Nonprofit Quarterly – All about volunteers

I’ve always thought that one way to prove the health of a non-profit organization is to take a look at the number and quality of the volunteers who are involved. In some organizations there is a prejudice against volunteers, they take work away from the “professional” staff, they aren’t trained to perform the organization’s work, etc. But, volunteers should be managed for the asset that they are; a source of enthusiastic contributors, just like members or financial contributors.

The latest Nonprofit Quarterly’s theme is “working in a a nonprofit”, and it includes an article Volunteering by the Numbers which attempts to quantify the contribution made by volunteers taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • 10% of seniors devote 500 or more hours to volunteering each year
  • Married people devote 50 hours, divorced/widowed/separated 54 hours, and those never married 40 hours
  • Women volunteer more than men, 29.3% vs. 22.9%
  • 61 million people volunteered an average of 52 hours for the year September 2006 to Sept 2007, an average of an hour per week.
  • Fundraising, and management assistance were the two top activities. 

There is considerable discussion in the article about the management of volunteers. The article quotes a UK Institute for Volunteer Research:

Though written about extensively, some of the basic elements of good volunteer management are missing from many of the surveyed U.K. charities; 81 percent of volunteers say that they did not have job descriptions, nearly as many say that they never received training for their volunteer work, and despite reports from volunteer coordinators, an almost equal amount claim never to have been interviewed by a member of the organization before beginning volunteer activity.

Listing of all articles in the fall issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly.

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