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Why and Why Now?

The story of Cincinnati’s unusually high poverty rates are often told in the context of “a tale of two cities,” in which one is its vibrant renaissance being heralded all across the world juxtaposed against the city’s third- highest 10-year poverty rate growth among the nation’s largest cities. Conventional wisdom also proclaims the region’s generosity,attributed to our nationally recognized United Way and combined arts funds and our larger-than-weight-class community fund.

But a dark secret undermining our region is its major drop in volunteerism over the last five years — twice the national rate of decline.

The loss of volunteers in our region equates to a $150 million economic loss. That’s the problem. The solution: the 2017 creation of Inspiring Service, a 501(c)(3) whose mission is to enhance the strengths, strengthen the weaknesses and fill the gaps of our region’s volunteer ecosystem.

What’s the difference in regions where volunteerism is increasing? It’s the existence of an organization that is 100 percent focused on the volunteer. Through the integration of innovative technology platforms and program design, Inspiring Service will be the new leader and convener for Cincinnati’s volunteer eco- system.Cincinnati has a super nonprofit ecosystem — led by the United Way, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and supported by organizations like Leadership Council, OneSource, Probono Partners, Social Venture Partners and many others. But none, like Inspiring Service, is focused always on the volunteer. Our founder, who started and sold several successful software development companies, became committed to transforming the volunteer experience after analyzing volunteer data showing broad national declines (going below 25 percent for the first time ever) and the significantly more pronounced crisis in his adopted hometown of Cincinnati (see visual below). Inspiring Service received designation in April 2017, and its communitywide volunteer guide of volunteer-engaging nonprofits — https://cincinnaticares.org — launched in November of last year.

450 nonprofits

1200 ways to help

100s of events

Cincinnati Cares is the most popular and comprehensive resource for Cincinnatians to discover ways to help in our community.

Its reach has grown from launch — about 145 unique visitors in week one — to a sustained level of more than 2500 unique visitors each month. Cincinnati Cares’ metrics far exceed the 20-year-old national frameworks for volunteer connections, and offer volunteers a one-stop shop — deep insight into ways to help in causes they are already familiar with to one-hour or one-day opportunities for testing out volunteers’ new-found interests. Nonprofits in our region — both those volunteer-rich organizations who must turn away volunteers and want a more reliable place to refer those who want to serve as well as nonprofits desperate for a pipeline — have embraced Inspiring Service. Community foundations and local philanthropists who see the vision for this new organization provide the funding model. The community-wide guide is scalable to other locations, with Nevada, Boston and Orange County, California, currently implementing Inspiring Service initiatives in their respective communities. But its heart is in Cincinnati, and it’s committed to making our region stronger.

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