Case Study - 2018 Grant to CASA of Travis County to Diversify their Volunteer Base
Written by Jessica Pereira for Impact Austin
Impact Austin granted $111,500 to CASA of Travis County, a nonprofit that recruits community volunteers to serve as court-appointed advocates for the best interest of children who have been abused or neglected. Using this grant, CASA implemented an online and grassroots outreach strategy to recruit diverse volunteers and better reflect their community.
The overall number of assigned volunteers grew by 5% to a total of 772 in 2019.
Assigned African-American/Black volunteers grew from 4% to 5%
Assigned Hispanic/Latinx volunteers grew from 11% to 17%
Reflecting ongoing success, in 2020, 37% of volunteer applicants are people of color
CASA of Travis County is a nonprofit with a clear vision—to provide every child who needs them with a trained volunteer advocate, a safe home, and a promising future.
Since 1985, CASA has recruited thousands of volunteers to advocate for children in the child welfare system.
Volunteers are trained to advocate for children that they are appointed to in the courtroom and to look out for their best interests in school settings as well as in foster care placements. Lauren Zurbrugg, Chief Development Officer of CASA, goes into more detail about the volunteer recruitment process, “Traditionally, we go into the community and meet individuals… then they go through interviews and 39 hours of training…”
Each volunteer is asked to stay with their child until the end of their case—a typical case lasts for 17 to 18 months.
As one of the top 10 CASA programs in the nation, Travis County advocates for more than 2000 children annually.
Along with courtroom advocacy, a CASA volunteer supports the child to whom they are appointed through the emotional and physical trauma they may have experienced. Building trust is critical to gather a clear understanding of what a child needs and what outcome to the case will be in the child’s best interest.
In 2019, 49% of children CASA of Travis County served were Hispanic/Latinx and 28% were African-American/Black...“We had a little boy tell us, I don’t want another white lady to come and visit me at school every week because then my friends know something is wrong at home. I want someone who looks like me.”
Alejandro Victoria, Director of Volunteer Admissions, looked back to a personal experience with CASA, “There was a time where a mother wouldn’t let anyone on the case come into her home, but when I came and spoke to her in Spanish and connected around our shared culture, it built trust.”
CASA’s traditional method of recruitment wasn’t bringing in as many diverse volunteers as they aimed for… “I want our volunteer pool to be representative of the population of Travis County.” Alejandro shared.
Along with in-person recruitment and hiring a Diversity Recruitment Specialist to build deeper relationships in communities of color, CASA’s team strived to widen their outreach with a new online marketing strategy and website.
These two goals required a hefty budget that CASA didn’t have. Lauren shares a battle most nonprofits face, “The thought of saying we’re going to hand $35,000 dollars to a marketing team without expert guidance on how to spend it is intimidating.”
While CASA sought to reflect the diversity of the children they serve with diverse volunteers, they lacked the marketing budget and expertise needed to launch such a comprehensive campaign. It would take years to execute this plan.
How Impact Austin Contributed
Impact Austin understood the significance of connecting diverse volunteers with the children CASA serves. Moved by CASA’s mission, Impact Austin wanted to support its goal of recruiting and training more volunteers of color.
In 2018, Impact Austin awarded their Catalyst Grant of $111,500 to CASA of Travis County. This grant launched CASA’s online and grassroots outreach strategy and contributed directly to increasing CASA’s number of diverse volunteers.
Results and future plans of CASA
From the time of the Impact Austin grant award, the number of prospective volunteers applying to CASA of Travis County who are people of color has increased by 30%. CASA’s overall pool of volunteers is very large, so the evolution of demographics of the entire pool will take time. For this reason, because the efforts funded by Impact Austin have been so successful, CASA is continuing these efforts even beyond the conclusion of Impact Austin’s grant.
In addition to doubling down their relationship-building and outreach efforts, CASA’s new online presence delivered their mission directly to online users and contributed to their increase in diverse applicants.
Callie Langford, former Director of Communications, talks further about the impact of online branding, “We knew that we needed a creative team to help us deliver the right message… CASA took the boldest message, it was the most honest and direct.”
Alejandro added on to Callie’s thoughts, “A lot of diverse volunteers we’ve connected with heard about us for the first time through our online presence.”
Additionally, CASA’s new website helped further their volunteer recruitment efforts. Their online presence continues to recruit and build connections with diverse volunteers.
This year alone, 37% of volunteer applicants were people of color—these results continue to grow each month.
Alejandro adds on to this statistic, “The change we’ve seen, to have more African-American/Black and Hispanic/Latinx volunteers, would’ve taken years to happen without Impact Austin’s support.”
Lauren additionally shared how Impact Austin’s donation opened a new wave of opportunities for them, “I think that this grant pushed us to do so many things at once... to launch our new website, launch the marketing strategy...we’ve seen so much positive response.”
As CASA continues to raise the percentage of volunteers of color, more children in Travis County will receive advocacy and support to build a promising future for themselves...“To have Impact Austin’s leadership in this regard has been a huge impact.”