Where are the Nonprofit Volunteers?
Nonprofit volunteers are in high demand. Whether it be to implement a program, fundraise or provide in-kind services, nonprofits have often relied on volunteers to fulfill their capacity to deliver services. Unfortunately, many organizations lack the number of volunteers they need to reach their full potential. According to the Volunteering and Civic Life in America research study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps, the formal volunteering rate dropped seven percentage points—from 30% in 2019 to 23% in 2021.
Is the recent COVID pandemic to blame for the decline in volunteerism? Although social distancing guidelines and fewer opportunities to dedicate time to volunteering didn’t help, the fact is volunteerism was on the decline prior to 2020. According to a Gallup poll, the percentage of Americans who volunteer has been declining for a decade. How can your nonprofit keep individuals interested in volunteering for your organization?
Here are a few tips to retain and attract nonprofit volunteers:
- Provide flexibility to volunteer. For some individuals, finding time to volunteer between personal and professional obligations may be difficult. Consider providing volunteer opportunities that can be accomplished virtually or in one’s own free time. Katie Splean, Volunteer and Outreach Manager at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids shared, “Offering virtual tutoring for our students has been a true silver lining coming out of the pandemic. I can especially speak to the increased consistency of volunteers we’ve enjoyed thanks to that flexibility.” This has led the Catherine McAuley Center to provide more flexible, low-barrier and family-friendly volunteer opportunities such as assistance in the community garden and snacks for skill-building.
- Engage with corporate partners. Boost your volunteer reach by partnering with corporate partners. Often businesses provide volunteer time off to their employees for donating their time and talents to a nonprofit organization.
- Create a positive volunteer experience. Wendy Scardino, Vice President of Development & Marketing for the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium adds, “It’s important to create a positive volunteer experience. Easy ways to sign up for volunteer roles, defined expectations and regular communication keep volunteers interested and engaged”
- Stay connected. Individuals want to know where your organization’s needs are and how they can help. Share your needs through newsletters and social media. Let volunteers know how their support helped make an impact on your mission. John Rodriguez of Cedar Rapids served as a co-chair for the His Hands Free Clinic in 2021 – 2022. “In the early days of the pandemic, it was particularly important for me to stay in touch with the campaign team and volunteers. We often stayed in touch with emails and video calls to keep up to date on campaign progress and tasks to be accomplished to keep the campaign moving forward.”
- Train volunteers for tasks. Another barrier that keeps some individuals from volunteering is they feel they may not possess the right skills, particularly in fundraising activities, to support an organization. Offer training sessions so that potential volunteers get to know your organization and how to complete the tasks that will be expected of them. AMPERAGE fundraising consultants can also assist in overcoming this barrier by training volunteers and board members on strategies they can use to be successful fundraisers.