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Spring 2023 Project Spotlight: School on Wheels

Updated: Mar 16

Learn about how our consultants are providing tactical strategies for School on Wheels to grow their in-person volunteer base and boost mentor-mentee engagements in order to achieve higher outcomes for their students.

Problem Statement

School on Wheels(SOW) is looking to find ways to resume in-person learning after being virtual due to the pandemic for so long. However, they are also trying to find ways to recruit more volunteers while assuring that these volunteers do not leave the organization. To solve these problems, we made two deliverables, one of them was focused on operations and the other was focused on volunteer recruitment and retainment.

About School on Wheels

School on Wheels is a non-profit based primarily in the Los Angeles Area that focuses on providing educational services to kids age K-12 that are living in shelters, motels, vehicles, group foster homes, or are experiencing homeless. Some of the many services they provide are one-on-one weekly tutoring, assistance in entering school, providing school supplies, and scholarships. SOW has helped over 50,000 kids in the last 30 years!

Problem Description

SOW went fully virtual during the pandemic. After the pandemic calmed down a bit, they were looking to resume in-person learning as kids learn better in-person. However, they were having trouble finding ways to go back in-person and have volunteers go back in person. SOW also requested help with volunteer recruitment and retainment. This means being able to find a consistent pipeline for volunteers to come from as well as finding ways to ensure that these volunteers do not leave the organization after a short period of time.

Project Agenda & Objectives

The main objective for our project was to find ways for SOW to resume majority in-person learning in the most time and cost efficient manner. This would have to be done while establishing consistent and long-term volunteer pipelines to ensure that volunteers continue to join the organization and do not leave in a short period of time.

  1. Find comparable organizations that have resumed in-person instruction post-pandemic and identify best practices.

  2. Determine which solutions would be financially feasible for SOW.

  3. Find reliable recruitment pipelines.

  4. Reach out to organizations to recruit people.

  5. Finalize incentives that could be provided to volunteers.

1) Operation Enhancement, In More Depth

The first (and second) workstream were focused on operations. They analyzed comparable educational organizations to see what they did to resume in-person operations. They particularly looked at what employees prioritized in order to resume back to in-person. Our findings saw that employees valued a sense of team culture as well as incentives to come back in-person. There is more about operations that this deliverable delves into including what costs to expect with in-person learning as opposed to online learning. This helped us solve the larger problem as it provided insight on how SOW could find ways to come back in-person to provide the highest quality educational services possible by seeing exactly what SOW could do from an organization's point of view in terms of bringing back previously experienced and trained volunteers to in-person from online.

2) Volunteer Pipeline, In More Depth

The second workstream focused on volunteer pipelines. It looked at what organizations SOW can recruit from as well as the feasability of partnerships with these organizations. Based on our observations and research, we found that the three best groups to recruit from were retired teachers, college students, and non-profits that are centered around education. Due to this, we prioritized finding organizations that specialized in these groups to boost recruitment numbers.

3) Outreach, In More Depth

The third workstream was centered around outreach towards organizations SOW can partner with. We found 2 organizations with retired teachers as well as many LA colleges with an education school. There were other groups to reach out to as well, so we found specific points of contact to reach out to. We also created many outreach templates to make it easier for SOW to reach out and initially create partnerships with groups to recruit from.

4) Incentives, In More Depth

The last workstream had to do with incentives. It looked at incentives comparable organizations offered and came up with incentives that could be offered to SOW volunteers. Based on our research, we thought the three most valuable incentives were a sense of community in the workplace, offering professional experience, and stipends. We though that emphasizing a sense of camaraderie in the workplace could be important. We also thought that creating a 2 unit class in partnership with colleges could provide incentives for volunteers to work for SOW. Finally, we thought stipends for volunteers would be valuable. All these incentives would help with volunteer retainment.

The Impact of 180DC's Work

We expect our work to help with volunteer recruitment and retainment. We think creating established pipelines can easily help with making sure SOW constantly gains employees that do not leave the organization. We also believe that effectively resuming majority in-person operations can be done by offering more incentives and implementing them into the recruitment process.


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