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Research and Evaluation Task Force

January 30, 2020

Present: Luke Shorty, Nate Hinchey, Mathison Deering, Lisa Phelps, Maryalice Crofton

Guests: Sarah Goan and Allan (Al) Leighton, University of Southern Maine 

Members gathered by teleconference at 4pm. After introductions, Maryalice reviewed the task force work from the strategic plan: 

"Volunteer Maine aims to serve as Maine’s center of excellence on volunteer service. A critical element of this goal is information and data. To that end, the strategic plan directs that a task force... 
        - Identify key issues impacting Maine’s volunteer sector and Commission grantees that need to be monitored or researched.  
        - Provide information and data on the status of Maine’s volunteer sector, civic health, and civic engagement." 

This task force was created nearly a year ago, but a number of factors kept it from getting off the ground until now. The only organizing step left is for the members to propose the group’s mission or charge to the full commission. This establishes the parameters within which the work will be done. The charge should be completed so the full board can act on it in March. 

Commission staff needed to start work on two projects before the task force meeting. Both were described in background materials circulated. Today the discussion focus will be on the civic health report for Maine. 

There was a change in state profile reporting in 2017. The national work now published by CNCS, does such a small sample for Maine that only state level results on some of the civic health indicators can be presented. City profiles have been dropped and regional differences cannot be identified. Discussions about conducting the civic health assessment were started with USM's Data Innovation Project (Sarah Goan) and survey project (Al Leighton). 

At this point in the meeting, both Sarah Goan and Al Leighton joined the meeting. Sarah explained that surveying factors have changed drastically in the last few years. The funds the Commission has to put toward the project will not yield enough data to provide the level of detail it wants. Al shared that he recently assessed whether the results his survey department sees were comparable to others in the field. He contacted Gallup, the Pew Research Center, and the American Assoc. for Public Opinion Research. All of them indicate they are getting about a 7% response rate to their polling which means over 5700 people need to be surveyed to get 400 responses – the minimum size response rate for the project. 

Discussion followed on the pros and cons as well as costs of various surveying methods (phone, online, mail). A factor in developing the project is that different generations respond better to different methods (e.g., 18-24 year-olds do online) which may mean we need a mixed approach. Mailed paper surveys are most expensive because of the added handling and data input time. 

Task force members discussed the viability of enlisting additional funding partners in order to do the first report very well. Leighton estimated the likely cost if the respondent pool was increased to 600, 800, and 1000. The largest set would be strongest and provide the best profile. 

Two courses of action were determined. First, Leighton will develop cost estimates for various survey methods and sample sizes by February 5. Task force members committed to reaching out to potential funding partners to assess willingness. Specific prospects were listed and assigned. 

In order to get the project done this spring, this phase of work must be done speedily. The task force decided to meet in person next time and set the meeting to coincide with the February full board meeting. Luke noted he may have to attend by skype as he is supposed to be in China. If plans change because of the emerging epidemic, he will attend in person. 

The meeting wrapped up at 5:13 pm. 

NEXT MEETING: Friday, February 21, 12:30 pm – Room 110, 19 Elkins Lane, Augusta