Strengthening La Goyco’s Volunteer Program

Project Sponsor: Taller Comunidad La Goyco

Team Members: Ryan Chesanek, Andrew Kerekon, Hunter Lassard, and Evan Russell

Project Advisors: Professors Leslie Dodson and Scott Jiusto

Project Files:


The goal of this project was to strengthen and structure the volunteer program at Taller Comunidad La Goyco, allowing for organizational growth and longevity. The team collaborated with staff and volunteers at La Goyco, a nonprofit community center in Santurce, Puerto Rico providing social services and cultural, health, and environmental initiatives. We volunteered at La Goyco to better understand the volunteer experience. We created the Welcome and Greeting Package to inform volunteers of opportunities; a Volunteer Management System to track and store data; and Business Partnership Resources to encourage community collaboration. These tools are intended for use by La Goyco and other community centers to improve volunteer orientation and integration, data tracking, and business outreach.

Team members volunteer at La Goyco's Saturday Brigade


Executive Summary

Non-Profit Organizations

Non-profit organizations are unique operations that frequently rely on volunteers (Oostlander et al., 2014). These community-based organizations (CBOs) can provide vital resources to local areas. Working with volunteers allows these organizations to provide services and opportunities to the community that might otherwise not be feasible (“VolunteerHub,” n.d.). The leadership of nonprofits benefits from having effective systems to organize and track volunteers, which often requires significant effort and resources. In Puerto Rico, many nonprofit organizations are in community centers that support the wellbeing of residents on the island (Pérez Figueroa, 2022). Many residents on the island face political and economic hardships and disaffection from governments that lead them to create their own support systems with civic leaders (Pérez Figueroa, 2022). Difficult circumstances and limited resources leave many Puerto Rican community centers reliant on an effective volunteer program.

Taller Comunidad La Goyco

The San Juan community of Santurce was dealing with several social and economic issues when Taller Comunidad La Goyco opened its doors in 2020. Residents continue to suffer from poverty, unemployment, and displacement (Donnelly-DeRoven, 2019; M. Reyes, personal communication, March 13, 2023). A group of activists in Machuchal, a neighborhood in Santurce, established La Goyco to focus on the three pillars of community wellbeing: culture, health, and the environment. The association hosts workshops in plena music, therapy, and a community garden. With the organization’s broad range of services, managing and tracking volunteers has been a difficult task (M. Reyes, personal communication, March 13, 2023).

Figure 1: Photo of Taller Comunidad La Goyco in March 2023.

Volunteer management is essential for volunteer-based organizations and programs to ensure the effective delivery of activities and services. Organizations with formal volunteer programs are more likely to report high levels of volunteer participation, retention, and satisfaction (Schlachter, 2021). Strong levels of volunteer participation were recorded by 70% of organizations with established volunteer programs, compared to only 55% of organizations without formal volunteer programs (Schlachter, 2021). These statistics demonstrate the importance of volunteer management strategies to help attract and retain volunteers.

Small non-profits can track volunteer activity more efficiently, increase the effectiveness of their efforts, and enhance the volunteer experience with the aid of a well-designed digital volunteer management system. Non-profit organizations that invest in tech-based volunteer management systems are more likely to have a larger impact on their communities. Organizations are 83% more likely to report increases in the quality of their programs and services when they use technology to manage volunteers. A devoted volunteer base can help small non-profits grow; volunteers who feel involved are more likely to continue to volunteer at an organization over time (Stanford Social Innovation Review, 2013). It is critical for small non-profits to have a well-designed volunteer management program.                                                                                    

Figure 2: Volunteers at La Goyco’s Saturday Work Brigade.

There are various pathways a volunteer can take to support a non-profit (Mukwashi et al., 2018) (Figure 3 modification of United Nations Volunteerism Report). This graphic is a modified version of the one publicized by the United Nations Volunteers in the report. The first layer near the center identifies both formal and informal volunteers. Formal volunteers are people who volunteer for nonprofit organizations, whereas informal volunteers perform services that include, but are not limited to, helping a relative, close friend, neighbor, etc. with a simple deed. The next layer highlights whether the volunteer is on-site or remote. While many people assume volunteering is only in-person, the report identifies that there are hundreds of volunteer services that can be done virtually, particularly in “areas like health and medicine, education, and community building” (Virtual Volunteer Opportunities, n.d). The third ring identifies local, district, national, and international volunteers (Defining Volunteers, n.d.; Virtual Volunteer Opportunities – VolunteerMatch, n.d.).

