Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Volunteerism in the Public Sector

By: | April 19, 2017 • 3 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of the employer. She can be reached at marilyn.rivers@saratoga-springs.org.

Our public entity dollars are short with no relief in sight, as tax caps remain stagnant and public officials promise to slash the tax base further.

Yet governance costs continue to escalate with mandatory contractual and retirement increases. In order to fulfill our public mandates, public entities across the nation are accomplishing municipal goals by engaging in Public Private Partnerships and beginning creative relationships with community organizations.

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It’s helpful that baby boomers are aging gracefully. As young activists, we insisted on change in society, championed the environment, helped advance technology and introduced the foundations of global social media — just to name a few.

We’re shredding the image of the couch potato by abandoning simplistic leisure sports and actively seeking to give back to the world by saving wildlife, vacation volunteering and participating in community programs to fill the void left by shrinking tax dollars.

Generational community activism and public need have the beginnings of a beautiful partnership if appropriately crafted for all parties involved.

Once you identify your public entity’s needs, it’s time to wrap some program parameters around what you hope to accomplish.

The first step in developing a robust community volunteer program is to identify public need. Work with folks within your organization to identify projects that have been sitting on the shelf for lack of funding, staffing or interest.

Identifying programs that volunteers can work on in your community — which are not protected by collective bargaining agreements or contractual agreement with other agencies — may mean that the only thing you have to purchase is the materials themselves.

More often than not, however, many community organizations are more than willing to donate their own supplies to accomplish a public program. That leaves you with the paperwork of accepting a donation instead of trying to find a shrinking budget line.

Some examples of community projects that offer potential are: Adopt a highway and by-way, water sampling, fish population studies, park plantings, spring cleanup, and trail upkeep.

Volunteer ADA sidewalk and intersection studies might also be on the top of your to-do list as you plan your upcoming budget. Check out Scouts looking for a signature project, or a school or church group looking to give back to the community.

Once you identify your public entity’s needs, it’s time to wrap some program parameters around what you hope to accomplish.

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Developing volunteer job descriptions with appropriate duties and responsibilities set the stage for ensuring your expectations and help outline the qualifications needed to accomplish your goals and those of the individual(s) or organization willing to assist you. Determining the physical and educational task criteria assist in promoting the success of your project’s outcome and your volunteers’ satisfaction with giving back to their community.

There may be special criteria needed for a particular volunteer project you are contemplating. Do you need to record a particular fish population, obtain daily water samples, identify a particular species of butterfly or bat? If special criteria are needed for any given task, consult a local educational institution to inquire whether or not they are interested in helping to set the criteria for your data collection.

Remember, each successful relationship with your community member in any volunteer program promotes good citizenship, a give back to the community, and moves along a project that has the capacity to positively benefit your financial bottom line.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?

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One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.

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Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &

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Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at dreynolds@lrp.com.