing an inclusive workplace that includes people of diverse backgrounds and fully utilizes their talents to achieve its mission. We are committed to fostering and supporting a workplace culture inclusive of people regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, marital status, age, physical abilities, political affiliation, religious beliefs or any other non-merit fact, so that all employees feel included, equally valued and supported.

Key Components for Successful Volunteer Recruitment

By Meghan Maloney, L.A. Works AmeriCorps VISTA

Volunteers can prove to be a huge benefit to your organization. Aside from providing extra hands and eyes to your projects, they offer unique perspectives that can help strengthen your organization’s mission.  Here are some key components that need to be implemented to ensure successful recruitment for your volunteer program.

Identifying where exactly volunteers can contribute is one of the first steps in recruitment. Having an open dialogue with your team about incorporating a community workforce is key to building a foundation to a successful volunteer program. This conversation could include the roles volunteers can fill in, the frequency of opportunities, and the supervising staff members for the program. There will definitely be a structural change in your organization once a volunteer program is incorporated, and change can be uneasy for some. If your team is on board with recruiting volunteers, great! If some feel uneasy about the switch, then more dialogue about how your organization plans to utilize volunteers will be key. These growing pains are necessary, but will ease as you gain support in recruiting and managing volunteers in the future.

11133927_10153352650765955_2138150001715835132_oOnce you’ve identified the roles and responsibilities for your volunteers take on, you can focus on writing the catchy service opportunity descriptions to find the best match. Traditionally unpopular volunteer opportunities–but still incredibly vital–such as fundraising can sound more appealing if the job descriptions are written in an engaging way. Advertising these positions will be crucial in how your recruitment pans out. Consider this: Is your organization willing to set aside a budget for posting on websites with wide reach such as Are there any volunteer hubs (like that offer free submissions of volunteer opportunities? Do you have a strong media presence? Is the local volunteer center at a nearby university open to recruiting volunteers for you? Dedicating a “Volunteer Now!” tab on your website is also a great way to recruit, as this is the first place people will look for these opportunities. Determine where your organization would like to find volunteers, and then use those medium to assist you with recruitment.

Deciding what sort of budget to allocate to volunteers will also be an area of conversation for successful recruitment. Your volunteer budget may include items such as food, T-shirts, and the swag items. Materials needed to complete the volunteer project will also need to be factored into this budget.   Other investments to consider when proposing your volunteer budget are background checks and TB tests, especially if they will be working with youth. Your organization may not be able to cover full costs, but can partially cover some of those expenses. Additionally, your organizations may elect to refund that money back to its volunteers when they have volunteered for a specified amount of time. Ultimately, when volunteers see a marked investment in them, they will invest more into your organization.

Now that you’ve started getting some responses from interested volunteers, your organization must devote some thought into orienting the volunteers to the work at hand. Having an engaging on boarding and training curriculum in place is essential for successful recruitment. Having the volunteers understand the magnitude of their impact is key for their buy-in; they must feel that what they are doing has purpose and meaning. This includes clearly outlining the reasons for why they are volunteering, and how the opportunity will make a tangible impact. Hosting a formal orientation, followed by a detailed training of their task, is an effective  way of having the volunteers understand your organization from a broad perspective as well develop personal relationships with people on staff or other volunteers. Including an organizational chart of staff members and what they oversee will acquaint volunteers to different aspects of the organization. A handbook/manual with contact information, the mission statement, and other essential volunteer information can help the volunteer take pride in their service.

Leadership is an indispensable aspect of volunteer recruitment and retention for both skilled and general volunteers. Skill-based volunteers require more check-ins from leadership to ensure that their skills are not being manipulated as free labor. Having them feel like they are part of the larger staff is a great way for them to feel valued and appreciated for their skill-based volunteering. With general volunteers, having a staff member as their point person–even better if it’s a volunteer coordinator–shows that the organization has a more sophisticated volunteer program. General volunteers also like the comfort of knowing that they have someone to report to; that person becomes the face of the organization for them.

The final key is retention. Recruitment is only as successful as how well an organization can retain their volunteers.  Volunteer appreciations every couple of months will help them feel connected to the organization and feel like their contributions are recognized by the team. Having a database of volunteers will be the cornerstone for retention; this will be the organization’s starting point in reaching out to past volunteers. Engaging them is imperative, and can be accomplished through social media shout-outs, newsletters for upcoming events, or even mailing out personalized thank-yous. The culture surrounding volunteers will be a determining factor for recurrent volunteerism. Reflect and consider how your organization incorporates and integrates volunteers into the mission and organization.

Volunteer recruitment is normally a challenging feat. With patience, persistence, and a solid action plan, your volunteer program will soon reflect the efforts put into recruiting awesome volunteers!

For more information or resources, please check out the following blogs/links:

Volunteer Central: Recruit, Train, and Retain! 

HandsOn Network: Effective Volunteer Recruitment Strategies

World Volunteer Web: 16 Tips in Recruiting Adult Volunteers

Celebrate Older Americans Month With RSVP!

