The state of giving in America is unfortunately volatile. Despite the best efforts of many, including former presidents, the number of individuals that volunteer has steadily declined in the last decade. Though volunteering is still popular in the United States compared to other countries—organizations such as fire departments and child protective services are built on the labors of volunteers—it’s worth examining the reasons for this drop and what might be done to reverse it.
This stagnation of volunteering is in part due to the way nonprofits are run. Passionate leadership is part of the appeal of a nonprofit organization, but when these leaders try to get by solely on their own dedication to a cause, problems arise with employees. Not running a nonprofit like a business is sure to spell disaster—any organization has to consider the needs of its employees and the way it handles its products or services.
The first way to address this is for organizations to spend more time preparing their volunteers. Nobody wants to work for a company that refuses to train them, so why should volunteering be any different? Even for a nonprofit, time and capital must be invested to create an engaged and knowledgeable roster of volunteers. They should also be actively involved in what these individuals do, working to manage them as they would manage other employees. In the nonprofit sector, a little bit of internal support goes a long way.
That said, government funding for volunteer organizations has also declined as of late. This makes it difficult for nonprofits to justify outreach programs and ways to cultivate volunteers. They should consider investing in making the process as easy as possible. Make facilities welcoming, provide transportation to and from work locations if applicable, and give volunteers evidence of the good that their work accomplishes.
With nonprofits struggling to secure the funding that they need, some businesses are also stepping up to provide hands toward a specific cause. Whether partnered with a relevant organization or putting forth the effort themselves, business volunteering programs have risen to fill a void. These companies can integrate giving into their culture and build a group of employees willing to help out.
The execution of these plans is as varied as the companies that create them. Some offer paid time off for employees to volunteer, while others may incentivize these kinds of actions with bonuses or recognition. Whatever the impetus, corporate volunteering plans still need the kind of care necessary to run a nonprofit.
For instance, giving employees leeway to volunteer wherever they’d like (within reason) is a great way to make them enthusiastic about one of these plans. Company leadership should be as communicative as possible, outlining opportunities and leveraging specific employee skills to give back in a meaningful way.
Whether volunteering through a nonprofit or your place of employment, any work that you can do will be appreciated. In this time when measurably fewer are giving back, take the time to be exceptional and break the mold. Likewise, businesses and nonprofits should consider the impact they can have by reevaluating their volunteering programs and providing the support needed for anybody to excel.