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Can Government Intervention Increase Volunteers and Donations? Analyzing the Influence of VISTA With a Matched Design
Administration & Society  (IF2.69),  Pub Date : 2021-05-05, DOI: 10.1177/00953997211009885
Andrew Messamore, Pamela Paxton, Kristopher Velasco

The United States has long relied on private organizations to provide public services to poor communities. However, while the federal government’s support of the civic sector through grants and contracts is well studied, little research investigates how it subsidizes voluntary organizations through national service programs, such Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). In this article, we assess whether nonprofits that receive VISTA members show higher levels of donations and volunteers than matched nonprofits that did not receive VISTA members in the years following the Great Recession. We find that nonprofits that participated in the VISTA program had higher numbers of volunteers 2 years after participation, suggesting that national service was effective at supporting local organizations and building local civic infrastructure during an economic recovery. We also follow VISTA receiving organizations from 2010 to 2016 in a longitudinal design, finding a robust relationship of VISTA service and volunteering. These findings suggest VISTA is a resource for organizations and invite further research on the relationship between national service and anti-poverty work.