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A Case for Integrating Volunteer Services & Development Departments
January 28, 2016 11:38 AM
Volunteer coordinators have long recognized the multitude of ways volunteers help strengthen organizations.
Volunteers are much more than an extra pair of hands. Beyond the value of their work, and the intangible benefits of greater sense of community and expanded social capital, volunteers also bring tangible benefits to organizations.
The return on investments (ROI) made in volunteer programming can reap significant rewards for organizations who choose to make a true commitment to volunteer involvement as a capacity building strategy.
Don't just take my word for it.
The Connection Between Volunteering and Giving
Research has shown that volunteers are often willing and able financial donors. Volunteers donate an average of ten times more than non-volunteers, and half of volunteers say that volunteering inspires them to give a larger donation.
In addition, volunteers generate a plethora of valuable in-kind resources for organizations — such as meeting space, donations of materials and food, event raffle items, office supplies and equipment, and the fuel they use to drive to their volunteer assignments.
They are also loyal contributors that walk their talk. In one study, while 43% of volunteers assisted with fundraising in some way, 87% also supported their causes directly with personal cash donations.
There appears to be a direct connection between giving time and giving money, and it flows both ways. Although 58% of donors are more likely to donate before volunteering, two in five volunteer before they ever make a financial contribution.
So, it makes sense for development and volunteer administration staff to work more closely together, perhaps even be integrated into the same department. After all, they are cultivating many of the same supporters.
It appears that volunteers and donors are not as separate as we once thought. Doesn't it make sense that staff better collaborate on how to deepen relationships with their most avid supporters?
A Case in Point
When nonprofit staff operate in silos, and neglect to work together, it can have negative impacts on volunteers (who are also donors). I've seen this play out in my own family.
In her retirement years, my aunt is a "super volunteer," supporting four or more organizations each year. One day, she received and invitation to the annual volunteer recognition luncheon. She was lukewarm about the prospect. In her humble mind, it was completely unnecessary. She felt she got way more out of volunteering than she ever gave.
But, the volunteer coordinator convinced her it would be worth her while to attend and that they really wanted to honor her commitment to the organization. She reluctantly agreed to attend.
The day after, she received a fundraising appeal in the mail from the same organization. She was floored. Wanting to recognize her work and asking for money in the same week!? She was astonished and insulted.
Luckily she talked with me about it. I explained that the development staff and volunteer coordinator were simply not on the same page and clearly weren't communicating. It had nothing to do with how they felt about the value of her contributions, either of time or money.
Today, she still volunteers with the organization in question, but how many others have quit because they felt taken for granted? It's hard to say.
Sources: Volunteerism and Charitable Giving in 2009, Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch.org, (2009), Time and Money: The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy, Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund (2014) -
Tobi Johnson and Associates LLC Enews 1-28-2016.
DOVIA New Orleans, C/O Team Dynamics LLC, 2444 Rue Weller, Mandeville, LA 70448