Five ways to incentivize volunteers

posted by
Jason Rescka,

Music Event Manager &
Community Board Member

Garage Community & Youth Center

One of the greatest challenges facing nonprofit organizations is garnering volunteers and, more importantly, the right kind of individuals. The ideal volunteer brings more than a bagged lunch – he or she provides innovative ideas, fresh enthusiasm, and a sincere interest in a volunteer setting. Below are five suggestions that have helped Garage Community and Youth Center form lasting and meaningful relationships with current and prospective volunteers.

1. Offer titles within organization

Even though a volunteer may not consider their position that important, it is our job to dissuade such feelings. Providing volunteers with a title will reinforce that they are an essential part of the team, examples including “brand coordinator” and “social consultant.” Volunteers who are in college or are still establishing their careers may appreciate the opportunity to enhance their resumes, and such roles encourage progression within the organization. While setting up an awareness concert to raise money for cancer, the Garage grouped high school students from different locations. We gave these volunteers the titles “brand ambassador” and “brand promoter”. Even though the students did not know each other, their similar titles were a factor in bringing them together as a team.

You can learn something from everything

posted by
Abbie S. Fink,
Vice President /
General Manager
HMA Public Relations

I attend Sabbath services almost every Saturday morning at Congregation Beth Israel. It is my chance to have at least 90 minutes of down time to reflect on the week that’s passed and look forward to the week ahead. The service a few Saturdays ago was conducted by the 10th graders that were being confirmed at the temple. They each played an active part in the service, sharing their reasons for continuing their religious education and their hopes for the future, saying the prayers and reading from the Torah.

Amy Baer’s speech started much like the others; she talked about her experiences in confirmation class, the friends she made. But it was her very clear statement of purpose that her connection to Judaism and her commitment to “tikkun olam, repairing the world” was what motivated her the most.

“For me, living like I am Jewish means that I am on a mission to repair the world. In order for me to feel like I am Jewish and embrace Judaism I have to be helping other people and be making the world a better place.”

Micro projects for macro impact

posted by
Colleen Dunbar,

Project Specialist,
ASU Lodestar Center

Linton Weeks wrote an article on NPR back in 2009 on microvolunteering, and he said it right: we live in a micro world. “What began with microscopes and microbiology has morphed into microeverything.” Twitter is a microblogging platform, Kayla McKinney previously discussed the trend of microgiving, and now there’s microvolunteering.

Microvolunteering is an easy, commitment-free way to give back. Volunteers can choose the projects, causes, and organizations they help, and organizations can potentially get help from numerous volunteers. It can almost be seen as a form of crowdsourcing.

How does it work?

Sparked is a project-based microvolunteering site, where nonprofit organizations “challenge” the Sparked community, and the volunteers then respond. Volunteers may offer suggestions or solutions to the challenge, or they may give a “thumbs up” to other participants’ answers – either option will help the challenging organization get the best possible solution (or solutions) to their challenge.

I am relatively new to the Sparked community, having only been an active member for a couple of months, but it’s the microvolunteering site that I am most familiar with. However, it is not the only one. Help from Home’s tag line is “Change the world in just your pyjamas!”, but they also encourage volunteers to change the world from their classroom, work, and more. They also emphasize the fact that projects take “between 10 seconds and 30 minutes” – again focusing on the ease and speed of microvolunteering. VolunteerMatch is a great tool for nonprofits to recruit volunteers, as well as for volunteers to see exactly what opportunities are available in their area. This site has two functions; the first is traditional volunteering, like making Thanksgiving food baskets for a food bank, or wrapping gifts to raise money. The second is virtual volunteering, like reviewing scholarship applications for a foundation, or guest blogging about a specific cause.

