In 2004 the Urban Institute conducted the first national study of Volunteer Management Capacity that was funded by the UPS Foundation, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the USA Freedom Corps. It showed a number of interesting facts about the use of volunteers. But it also showed the untapped potential of volunteers to build the capacity of nonprofit and civic organizations. The study highlights the potential of expanding agency capacity with the investment in volunteer management.
The report states that four-in-five charities use volunteers and a large majority of charities report their volunteers are beneficial to their operations. But are they getting the most out of their volunteer program? Volunteers can boost the quality of services in charities and congregations while reducing costs. However, these organizations are not always fully equipped to make the most of their volunteer’s talents and skills.
Charities report that these volunteers are important to their operations, and that volunteers do a good job in providing services. At least six-in-ten charities indicate that their volunteers provide substantial cost savings and greatly increase the quality of services provided.
Volunteers are a valuable financial resource. A volunteer’s time is an important resource for many charities and congregations, especially those that do not have the money to hire labor to carry out certain tasks. Volunteer time is comparable to a monetary donation. Independent Sector, a national advocate for the nonprofit sector, computes annually an equivalent average hourly wage for a volunteer’s time. The calculation is derived from the average hourly wage of non-agricultural workers plus 12 percent for fringe benefits. By this calculation, the typical 2015 volunteer value was $23.56 per hour.
The devotion of staff time to Volunteer Management is noted as the most notable “best practice.” The best prepared and most effective volunteer programs are those with paid staff members who dedicate a substantial portion of their time to management of volunteers. But full-time Volunteer Managers are rare. A key finding was that most charities and congregations are unable to invest substantial staff resources in Volunteer Management.
The study also indicated that the presence of a paid staff coordinator does not mean the staffer spends much time on volunteer administration, or that he or she is trained in the field. The study found that most paid staff volunteer coordinators spend about 30% of their work time devoted to volunteer management. They had multiple other work related responsibilities.
Sixty-six percent of charities that have a paid staff members dedicating time to managing volunteers report that the staff has had some type of formal training in volunteer administration, such as coursework, workshops, or attendance at conferences that focus on Volunteer Management. The fact that many coordinators are getting some training suggests that many are interested in learning about how to manage volunteers. However, the small amount of time spent on volunteer administration suggests that charities and congregations do not have the resources to allocate to volunteer management or that they devote their organizational resources primarily to other efforts.
We now have a new local resource for Volunteer Managers training for both new and experienced agency staff. Thanks to a Capacity Building Grant from SERVE Indiana, a low-cost Volunteer Managers training program will be offered in September, 2016. The Volunteer Center will partner with the Paul Clark Non Profit Resource Center to offer this two-part professional training program. Topics will include Recruiting, Organizational Readiness and Risk Management; Developing Your Volunteer Program and Finding Volunteers; Screening, Selecting, and Matching Volunteers; Training, Support, Supervision, and Retention of Volunteers; and Motivation and Recognition of Volunteers. More information to come!