The broad definition of volunteering is offering to do work for no compensation, but people tend to volunteer for organizations that have some personal meaning to them that gives them fulfillment. However, volunteerism is crucial to the success of many different organizations and charities. Volunteers are necessary, and in fact, many organizations depend on them.
To Spread the Word
Nonprofit organizations, especially newer or smaller ones, rely on 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. In 2016, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), about 63 million Americans volunteered $193 billion of time. Without millions of volunteers spreading the word, charities would not find donors and would not be able to afford to stay open.
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 historic 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. In 2016, CNCS reports the estimated value of volunteer time was $24.14. Without the volunteers, less money would go from their fundraising efforts directly to the charity's 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 recurring volunteer duties vary by organization, but common examples include:
- Food servers and preparers
- Tutors for youth and adults
- Writers and editors for newsletters, flyers and letters
- Technical support people
- Drivers for pickups and deliveries
One of the key measures of a charity's performance is the 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. During the period of September 2014 to September 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes volunteers spent a median of 52 hours on volunteer activities. With an average value of $24.14 per hour, this means that organizations are getting about $1255 worth of time each year from just one volunteer. For organizations that rely on volunteerism, this can add up quickly.
Lead by Example
One great way to promote volunteerism to others is just to lead by example. Whether it's for church, an animal shelter or another group, volunteering seems to be contagious and provides benefits not just to organizations, but also to the volunteers.