Finding a volunteer position that fits

posted by
Ashley Douglas,

Account Executive
SOS - Association
Management Solutions

Committing to volunteer can end up being the equivalent of a part time job! It can be quite the commitment in addition to your “real job.” As you are doing your research, remember to sign up for a cause you’re passionate about, be realistic about the time commitment you are willing to dedicate to the cause, and research the organization before you sign yourself up. As you’re looking, put forth the same amount of effort into looking for a volunteer position as you would a part time job. A good volunteer posting should include:

  • Purpose of the position — how will you, as a volunteer, be working toward the project or organization’s goal?
  • Length of the volunteer term — from a few hours to the course of a few years- be sure you know what you are signing yourself up for!
  • Location of volunteering — is the project a reasonable distance? Perhaps the project is virtual — virtual volunteering is on the rise (and is commonly listed on volunteer search sites as part of the description) and making it more convenient to volunteer from the comfort of your home or office
  • Description of expected duties — be aware of what it is you will be doing. A thorough description should not leave you wondering what exactly is expected of you as volunteer. Look for a list of duties or tasks that match your needs and interests

Research Friday: Corporate Volunteer Programs: Synergy in Business and Nonprofit Actions


posted by
Annette Sutfin,
Kinship Program 
Manager, Southwest
Human Development

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit scholar or practitioner to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Many volunteer managers cite recruitment as their greatest challenge; however, Brudney and Meijs (2009) contend that “the preoccupation with recruitment distracts attention and resources from the management and retention of volunteers” (p. 568). If their argument holds, of increasing importance is the need for volunteer managers to identify and cultivate volunteer sources that have potential for growth and replenishment. One such source, which is intensely under-cultivated, lies in the for-profit sector: the corporate volunteer.

Orchestrated effectively, a corporate volunteer program has the potential to render benefits not only to the nonprofit, but to the corporation as well. The hours of unpaid labor afforded by such programs is the obvious contribution to the nonprofit organization. Often overlooked, however, are the many benefits that can be provided to the corporation. A Walker research survey confirmed that a company’s perceived community involvement affects consumers’ spending habits, concluding that “47 percent of the consumers surveyed would be more likely to buy from a ‘good’ company, if quality, price and service were equal… 70 percent would not buy from a company that was not socially responsible” (McAlister and Ferrell, 2002, p. 696). A Cone/Roper report supports the Walker conclusions, noting that two-thirds of Americans claim to be more likely to support a company that aligns with a social issue (Phillips Business Information Inc., 2000, p. 1).

Staff and Volunteer Training Tips

posted by 
Kate Elliott,
Training Administrator,
Planned Parenthood Arizona

Providing formal training to staff and volunteers has obvious benefits for an organization, individual staff members and volunteers. For the organization, it is a means of ensuring staff and volunteers are knowledgeable, making them exceptional ambassadors for the organization in and outside of work. In addition, training is an essential part of risk management – failing to properly train individuals, providing services to clients, or even representing the organization to the public can have serious consequences. For staff members and volunteers, training is a means of professional development many are eager to receive. In addition to it being an essential part of effective volunteer management, many volunteers find personal value in the training provided to them by organizations about which they care deeply.

Regardless of whether or not your organization has a formal training program, there are things nonprofit leaders can do to ensure staff and volunteers are appropriately oriented to the organization and able to continue to learn and develop professionally.

Engaging and Retaining Skilled (and Key) Volunteers

posted by
Sentari Minor,
Program Specialist,
The Rodel Foundation
of Arizona

In these hard economic times, nonprofits are famously struggling—fighting for funding and fighting for resources. Now, more than ever, it is important for nonprofits to play smart while building capacity. At the heart of this notion is leveraging volunteers.

In her blog post, “Don't Be Afraid To Ask,” Stephanie La Loggia says, "recruiting volunteers is one of the most important jobs in most nonprofit organizations.” And that’s true - the recruitment process is crucial but it’s also imperative to engage and retain those who can be, or who already are, key volunteers.

Ostensibly, volunteers are a source for one-time, episodic projects; free labor to tackle those tasks our organizations simply don’t have the time (or resources) to do. However, I've learned from both serving on boards and being a volunteer myself, that volunteers can easily become invaluable assets to an organization. Key volunteers are the most dedicated and skilled of your organization’s volunteers who can essentially take on the duties of staff when resources are limited.

