CVN Strategic Plan

Dear CVN Members,

In the March “How Can I Help?” newsletter, I offered an overview of CVN’s new three-year strategic plan and its focus on story and strategy. The plan is below in its entirety, and I want to take this opportunity to share with you how it will be used, as well as explain a few aspects.

CVN believes this plan can help convey our story during a time of transition: from 55 years of helping develop, support, and promote service models born of specific contexts and times – to ways of fostering service that considers cultural and religious realities now and in the future. We must discern in these three years how we are called to change, and how we can help members change. We will do that in conversation with you and partners from other sectors.

This process will also help us better understand our leadership role. How that evolves depends on your needs, how equipped we are to help, and how we believe we can best impact the field of faith-based service and maybe other arenas. In a rapidly changing world, we must be nimble and open to where this discernment may lead. The impact of CVN and member programs will also be informed by external forces we cannot control (g. challenges within the Church; tendencies of young adults). Depending on the day, this process is either exciting or terrifying. That’s OK. We must go deeper with our core vision and call, and trust how God will work with all of these realities.

In addition to supporting you, the process of implementing this plan presents opportunities for building relationships and sharing our story. A public version will be an identity piece that can help introduce or re- introduce CVN and members to partners, stakeholders, funders, and more. The plan will be a vehicle that can open doors, gain attention, and catalyze ideas and relationships.

All of us must be more visible and better known. Our story needs to be understood more widely. Before educating others, though, I want to make sure you understand a few parts of the plan. I recommend reading the plan below or downloading it in PDF form before proceeding to the following explanations.

Former Volunteers as Leaders (Introduction): This is a bold vision. Implementing it will require learning and patience, and we won’t know the path until we take a few steps. This focus reflects our belief that the fruits of service can have more of an impact, in many sectors, on the major challenges our world faces. Longer-term opportunities to grow as leaders could speak to potential volunteers in ways that increase our reach and attractiveness, and meet some of their deep needs. Moreover, we will see how it speaks to potential partners and funders. First, though, I want to know what it stirs in you.

National Conversations and Campaigns (Marketing Actions): As a unique voice in the field of service, we also have a duty to educate other movements and find ways to work together. This helps you be better known, and allows us to explore opportunities and partnerships beyond the Church. Some efforts (like student loan debt relief) may allow us to effect the targeted change that I know you want. CVN hears you with regard to challenges, and seeks to make a difference.

Transition Section: This is a first step; an offering of energy and space. I don’t know where attention to these questions will lead, but I know they need to be explored. Exactly how is up to you.There will be different reactions and needs related to this focus. Please share those. All we can do now is offer our support, listen to you, and perhaps use our gifts to nurture the conversation. We feel called to name this. We pray we can follow your lead well.

Pilot Projects (Diversity Actions and Measurement): As with the focus on transition, this can’t be done without you. CVN has ideas and can use our relationships to nurture conversations, but there has to be interest from you to act. To use your expertise to think creatively and dare to risk something new could be exciting to funders and partners who want to strengthen faith-based service. Ideas and willingness to explore might lead to new initiatives that help our whole network.

Leverage National Perspective (Fundraising Actions): CVN has managed two large grants that have allowed us to share benefits and funding with members and volunteers. We have learned from these grants and are confident about our role as an intermediary. We hope to leverage our visibility into the capacity to help members in more ways. How do you think we can use that role better?

I hope this is helpful, and offer other ways to learn more and shape our efforts.

  • Zoom Video Calls: I will lead four video calls allowing program staff to explore our plan, clarify focus, share needs/questions, etc. Times are below.
  • Meetings with Groups: I welcome the chance to meet with groups of programs to explore ideas and needs. Some can be in-person on a regional basis. Groups may also self-identify based on other criteria (program size, focus, charism). Based on feedback you share with me, I may identify related concerns and facilitate chances for interested parties to connect.
  • National Conference: The annual conference will provide opportunities to go deeper on two major aspects of this plan: 1) marketing/visibility/recruitment; and 2) diversity/reducing barriers/change. Each full day will be dedicated to one focus, and all speakers and programming will seek to equip you to put that focus into practice.

In this time of transition, we are called to think creatively, do the best we can – and trust God. And maybe even get excited about opportunities we can’t imagine. CVN’s strategic plan is an invitation for you to help our network discern.

Faith is for big things. It can change the world. Can you trust that we have more of a role to play in that?

With you in this story,

Yonce Shelton, Executive Director

Zoom Video Call Times: Apr. 8, 9, 10 and 11 at 2:00 pm EST

Join here:

Can’t make one but want to? I’ll try to offer more options. Let me know HERE.

Story and Strategy 2019 – 2021

(Click to download as PDF)

During the next three years, CVN will strive to articulate why faith-based service is compelling to potential volunteers, the Church, and partners – and how to ensure continued growth and impact. We will discern new approaches with a commitment to: 1) marketing; 2) transition; 3) diversity; and 4) fundraising. This process will educate us about the combination of prophetic leadership, services and benefits, and pastoral supports our members need. It will also inform a longer-term vision:

Faith-based service is the catalytic start of a commitment to becoming spiritually-grounded leaders who use positions of influence to transform the world. CVN will empower this trajectory in the formative years after service. We will partner with members and other sectors to offer structures and opportunities that foster skills-building, discernment about vocation and career, and understanding about strategies for promoting the common good. Participants will be cultivated to envision – and live out – better ways to address pressing needs in communities, politics, business, ministry, and more.


