September 2020 Newsletter

Dear LVC Friends:

More than any other September, all of us at LVC hope this message finds you safe and healthy.  

With so much change in our lives, we have been appreciating our many blessings.  This September brings a new corps of LVC Volunteers, virtual everything, and updates to the LVC program we worked on all last year in response to suggestions from the LVC community and staff.  See a feedback summary and response below.  

For the first Program Day in September, Volunteers conducted their own research about food security, and more specifically, how to plan, shop for, and share food on a small stipend while living in community and supporting each other; then presented their findings to the group.  Natalie Jacobson, guest Placement speaker from Augsburg University Campus Kitchen, shared data on hunger and practices feeding college students; while alumni Greta Carlson (’17-18) and Taylor Romeo (’18-19) offered advice and wisdom from their LVC volunteer experience.  

We can’t fit all the news into this message, or hear back from you — so we’ll be hosting our version of fireside chats on Zoom and inviting our donors and friends to join us. 

Please consider donating to LVC now, and know that your gifts have made this year possible for 38 (and counting) new Volunteers “volunteering in the time of COVID-19,” and will ensure ongoing operations in the year to come.  On their behalf, we thank you!


Introducing New LVCers!

  • New Volunteers — Meet our 2020-21 social justice Volunteers HERE!
  • LVC Staff — Meet our enthusiastic staff team HEREand read about our newest team member, Lizzy Raffo, HERE.
  • Placement Alumni Hires — We’re keeping better track of Volunteers hired by their Placements, since this is such an important benefit of being an LVCer.  Meet those from 2019-20 HERE.


Feedback: Programming can be more consistent, and speak to the diversity of today’s LVC Volunteers. 

  • Program Days: On September 4, we kicked off Program Days, the first Friday of each month for all Volunteers nationally to get together and learn more broadly about social justice topics, expanding beyond just the Placement’s mission for their service term.  Seeking Placement and alumni presenters and commentators for each month’s topic.  READ MORE HERE.
  • Orientation: National orientation was virtual and streamlined, focused on setting Volunteers on their path rather than overloading, and transferring many sessions from orientation into Program Days.  Topics included LVC values, Enneagram, stages of community, living simply and sustainably, spirituality, budgeting, conflict resolution, placement site overview, social change role mapping, vocational discernment, and programming overview.
  • Spirituality:  The spirituality component is enhanced from one conversation a month, to weekly discussion of the intersection of spirituality with the Placement experience and community life, to better fulfill Volunteer expectations of having this central to their learning and sharing.  
  • Anti-Racism Training:  Previous Volunteers commented that training spoke to white volunteers, leaving non-white Volunteers out of the conversation; that lessons were too basic; and that there is a need to center Black Volunteers.  We’re choosing new training partners, refocusing curriculum beyond racism 101, and designing the conversations for our full audience of Volunteers to include Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
  • BIPOC Volunteers (Black, indigenous, people of color): Last year we piloted the matching of alumni mentors with Volunteers, and Volunteers expressed not being satisfied with the inability of LVC to secure mentors at the start of the year. Since securing BIPOC mentors was not easy and timing is imprecise, LVC won’t be continuing the mentoring program — but will be initiating group check-ins for mutual support, and feedback for LVC to improve the experience.  This year’s group asked to Zoom monthly and check-in weekly.
  • Virtual-Only Volunteering: Though COVID-19 has morphed most LVC volunteer positions virtual, a few Placements asked about virtual-only positions that are never intended to be in-person.  LVC is offering a few virtual-only positions this fall, still connecting these volunteers with an LVC house; with programming; and expecting them to meet weekly around LVC values discussion and action.

Admissions and Participation

Feedback: Our deadlines could be more in line with actual applicant response timelines; penalty fees don’t make sense.

  • Deadlines: Using higher education’s example, we did away with admissions deadlines in favor of “for best consideration.”  We omitted city-closure conversations early in the year, and expected more applications to arrive after previous years’ deadlines.  Our predictions proved correct: more applicants applied later, boosting admissions all the way through August.
  • Penalty Fees:  While program day participation is still mandatory and considered even more important now that our national program meets together monthly, we’ve already eliminated penalty fees for not attending program days, or any LVC event during the service term.
  • Volunteering is for Everybody: We’re reminded that LVCers need only be 21 years old, and this year our broader messaging resulted in an increase in Volunteer differences by age, race, region, highest education level achieved, and other factors.  We think this makes for a more robust program, in community, and out.
  • Expectations: LVC combined its Volunteer Handbook and Placement Supervisor’s Handbook into one Participant’s Handbook, and cleaned it up to clarify LVC’s support role based on our smaller staff and more limited resources, while still offering an enhanced experience for Volunteer programming. The 3-Way Contract was also simplified to clarify responsibilities.  


Feedback:  We received more feedback from donors and alumni to our fundraising survey in fall 2019 than our consultant had ever seen from other clients, attesting to the desire of donors and alumni to ensure LVC’s success. 

  • Organizational Changes: LVC has six full time staff, and two volunteer professionals.  Two staff have been around for two or more years.
  • Infrastructure: LVC has two new program databases, transitioning from older systems to increase communications, program tracking, and case management.  We have new protocols in place internally, and expect to be communicating more often after database transition.
  • National Development Committee: Given limited staffing, we’ll form a national committee of donors to assist with fundraising regionally.
  • Acknowledgment: In addition to acknowledgment letters, we’re making thank you calls to donors who make gifts of $100 or more.  Hope you received yours!

Listening and Sharing

Feedback: LVC can listen more.

  • Listening Tours: LVC hosted alumni meeting and listening tours in 2019, and used feedback to help design its new Flex programming.
  • Fundraising:  In fall 2019, we partnered with a consultant to request feedback from donors and alumni, and received significant response which is the basis of our plan for this year. 
  • Written and Verbal: LVC added time on every monthly program day for Volunteer feedback and discussion, and plans to collect survey feedback over the year.  Trends will be considered each year for annual program changes, and more urgent feedback will be addressed at weekly staff meetings.
  • Supporter Zoom Updates: LVC is planning to start ongoing conversations at Zoom meetings this fall, where we can update and hear from you directly.  We’ll need updated email addresses to make sure you get timely invitations and notices. Please join us.

Milwaukee House Sale Announced

  • LVC’s Dorothy Day/food justice house in Milwaukee from the capital campaign purchase in 2016 is now on the market.  Because of years of ongoing decline in service year participation nationally, LVC closed the Chicago and Milwaukee regions last year.   For our 2020 fiscal year (August 2019-July 2020), the house was vacant. Over the last year, we’ve worked in partnership with Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church — from whom we purchased the property — to fix selected systems in the house; cut down a few trees; and as of this week, secure a realtor and place the house on the market.  LVC appreciates those who supported the house as an important part of its history, and legacy in Milwaukee.  Please know that, in a time of growth but still economic transition, the sale will be positive for LVC for years to come. You’ll find the house listing HERE.  

Over the last two years, LVC has moved to a balanced budget rather than deficit model, and because of this, has reduced expenses.  Our admissions and programming design has settled into a nice space, and we’ve maintained momentum in spite of COVID-19.  Our staff team collaborates on just about everything, and while we know staffing can change at any time, our team worked splendidly well together as we closed out our fiscal year in August. We’ve made programming changes in response to feedback from staff and alumni, and look forward to keeping our eyes and ears open for new ways to enhance the Volunteer experience.

Want to hear more?  Join us for Zoom updates this fall!  And thanks for your support.


Deirdre Bagley, President