When you hear the word “volunteer,” what do you immediately think of? Event organizers in neon shirts or running around with clipboards? Folks in aprons and hairnets ladling soup? People sitting at desks, stuffing envelopes and making cheerful-sounding phone calls?
If any of these images sprang to your mind– among many, MANY more– you’d be right. But what many people don’t realize is that, due to the fact that an organization’s volunteer needs are as versatile and various as the volunteers themselves, volunteers are both the answer AND the question that nonprofits should be asking themselves.
This often translates to staff asking themselves, “How can we make this event run more smoothly/tutor more kids/provide food assistance for all the folks in transitional housing this month?” (Answer: Volunteers.)
However, the staff owes it to their volunteer workers to be asking themselves this question, too: “What makes our organization worth volunteering for?”
The fact of the matter is, people are busy, and there are lots of nonprofits. We get it. Most of us were volunteers once, or continue to volunteer for various causes, and it can be a challenge. Between family responsibilities, passions or hobbies, and your own work, it’s hard to squeeze in time to help someone out, free of charge, for any amount of time.
So…why do it?
The answer I hear from volunteers, again and again, is that they want to make a positive difference in our families’ lives. So, in order to make sure that happens, it’s on us– the staff of the organization — to make sure that happens.
That way, those neon-clad volunteers bustling about with clipboards and lists can know that because of them, we were able to provide information about our programs to people in need, and help under-resourced folks in the community find housing and education programs that fit their family’s (small) budget.
Those soup-ladlers can rest assured knowing that due to their efforts, low-income families were able to receive dinner they otherwise would not have had…or that they at least provided a healthy alternative to a fast-food diet that is affordable, but ultimately really tough on your body.
And those admin “office” volunteers — the ones editing, printing, copying, sorting things, mailing stuff– the ones nobody sees? Their efforts help us bridge partnerships, let our donors know how much we appreciate them, and ultimately help secure the foundation of our programs so that we can continue to secure the resources we need to keep serving these families.
What do we need? Volunteers to make our programs run.
What do volunteers need? Opportunities and reasons to get involved.
What do our programs need? Both.
Thank you to our volunteers for keeping us on our toes AND keeping us afloat. For holding us accountable to our programs’ effectiveness, and for being the ones who ultimately make the programs effective! We couldn’t do it otherwise.
Are you a volunteer, or would you like to become one? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below, or email our Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah, at email@example.com, with any comments or questions.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to come to our free Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast this Thursday at 9:30 AM at 601 Four Mile Road, Alexandria, VA, 22305! RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.