June 23, 2024

What I’ve learned about volunteer leaders during the pandemic

Some volunteer leaders have lost their jobs.  Many are being furloughed or reassigned while their facilities are closed to the public and volunteers.  Others are working for organizations whose operations have been revamped to meet the needs of those affected by the virus.  Some are working from home, others are on the frontlines.  And, still others are seeing an influx of volunteers eager to make a difference and experience a sense of normalcy.  


The virus has upended life as we knew it.  And, from my perspective, the trend seems to be that there isn’t any one trend.  We’re living in what William Bridges calls the neutral zone.  We’re caught between an “ending” when the virus began and a “beginning,” the timing of which is uncertain.  It’s a time of confusion, anxiety and frustration for many.  And, ironically a time of great creativity as well. 


For the past six months, I’ve been looking at our changing landscape.  Searching online, attending webinars, reading blogs, following thought-leaders.  I’m sure there’s more going on behind the scenes, but here’s my short list.  Volunteer leaders are 


  • Engaging in online learning and weekly discussions
  • Mentoring, supporting and encouraging their peers and colleagues
  • Sharing resources, developing guides, creating new policies
  • Identifying new opportunities and supporting virtual and remote volunteers 
  • Learning how to utilize new communication tools and technologies, and  
  • Creating strategies to stay in touch with their volunteers and community partners.


Volunteer leaders are adapting.  They’re flexible and creative.  They’re partnering with their organizations and volunteers to find solutions to the myriad of problems created by this health crisis.  


I believe that when we are finally able to move about safely again, we’ll see many new volunteers and business partners who want to help solve the problems created during the pandemic.  And, based on what I’ve observed to date, I know that these leaders will be ready to meet that challenge.


Resource:  Pandemic Sparking New Wave of Volunteerism  https://www.thenonprofittimes.com/hr/pandemic-sparking-new-wave-of-volunteerism/

Tax Incentives For Volunteering?

Tax Incentives For Volunteering?
Peter Funt, second generation Candid Camera host, has turned his attention to more serious topics lately. In the past several years, Funt has written op-ed pieces, some of which have been picked up by The Boston Globe.

One of his recent articles, arguing in favor of tax breaks for Americans who volunteer their time, was picked up by the media in late December 2010. Funt is certainly not the first to bring this concept to the table, but his idea is receiving press throughout the country. Newspapers in at least twelve states carried the column, and a Google search shows that it has also been posted on several blogs.

In his article, Funt argues that unpaid volunteers in the U.S. should receive a federal tax credit that “would help Americans at all income levels pay a bit less, while also providing some benefit to the unemployed.” Following are his main talking points:

  • Volunteers should be allowed to claim $5.69 per hour donated. (This figure is based on 25 percent of the average hourly rate for all American civilian employees.)
  • Credits could be rolled over for up to five years.
  • Organizations participating must be qualified non-profits.
  • The cost to federal government for a volunteer tax credit using his proposal is estimated at $1 billion per year.

Funt acknowledges that his idea would create more paperwork for non-profits, but points out that documentation for monetary donations is already being generated. He also believes this proposal would alleviate some of the imbalance between paid workers and volunteers working side by side at the same agency. Giving a nod to possible abuses, Funt states, “But whom should the IRS worry about more: the billionaire who bends the rules when claiming a five-digit deduction, or the… (volunteer) who adds 15 minutes to his time sheet?”
[Read more…]

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.


Are The All-Volunteer Groups Taking Over?

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

Twenty years ago there was something of a mystique about raising funds for a nonprofit organization. Getting 501 (c) (3) status from the IRS was a difficult matter. The process was long and confusing. There were few sources of information about the process available and most of those were complicated and confusing. Even if an organization obtained 501 (c) (3) status, therefore making it possible for donors to make tax-deductible donations, most fledging nonprofits did not have someone on staff who was fully versed in any but the most rudimentary fundraising techniques.

Quite often “fundraising” was synonymous with the annual campaign letter. Only those in the “big leagues” of nonprofit operations seemed to be involved with such sophisticated techniques as “planning giving” or extensive grant writing.

According to the IRS there are twice as many 501 (c) (3)s today as there were 20 years ago. No doubt many of the small nonprofit groups (those making less than $25,000 a year) are all-volunteer groups. Even some with larger incomes (who, therefore, must file returns with the IRS) operate only with volunteers. And guess what? Some of these groups are doing a fantastic job of fundraising! They are writing successful grant applications and raising large sums of money for their nonprofit endeavors. Just nine miles away from the offices of The 501 (c) (3) Monthly Letter, an all-volunteer group was recently awarded a $65,000 grant to use in the restoration of an historic ferry house near Lewis, Iowa, population 600. Even closer to home, in Atlantic, Iowa, (7,000 population) volunteers are conducting a campaign to raise $7 million for a town recreation center . . . and it looks as though they will be successful. This is happening all over the country.

There is a new breed of volunteer out there toiling in the trenches . . . dedicated, educated, and resourceful. They have passion for their mission and are willing to use the information age to achieve their objectives.

As many as 90 percent of the e-mail inquiries to the editor at mmiller@nishna.net are from neophytes wanting to know how to set up a nonprofit organization.

So, how long will it take for the number of 501 (c) (3)s to double again? We are willing to venture that it will be closer to five years than twenty.

Do these emerging groups pose any competition for donor dollars? You can bet they do! So, remember that the mystique of fundraising is gone. Others are willing to take the time to learn how to be successful fundraisers. They do this on their own time, at no pay, and they love doing it.

So, beware, professional fundraisers. In order to do a better job of attracting donors than the “amateurs”, the professionals among us must keep honing their skills. Just as importantly, they need to keep their mission vital.

Look back at the founding days of your own nonprofit organization. Did it begin with a small group of dedicated volunteers? Were these same people able to engender enough support so that the organization could eventually have paid staff? Do you, perhaps, owe your job to the efforts of such people?

While you are at it, take a look at the volunteers that presently serve your organization. If they come “to work” with more eagerness and dedication than your paid staff, it may be time to start “tuning up” your internal communications for your own “most important audience”.

Excerpted from 501 (c) (3) Monthly Letter and written by Marilyn Miller.

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