The Power of Volunteerism

by Tamara Wolf VP, Food Banks Account Management

Did you know that according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, an estimated 77.3 million people volunteered in 2017 with an almost 25% increase from 2015? And according to research from Fidelity Charitable, two thirds of people who volunteer with an organization donate to that same organization and on average, volunteers tend to donate much more than non-volunteers?

While the stats might be surprising, the reasons for these numbers are not. In the last several years, there has been an increase in volunteerism in the United States, and specifically from younger generations (Millennials) as well as older ones (retirees). People are longing for opportunities to be part of something bigger than themselves, and in today’s culture, a focus on purpose drives much of our conversation.

So how do you leverage this trend? How do you tap into the power of volunteers to help your nonprofit thrive?

First, get them in! Make the ask. Provide opportunities for individuals or groups to come in and be part of your work. Perhaps you have ongoing community service days happening already – make sure people know about them. Of if you have a formal volunteer program, communicate that message everywhere you can.

Some ideas on how to get your message out there:

– Have a prominent “Volunteer” button on your homepage and in addition to talking about your program, feature volunteers and bring to life their stories
– Include a paragraph in your donation appeals highlighting volunteer opportunities
– Better yet, perhaps dedicate one of your emails asking supporter to volunteer instead of donating
– Start a “Refer A Volunteer” effort – invite your existing volunteers to share about their experience with their network and ask them to recruit for you
– Post your opportunities to general volunteer portals such as:

If you have marketing, HR, technology, or other needs that require specific skills, consider embracing a skills-based volunteering program that matches professionals with nonprofits. Need someone to help you think through a logo redesign? There are talented designers out there looking to put their craft to good work helping nonprofit organizations like yours.

Here are a few you should get to know better:

Additionally, when talking about opportunities, make sure to communicate the benefits of volunteering rather than just focusing on your needs. Make it about them. An 80-year Harvard study recently released about happiness suggests that there are some key habits that help make people happier. Any guess as to what one of those might be? That’s right – volunteering. And when coupled with the epidemic of loneliness that is becoming a major health concern throughout the world, volunteerism is a win-win solution for nonprofits. Not only will it benefit your organization and programs, it’s also way for you to do good in your community.