Pratt’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program is preparing to take an objective look at itself through the implementation of a survey of community stakeholders, according to Director Tiffany Brown.


Pratt’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program is preparing to take an objective look at itself through the implementation of a survey of community stakeholders, according to Director Tiffany Brown.

RSVP, according to one of its publications, is a federally administered national program that engages persons 55 and older in volunteer service that meets community needs and provides enriching experiences to those who serve. With an annual federal budget of $63 million and more than 400,000 volunteers each year, RSVP is one of the largest volunteer programs in the nation. A total of 741 organizations receive federal grant funds to operate an RSVP project in their communities, which they augment by securing funding and resources from non-federal partners.

In the RSVP program model, the engagement of the age 55-plus volunteers is possible because of coordination among RSVP grantee, federal, and local resources. Since RSVP projects are community-based projects, usually with some federal funding, there must be a real sense of local ownership and a spirit of partnership among the community, the sponsor, and the corporation for a project to be successful.

The Stakeholder Survey measures how effectively an RSVP project builds meaningful, interactive community partnerships and identifies and addresses community needs from the perspective of the project’s community stakeholders. RSVP projects can use the survey results to better understand their impact in the community and evaluate their own strategies for outreach and collaborations.

The findings from the survey are designed to benefit the RSVP project. From responses to the questions, the RSVP project will gain valuable feedback about its role and identity in the community, and about how the volunteers serve and how the RSVP staff knows they are making a difference. While his survey was developed to meet a requirement of the Serve America Act – amendments to the federal legislation authorizing the RSVP program – its real value is to give each RSVP project a standard tool to assess strengths and possible areas of improvement.

Among many other responsibilities, RSVP grantees:

• Connect with the broader community to recruit volunteers age 55 and over and develop opportunities for them to share their experience, abilities and skills to meet local needs.

• Recognize and support the volunteers.

• Tap an array of nonprofits, schools, and other organizations to serve as placement sites, called volunteer stations.

• Convene a Community Partnership Group, often an Advisory Council, to work on a regular basis with RSVP grantee staff to support the RSVP project with ideas, guidance, and feedback. The Community Participation Group is also required to lead an annual evaluation of the RSVO project. The annual evaluation can yield information to help determine how effective RSVP is in connecting with other community partners, highlighting the importance of volunteering by older persons, and placing volunteers in ways that are valuable and needed.

The survey being distributed asks 21 questions all together of the Community Participation Group and Partnership members.

Among the questions asked are:

• How do participation group members participate in the RSVP group?

• The Community Participation Group represents which community groups or interests?

• What does the Community Participation Group do to support the RSVP project?

• From what sources do funds or donations of goods or services come to the RSVP project?

• Does the RSVP project have a written plan for promoting and marketing itself in the community it serves?

• How meaningful is the involvement of the RSVP project in the community it serves?

• How does the community being served perceive the value of the RSVP volunteers’ service?

Brown said she was willing to do most anything that needed to be done in the community and to partner with any number of other groups to serve the community.