Research Friday: Expect to Find the Unexpected!

posted by
Carlton Yoshioka, Ph.D.,
Professor and Director
of Academic Programs
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert from our academic faculty to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Researchers at ASU (see Dr. Lili Wang’s post on Hispanic Volunteering), along with colleagues from across the country, are examining the impact of acculturation on the philanthropic behaviors of minorities and immigrants.

Research is limited, due to the differences between data sets, the variety of Asian American ethnic groups, and the lack of adequate conceptual models to examine ethnic sub-groups (Sundeen, Garcia, & Raskoff, 2009).[1] Education, religion, age, and income are some variables that are typically studied in relationship to formal giving and volunteering, informal or personal giving and volunteering, and secular and religious volunteering (Sundeen, Garcia, and Wang, 2007).[2] Acculturation is the process by which individuals change in adapting to demands of a new environment (Berry, 1997),[3] including language, cultural identity and stress, and citizenship and generation status.

Research Friday: Volunteering and Financial Statements - What’s Missing?

posted by
Pat Lewis,
Senior Professional
in Residence
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Do volunteers count? Oh, yes, they count — in how services are performed, in how much is and can be done, and in generating social value. Volunteering is the heart and soul of the social sector.

However, the “contributions of most volunteer services are not recorded in the conventional accounting statements because they do not meet the very specific requirements of the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB),”[1] the entity in the U.S. that establishes financial accounting and reporting standards.[2]

For some nonprofits, this means that financial statements misrepresent the depth of effort and the breadth of support for services to clients, customers, and the community. They ask, “How can we present to our Board of Directors, our funders, and our volunteers how much value volunteering brings to our ability to carry out our mission?”

Well, to the rescue comes the work of Dr. Laurie Mook, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development and an affiliated faculty member of the ASU Lodestar Center. Dr. Mook, along with Dr. Jack Quarter[3] and Dr. Betty Jane Richmond[4], have researched the social sector for many years, as well as co-authored What Counts: Social Accounting for Nonprofits and Cooperatives.[1] Their work suggests a new way of accounting for social value.

Reflections of a Nonprofit Heart

                                                                                                                                        Illustration by Jocelyn Ruiz

posted by
Laura L. Bush, Ph.D.,
Former Manager of Curriculum
Design & Innovation,
ASU Lodestar Center

Peacock Proud Press

In junior high, I once jumped off a table Wonder Woman-style (but without bullet-proof bracelets) to defend another child from being teased. I don’t remember why I was perched on a table in art class, but I do remember the drama of leaping between this bully and his victim. Without hesitating, I knew I had the power to stop the harassment. And I did. At that moment, my nonprofit heart was born.

Although this defining incident taught me I could make a difference, I can remember always being concerned with whatever seemed unfair, inequitable, or just plain stupid: “Why do people litter? Why would people say ugly things because of the color of someone’s skin? Why are some people so rich and other people so poor? And why doesn’t my family ever go on vacation?”

“Life’s not fair,” my mother would say.

“Well, then,” I’d think, “somebody needs to get busy and make it fair!”

At some point, I decided I’d have to fix unfair stuff myself, since too many people didn’t seem to care as much as I did about world problems. At times, I’d get so mad about poverty, racism, sexism, or religious bigotry that I’d feel like punching someone. Since I was raised to be a “good girl,” punching people for prejudice didn’t follow. And as a teenager who volunteered for Special Olympics and adopted the beagle next door when his owner abandoned him, I suspected the part of me that shook my fist — or wagged my finger — at all things stupid and unfair made me no better than anyone else. Until graduate school, I didn’t have a name for “mimetic violence” (imitating what you claim to hate), but I did get the insanity (i.e. hypocrisy) of hitting people to stop the act of hitting. It just took me awhile to actually learn that lesson.