ENT 630: Week 8 – Helping Move More Americans To Volunteer

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Steven Schussler writes in It’s a Jungle in There, “When you invest your time, energy, or money in serving others, you will gain great dividends in your own life.” (Schussler) Those dividends are available for the entrepreneur at his/her company if they are willing to make volunteering part of the company’s vision and put the people and resources behind it.  Many entrepreneurs and companies are willing to do both because they are well aware of the benefits to their community, their employees, and the company.

If you have ever been a volunteer, then you are aware of the benefits of volunteering on a personal level.  Volunteering creates friendships, lowers stress, gives our life a sense of purpose, takes us out of our comfort zones, prevents isolation, teaches new skills, and helps manage chronic illness. (Rosenthal) If that is true then why then do only 25% of all Americans volunteer. (Baldwin) As much as we talk about, read about and watch on television all the good that can come from volunteering, one would have thought that number would be higher.  So, why are not more of us volunteering? Because…….

  • Americans work a lot.
  • They have many family and extended family responsibilities.
  • Students are busy at school and many also work.
  • They do not know where or how to start the process.
  • They are concerned they must give money not just time.
  • Lack of knowledge about all the opportunities available.

There are many companies that will come in and help a business set up a volunteer program for employees, which could be a good idea.  Or it could be the cart before the horse if you agree with Greg Baldwin, President of Volunteer Match Service.   In an article, he wrote in 2015 after a five-year study of the good and bad of volunteering, he and his collaborators, Reimagining Service, came up with four principles that need to be taken seriously if the other 75% of Americans are ever going to step up and volunteer. (Baldwin)

Principle 1 : “The volunteer ecosystem is more effective when all sectors participate in its evolution.” Nonprofits cannot bear all the responsibilities for volunteer engagement.  If these systems (nonprofit, private, faith based, education and government) which are interdependent work together then the increased volunteerism will have more impact.   (Baldwin)

Principle 2: “Make volunteering a core strategic function, not an add on.” The social mission of an organization can be advanced by the effective use of volunteers.  They can serve more people in the community and change the economics of the organization. (Baldwin)

Principle 3: “Focus volunteer engagement on true community needs.” Identify the key issues in the community and find the volunteers with those skills to tackle those issues.  Work to measure the impact of the volunteers and not just the hours recorded. (Baldwin)

Principle 4 : “In order to get a return, you have to invest.” Community value is increased three to six times more than the cost to manage them within the organization.  It requires initial and ongoing financial investment in volunteer engagement throughout all sectors. (Baldwin)

Baldwin believes that volunteer engagement at a high level requires leadership, planning and resources.  Reimaging Service’s four principles says that volunteering will not increase until organizations have the vision, leadership, and resources to engage volunteers effectively. (Baldwin)  Is your company willing to implement a strategy to move more Americans to volunteer?

Resources:

Schussler, Steven Its A Jungle In There. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2010.

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/volun.pdf

Baldwin, Greg. “The Real Reason 75% of Americans Don’t Volunteer.” Linkedin. N.p., 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 3 Dec. 2016. <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/real-reason-75-americans-dont-volunteer-greg-baldwin?trk=prof-post>.

Rosenthal, Robert. “Service Rx: The Health Benefits of Volunteering | Engaging Volunteers.” Engaging Volunteers. N.p., 19 Apr. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2016. <http://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2010/04/16/service-rx-the-health-benefits-of-volunteering/>.

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