September 20, 2021

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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Volunteers Are a Wealth of Fundraising Ideas

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

Do you have so much to do for your capital campaign, with so little time? Think about including your most zealous volunteers in your fundraising program, according to Michael J. David-Wilson, executive director for the Middlesex County College Foundation in Edison, N.J. Why not use your best supporters to cultivate other organization members?

David-Wilson presented his ideas in a session at the 46th annual Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) international fundraising conference in New Orleans. Here’s how to turn your volunteers into development participants:

  • Volunteer participation. Volunteers can be a great addition to your fundraising team. Just make sure if they are asking others for gifts, they make one of their own.
  • Major gift donations. Try to tackle big gifts early. Use your own board’s participation as examples of campaign giving.
  • Volunteer training. Ensure that your volunteer solicitors are properly trained before they ask for gifts. Team your professional fundraisers with volunteers for some role-playing in donation asks.
  • Give information. Compile important donor information for your fundraising team. Set up a gift amount to ask for and what that gift amount would do for the campaign.
  • Set up success. Everyone needs a boost of confidence. Arrange some telephone solicitations for your volunteers with donors most likely to give. That will put your volunteers on the right foot for in-person asks.
  • Provide backup. Volunteers don’t normally ask donors for gifts – so they may lose their confidence at the meeting. Couple volunteers with a professional development staff member who can move in if the volunteer gets too nervous.
  • Celebrate successes. Make volunteer solicitors excited about their hard work. Think about building some friendly competition among volunteers by tracking donor visits or the amount raised.

This Tip of the Week is reprinted with permission from The Nonprofit Times Weekly. Go to for more information.

It’s Tax Season For Nonprofits Too

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

Just because your organization is a nonprofit does not mean that it can sit back and ignore the tax filing season. In particular, it’s very important for small nonprofits to understand that while they may not have had to file anything with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the past, they now may have a new form to file, called the e-Postcard (or Form 990-N).The Pension Protection Act requires small organizations that normally have $25,000 or less in gross receipts to file an annual electronic notice with the IRS. This means that many small organizations — like local sewing leagues, sporting clubs and food pantries — may need to file the e-Postcard to protect their tax-exempt status. There are, however, some exceptions to this filing requirement. For example, an organization that is part of a group return or is a church, its auxiliary or an association of a church is not required to file the e-Postcard.

The first e-Postcard filings were due in 2008. For many organizations that missed this deadline, there are only two years left to start complying with the new rule. It is critical to note that organizations that do not file for three consecutive years will automatically lose their tax-exempt status. If you work with a nonprofit organization — especially a small one that never had to file with the IRS before — check with your leadership team to see if they are aware of this new form. And help spread the word about the e-Postcard to other small nonprofits in your town.

How to File
The e-Postcard can only be filled out and filed online, but you do not need any special software to do so. You just need access to a computer and the Internet. Visit and click on “Annual Electronic Filing Requirement for Small Exempt Organizations” to learn more about the e-Postcard and to access the form.

It requires a few pieces of identifying information about your organization and should only take a few minutes to fill out. But it is important to take the time to do so in order to protect your organization’s tax-exempt status.

Know Your Deadline
Unlike personal income taxes, the e-Postcard does not have a universal deadline. Instead, it depends on the closing date of each organization’s tax year, so your deadline may be different from another nonprofit in your town.

The rule is that the e-Postcard is due by the 15th day of the fifth month after the close of the organization’s tax year. For example, if your tax year closes on Dec. 31, the form is due by the following May 15.

More Information

For the latest information for tax-exempt organizations, sign up for the EO Update, a regular e-newsletter delivered directly to your inbox, at To get more information about maintaining tax-exempt status, go to the IRS Web-based training program,

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tracking the Value of Volunteer Contributions

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

I was cautioned early in my career, never to say that volunteers save money.  Unless you are prepared to deduct all program expenses, it’s best to look at volunteers as enhancing services to clients and community and building organizational capacity.

Tracking volunteer hours is important to funders, good data for annual reports, and important when recognizing volunteer contributions.

The Independent Sector tracks the value of volunteer hours. The most recent figure is $19.51, which includes a 12 percent estimate for fringe benefit costs. This figure does not adequately account for  individuals who provide specialized skills like attorneys.

By 2010, almost 64 million boomers are poised to retire. They represent a highly educated work force. As they begin knocking on nonprofit doors and offering more specialized skills, it is in your organization’s best interest to find a simple way to track the value of these hours.

One way is way is to utilize volunteer management software.  My favorite is Volgistics. You determine the value of the job based on what the local market will bear, plug in the figure and the software does the rest. Volunteers enter hours through your website portal and they are downloaded into your database.

The Points of Light Foundation has created a free tool, a  which makes it possible to estimate the appropriate wage rate for volunteer time based on the volunteer’s position.

The calculator is simple to use! You just need to search for the job description and enter the number of hours given by the volunteer. Repeat this process until all volunteer hours have been entered. The system will automatically calculate the total for each job category and for the total across all volunteer jobs.

Calculating the value of volunteer hours is just one step in measuring your volunteer program’s effectiveness.

For more information about tracking volunteer hours and determining their value, check out the following articles:

Tracking Volunteer Time to Boost Your Bottom Line,” by Dennis Walsh, CPA.  

“Pro Bono Work Pegged At $120/hour,”  The Nonprofit Times, March 30, 2009

Articles and reports on this topic,






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