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NARSVPD letter to the US Senate regarding funding

Submitted by Betty M. Ruth, President, National Association of RSVP Directors 


The National Association of RSVP Directors (NARSVPD) recommends an FY 2024 funding level of $63 million for the RSVP program, administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); an increase of $7.9 million. These funds will bring successful programs to scale, enable more seniors to live independently, break down social isolation, support veterans and military families, and meet other local needs. RSVP has the largest rural footprint of any national service program and is an important participant in disaster relief programs in rural communities.


RSVP deploys more than 100,000 volunteers across the country to support the efforts of hundreds of community organizations. It is not means tested and it recruits volunteers without regard to income. It provides opportunities for people 55 and over to make a difference through volunteer service and offers maximum flexibility and choice to its volunteers by matching the personal interests and skills of volunteers with opportunities to solve community problems. Usually, most serve between 10 and 40 hours a week, but there is no set schedule. RSVP’s flexibility allows volunteers improve the lives of their neighbors and friends every day. 


The need for RSVP has never been greater. The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group's share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent. 


Further, according to the Population Reference Bureau, “The aging of the baby boom generation could fuel a 75 percent increase in the number of Americans ages 65 and older requiring nursing home care, to about 2.3 million in 2030 …. Demand for elder care will also be fueled by a steep rise in the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, which could nearly triple by 2050 to 14 million, from 5 million in 2013.”


According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, the growing aging population will increase the number of people needing Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) to an estimated 15 million by 2050 but the availability of family caregivers is expected to decline. By 2030, there is projected to be a national shortage of 3.8 million unpaid family caregivers and 151,000 paid care workers. Thus, there will be a growing need for paid long-term services and supports. RSVP can help meet these challenges.


RSVP programs help seniors are particularly susceptible to loneliness, which is linked to early mortality, both by providing them with volunteer opportunities and connecting them to their communities. Research shows that the lack of social relationships is as much a risk factor for death as smoking or obesity. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that “older people who are socially isolated face a 28 percent greater chance of developing dementia than do their counterparts who are not socially isolated.” The article also reported that “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says social isolation affects roughly a fourth of U.S. adults 65 and older.” A study of recently widowed older adults found that “higher intensity volunteering may be a particularly important pathway for alleviating loneliness among older adults.” 


Further, a large research study involving more than 64,000 subjects aged 60 and older suggests that volunteering slows the cognitive decline of aging. “The effect is significant. It’s consistent,” Dr.  Sumedha Gupta said. Further, “we find that as people volunteer, their cognitive health scores improve. If they don’t volunteer, their cognitive scores decline faster.”


Investing in RSVP is a cost-effective way of improving the health of Older Americans.


RSVP efficiently deploys volunteers across to support the work of community organizations. According to CNCS, in FY 2021, RSVP volunteers working through local nonprofits, county governments, local United Way organizations, social service agencies, faith-based organizations, and many others provided disaster relief services across the nation, helping victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires, and industrial accidents; helped more than 2,000,000 people mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and other public health crises; helped more than 167,000 people expand their educational and economic opportunity and mentored more than 22,000 children; provided independent living services to almost 892,000 adults, primarily frail seniors; provided respite services to nearly 2,500 caregivers; provided support to 9,358 family members of the US Armed Forces; and, recruited an additional 5,400 community volunteers.

The following examples demonstrate the breadth of RSVP activities. In fact, with sufficient imagination and planning, RSVP volunteers can be deployed to address a wide variety of community problems.


There are almost 1650 RSVP volunteers in Dane, County, Wisconsin.  Some drive older adults who don’t have access to car, bus, family, or friends to transport them to medical appointments. Drivers use their own vehicles and are reimbursed for mileage. In their “Vets Helping Vets” program fellow vets do the driving and provide support and fellowship. The program is expanding to provide other opportunities including volunteering at the Veteran’s coffee shop, the VA Hospital, and homeless day centers, as well as at special one-day events celebrating Veterans. 

In Dane County communities outside of Madison, RSVP works with local senior centers to offer home delivered meals for seniors, improving the health and quality of life of older adults, and allowing them to remain in their homes. 

RSVP volunteers are found in Madison and Dane County schools tutoring and mentoring. Tutors work one-on-one or with small groups of children in kindergarten through 12th grade, assisting with reading, math, and other subjects. 


