To tap the wide variety of skills offered by today’s older adult volunteers, organizations must think in new and different ways about how they structure their volunteer programs. Creating a program for highly skilled volunteers requires buy-in throughout the organization, from the leaders who provide funding and support to the staff who integrate their work with the volunteers’.

These ideas can help you reach out—and communicate the value of volunteering.

What to Communicate

  • The Numbers: Show how much volunteers contribute to the organization:
    • Money that volunteers save the program, the organization’s clients and the community.
    • In-kind resources and donations that volunteers generate.
    • The annual value of volunteer time:
      • Return on Investment (ROI) = (Volunteer Value – Program Cost) divided by Program Cost. Find the hourly value of volunteer time in your state.
      • The average ROI achieved by volunteers is 8 to 1. (SMART)
      • Organizations using self-directed teams of volunteers achieve the highest ROI (SMART)
      • Organizations with the highest ROI have volunteers in roles such as senior executive, volunteer coordinator, project leader/manager, accounting/finance professional and marketing professional.
  • Benefits for Nonprofits: Volunteers can do the following:
    • Add a compassionate, human touch to service.
    • Expand the organization’s reach into new communities.
    • Be highly credible messengers for the organization.
    • Help achieve grant-required outcomes.
  • Benefits for Charitable Foundations:
    • Volunteerism increases a nonprofit’s capacity to serve and address community needs.
    • Volunteers are 10 times more likely to donate to charities than are non-volunteers.
    • Robust volunteer programs demonstrate active community support.
  • Myth-Busters:
    • Volunteers will not take staff jobs or criticize staff. They can free staff to do more strategic planning.
    • Training and managing volunteers doesn’t take more time than it’s worth; there’s a big payout down the road.
    • Volunteers won’t agency hop. While they want assignments with flexibility and variety, they will commit to an organization.

How to Communicate It

Numbers and benefits provide backup data to justify a program, but leaders will determine their support of a program based on their emotions. Stories can help influence those emotions. Sway leaders with the 6 Principles of Persuasion and elements of a winning story, as well as sample messaging.

Who Can Communicate It

The best internal champions are the ones who most benefit from volunteers’ work and can best convince others of what the program has to offer. A volunteer with strong influence within the organization also may be a good candidate to advocate for the program. To keep the program fresh in leaders’ minds, champions can offer to provide regular updates.

Resources

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