According to Forbes, the top five brands in 2022 were Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Samsung. The list has no big surprises since each company provides a quality product or service that most of us use daily. Operating any one of these organizations requires a massive amount of labor to meet the demands of their customers. One estimate shows that Apple alone has approximately 164,000 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) on the payroll. And as much as many people love and obsess over Apple products, it’s unlikely that many would work there for free. It’s a for-profit organization that brings in roughly $390 billion in revenue annually; it can afford to pay its employees.
But non-profit organizations are different; they exist for something more than launching new products or services to make more money; their purpose is to accomplish benevolent, altruistic missions such as providing basic provisions to the under resourced, like food, shelter, and clothing. And because of this, people donate their money, sacrifice their time, and use their skills and talents to partner with non-profit organizations to make a difference. That’s a considerable advantage non-profits have over for-profit organizations when used correctly.
More than Free Labor
When non-profits view volunteers simply as free labor, they miss out on the volunteer’s value to the organization. There are so many essential ways to include volunteers to accomplish the non-profit’s mission and the “things” that need to get done, like, letters stuffed, potential donors called, groceries sorted and bagged, clothes organized, etc. But what happens when someone has a unique skill? Has the non-profit developed ways to leverage that talent? Our church recently had a sermon on the exponential power of using the resources of time, talent, and treasure. The section of the message on talent struck a chord with several people ready to volunteer at the church. One person wanted to know if the church could use their help in the office. Since that’s a fairly wide-open area, we took the time to ask more questions. It turns out this person is a former Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Even though this volunteer would have stuffed envelopes, answered phones, made copies, or any other typical office task, digging deeper allowed the church to fully utilize this skill to its fullest – bringing value to the volunteer and the organization.
Invest in the Volunteer
When people are passionate about the organization’s mission, they want to be a part of it, and they will give freely of their time and skill. Here are a few thoughts to consider as your non-profit embraces utilizing volunteers as more than free labor.
- Discover their Skills: Volunteers come with many different skills like carpentry, landscaping, electrical, plumbing, office, administration, leadership, and technical abilities. Instead of filling voids with anyone that steps forward, non-profits must develop an intake process to discover the talents of those giving their time. Imagine the loss if an organization put a CPA on the team that oversees tech issues because they refused to discover their abilities. A quick way to start this process is by asking them about their skills, passions, and desires.
- Invest in their Training: Remember your first day on the job? It’s intimidating, confusing, and stressful. Treat volunteers with the same care as paid employees. Have an onboarding process that covers everything from where to park, what to wear, the expectation on hours, and logistics like where to eat and the location of the bathrooms. Then provide comprehensive training for the task they are to perform. For example, please don’t give a volunteer a list of names and phone numbers and ask them to call everyone on the list asking for donations. Show them how to use the phone, provide a script, and how to handle questions and rejection.
- Avoid Micromanaging: After training is complete and the volunteer is up and performing the tasks, avoid the temptation to micromanage their every move. Checking in periodically to ensure they have everything they need to accomplish their job is one thing; listening in on every call or watching them input data is another. Remember, they volunteered to do this because they are passionate about the organization; allow them to soar.
- Demonstrate Appreciation: How your organization does it is less important than the act of doing it. Write a note, give a gift card, bring in coffee, or take everyone to lunch. Do whatever fits the culture and budget of the organization, but remember to do it.
Whatever the mission of your non-profit, volunteers are likely a big part of the strategy to fulfill the mission. Volunteers fill critical roles within the organization but are much more than free labor. They bring skills, ideas, personality, and passion, allowing the non-profit to thrive. Invest in the volunteers as they invest in the organization.short url: