Monday, March 29, 2010

Volunteers Give More

It’s the kind of study that should have prompted strategy sessions in advancement offices across the country and caused some consternation among non-profit leaders. The study, released by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch on December 3, 2009, showed those who volunteer at non-profits give 10 times more than non-volunteers.

Here are some other important findings:

Americans are committed to service; 43% volunteered in the previous 12 months; 72% volunteered at some point in their lives. Two-thirds (67%) generally give to the organization where they volunteer. Those same volunteers are more likely to increase their charitable donations in 2010 than those who have never volunteered (but only 32% to 26% -- the real message being that most don’t see themselves giving more this year) Those that do plan to increase their giving say it is because they have seen (my emphasis) the good their donations do.

Reasons for not volunteering include lack of time (46%), lack of interest ((32%), too much pressure to give more time than people want to give (32%), and the inability to find the right match for their interests (30%).

Despite their inclination to serve, Americans view non-profits with more concern; 60% say they have become too big while 56% believe their management is disorganized. These attitudes are especially prevalent among people 55 years and older.

Interesting enough, 47% said they are more motivated by the experience they get than by helping others while 51% said they are more likely to volunteer where there are volunteers of a similar age. This is particularly true of those under 35.

Yet, Americans remain idealistic; 63% cite a renewed sense of the value of community service among their family and friends; 66% believe “true philanthropy” involves giving both time and money; 84 percent believed that no incentive or rewards should be offered in return for volunteer service.

Reasons for volunteering include supporting a cause they care about (72%), it’s the right thing to do (69%), filling an unmet community need (54%), and setting an example for family and children (53%).

Though the majority say they are not likely to give more money this year, 31% say they are more likely to volunteer time.

Mission and purpose are the main reason most (61%) choose a particular organization, while meeting local community needs (59%) ranks a close second. Roughly half say an organization’s reputation and its ability to put their specific set of skills to good use greatly influences their volunteer choices.

Volunteering rates increase with education -- 36% for high school graduates, 56% for college grads and 61% for those with post graduate degrees. Adults aged 35 to 54 years are more likely to volunteer (54%) than those younger (33%) or older (38%). Women are more likely to volunteer than men, 54% to 43%.

There’s still a remarkable reservoir of good will among Americans but philanthropy-seeking organizations would be wise to:

Review existing volunteer structures and disband or revise those that do not match the needs of the institution with the interests of the volunteers;

Imagine new, adaptive, strategic, interactive structures that would draw forth the most capable of volunteers and make the best use of their time;

Review and revise mission statements to ensure they not only sound good but make a convincing case for how they are advancing a compelling cause;

Be proactively accountable in showing they are a lean, close-to-ground, service provider; and

Demonstrate in some detail, through profiles and anecdotes, the difference that gifts are making in the lives of those they serve.

Organizations who pay no attention to this survey and the many others that show an erosion of public trust, who fail to make the difficult decisions to contain costs, and who put all their hopes in more aggressive fund raising will be disappointed by at the end of the year.

In subsequent blog posts, I’ll build on this study’s findings and address the role of operating and advisory boards, creative volunteer constructs, ways of identifying and engaging the very best volunteers, and building communities of interest.

No comments: