07 Dec

Making Volunteering Work

I have heard it theorized that there are fewer volunteers today because of the sharp increase in dual-income households.

This doesn’t take into account the increase in numbers of retired people available and choosing generativity, a term from psychologist Erik Erickson. Generativity is worrying about the next generation and what kind of world they will inherit. Thus, this group is looking to engage in meaningful ways to make the world better.  It also doesn’t consider the bump in volunteers in certain geographic areas as a result of the current recession.

Nonetheless, dual-income households and demanding careers have changed the volunteer landscape. Nonprofits can adapt successfully to this reality by:

1. Using technology to allow remote access to meetings and events.

2. Delineating tasks and asking people to be involved with task forces, programs or events with shorter durations  instead of sitting on boards or on-going committees with longer terms.

3. Utilizing volunteer’s expertise and, in some cases, helping them incorporate their volunteer efforts and professional lives (e.g. a lawyer who does legal work for a charity that counts towards her pro bono hours or the freelance web designer who in return for designing the nonprofit’s website receives advertising ).

4. Alternating times and dates of meetings to allow for various work schedules.

5. Providing child care or family activities if holding meetings or events during “family time”.

Smart non-profits make volunteering work with their volunteers lives and schedules.

If your nonprofit is meeting volunteers where they are and on their schedules, please tell me about it. You can comment below or email me at

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