Nonprofits should value volunteers

By Todd Cohen

Nonprofits are wasting a great chance to strengthen themselves.

While adult volunteering grew by nearly a third between 1989 and 2005, less than a third of adult Americans volunteer, says a new study by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The study underscores the volunteer opportunities nonprofits are missing.

Older teens have more then doubled their volunteer time since 1989, Baby Boomers at mid-life are volunteering at much higher rates than did previous generations, and volunteering among Americans age 65 and older is up nearly two-thirds since 1974.

Those groups represent a rich and diverse supply of time, know-how and connections that nonprofits can tap as they struggle to do more with less to address increasingly urgent social needs.

Volunteers also represent a solid base on which nonprofits can build effective fundraising programs needed to sustain themselves.

But nonprofits must be strategic in identifying and recruiting prospective volunteers, and then engaging and developing them for the long-term.

Instead of giving them menial tasks, and sending them a birthday card and annual service pin, nonprofits need to treat volunteers as the valuable donors they are.

That requires knowing them, and matching their interests to organizational needs.

Valuing volunteers is critical.

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

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