RSVP_KOCEspotIn celebration of Older Americans Month, L.A. Works’ program for volunteers aged 55+, RSVP, will be featured on public television -PBS SoCal and KCET. Keep an eye out for our commercials encouraging viewers to get active, stay healthy, and volunteer! RSVP volunteer opportunities are specially designed for older, active individuals who want to contribute their time and expertise to the Los Angeles community. We all benefit from the invaluable wealth of experience that volunteers 55 plus bring to the service movement. If you know someone with time on their hands looking for a way to get involved, tell them about RSVP. Contribute to your legacy and make a difference in the LA community.

Here are some fun opportunities to get involved in Older Americans Month:

THURS MAY 7th at  2PM
Come out for a special introduction to our RSVP partner, The Gentle Barn!  This amazing animal rescue farm in Santa Clarita is offering an introduction and orientation to all RSVP volunteers. Meet our RSVP staff, make friends and make a difference:  click here for details!

TUES. MAY 19th from 9AM – 12PM
Hosted by our partner the City of West Hollywood, this annual health fair offers a wide range of free health screenings, many older adult services and free lunch!  Be sure to save your spot by calling this number:  #323-848-6820

We’re looking for you! RSVP is actively welcoming dynamic and creative individuals to serve as ambassadors for our new program. The time commitment is just a few hours each week, but the impact is tremendous. No experience required, just positive energy and willingness to outreach and connect more adults aged 55+ to RSVP. Send us an email here:

SAT. JUNE 13th from 8:30AM – 12PM RSVP volunteers will join together to help transform the Boys and Girls Club in Highland Park. In addition to the fun morning of service, 24 Hr. Fitness has agreed to join the RSVP day of service as a partner (details on what they will be providing to volunteers to follow). For more information and to sign up, email

LA’s Promise Awarded Service Enterprise Certification

We are proud to announce that LA’s Promise has been awarded Service Enterprise certification by L.A. Works. serv_enterprise_landing04a The Service Enterprise Initiative is a national program administered through Points of Light that recognizes nonprofits with exceptional volunteer programs. Nonprofits that operate as Service Enterprises more effectively address community needs and run on almost half the median budget than those nonprofits that do not leverage volunteers across all levels of the their organization.

To qualify for certification, organizations must go through a year long process that consists of attending a series of best practices workshops, creating action plans, and strategize with expert coaches from the Executive Service Corps on ways to best implement their plans.

We spoke with Caitlin Krier, Associate Director of Community Partnerships, about LA’s Promise’s journey in becoming certified.

L.A. Works:
Tell us more about LAP! How does your organization engage volunteers?

LA’s Promise:
Our mission is to graduate every student attending an LA’s Promise neighborhood school college and career ready. Through a robust school turnaround model, LA’s Promise partners with a cadre of schools committed to ensuring that students growing up in poverty receive an excellent education.

Something cool thing about LA’s Promise is that we have so many different ways for volunteers to get involved in our work. I believe in the idea that students are more likely to succeed when their schools are community hubs, and in order for that to work, we need to bring in folks from the community who are willing to share their skills, passions and resources with the students who need them. Volunteers can do everything from helping plant trees in our teaching gardens to leading workshops on post-secondary options to connecting students with internship opportunities at their companies. Since we’ve started this Service Enterprise work, we’ve been able to open up new volunteer opportunities as well, such as speaking at our middle school career day and helping secure in-kind donations for all of our school programs. We have also begun working with several university service groups to engage college students in leading activities such as college workshops and college fairs for our middle school students.

How has Service Enterprise benefited your org?

One big change has been with how we run events, especially those that fall on the weekends. Instead of begging our staff to come out and help, we are able to work with an amazing cohort of volunteers who are excited to participate and be a part of these events! Since weekends are usually better for volunteer availability, this has been a great match.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of this certification journey?

For me, the most rewarding part of the journey has been the process of self reflection and pushing ourselves to build service enterprise into everything we do. It was really cool to build a volunteer tracking and orientation plan from scratch, and to see those things be realized, especially our first volunteer orientation in February. We went from having a couple of volunteers to an entire database of people that we can call upon to help with projects and events throughout the year.

What are some tips/advice you would give other organizations that are thinking about Service Enterprise/are already going through the process?

My advice would be to not worry about your volunteer program needing to look a certain way. The self reflection piece is really key, because you’re able to hold onto the core values and vibe of your organization while enhancing it. We are never going to have 200 volunteers donating their time every week at LA’s Promise, and that’s okay! We have been creative about how volunteers can become an intricate part of who we are as an organization.

We are honored to award them with this accomplishment, and we are looking forward to seeing all the amazing work they continue to do with their volunteers!