Figure 3: Different types and configurations of volunteerism in communities (Mukwashi et al., 2018).

Implementing volunteer management systems has previously been studied for non-profits in Puerto Rico. These systems can be computer or paper-based depending on the organization’s resources and needs. In 2021, a project conducted by students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) worked to strengthen the volunteer program at the Caño 3.7 Organization by creating a personalized volunteer management system (VMS) (Jayne et al., 2021). Volunteer management systems can either be tracked by hand or with computer-based software. They noted that many commercial computer-based volunteer management systems were prohibitively expensive and opted to develop a custom digital solution. The Caño 3.7 system was designed to track the number of volunteers, identify those with the most hours, and produce graphs for sponsoring organizations to utilize in reports and grant applications. This program has a free and a paid version that costs $10 per month for an administrator to manage (Jayne et al., 2021).

Volunteer managers tend to rank comfort with digital tools significantly lower than general volunteer management skills. This establishes the importance of choosing a volunteer management system that is affordable and technologically accessible for an organization the size of La Goyco (Kappelides & Johnson, 2020). Such a system must also be scalable as organizations expand to support local communities.

This project will support Taller Comunidad La Goyco in further developing their volunteer program to encourage individuals to participate in cultural, health, and environmental initiatives. The team worked closely with La Goyco’s Executive Director Mariana Reyes, the staff of La Goyco, and their volunteers to understand their needs. To achieve this goal, the team analyzed the current system La Goyco uses to manage their volunteers, further strengthened La Goyco’s greeting and welcoming of volunteers, developed a viable VMS to accurately store volunteer data and created materials to use to partner with local businesses.


Mission, Objectives and Methods

Mission Statement:

Our project goal was to support Taller Comunidad La Goyco in strengthening their volunteer program which provides the community with health, environmental, and cultural initiatives. To accomplish this goal, we addressed La Goyco’s welcoming, data management and business partnership programs. To do this we pursued the following objectives. 


We utilized a variety of methods and to achieve our six objectives the team began engaging in key informant interviews and participating in volunteering opportunities to understand the volunteer experience at La Goyco. With this information, the team began to prototype and test the Welcoming and Greeting Package and adapt the digital volunteer management system created by the Cano 3.7 IQP group in 2021. The team conducted user-testing to further develop the Volunteer Management System and convened a focus group for designing our Partnership Resource Package. Lastly, the team worked to initiate volunteer opportunities at La Goyco for WPI students.

                    Figure 4: Our project objectives.


We collaborated closely with five informants at La Goyco (Figure 5). These members of La Goyco’s leadership team have many responsibilities and their current day-to-day tasks are dynamic and changing due to the growth of La Goyco.

Figure 5: List and roles of key informants.

After spending seven weeks immersed in La Goyco’s volunteer program by participating in volunteer opportunities, communicating with administrators, and connecting with the residents of Machuchal, we arrived at a series of findings specific to La Goyco, but also applicable to other organizations (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Our team’s findings from this project experience.

Finding: La Goyco’s organizational structure is shifting towards a more professionalized operation.

  • The operations of La Goyco are changing to become more defined and structured.
  • La Goyco is continuing to hire additional staff members to support their expanding program.

Finding: La Goyco did not have a defined or structured volunteer program.

  • La Goyco needed formal systems to support new and recurring volunteers and to expand volunteer opportunities.
  • La Goyco did not have a directory or system to welcome or direct volunteers when they arrive.
  • The library has the most structured volunteer program at La Goyco.
  • Head of Maintenance, Ricky Otero Garabís, does not use any formal methods to track volunteers’ hourly contributions or greet new volunteers at the Saturday Brigades.
  • Participation in La Goyco’s programs revealed how reliant La Goyco is on volunteer efforts.

Finding: La Goyco’s volunteers are autonomously motivated.

  • Volunteers at La Goyco exhibit autonomous motivation as opposed to controlled motivation for their work.

Finding: The importance of feedback from volunteers and administrators is crucial to developing an effective volunteer program.

  • It is important to appeal to volunteers in the presentation of the welcoming information.
  • It is important to consider the placement of welcoming information on printed posters.
  • The length of the process of filling out the Google Form dictates how willing volunteers are to complete it.

