Volunteerism critical in tough times

Karen Morgan and Vickie Crenshaw

The gift of donating one’s resources to a charity, whether time or money, is a rewarding experience during the best of times.

But donations during a time of unsettled economic issues is a true testament of a volunteer’s dedication.

And financial downturns really hit nonprofits like two-edge swords: Companies may feel it is necessary to reduce their financial assistance at the same time that employees of those companies are finding it difficult to continue their own volunteer efforts with many of the same nonprofits.

This difficulty may be because tough economic times hit hardest with some of the most influential volunteers out there – those individuals wearing both corporate-business-leader and nonprofit-board-member hats concurrently.

It may seem to the individual that the business stresses far outweigh the needs of the nonprofit during these times.

But the very sad outcome of this saga may mean charities must severely limit services or, in some extreme cases, even close their doors.

How dismal the picture becomes when charities must turn away those individuals who came through their doors in the first place only because they had no place else to go for help.

This scenario need not read like a terminal illness, however.

We know our economy will recover, and what we do with our volunteers as the corporate world makes strides toward recovery is critical.

It is during this challenging time that nonprofits need to be sure their volunteers know they are valued for their time, their skills and their resources.

More than during smooth economic times, these very talented individuals must not be pigeonholed into standard volunteer positions.

Instead, this is the time to ask the volunteer to tell the nonprofit what they can do to help based on their unique set of business skills.

It is always advantageous to match the tasks to what a volunteer derives satisfaction from, but never is it more important than during times of economic downturns.

So as corporate America navigates uncharted waters toward recovery, the challenges for nonprofits need to be charted as opportunities.

Keep that most valuable resource of all nonprofits – volunteers – at the forefront of your thoughts and turn those thoughts into actions that will keep your doors open, and your services at their level best, all with the help of dedicated volunteers.

Uncertain economic times are bothersome to corporate America, and particularly so for the many men and women whose livelihood depends on corporate success.

Karen Morgan is volunteer coordinator and Vickie Crenshaw is a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House of Durham in Durham, N.C.

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