Over the years I've seen all kinds of volunteering and done a fair amount myself. Early in my career as a community organizer with older people, I learned about the importance of people having power and being empowered to make a difference. At AARP I managed a consumer program that had ten volunteers that reported to be from across the Country. These people were putting in 20+ hours a week as leaders and advocates.
Now, fast forward to three years ago when I was lucky enough to run the Montgomery County Volunteer Center, with over 800 participating agencies. What I found was that there seemed to be two kinds of nonprofits. One with leaders who were almost all volunteer and then other nonprofits where all leadership positions rested with paid staff. For organizations that had staffs of around ten or more people, volunteers usually provided direct service or were on the board of directors. Of course there were exceptions, but not as many as I had assumed. The Volunteer Center had a program to match skilled professionals with short-term nonprofits, and it still is one of the crown jewels of what the Center offers. Della Stolsworth who started the Center's award-winning Pro-Bono Program (one of the first in the US), told me that about 30% of those who volunteer on projects end up volunteering on a longer term basis with the nonprofit they were assigned to help.
One would think that with the economy in the basement or other bathroom fixture, government and nonprofits would be seeking talented volunteers to help build and maintain their capacity - not just use volunteers to provide direct services and paint fences. The news these days is full of stories about how there is more natural gas in the USA than anyone ever thought possible, due to the new and controversial "fracking" technology. My consultancy, Volunteer Frontier, is helping nonprofits find new ways to tap the hidden talent and treasure that has always existed in communities. The pay-off, like exploring for gas and oil, can be well worth the risk. Saving money, delivering more services and increase contributions through higher levels of engagement are just a few of the possible benefits. Do you think CEOs are ready to try new ways of engaging volunteers? Will it take the collapse of the European economy to change the old ways of viewing what volunteers can and can't do? Write a comment!