Finding: In manuals, assume the user has no prior knowledge of the subject.

  • It is difficult to create effective user manuals that can be used across a variety of languages for a variety of individuals, including facilitators and trainees.
  • Provide clear written instructions and strong visuals in any manual.

Finding: La Goyco could benefit from resources to connect with businesses and partner with them through donations, sponsorships, and events.

  • La Goyco did not have a structured approach to partnering with surrounding businesses.
  • The order of the “Business Partnership Resources Package” presentation is important when making an initial connection with a business.

Finding: Getting WPI students involved in volunteer initiatives was more difficult than expected.

  • We found that simply sending out volunteer opportunities to the WPI cohort was not enough to get them involved at La Goyco.
  • A relatively more effective approach to reaching the cohort was to use the shared Outlook calendar, shared Excel spreadsheet, and to send out reminders the evening before a volunteer opportunity took place on WhatsApp.
  • The sign-up sheet in the Excel spreadsheet was underutilized by members of the cohort.

Findings based on Physical Recruitment Methods

In our efforts to strengthen La Goyco’s volunteer program, we utilized the five physical approaches to recruiting new volunteers. These include fundraisers, face-to-face conversation, community awareness days, collaborations, and posters/signage (Figure 7). By experimenting with these five approaches, we were able to develop two deliverables: The Business Partnership Resource Package and The Welcoming and Greeting Package (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Team deliverables and findings based on physical methods for recruitment.

Outcomes and Recommendations


We developed four major deliverables to enhance La Goyco’s volunteer program and business partnership outreach. The Welcoming and Greeting Package is comprised of a range of posters and signage to initiate and streamline the recruitment/registration process of new volunteers. For the Volunteer Management System, we utilized Retool software to manage and analyze internal trends in volunteer efforts. Additionally, we produced the Volunteer Management Systems for Non-Profits user guide to supplement the VMS and assist La Goyco’s administration in software usage and troubleshooting. Lastly, the Business Partnership Resource Package was created to aid in local business outreach.

Figure 8: Five major project outcomes for La Goyco.


The following recommendations are intended for administrators of Taller Comunidad La Goyco, and other non-profit organizations aiming to enhance their volunteer programs and cultivate relationships with businesses in their community. Furthermore, we provide recommendations for future cohorts at WPI with the aim of promoting volunteerism.

Recommendations for Taller Comunidad La Goyco Administration
  • We recommend having La Goyco’s front desk attendant provide further information about La Goyco’s opportunities for new volunteers.
  • Assign previously determined dollar values to each task listed in the VMS.
  • We recommend that the Welcome and Greeting Package be used to promote a positive first impression for new volunteers.
  • Continue to add new Volunteer Profiles to the front wall of La Goyco.
  • We recommend updating the calendar in the Greeting and Welcoming Package every week to promote the volunteer opportunities to new and recurring volunteers.
Recommendations for Non-Profit Administrators
Using a Volunteer Management System
  • We recommend that any VMS dashboard adapted from our system be kept at a technical skill level that is appropriate and accessible to the administration of a nonprofit organization.
  • For future additions to the Volunteer Management Systems for Non-Profits Manual, it would be helpful if designers assumed that the user has no prior experience with the system.
  • We advise having a physical copy of the Volunteer Management Systems for Non-Profits Manual on hand for administrators at an organization to have a quick reference when encountering any issues with the VMS.
  • Ensure a support network is developed to address technical hiccups as they arise.
  • Respect the privacy of the volunteers and the information they provide.
  • We recommend using statistics available on the VMS, including the monetary value of each task completed at an organization, when applying for grants.
  • We advise including graphs available on the VMS in end-of-year reports.
  • Data tracking on the VMS can be used to celebrate volunteers that hit key milestones.
Partnering with Businesses
  • We recommend the Business Partnership Resources Package be used to promote collaboration between the nonprofit and surrounding community.
  • When partnering with businesses, we recommend that the representative of the organization leave a paper copy of the summary sheet of partnership opportunities and organization contact information with the business representative.
  • It is important to showcase previous business partnerships when looking to build new connections.
Recommendations for Future WPI Cohorts
  • We recommend that when working with nonprofit organizations attend as many volunteer events as possible.