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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Service Enterprise: Matching Volunteers’ Skill to Clients’ Needs

February 21, 2017 | Leave a Comment

by Kathy Austin, CVA

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Images of volunteers working with Second Sense Clients: Gina leading our knitting group, Mary working in the Open Computer Lab and Marilyn leading our yoga class. The quote from Muhammad Ali says "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth."

Volunteers Have Always Been an Important Part of Our Second Sense Family.

Volunteers have been readers, tutors and administrative support. But with shrinking resources for nonprofits and the expanded roles we have been asked to play, it is increasingly necessary to find new ways to provide the services our clients need. How do we accomplish this overwhelming task and remain fiscally and ethically responsible?

At the beginning of 2016, we embarked on an initiative called Service Enterprise. We were eager to find ways we can work with volunteers to provide the best possible service and programs for our clients.

We are very proud to announce that on January 26, 2017, we were awarded our certification as a Service Enterprise. Second Sense is one of only two Service Enterprises in Chicago.

What is Service Enterprise?

Service Enterprise is an initiative of Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. During the certification process, Second Sense learned how to strengthen our ability to meet community needs by maximizing the use of volunteers and their skills across all levels of the organization. Service Enterprises are more adaptable, sustainable and are able to maximize their impact in the community. Less than 15% of organizations nationwide can be characterized as Service Enterprises.

We were evaluated in ten areas before we earned the Service Enterprise designation:

  1. Funding
  2. Planning and Development
  3. Tracking and Evaluation
  4. Leadership Support
  5. Training
  6. Technology and Communication
  7. Onboarding and Supervision
  8. Outreach
  9. Resource Allocation
  10. Developing Partnerships.


What We Accomplished

In all ten areas, we identified and completed action steps to improve and expand our volunteer program. We accomplished goals we thought were out of our reach by using volunteers more strategically. In just the first year, we:

  • created two new databases to track client progress and product sales,
  • filmed ten new “how-to” videos were created for our Vision Exchange program,
  • wrote computer training manuals to reflect the new Windows 11 operating system for our new classroom and lab computers, and
  • offered a new yoga class with a certified yoga instructor.

And, volunteers led the way for all of these projects!

But the work is not over. We are dedicated to finding more ways we can incorporate skilled volunteers into our programs to enhance the training we provide to our clients. We are committed to consistently improving our volunteer program using the Service Enterprise practices to ensure our volunteers are able to make the most of their skills.

If you have a skill you would like to share, please contact Kathy Austin to see if it fits within our current needs.

Kathy is the Community Engagement Specialist at Second Sense.  As part of this role, she manages our volunteer services.

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