RSVP’s Triad program provides residents with the knowledge they need to feel safer and more secure in their communities. Triad brings together older adults, law enforcement and the community at-large to increase safety and reduce the fear of crime. Triad provides the community with vital information about personal safety and crime prevention.  Triad has offered on-line sessions about dementia safety, biking and walking safety, and an introduction to local police.

As one Waunakee Home-delivered Meal Recipient “If it wasn’t for RSVP, I wouldn’t be able to live in my home.”


In Connecticut, RSVP volunteers support veterans and military families. The first RSVP Veterans Coffeehouse in Connecticut was established by Thames Valley Council for Community Action’s (TVCCA) RSVP in Killingly in 2015.  Since then, six additional coffee houses have opened. The coffeehouses reach hundreds of veterans from  World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan each week and provide them with companionship, confidential counseling, and access to services. Several veterans and their families gained access to benefits including housing, medical care, energy assistance, food assistance, and other supports. The coffee houses have evolved into public-private partnerships staffed by RSVP volunteers and vets and attract support from local businesses, Chambers of Commerce, churches, senior centers, and others. Fittingly, the coffeehouses have helped a number of vets receive long overdue medals honoring their service.

Volunteers at Federal Hill House in Providence Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers work in our food pantries, obtain training to lead evidence-based health and wellness activities, or volunteer with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). They tutor school age children, serve meals to older adults, and can provide transportation for their peers.

The 800 volunteers in the RSVP of the United Way of Central West Virginia currently serve Boone, Cabell, Doddridge, Harrison, Kanawha, Lincoln, Marion, Mercer, Monongalia, Monroe, Preston, Putnam, Summers, Taylor, Upshur, and Wayne Counties. Volunteers serve at a variety of area nonprofits, assisting local health care providers, emergency services, blood donor services, food banks, schools, and nursing homes. They help promote independent living through senior assistance, provide office support and computer skills to nonprofits, and take the lead in organizing neighborhood projects.

 In the RSVP program in Athens, Alabama, Volunteer Income Tax (VITA) preparers help elderly and low-income residents in Athens-Limestone and Morgan Counties complete their income tax filings. This year, stationed at local libraries, they served almost 2900 hours in ten weeks and filed 2,337 returns that resulted in federal tax refunds of $2.2 million, state refunds of $266,000, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) refunds of almost $440,000, and Child Tax Credit (CTC) refunds of more than $340,00. Another 187 people sought assistance or advice but did not file. 

Some 10,000 “baby boomers” retire every day and will do so every day for the next 20 years. RSVP is the only national program able to place large numbers of senior volunteers in high quality volunteer positions. 

RSVP is cost-effective and an excellent investment.  Using Independent Sector’s estimate of the value of an hour of volunteer service, RSVP volunteers provide more than $1 billion worth of service to the nation each year, a return of almost $20 for every federal dollar invested.  


The average federal RSVP grant is about $88,000. In 2021, the cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home (national annual median rate) was $94,000. The national annual median rate for a private room is $108,400. (See Genworth Financial, Cost of Care Survey 2021). In many states, it costs more to put one senior in a nursing home for a year than it does to support an entire RSVP program.


We recognize the fiscal challenges we face. But we at NARSVPD  believe that funding RSVP at $63 million is a particularly worthwhile investment that will ultimately save federal dollars by keeping our communities healthier, more connected, and less likely to draw on other federal resources. Supporting RSVP’s transition into a more flexible and adaptable program will result in significant benefits to both the volunteers and the communities they serve.

The funds that NARSVPD seeks will train projects to better use social media as a recruitment tool, ensure that every program has a 21st century website. 


We support changing outcome and performance measures to reflect new realities, expanding the number of regional offices, hiring more staff with experience in Senior Corps programs, and full funding of the Silver Scholarship program, a much-needed incentive for potential volunteers. 


NARSVPD also urges that all appropriated funds be used to fund existing programs and that all funds that are returned to the Corporation through relinquishments be re-allocated to existing programs.




For additional information, contact: Betty Ruth, NARSVPD President, at or Gene Sofer at




Meeting with your Member of Congress is a lot easier than you think.  It is critical that you meet with your elected representatives to:



Here are some hints for scheduling, preparing for, executing, and following up on a meeting with your Member of Congress:

Requesting your meeting

  • Locate the contact information for your Member of Congress's office. You can find it online at 


  • Make your request using the preferred method of your Member’s Office.  Some offices have a meeting request form on their website while others prefer you to email it to a specific email address.  If you don’t know, call the general office number to find out the preferred method of requesting a meeting.  It’s important that you don’t send your letter or email to a general mailbox.  Those inboxes are not checked regularly, and you will not receive a prompt response. 


  • Follow up with a phone call.   Ask to speak with the Scheduler.  Let them know that you submitted a scheduling request on x date and are following up to make sure they received it.  Make sure they know that you are a constituent along with any other important identifiers. Schedule a time and date for your meeting.  If you can, be flexible on your meeting date. If you are flexible on the date, you may improve your odds of getting a face-to-face visit with the legislator.


  • Confirm the meeting on the day prior to the meeting.


Prepare for your meeting


  • Bring materials to the meeting that you can leave with your elected official.

  • Decide who will attend the meeting. Bringing more than four to five people can be hard to manage. Try to bring people who represent different groups and who have personal stories to tell like program sponsors, volunteers (on their own time), beneficiaries of service, and community advisors.


  • Agree on talking points before the meeting. It's tough to make a strong case if your group is disagreeing during the meeting. Make a list of key arguments ahead of time and if you can't agree on a point, then don’t discuss it.


  • Plan out the meeting. People can get nervous during the meeting and time is limited. Be sure to discuss who will say what ahead of time, including who will start the conversation. Here are some suggestions on different roles people can play during the meeting. 

    • Meeting Leader – leads the meeting or facilitates the site visit.  

    • Local Impact Speaker – It will be good to have at least one person who can personally speak to what community impact will be lost if funding for national service is reduced. How many organizations would not be able to operate? How many people would stop receiving help from the non-profit community and have to turn to already strapped local and state governments for help?  If you don’t know state or district-wide statistics, speak to what you know. 

    • Local Stories of Service – Identify individuals who have served a RSVP volunteers. They should talk about their experiences serving local community and how volunteering has affected them, personally. If you are doing a site visit this can be a current volunteer, as long as they don’t advocate for national service but simply share their story of service. 

    • Recipients of Service – Folks who receive food, get rides to doctors, veterans and their families principals can talk about how RSVP has helped them as well as impact of what will be lost if these programs didn’t exist.

    • Photographer – One person needs to be tasked with taking pictures of the site visit or meeting. Share the photo with Member of Congress or their staff.  Use it on your website and in your newsletter.

  • Decide what you want to achieve.  Meetings are about relationship building.  You are there to educate your Congressperson about your program and the service you provide.   Remember that you are educating them and helping them, be more effective. You should end every meeting with an ask.  Asking your Member of Congress or their staff person to do something specific will help you know if your meeting was successful. 


  • Be prompt and patient. Elected officials run on very tight schedules. Don’t be late.


  • Keep it short and focused. You may have 20 minutes or less with a staff person and as little as 10 minutes if you meet with your Member of Congress. Make the most of your time by sticking to the topic and discussing your main points.


  • Bring up any personal or professional ties that you have to the elected official. Start the meeting by introducing yourself and thanking the legislator for any support he or she has displayed for national service or related issues. Also thank your legislator for taking the time to meet with you.


  • Stick to your talking points! Stay on topic and back them up with a small packet of materials that you can leave with your elected official.


  • Provide personal and local examples of the impact funding cuts to date have had on your program or the service community in your area.  If you haven’t experienced a reduction in funds, explain what is at stake for your organization if Congress should cut deeper or eliminate CNCS.  


  • Saying "I don't know" can be a smart move. You don't need to be an expert on national service that you are discussing. Never make up an answer. Giving incorrect information can damage your credibility. Instead, offer to get the information to them. 


  • Set deadlines for a response. Often elected officials will not commit to taking action during a meeting. If they say that they need time to consider, set a timeline for when they will get back to you with a decision. If you are meeting with a staff member, ask when they will get back to you with the Member of Congress’ response to your request. 


  • Ask what additional information would be helpful. This provides a natural vehicle for follow-up. 


After the meeting


  • Compare notes. Promptly after the meeting, discuss what the elected official committed to do and what follow up information you committed to send. 


  • Send in Pictures. Use any pictures from the meeting or drop-off.  Post them to social media as a way to showcase your efforts. 


  • Send a thank-you note.



  • Tweet a thank-you. Each person in your group who uses twitter should send the Member of Congress a tweet thanking him or her for taking the time to meet with you. 


  • Follow up in a timely fashion. If the elected official or staff member does not meet a deadline for action that you agreed on during the meeting, ask him to set another deadline. Be flexible but persistent. 

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