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.

A simple, but profound, change in how we think about volunteers

posted by
Lisa Humenik

Sigma Kappa National Housing Corporation
Faculty Associate
Nonprofit Management Institute

After 22 years in the fields of volunteer program management and nonprofit administration, I’m often asked by colleagues in the sector for advice on how they can improve the volunteer program in their organization. Before responding, I ask them questions about the roles they have for volunteers, how they recruit volunteers, how volunteers are “on-boarded” to the organization, who supervises them and how, and how successful they are at retaining volunteers.

The feedback that I then give almost always follows a consistent theme – “Your program has the potential to be dramatically improved if you stop needing and using volunteers.” This usually elicits some looks of shock and surprise until I elaborate further and explain that I’m not proposing that they cease to engage the community in their work through volunteerism but, rather, that they modify how they think about volunteers in their organization. The simple, but profound, key is to change the semantics – to talk in terms of “wanting” and “engaging” volunteers rather than “needing” and “using” them.

Recruiting Volunteers: The Lifeblood of Nonprofits

posted by 
Shelley Gillespie,
Venture Court Productions


Nonprofits love volunteers. After all, they are the lifeblood of many organizations. When budgets are tight— and they always are with nonprofits— volunteers take up the slack.

So, how do you recruit volunteers who will integrate well with your paid staff, perform the functions they are assigned, and stick around?

Recruiting those committed and talented volunteers does take time and a strategic approach.

An example from my past— I was a regular volunteer for my alumni organization and usually said, "Yes" when asked for anything. At one meeting, I was asked to run a particular volunteer effort and said, "Yes," without really thinking about it. As the officer who had asked me walked away, I suddenly realized that the volunteer position was going to take place during the time my son was scheduled for an extensive surgery and recovery period. Not a good time to volunteer.

So, I quickly found the officer and explained that I wouldn’t be available this time. She looked put out and walked away.

Did they ask me to volunteer again? No, they did not. I subsequently took my volunteer efforts elsewhere.

Research Friday: Paying Volunteers A Stipend: Does It Work?

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


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Most researchers agree that low-income earners volunteer less (Wilson, 2012) and Pho (2008) extended this finding to include medium-wage earners. A related research question is the impact or positive incentive of volunteer stipends among low-wage earners (McBride, Gonzales, Morrow-Howell, & McCrary, 2011). Does the incentive of monetary support influence how people allocate their altruistic desires to help others? Is there a positive result for organizations that provide stipends for volunteers?

In March of this year, The Virginia G. Piper Trust funded an expansion of the Encore Fellowships program that originated in California. Experience Matters is a nonprofit organization that capitalizes on the time and talent of older adults (age 50+), who are seeking paid or unpaid positions that apply their skills to social purposes. According to Nora Hannah, CEO of Experience Matters, the Piper Trust support will allow Experience Matters to place adult volunteers with nonprofit organizations that are typically unable to afford this level of talent.

How To Rekindle The Passion You Once Had For Your Job



posted by
Mary Kaech

Project Assistant and Writer, 
 at Food for the Hungry

Working in the fundraising office of an international nonprofit can sometimes be a bit of a soul-killing experience. "The field" is hundreds or thousands of miles away, and it's hard for me to see that I’m "making a difference" when sitting behind a computer all day. This is why I’m grateful for our office volunteers.

For one thing, they’re just fun. We have volunteers of all ages, races, and walks of life. We have home-schooled kids and recovering addicts. Peter: a former mechanic who rarely smiles but keeps coming back, week after week, and Lorraine: a well-dressed socialite who buys every employee in our department a present on her birthday. I love getting to know them personally while hosting them in our office, and their attitudes remind me that my job is a privilege.

Volunteers walk in the door exuding that bushy-tailed enthusiasm I had as an intern. They’re sacrificial, hard-working, and grateful for the chance to serve. To the cause of fighting extreme poverty, they freely give their time— time they cannot get back— and to me, they give encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants. Their service reminds me that beyond just being thankful for my paycheck (so many of our volunteers are unemployed), I should be thankful to work in a place that allows me to exercise my beliefs and help others improve their circumstances— even if I may never meet those people.

The Great Connection: Engaging Donors in Your Mission

posted by
Clyde W. Kunz, CFRE,

ASU Lodestar Center
NMI Instructor /
Clyde Kunz and Associates, LLC

Most people, by their very nature, want to help others. Though not universal, it's true that people continue to volunteer and contribute money in support of organizations doing good work in our communities.

Periodically I run into someone (and even at times a fellow fundraising professional!) who argues, "People aren't as giving as they used to be." Data about giving suggests otherwise. In fact, Americans' giving over the past 40 years has averaged 2.2% of household income. Even today, in the midst of what many are calling "the Great Recession," giving hovers at the same rate as a percentage of income.

So, why do individuals contribute money to nonprofit organizations?

Each of us has different interests and concerns. While most of those concerns are focused on our own needs (I have to remember to pay the mortgage this week. What am I going to feed the kids for dinner? I'm late for work and almost out of gas!), we also have individual concerns that are more outwardly-focused (Why are there so many homeless people on the street these days? I wonder how my church can pay for its new roof? Who will take care of kids who are taken from dangerous family situations?)

The Caveat of Idealism: Optimism and Doing Good in the Nonprofit Sector

posted by
Katie Hawkes,

Volunteer Services Coordinator
St. Vincent de Paul

Fact: In the Political Views section of my Facebook profile, it says, "Idealist. Group Hugs. Love."
Other fact: It's very, very true.

There's no way around it — I, Katie Elizabeth Hawkes, am an idealist through and through. I have a hard time assuming the worst about anyone, and I have difficulty comprehending why there isn't a political party I can subscribe to called "Sharing and Caring" or "Everyone Just Hold Hands and Sing." I once tried to explain to an economics major why, logically, we could just print more money to give to all the people in need without messing up the economy, simply by choosing not to change the value of the dollar.

That didn't go over so well.

Making the Play: Successfully Engaging Youth Within the Nonprofit Sector

posted by
David "DJ" Heyward,

American Humanics Student /
Team M'Phasis Coach

Many of us in the nonprofit sector work specifically with children and young adults. It can be a big challenge, but also, I'm sure we can agree, exceedingly rewarding.

For the past four years, I have had the privilege of working with Team M'Phasis, where I get to watch young boys turn into capable, determined young men. This organization uses sports, specifically basketball, as a vehicle to help youth get motivated in school and learn life lessons while at the same time producing some seriously great athletes.

Whether you work with young volunteers or interns, or if your organization focuses specifically on children's services, I've learned a few key points that have helped me make strong connections with kids during my time with Team M'Phasis. Below are a few of those take-aways to help you and your organization get the most out of working with youth.

Develop Their Court Vision