Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Volunteers Give 10 Times More Money

Volunteers. How do you feel about them?

Do you concur with Erma Bombeck who said, "Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation's compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain love for one another"?

Or do they better fit your definition of "can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em"? 

Maybe volunteers provide far more value than the good intentions and unpaid servitude we normally ascribe to them.

According to a survey conducted by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, those who have volunteered in the last 12 months donate ten times more money to charities than non-volunteers. Many survey respondents also claimed that volunteering is likely to increase their donations and cause them to donate to the organizations where they volunteer.

Surprising? Maybe not. I think we all presume that a more "engaged" donor is a more valuable and committed donor. But what are we doing to foster and encourage this beneficial relationship? Are we unwittingly turning some potential volunteers off? The survey revealed these reasons for not volunteering:
  • No time to volunteer - 46%
  • Pressure to give more time than you want to - 32%
  • You are just not interested - 32%
  • You can't find the right non profit to match your cause or needs - 30%
  • You prefer to just give money - 19%
  • You had a bad experience volunteering in the past - 15%
Have we crafted volunteer programs that respect our volunteer's time constraints? 

Have we provided a variety of opportunities that would appeal to different interests?

Have we taken managing volunteers seriously enough to ensure the experience is rewarding and satisfying for them?

Is it worth all this effort? (Would you agree that the ten times more giving figure settles that question?)

Charities have some work to do. 6 in 10 survey respondents believe that nonprofits have become too much of a big business. Roughly half agree that charities have disorganized management. 

Nonprofits have to do better. Volunteering is clearly too valuable to approach arbitrarily. 

As Ms. Bombeck so eloquently stated, volunteers are amazing people. 66% of survey respondents agreed that "true philanthropy" includes the giving of time and money. Yet 84% think volunteering should not include some sort of reward or incentive. Nearly 70% of those surveyed support the causes they care about simply because they think it is just the right thing to do!

Let's honor these altruistic individuals enough to create well planned and effective volunteer programs. It will be a more rewarding experience for everyone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quote of the Week: Good Enough Isn't

The Sonata by Childe Hassam

One of my favorite nonprofit "thinkers" is Sasha Dichter.  Sasha is the Chief Innovation Officer at the Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that is "creating a world beyond poverty by investing in social enterprises". He is also a prolific blogger and posted the following under the title of "The long, hard, stupid way".
"Our opportunity, today, is to recognize that now more than ever, how we do everything is what defines us, what humanizes us, and what differentiates us. To recognize that cutting corners is a race to the bottom. To see that we're not going to make massive change by cutting one more corner or by squeezing out that last half a percent of efficiency.
We have the opportunity, today, to give our gift to the world.
Giving this gift is what changes everything. "
According to Sasha, that gift may require doing something the "long, hard, stupid way". In his blog he relates listening to his concert pianist father practicing a particularly difficult Beethoven passage over and over - long past what his ears perceived as already perfect. 

How often has this passion for perfection, for ensuring that we provide our client, donor, or beneficiary with the very best we have to offer been our relentless goal? Or are we more likely to go for intelligent compromises and justifiable efficiencies? 

How do we wish to be defined?