Skills-Based Volunteerism

Do you have a current understanding of what it means to recruit and manage volunteers for your nonprofit organization or institution? Are you looking for warm bodies who will do what you tell them to do when you tell them to do it? If your answer is “yes,” you just might be out of step with the times and losing out on valuable resources that can help your organization grow.

Sometimes we do things based on how we have done them in the past. We may not even know why we do things the way we do, but if they appear to be working, we usually don’t question the situation. We focus instead on things that are “more important.” We rely on the axiom “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” But what if things are broken and we don’t know it? Sometimes we blame others for our problems, when it turns out – upon examination – that we are the problem. This may just be the case with engaging volunteers in the life of a nonprofit organization.

When working with our clients we recommend engaging volunteers for the purpose of meeting specific goals. Often, we are met with responses such as “we really don’t have time for that;” or “we’ve tried working with volunteers, but it just doesn’t work;” or “we really need to get this done: we don’t have time to recruit volunteers.” We understand. But if you are not prepared to invest time in preparing to work with volunteers you won’t gain the benefits. And you will be missing out on a lot as volunteers are at the heart of nonprofit organizations and the larger social sector.

Knowing how to meaningfully engage volunteers can transform your organization or institution. But it takes time. It’s a process that includes assessing the current status of your organization, how your leadership operates, and how you engage volunteers. That being said, there is a robust tool to help you. It is called Capacity Commons, a project of Common Impact. Capacity Commons focuses on “skills based volunteerism” and has tools to help you assess your readiness to engage skills based volunteers, as well as how to define a project and recruit volunteers.

Here’s what Capacity Commons has to say: “Skills-based volunteerism aligns individuals’ service activities with the tasks or issues they are most qualified to address, thereby exponentially increasing the value of volunteers’ time and potential impact.” This is where individuals volunteer their skills to help a nonprofit – or other social sector organization – reach a defined goal. This can include projects as complicated as implementing a new human resources policy, to strategic planning, to technology implementation. You don’t have to figure everything out on your own: they provide an extensive, invaluable, interactive guide.

We encourage you to restructure how you think about the work of your social sector organization. It’s time we all update our thinking and our actions and embrace skills-based volunteerism. It will help our organizations and the volunteers we depend on.

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Copyright 2023 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2023! Video and phone conferencing services are always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727.

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