People who volunteer give 10 times more than other Americans. This 2009 study (found here) may be getting old, but our thinking still hasn’t caught up.
If volunteers give 10 times more, why don’t we see more not-for-profits completely reorganizing their fundraising and programming around this idea? Why are so many of us treating donors and volunteers as though they are two different species?
My guess? Two things:
Small thinking - We’re thinking too small…too limiting…about what volunteers could and should do in our organizations. Too often, we limit our volunteers to folding letters, sorting clothing, and serving meals. We think we’re protecting them from the messy, gritty, or ugly details of our work.
Big egos - Let’s be honest. We think we are better at working in our cause than our supporters would be. We encourage supporters to outsource to us their commitment to the cause. Leave it to the professionals…You give me money, I do good work, everyone feels good.
But it doesn’t work. If we don’t let our supporters get their hands dirty, we lose our right to complain that they “just don’t get it.” Of course they don’t. We haven’t let them. We’ve got to equip them to advocate for the cause in their spheres of influence and that requires more engagement than reading the quarterly newsletter about all of the good work we're doing.
And, if that isn’t convincing enough, do we need to say it again? Volunteers give 10 times more.
Do you have any experiences of volunteers engaging and surpassing your expectations?