The broad definition of volunteering is offering to do work for no compensation, but people tend to do work for organizations that have some personal meaning for them that gives them fulfillment. But the importance of volunteerism is not just for that reason. Volunteers are greatly needed, and in fact, many organizations depend on them.
To Spread the Word
Nonprofit organizations, especially newer or smaller ones, rely of volunteers to get the word out about them. It's basically like the telephone chains of old. One person tells 10 of her closest friends. These 10 each tell another 10, and so on. When more people know about an organization, these people can be asked to:
- Donate or raise money
- Help recruit media attention
- Find ways for the organization to fulfill its mission
- Assist with social networking
If organizations had to pay all the people who assisted them in this capacity, the cost would be astronomical and the majority of those projects would be bankrupt. Without volunteers to spread the word, charities would not find donors.
To Staff Events
Millions of nonprofits have special events each year. This includes animal shelters, environmental organizations, foundations for medical research, schools, libraries and even "friends of" groups for parks and historical sites. The events can include:
- Black tie dinners
- Charity walks and runs
- Public art projects
- Large-scale food and supply collections
- Concerts and music festivals
All of these events require dozens, or even hundreds, of volunteers to make them run smoothly. This includes volunteers on the days of the events and in the months leading up to them. Without the volunteers, less money would go from their fundraising efforts directly to the charities goals. Instead, more money would be paid in budget costs to staff the events.
To Take Care of Everyday Needs
Organizations also need volunteers for less public needs. For example, every office needs someone to answer the phone, file papers, type and keep things organized. These duties often fall upon volunteers. Other volunteer duties that are recurring vary by organization, but common needs are for:
- Food servers and preparers
- Tutors for youth and adults
- Writers and editors for newsletters, fliers and letters
- Technical support people
- Drivers for pickups and deliveries
One of the key measures of a charity's performance is what percent of the money raised actually goes to support the needs of the charity. If there weren't volunteers on staff, more of the money collected by a charity would be to pay its staff rather than support the charity's efforts.
Lead by Example
One great way to promote volunteerism to others is just to lead by example. Volunteering seems to be contagious.