Blog | November 15, 2022

How Our Equity Commitments Guide Staff Volunteering

The Mind Trust pursues antiracism in a variety of ways and works hard to ensure that racial equity is a foundation of all of our programming. We are always looking to learn and grow as an organization. As a means of accelerating our path to antiracism, we have participated in two DEI Accelerators with Promise54, our leadership team went throigh Beloved Community’s Indy Equity Cohort, and we conducted an Organizational DEI Assessment with Black Onyx Management, an Indianapolis-based equity firm.

The Black Onyx Management assessment identified “Community” as a focus area for growing our equity commitments, with a specific emphasis on finding opportunities for our staff to do skill-based volunteering with organizations led by people of color. Black Onyx Management also recommended that we diligently track staff time spent volunteering. In our first year deliberately connecting staff to volunteer opportunities with organizations of color, we logged 245 volunteer hours. That averaged out to over 10 hours per staff member. 

Patrick Jones, our Senior Vice President of Leadership and Equity, explains the “why” behind our Diversity Volunteering Initiative like this: “We have to take into consideration that we believe in community and have an equity core value. When you pair those, it is important for us to recognize that if our volunteer efforts aren’t living those out in a unified manner, then we aren’t doing equity work correctly.”

A Culture of Staff Volunteering

The Mind Trust has long fostered a culture of staff volunteering, even including a dedicated volunteer-related PTO day as part of our staff benefits package. But Jones noticed that while our staff were volunteering regularly, it wasn’t necessarily mission-aligned or in support of organizations led by people of color. “We needed to re-evaluate to see where we could have the most impact,” Jones said. “Skills-based volunteering is important because many up-and-coming organizations need support in certain areas.”

Jones gave the example of his own volunteering from last year as an illustration of a skills-based approach. He serves on the board of VOICES Corp. and spends time each week providing organizational leadership coaching to VOICES’ executive director to ensure the organization has the systems and culture in place to accomplish their goals. 

These coaching conversations often lean into tactical items like meeting preparation and thought partnership for fostering positive culture among staff, board, and funders. Jones’ support has directly translated into VOICES being able to access funding in a way that sets the organization up for long-term financial stability.

The Benefit of Diversity Volunteering

At the start of this fiscal year, Jones set staff a goal of 12 hours spent volunteering per staff member. Corrie Lapp, The Mind Trust’s Senior Vice President of Finance, recognizes the benefits of our Diversity Volunteering Initiative and notes that it is often low-lift for an established organization like The Mind Trust to aid younger start-ups. Lapp noted, “I think that the way we structure staff volunteering helps build capacity in community organizations we wouldn’t normally connect with. We have real value to offer. Even something as simple as us providing templates for an employee handbook or contracts can be a huge cost and time-saver for smaller nonprofits.”

Each staff member is given autonomy in finding where they want to plug in and who they want to support. Still, Jones and other members of his Leadership and Diversity team work hard to match staff to viable opportunities to both maximize our staff capacity and to ensure that skillsets are delivering the biggest external impact. Sometimes, multiple staff are matched with the same organization to expand how much we are able to contribute to an organization.

One example of this is Teach Indy, a local nonprofit dedicated to recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining outstanding educators for Indianapolis. Their Executive Director, Sara Marshall, noted the importance of the time that three of our staff are spending this year volunteering with her organization. “As a small nonprofit, having additional capacity from individuals who are mission-aligned is great,” Marshall said. “That capacity addition means our team can focus on the most critical next steps in growing our programming and partnerships.”

Refining Systems to Achieve Equity

Pursuing equity does not always mean an organization needs to overhaul what is already happening. That’s been a recurring theme in The Mind Trust’s pursuit of antiracism.

Our Diversity Volunteering Initiative is not necessarily something brand new. Rather, it is a refinement of an existing system The Mind Trust always had in place that our team worked to improve. 

The progress and improvements we’ve seen through our Diversity Volunteering Initiative is a reminder that simply modifying existing practices through the lens of racial equity can profoundly impact how an organization lives out its values and delivers communal results.