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Research Shows the Value of Investment in Volunteer Management

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In 2004, the Urban Institute released a landmark study, Volunteer Management Capacity in America’s Charities and Congregations: A Briefing Report. The study was commissioned by the UPS Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the USA Freedom Corps, and it is probably the strongest argument ever seen in the United States for the value of—in the words of the report—investment in volunteer management:

Funders and organizations that invest in staff volunteer coordinators and training will produce charities and congregations with a greater capacity to their use of volunteers. This report finds that investments in volunteer management and benefits derived from volunteers feed on each other, with investments bringing benefits and these benefits justify greater investments. We conclude that the value that volunteers provide to organizations they serve should make the effective management of volunteers a key priority.

Further, consider what is revealed in these findings:

  • Three out of five charities and only one out of three congregations with social service outreach activities reported having a paid staff person who worked on volunteer coordination. However, among these paid volunteer coordinators, one in three have not received any training in volunteer management, and half spend less than 30 percent of their time on volunteer coordination . . .

  • Less than half of charities and congregations that manage volunteers have adopted most volunteer management practices advocated by the field . . .

  • Of charities with a paid staff volunteer manager, only one in eight have someone who devotes 100 percent of his/her time to volunteer management . . .
  • The greater the percentage of time a paid staff person spends on volunteer administration, the less likely a charity is to report problems with recruiting.

The researchers asked comparative questions about resources put into fundraising; 55 percent of agencies have a paid fundraiser while only 39 percent have a paid coordinator of volunteers. This research was confirmed in the 2009 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey:

Nonprofits and corporations are more culturally aligned to solicit and manage cash gifts than volunteers. While 61 percent of nonprofit employees with primary responsibility for fundraising have at least eight years of experience, just 25 percent of nonprofit employees with primary responsibility for volunteer management have the same level of experience. Further, while only 5 percent of nonprofits have no one specifically in charge of fundraising, nearly a quarter (24%) of nonprofits have no one in charge of managing volunteers.

To those committed to the effective engagement of volunteers, it is an enduring mystery why we must fight so hard to get organizational leaders to pay attention to this resource. The majority of executives would and do praise volunteers as “vital to our work,” “our community connection,” or even “the heart of our agency.” But in daily practice, this potential pool of limitless talent is largely off the radar screen. Raising money never leaves the agenda—why ignore raising friends?

The Everyone Ready Volunteer Management Skill-Building Program makes sure you have the trained staff needed to do this kind of friend raising. 

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