April 25, 2018

GuideStar Survey: Hard Times for Charitable Organizations

Hard Times for Charitable Organizations - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 018

Last November, when we reported on the results of our annual nonprofit economic survey, we warned, “Fasten Your Seatbelts: It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Giving Season.” As 2008 ended and 2009 began, we saw a deluge of news reports about the economy’s impact, including its effect on nonprofits. Given the severity of the downturn and the number of stories about organizations adversely affected by it, we decided to do a follow-up nonprofit economic survey.

We invited Newsletter subscribers associated with 501(c)(3) public charities and private foundations to participate in the survey. Readers representing 2,979 organizations took the survey on-line between March 2 and March 16, 2009. Here’s what they told us.

Bumpy Giving Season and New Year, Indeed

We asked, “Did total contributions to your organization increase, decrease, or stay about the same between October 2008 and February 2009, compared to the same period a year earlier?” Some 52 percent of organizations reported a decrease. That figure was significantly higher than the 35 percent who reported lower contributions for January-September 2008, which was nearly double the 19 percent who reported a decline for January-September 2007

Change in Contributions

Period Covered by Survey Contributions Decreased Contributions Stayed about the Same Contributions Increased Don’t Know
October 2008-February 2009 52% 27% 20% 1%
January-September 2008 35% 25% 38% 2%
January-September 2007 19% 25% 52% 4%

Some 31 percent of organizations stated that contributions had dropped “modestly,” and 21 percent said that they had fallen “greatly.” An equal number-71 percent-of organizations for which contributions had dropped cited “Gifts from individuals were smaller” and “Fewer individuals gave” as causes of the decrease.

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Add Tech Volunteers to Your Team

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard
It’s almost impossible to effectively recruit and manage volunteers today without fully engaging technology.  Successful volunteer   managers increasingly…

• Use volunteer management software to streamline their operations
• Maximize their organization’s website by posting volunteer applications, newsletters, position descriptions, photos,  videos, and more
• Utilize social networking sites
• Post and update volunteer positions on online recruitment sites
• Take advantage of free online software and tools like wikis and Google docs
• Blog and Twitter
• Employ multiple methods to communicate with volunteers including text messaging, Skype, and list-serves.

If you don’t have the staff or skills to manage this brave new world, you can improve your chances of success by adding tech volunteers to your team.  And, these individuals don’t  have to live in your community to be helpful!

Before you go in search of help, be sure to download TechSoup’s free manual,  Working with Technical Volunteers: A Manual for NPOs. This recently updated guide includes the latest tech specs to use during volunteer interviews. The manual also includes comprehensive worksheets, sample applications, volunteer contracts, and questionnaires.
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How The Recession Is Affecting US Volunteering

Hard Times for Charitable Organizations - Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 018
Unemployed people are spending large amounts of their time volunteering. Recent evidence of this includes:

  • NYC Service had 30% more visitors in February 2009 than in February 2008.
  • The Philadelphia Chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters had a 25% increase in inquires about mentoring from February 2008.
  • The Taproot Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that places skilled professionals in volunteer positions, had more people sign up on one day earlier this year than in an entire month a year ago.

Benefits of volunteering:

  • Volunteering gives people something to do while job hunting that allows them to feel good about themselves.
  • Volunteering is a way to stay active and stay in touch.
  • Volunteering fills a gap in one’s job history and answers the questions, “What have you been doing?”
  • Volunteering can lead to new job opportunities.
  • Hard economic times give people a renewed sense of compassion and a better understanding of how others are struggling.
  • Volunteering relieves stress from constantly thinking about economic matters.
  • Because of the current economic climate, teens have become more aware of the needs of others and are volunteering.

The impact of increased number of volunteers on nonprofit organizations

  • Smaller organizations without volunteer coordinators are struggling to absorb the influx of volunteers many of whom are highly skilled.
  • Funding cuts can make nonprofits less able to take advantage of volunteer support.

Courtesy of Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

Adapted from:

“From Ranks of Jobless, a Flood of Volunteers,” by Julie Bosman, in the New York Times, March 16, 2009

“Some US jobless find hope and solace as volunteers” by Andrew Stern in RUETERS, February 24, 2009.

Related links:

“How Will the Economic Crisis Affect Volunteering”   by Susan Ellis, energizeinc.com, November 2008.

“Turning Down Volunteers”  by MBA Publishing, volunteertoday.com, May 2009.

 

Older Adult Volunteers Bring New Expertise and New Life to Nonprofits

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 104

(ARA) -When Margaret Ross retired from a career in nursing, she had no idea that her new life as a volunteer would lead her right back into healthcare. Neither did Mike Chesnut, whose work building retail partnerships looks a lot like his volunteer service for a group of Denver nonprofits that are fighting homelessness. The same is true for retiree Berlin Hall. Since leaving his accounting executive career, Hall’s desire to help at-risk families led him to volunteer to manage the books for a family services agency.

As they move into roles in service and volunteering, older adults like these are discovering that what they know is just as important as how much time they can give. Their help couldn’t have come at a better time. With demand for nonprofit services skyrocketing, fundraising and revenues are way down. Some experts predict as many as 100,000 nonprofit organizations could run out of money for their programs completely.

The recession has spurred more interest in volunteering among older adults, particularly among boomers, says Jill Friedman Fixler, a nonprofit consultant and co-author of “Boomer Volunteer Engagement.”

“This is a group with abundant skills and profound circles of influence and they believe they can have an impact in their community right now,” she says.

That was the idea for Chesnut. After leaving his job as a retail sales executive with Procter & Gamble, Chesnut, 64, spent several years as a counselor for small business owners. When he moved to Denver a few years ago, he decided to focus on helping nonprofits. As he explored his options, Chesnut was struck by Denver’s homeless problem. Millions of dollars were being spent pulling families out of shelters, but programs that were trying to keep families out of them to begin with were underfunded. After organizing a coalition of local nonprofits, Chesnut began a research project that eventually led to a successful $600,000 grant.

“Coming from the corporate world and working with large retailers, you learn to look for common interest,” he says. “What I did was put numbers to the problem.”

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Shifting Course: Why You Should Be Preparing For The New Volunteer

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

If you did a survey of hospital volunteer programs, you would discover the majority of them were formed in the early-to-mid 1950’s. These programs were organized by GI Generation women, many of whom had worked and volunteered to support the war. Once their soldiers returned, the women returned home too, raising children and putting their time, organizing skills, and energy into volunteering and raising funds for civic organizations…and community hospitals.

Many in the GI Generation were shaped by two world wars and a great depression, and so were their workplace values. These are the values that have defined hospital volunteer programs for more than 50 years–serving on a regular-ongoing basis, performing repetitive, lower skilled, highly defined roles. An annual banquet and a pin for their service hours were standard and desirable forms of recognition. A pink pinafore was a source of pride. Now the youngest members of the GI Generation are 85 years of age.

What is your healthcare institution doing to create new systems and new opportunities for the next volunteer generation?

Your volunteer pool is dwindling and you are not alone.  But looking to younger volunteers to work in “old” systems won’t succeed. This next generation says they prefer short-term commitments.  They want meaningful work and opportunities to use their professional skills. They want autonomy, self-direction and lots of choice when volunteering.  They are time-poor and you are competing for their recreational time and time with friends and loved ones. What they want in exchange is a valuable experience-reflective of their ideals, their skills, and their values!

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