Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch interviewed Keith for an article addressing the surprisingly low volunteer rate in the Richmond,Virginia area. The article juxtaposes this reality against the fact that 2010 actually showed the highest growth rate in U.S. volunteerism since 2005, climbing to 63 million.
So why is it that only 20.9% of Richmond-area residents volunteered in 2010? As Keith suggests in the article many nonprofits aren’t taking the time to really talk with volunteers about how they would like to become engaged and aren’t working to keep them engaged in the organization and the mission—a pretty important effort, seeing as volunteers are most likely to become donors.
It must first be understood that it is the role of a nonprofit to reach out to volunteers and ensure that they are being offered substantive and meaningful opportunities. Similar to a conversation you would have with a potential donor, it is imperative that nonprofits talk to potential volunteers to determine their interests and the types of projects that they are seeking. Nonprofits should constantly be developing a menu of meaningful projects that can engage volunteers for a short period of time and make them feel as though they’ve accomplished something. As studies have shown, this particularly pertains to Millenials and Gen Xers.
If you’re looking for volunteers to serve specific roles within your organization (i.e. committees, etc.) you must be upfront with them about your organization’s expectations and determine how those align with their own expectations of you as an organization. Determining what a volunteer is looking to get out of an opportunity is imperative so that you can match them appropriately.
Nonprofits should also be constantly looking for new ways to keep volunteers satisfied (just like donors). A perfect example is the typical nonprofit board agenda, which for most organizations, hasn’t changed much since the 1950’s. Determine if there are ways that you could restructure your meeting agenda to better suit the needs of those volunteers in attendance.
Volunteering In America, an online resource devoted to information on volunteering and civic engagement, found that Americans invested 8.1 billion hours serving local and national organizations in 2010, a service valued at almost $173 billion. Thinking about volunteering in these terms only reinforces the idea that taking the time to make sure your volunteers are happy and remaining engaged is a worthwhile effort for any nonprofits. After all, volunteers who are invested in an organization are most likely not only to become donors, but loyal donors at that.