Now Hiring: Special Event Coordinators

Special Events Coordinator (flexible, part-time contractor position)

About L.A. Works: L.A. Works is a 501(c)3 nonprofit volunteer action center that creates, manages, and implements hands-on community service projects throughout the greater Los Angeles area. With more than 20 years of success, L.A. Works addresses three principal needs: to increase volunteer participation in the community; to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to achieve their missions through access to volunteer labor and other resources; and to educate and encourage people to engage in the broader social issues affecting the greater Los Angeles community.  L.A. Works has more than 30,000 registered volunteers who have contributed over 1,000,000 volunteer hours of service to thousands of nonprofits in the Los Angeles community.

Position Overview: As a part of the L.A. Works leadership community, the Special Events Coordinator (SEC) will plan and lead corporate volunteer events on a per-project basis. This is a flexible contractor position, perfect for someone looking to grow his or her leadership experience and supplement his or her income. Coordinlawd14_004ators will be pre-trained and certified by L.A. Works. The ideal candidate will have strong communications skills, be a self-starter who can multi-task, be knowledgeable about the latest trends in the nonprofit sector, and have experience working with and managing volunteers. L.A. Works is an equal opportunity employer committed to workplace diversity.
Responsibilities for Special Events Coordinator Role:

Leadership and planning of hands-on community service projects for volunteers and nontraditional relationships with corporate partners. Overall project work consists of ~50% hands-on labor, physical work and project prep; 40% project planning; 10% project leading.

Special Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
●    Work with designated school, nonprofit, or community agency to develop and lead a volunteer event for team of 50-300 corporate employee volunteers that fits within event budget;
●    With support of Senior Special Event Coordinator, communicate with corporate liaison to ensure all corporate partner needs are being met;
●    Scope volunteer project activities and plan event logistics such as first aid, parking, run-of-show, etc.
●    Train corporate volunteers as site leaders for event;
●    Ensure that supplies, water, and food are delivered to project site and pre-sorted ahead of time;
●    Provide Senior SEC with supply order at least 2 weeks prior to event for purchase and delivery;
●    Secure all necessary permits and ensure school processes (insurance, approvals, etc.) are handled, as appropriate;
●    Document event activities through pre- and post- event photos, action photos of volunteers working, high-quality photos of murals. Create final report with # of people served, volunteer hours contributed, and other impact statistics;
●    Complete survey evaluation and any necessary event close out;
●    Promote L.A. Works programs and follow up with volunteers who want to stay involved;
●    Attend and lead signature Days of Service and other special events/corporate volunteer projects as needed.
●    Complete other duties as assigned.

Key Qualifications:
●    Bachelor’s degree with minimum of three years progressively responsible leadership experience;
●    Event planning or production planning experience, a plus;
●    Knowledge of the nonprofit volunteering sector; in-depth understanding of volunteer management and engagement practices, a plus;
●    A track record of delivering results while juggling competing priorities under intense time pressure;
●    Great organizational skills, detail-oriented and meets strict deadlines;
●    Strong customer service skills with professional demeanor in person, in writing, and on the phone;
●    Comfortable delivering presentations and guiding a room of participants;
●    Proactive, self-directed, and results-oriented personality with the ability to work both independently and as a member of a team;
●    Excellent networking and relationship building skills;
●    Strong problem solving skills; ability to see the big picture as well as immediate needs; and
●    Great organizational skills, detail-oriented and meets strict deadlines.

Additional requirements:
●    Ability to lift up to 50 pounds;
●    Valid CA driver’s license;
●    Access to personal car for occasional travel throughout Los Angeles County;
●    Availability for some evening and weekend commitments;
●    Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite; and
●    Experience with Salesforce, a plus.
Reporting: This position reports to the Senior Special Events Coordinator.
Position Status: SECs are independent contractors, billed through 1099 forms. Work will be available on a project-by-project basis based on event availability and SEC schedule/performance. Transportation, mileage and other work-related expenses are the responsibility of each SEC and will not be reimbursed by L.A. Works.

Payment Structure: Payment is determined and paid on a contract basis for each individual project. In addition to SEC performance, considerations include complexity of project, number of volunteers, level of existing corporate contract relationship, potential public exposure of event, etc. Project estimate is $525-725 for ~35 hour project to start, upon the discretion of the Director of Corporate Engagement and Senior Special Events Coordinator.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and will be accepted until the position is filled.

Application Procedure: Please email a single PDF file that includes a resume and a cover letter outlining your interest and relevant skills to

Ellen Degeneres Volunteers with Mattress Firm at L.A. Works BusinessWorks event

While visiting LA from hometowns all across the country, more than 1,000 Mattress Firm volunteers transformed Evergreen Elementary School with more than 50 murals across the campus, inside and out, new tables, garden beds, and benches. ellenThis was part of their annual Give Big event and they truly gave big this year, with an additional donation to the school of $25,000 beyond their contribution of the transformation itself.

The volunteers were surprised to see Ellen Degeneres kick off the day with a hilarious set of mattress jokes. The volunteers from this L.A. Works project will be highlighted on a future Ellen show episode (info to be announced soon).ellen_speaking  teamwork