The new Not-for-Profit Pulse Report on Volunteering, just released by the Association Resource Center (ARC), based on a survey of 74 Canadian not-for-profit organizations, looks at “the changes non-profits are seeing in the way people volunteer their time and what, if anything, they are doing to adapt”:
- Are people volunteering more or less than they were five years ago?
- How has volunteerism in Canada been impacted by the recent economic downturn?
- People are busier than ever before. Further to this, technology and social media is rapidly changing the way we work, play and communicate: What is the impact of this evolution on volunteerism in the not-for-profit community?
- Just how dependent are today’s nonprofits on volunteers?
- What types of roles do they play?
A tough couple of years for non-profit organizations haven’t led to a drop in volunteerism, it seems. In fact, volunteer-staff ratios are generally stable, and most participants in the survey were optimistic that the ratio will hold steady or grow in the next five years.
Training for Volunteers
Somewhat surprisingly, the majority of organizations responding to the survey “don’t offer much in the way of formal or value-added training or education to their volunteers” – even though providing such “value-added” training can be an extremely effective (and often cost-effective) way of appealing to volunteers, retaining them, and increasing their quality of service.
In fact, one fifth (21%) don’t offer any form of training at all. ...Less than half (44%) offer ‘formal’ volunteer training, which typically includes skill-specific training (32%), leadership training (20%) and professional certification (9%). Informal training is more common with 58% offering informal ‘on-the-job’ type training and 51% offering basic education to their volunteers about their organization or cause.
Not-for-profit groups continue to rely on the ‘tried-and-true’ methods of attracting volunteers – leveraging existing networks and stakeholders, as well as targeting the private sector – although social media and the Internet are growing in popularity as a means of attracting volunteers. As ARC senior consultant Carol-Anne Moutinho points out, however:
[W]hile non-profits seem to recognize the potential of social media and the internet to attract volunteers, they haven’t yet seen a significant ‘return’ on the time, money and energy they have invested...at least, not yet.
Virtual volunteering, project-based volunteer opportunities, micro volunteering, and other new, more flexible models are “becoming more popular as non-profits struggle to align with peoples’ hectic schedules”; and again, survey participants expect that this trend will continue.
That said, micro and virtual volunteering are still not widely perceived by participants to be the most effective method of volunteerism – as appears to be the case with social media and volunteerism, it seems as if people are still working out how to leverage this new technology effectively in this arena.
Free Access to the Highlight Report
You can download the 4-page hightlights report from the Association Resource Center, without charge, and (this week only) you’ll also get free access to ARC’s two earlier Not-for-Profit Pulse reports on Social Media and the Generation Shift.
The Association Resource Centre is a Canadian-based consulting firm that provides research, strategic planning and governance services to the not-for-profit sector. For more information and resources for non-profits and associations, visit www.associationconsultants.com or the ARC blog at www.resources4associations.com.