Volunteers need greater investment

By Todd Cohen

Charities and corporations are short-changing volunteerism, and hurting themselves.

Volunteers are a big force in the charitable marketplace and corporate workplace.

Nearly three in 10 Americans age 16 and older volunteer, a contribution worth an estimated $272 billion.

That is nearly 10 percent more than the nearly $250 billion Americans donated to charity in 2004.

But as a Philanthropy Journal special report found, lackluster support by charities and corporations limits volunteers’ effectiveness.

Charities invest a lot of time and money to find, cultivate and manage relationships with donors.

But too many fail to invest in finding, training, managing, coordinating and retaining volunteers.

Corporations invest in developing and improving their products and services.

But too few integrate volunteerism into their business strategy, failing to recognize that good corporate citizenship can boost their standing with employees, customers and investors.

Facing growing pressure to be more accountable and productive, charities and corporations are wasting one of their most valuable assets.

Maybe volunteers get such little respect because they work for free.

But more than a birthday card, service pin or annual luncheon, they need the same care and attention that charities devote to donors, and that corporations spend on products and services.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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