Here's Why You Should Volunteer: A SWOT Analysis
Using data from 2015 supplied by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Leah Godfrey wrote in “What Is the Value of a Volunteer?” that:
- 62.8 million volunteers helped raise $184 billion through charities, nonprofits or other organizations.
- The median time spent volunteering was 52 hours a year, or one hour a week.
- Each volunteer’s time was valued at $23.56 per hour.
As organizations strive to maximize efficiencies and lower costs, time is money.
We all know that millions of Americans enjoy volunteerism. All of us strive to identify, recruit and orient volunteers each year. We also know that, for our organizations to continue to stimulate volunteer engagement, we must provide meaningful opportunities for volunteers to engage in win-win situations.
Acquisition of volunteers is important, but so is retention. Finding the right tools for volunteer engagement is important. Your goal should be to constantly provide ways for volunteers to serve your mission. You cannot survive or thrive without them.
To totally understand how to engage volunteers in your organization, I suggest you volunteer for an organization or several organizations. Then, evaluate your volunteer experiences by doing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on your experience.
I have volunteered, for example, as chairman of my church parish council, vice president of my university alumni association chapter, president of a public school system foundation and committee member of a service organization.
Some key points from what I have learned through these experiences about volunteerism are as follows:
- Volunteers have a passion for serving the organization.
- Volunteers understand the mission of the organization.
- Volunteers serve organizations with a history of success.
- Administrations are generally in support of the volunteers.
- In most cases, volunteers serve to their talents and strengths.
- Volunteers are allowed freedom to perform duties within a certain structure.
- Volunteers are appreciated, cultivated and respected.
- There are no clear-cut strategic plans or directions.
- Administration changes affect volunteer focus or continuity.
- Volunteers have limited roles to influence.
- Too few volunteers carry the load for many.
- There are no written job descriptions, goals or objectives.
- Staff does not take the time to properly cultivate and inspire volunteers.
- There is no constant orientation plan or rotation of volunteer leaders.
- Look at best-of-class programs to emulate.
- With the right staff leadership, there is the ability to express new ideas.
- With the right leadership, there is the ability to recruit new subcommittee and committee members.
- There is an ability for volunteers to express candid opinions about the organization’s performance from an outsider’s view.
- Volunteers can make a difference by bringing their experiences and talents into play.
- There is joy in seeing organizational success due to volunteer efforts.
- Conduct research and bring various volunteer experiences into play to enhance organizational performance.
- The economy can affect volunteerism.
- There is the potential other organizations can take away key volunteers from your organization.
- Constant administrative changes affect volunteer program growth and progress.
- Personal life changes and motivation can affect volunteers’ desires to stay involved at 100 percent commitment levels.
- There may be volunteers within the same organization who are not on the same page.
- Volunteers may receive from the organization poor training and direction that affects results.
- A volunteer’s performance can be affected when organizations lose focus on their missions.
Until you have volunteered for a variety of organizations, you cannot truly appreciate how best to utilize volunteers within your organization for maximum effectiveness. Even if you are in a busy staff role with your organization, join another unrelated organization as a volunteer. You will appreciate the break and the experience.
During your organization’s recruiting process, determine if you want time, talent or treasure from a volunteer. Your answer might be a combination of all three.
Constantly evaluate your volunteer program structures and board committee structures based upon strategic plans and future directions. At times, you must change volunteer structures based upon the talents of the leadership available.
Do not be afraid to make changes in volunteer leadership. Usually the volunteer leader who is not a fit, too busy to serve or running out of gas will be happy to receive walking papers. Be kind and appreciative when you say goodbye. You have no time to waste with volunteers. As a staff leader, you need win-win scenarios.
As you go forth with volunteers, remember your changing SWOT analysis and learn from your own volunteer experiences.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.