Problem Identification:
The Department’s ability to provide high-quality services is inextricably linked to its ability to significantly increase the number of volunteers who support its full time staff.

Recommended Action:
Require communities to commit requisite levels of volunteer support for the Department’s programming before committing additional financial resources for expanded program offerings.

Cost Savings, Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:
All Departmental Operations

Estimated Annual Impact:
Cannot be Estimated

Estimated Implementation Costs:

Barriers to Implementation:
Full time staff may have difficulty recruiting and managing a large volunteer workforce. There needs to be some form of training for the Directors on how to establish and manage a volunteer workforce.

Projected Implementation:

Next Steps:
Assess, by Department facility, minimal volunteer needs. Link program expansion to the communities’ ability to generate minimal levels of volunteerism.

One of the most overwhelming conclusions reached by the project team was that no public sector entity can provide world-class recreational programming and park facilities without the active and sustained participation of community volunteers. It is clear from site visits that the volunteer support in some of the communities is minimal. With the Department’s financial resources stretched to the limit, and with user fees not covering the full cost of programs, more volunteer support is urgently needed.

As part of its review efforts, the project team met with officials from the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks’an operation widely regarded for the high quality of the services it provides. Comparisons between the sizes of the populations served, parkland acreage managed, operating budgets, and staffing levels in the respective jurisdictions did not result in the disparities that the project team initially expected. The indicator where the chasm between the City and County materialized was in the level of unpaid volunteer support. In Baltimore County, approximately 50,000 unpaid community volunteers donate over 500,000 hours of time to support local programming. In contrast, the City’s Department reported only 885 registered volunteers (1) in FY99. Additionally, local recreation councils generate over $8.2 million to augment Baltimore County’s budget allocation for recreation and parks activities.

While obvious socioeconomic differences exist between Baltimore City and Baltimore County that limit the usefulness of direct comparisons, the sizeable disparity in the level of volunteer support represents a significant obstacle to overcome in efforts to improve the quality of the Department’s services.

If the Department’s 45 recreation centers were able to attract an additional 10 hours of volunteer support each week, and each volunteer hour were valued at $10, the value of this addition volunteer support would equal $234,000.