Sharing our story and being more visible will improve: recruitment and member supports; fundraising; recognition as a thought leader; promotion of service; and relationships with partners.


    • Assess and strengthen CVN’s branding, messaging, and reach.
    • Enhance targeted communication efforts that engage donors, partners, and CVN members.
    • Improve social media strategy and coordination with other efforts.
    • Advertising (mainly online) that uses different messages to target different audiences.
    • Search engine optimization and data analytics.
    • Improve online approaches to recruiting. Better strategies for reaching Millennials and Gen Z.
    • Outreach to the disaffiliated and seekers.


    • Contract with online marketing consultant to perform audit and develop plan to acquire new supporters, nurture them, and turn them into applicants, supporters, and/or donors.
    • Use online efforts that are part of current grants to inform next steps.
    • Leverage capacity of new database system.
    • Deepen partnerships with an expanding range of campus stakeholders.
    • Represent the faith-based service perspective in national conversations and campaigns (g. Service Year Alliance’s Campaign for Universal National Service; Center for Responsible Lending’s student loan debt efforts; Voices for National Service’s efforts).
    • Establish a CVN board Communications Committee.


    • More volunteer profiles created. More applicants are better educated about member programs.
    • Other organizations and sectors promote CVN and members, and use our data/stories/models.
    • CVN is invited to shape more conversations (g. Church crisis, lay leadership, young adults).


CVN will provide pastoral leadership by creating spaces for reflection on pressing challenges.


To explore these questions with members as we continue creating our story.

    • Are service models relevant/appealing? If not, how must they change?
    • What do changes in the Church and society mean for the future of faith-based service?
    • What must we better understand about identity? About diversity, justice, and equity?
    • What are new opportunities/partners? Do members seek more collaboration with each other?


    • Relate these questions to program needs by engaging member programs via: regional groups; program staff groups; other groups based on geography, charism, program size/focus,etc.
    • Utilize survey data and research to identify needs, options, decision points, and supports.
    • Seek audiences with Church leaders to share and explore new partnerships.
    • Incorporate this discernment into annual programs and consider changes to: RESPONSE; national conference; regional groups; and former volunteer outreach.
    • Determine how much of our identity and leadership is tied to recruiting efforts. Explore changes based on organizational transitions and assess the potential impact on membership.
    • Explore if member programs need help transitioning to new models or combining programs.


    • Members affirm this focus by investing energy, shaping direction, and trying new approaches.
    • Enough member engagement to answer these questions and inform future strategies.
    • Partners invest more in our mission because they are compelled by our vision and leadership.
    • The 2019 conference attracts a high number of attendees (because of the focus on these challenges/questions) and successfully equips attendees to explore program adjustments.


CVN will explore new partnerships, models, and supports that increase diversity and equity.


To create spaces with members for education, conversation, and action to reduce barriers to service. We affirm the stories unfolding around us of increased opportunity, and seek to become part of them.


    • Use our Diversity and Racial Justice Statement to help CVN and members pursue diversity in deeper ways, increase volunteer and staff diversity, engage cultural competency trainings/resources, and discern advocacy opportunities.
    • Explore pilot projects that alter program models to: appeal to groups other than middle-class whites; link service and economic opportunity/skills building; and experiment with program components such as length of service, residential aspect and part-time site placements.
    • Expand partnerships/outreach at Hispanic Serving, Historically Black, and Community Colleges. Engage adolescents through Catholic youth organizations.
    • Assess our potential appeal to a range of minority groups, and partnerships that will help.
    • Assess how to help members with challenges related to immigration (new restrictions and requirements impacting potential volunteers).


    • Diversity and equity increases within CVN staff and board.
    • Recruitment efforts yield more diverse applicants to programs.
    • Pilot projects allow members to discern changes that will enhance diversity, and provide insights that benefit the whole network.



Development efforts that: 1) further strategic goals; 2) increase unrestricted giving; and 3) inform us about our long-term fundraising potential and needs. We will share our story and strategy more widely, learn from relationships, and nurture interest and opportunities.


    • Proposals to small foundations for core programming. Strategies for larger foundations that speak to longer-term vision and capacity. Map foundation strategy.
    • Intensify individual donor cultivation. Use strategic planning to engage them anew.
    • Active cultivation of new online donors. Regular communication about programs, vision, and opportunities to connect with CVN and member efforts/events.
    • Increase and leverage Combined Federal Campaign and Mission Appeals donations.
    • Consider AmeriCorps and VISTA applictaions.
    • Develop case statement and articulate CVN’s theory of change.
    • Leverage national perspective, relationships, and capacity to secure grants that empower members (g. AmeriCorps, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation).
    • Evaluate other revenue sources to gauge viability and explore changes (advertising; monetizing programs and offerings).


    • Meet revenue goals in annual organizational budget. Understand how much those can increase.
    • Current major donors increase giving. Lapsed major donors begin giving again.
    • Donor visits and frequent cultivation by Executive Director yield increases in contributions, and provide insight on our donor strategies, messages, and request.
    • Seventy-five percent success rate for small grant proposals.
    • Relationships established with major foundations.
    • Break even on fee-for-service offerings, or affirm strategic rationale for not doing so.

Click here to save or download this plan in PDF format.