ASU Lodestar Center


Catholic Charities received their Service Enterprise certificate.

Catholic Charities Community Services returns to Service Enterprise Initiative to recertify

September 6, 2023 — The sheer size and scope of Catholic Charities Community Services is difficult to overstate. Across the organization’s 10 offices in 7 counties and more than 20 programs in Arizona, differences in geographic location, surrounding community needs, and clientele provide a barrier to creating streamlined processes within the organization. In the field of volunteer management, Catholic Charities rose to meet this challenge using the Service Enterprise Initiative (SEI). 

The SEI is a national program that  provides diagnostic tools and external trainings to aid participating nonprofits in achieving impactful work through volunteerism. As the Service Enterprise Hub for Arizona since 2019, the ASU Lodestar Center leads the SEI within the state in partnership with national organizations ALIVE and Points of Light. 

 Catholic Charities Community Services saw its first SEI Certification in 2016. It went on to recertify for the first time in June of  2023. 

Despite the 7 year gap, Catholic Charities Community Services maintained a dedication to the high standards of volunteer management it first gained in 2016, according to Nonprofit Leadership and Management program alumna and Senior Director of Community Faith and Volunteer Engagement Melissa Larson. 

“The Volunteer Services team, staff members, and volunteers all have performance evaluations that incorporate the principle for volunteerism best practices. We currently have bi-monthly Program Connects to support and incorporate Service Enterprise principles with programs,” she wrote. 

However, even with commitment to these standards, Catholic Charities Community Services chose to pursue recertification, not just to learn more, but also to refine past teachings. 

“There’s already a framework and a practice that we’ve followed since the first certification, and we have chosen as a team to continue and improve processes and reviews. This external process really forced us to focus on it together as a team within our department, but then also invite others outside of our department to offer feedback and improvements as well,” Larson says. “The recertification is nice because it’s a continual improvement process.” 

According to Larson, the SEI improved the processes of the organization’s services department, causing it to become “more professional, able to be replicated, [and] adapted to scale.” 

These benefits were seen, not only externally, but internally. 

“Having an external process with ASU Lodestar Center and Watts College… really helps to build credibility and volunteer services and volunteer engagement internally because it helps out team members who aren't in this department to really see that there’ s professional, efficient, and practical protocols to volunteerism and why we want to invest in those things,” says Larson. “Those same volunteers or interns or partners can pipeline into employees or donors or partners in different kinds of ways.” 

Larson argues that, for Catholic Charities Community Services, improving the organization’s volunteer management has been a top-down process with similarly expansive results. For organizations considering Service Enterprise Certification, she encourages them that “it’s worth it.” 

“It’s a lot of work,” Larson says, “ Some people perceive volunteer engagement as just fun, frilly fliers, and treats to get volunteers recruited and celebrated, but it’s a sophisticated practice. The SEI certification really demonstrates the sophisticated work and opportunities of volunteer engagement.”

Story by Lillian Finley, ASU Lodestar Center.

Photo: ASU Lodestar Center's Dr. Robert Ashcraft and Sandra Freyer presenting to Catholic Charities' Volunteer Services team (from left to right): Paul Mulligan, Karen Bisko, Sandra Freyer, Shannon Hill, Gloria Gomez Torres, Dr. Robert Ashcraft, Malissa Larson

Get your organization certified as a Service Enterprise

The Service Enterprise Initiative is a national program that provides training and certification to nonprofits that are committed to implementing exemplary volunteer management practices to achieve operational efficiency and greater social impact.