October 19, 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 http://nptimes.com for more information.

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, EnergizeInc.com






ABC’s of Volunteer Retention

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Recruiting and retaining volunteers is an on going challenge for most non-profit organizations.  Once THE place to volunteer, hospitals have seen an overall decline in the number of individuals who choose to volunteer their time in  auxiliaries and volunteer departments.  So when you do find those precious volunteers, keeping them should become a number one priority!

After careful thought and a little bit of research, it is my opinion that successful volunteer retention can be enhanced with a few simple steps.

A. Make your organization attractive. Shar McBee, in To Lead is To Serve, says that when you are feeling positive about your work (and your organization) it attracts others to participate.  On the other hand, when you feel overwhelmed or burdened, no one volunteers to join in.  A great exercise to rekindle a feeling of spirit at your next meeting is to have members break into pairs, and ask the following questions:

  • What did you love about your volunteer work in the beginning?
  • What was important about this work?
  • What is challenging about it now?
  • What is fun about it?

Take the feedback from this exercise and put it in your newsletters and promotional materials, post quotes and pictures of these folks on your bulletin board and website, and share it with the staff and friends of your hospital.  And then, watch as the energy of your organization goes up!

B. Create a great, big welcome mat! Individuals who “join”  volunteer organizations want to be able to network and build quality relationships that fulfill both their personal and professional needs. Cynthia D’Amour’s, How to Turn Generation Me into Active Members of Your Association, has some great tips on helping your new members make a successful entry:

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