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Data + the Greater Good Meetup: New York Cares

by Mary Plum

Posted April 25, 2019

At our most recent Data + the Greater Good Meetup, Gary Bagley, Executive Director of New York Cares, joined us to speak on how data has informed the organization’s volunteer recruitment, retention, and engagement strategies through the years and where current research is leading them in an increasingly digital era.

New York Cares is New York City’s leading volunteer management organization. Each year, the organization mobilizes more than 52,000 volunteers at 1,100 nonprofits and schools across the five boroughs to improve education, meet immediate needs such as hunger and homelessness, assist in disaster relief efforts, and revitalize public spaces. New York Cares serves more than 450,000 New Yorkers each year. Additionally, over the last 30 years, the organization’s annual Coat Drive has provided more than two million warm winter coats to New Yorkers in need.

Due to the sheer number of outputs the organization has and logistics they must manage, Gary emphasized how critical it has always been for New York Cares to have a strong grasp of what is happening across the organization and to gather, review, and act upon data.

In particular, New York Cares captures important data at pivotal moments across a volunteer’s journey, from the time they sign up to when they start a project and how long they have volunteered with the organization. They also amass information on volunteer demographics and volunteer interests through the use of project evaluations, annual volunteer surveys, and community partner surveys.

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Gary walked through a few key findings from research that New York Cares has conducted, and how these findings have impacted organizational strategies. The organization wants to continuously understand why volunteers are motivated to give back. They were able to conduct research to discover that today, one’s values are one of the top reasons why individuals’ volunteer. Individuals also cited wanting a learning experience that helps them to understand issue areas affecting their communities as a reason to volunteer. Religious motivations and public service requirements were minimal motivations. Social reasons, such as meeting new people, were also not highly motivating in regards to the decision to initially volunteer, but did motivate people to continue to volunteer. This information has helped New York Cares change their messaging tactics when motivating individuals to volunteer.

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Gary finished his presentation by noting that New York Cares’ work is very output-driven. The organization is beginning to look more at overall outcomes and impact. To do this the organization is building out data on how volunteers can meaningfully impact the most important issues, on how volunteerism helps neighborhoods and communities, and on how individual volunteers benefit from volunteering.

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Click on the following links to hear Gary’s entire presentation, to learn more about or get involved with New York Cares, and to stay updated on Data + the Greater Good Meetups and RSVP for the next event.

Our “Data + the Greater Good” Meetup series has featured speakers from an array of nonprofit organizations, including The Met, The Whitney, New York Public Radio, ProPublica, Public Art Fund and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Read about their presentations on our blog.

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