The New Volunteer Workforce

Most nonprofit CEOs would love to have a person like Jim working for them. Jim has 13 years of financial experience at General Electric Co. and 28 years at J.P. Morgan, and he currently works for the March of Dimes Foundation doing strategic planning, marketing, information technology, training, and research. Jim is not, however, a full-time employee. Rather, Jim is a 77-year-old volunteer.1 Jim enjoyed his volunteer work at the March of Dimes so much that his wife, Sari, joined him. Her volunteer position includes recruiting other volunteers—and she’s pretty good at it. In 2007, she helped recruit 42 volunteers who donated a total of more than 11,000 hours (valued at an estimated $200,000 of in-kind services).2 In addition to volunteering, Jim and Sari are donors—members of the March of Dimes’ President’s Society—and have convinced the rest of their family to participate. Their daughter, Beth, raised $3,000 over two years through the March of Dimes’ March for Babies walkathon, and Beth’s 12-year-old son is now forming his own walking team. Already into their third year of service, Jim and his family are creating a large amount of value for the March of Dimes. And the March of Dimes is just one of the organizations where they volunteer.

As Jim and Sari illustrate, volunteering, when channeled correctly, can be a highly valuable asset. The March of Dimes, however, is one of the few organizations that use volunteers effectively. Sadly, most nonprofits do not view their volunteers as strategic assets and have not developed ways to take full advantage of them. In fact, most nonprofits are losing staggering numbers of volunteers every year. Of the 61.2 million people who volunteered in 2006, 21.7 million—more than one-third—did not donate any time to a charitable cause the following year.3 Because these volunteers gave about 1.9 billion hours in 2006, and the value of their donated time was about $20 per hour4—that calculates to about $38 billion in lost volunteer time in one year.


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