Whither Volunteer Involvement in Our Nonprofits?
In their informative and thought-provoking new podcast, two seasoned nonprofit leaders – Mick Fleming, President of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and Susan Robertson, President of the ASAE Foundation – discuss volunteer involvement in nonprofit organizations – describing the trends they’ve observed and assessing the implications for their associations and the wider nonprofit community. Although both Mick and Susan believe that volunteerism is vibrantly alive and well in the nonprofit sector, they note that a new, somewhat challenging breed of what you might call “high-impact” volunteers is emerging. Not joiners by nature for whom merely belonging is enough, these high-impact volunteers tend to be pretty demanding about the volunteer experience. Above all else, valuing their volunteer time highly, they expect to be actively engaged in doing meaningful work that’s clearly tied to the values, vision and mission of the organizations they serve. And they’re insistent that their volunteer effort make a significant difference in organizational affairs.
One reason Mick and Susan welcome the arrival of these demanding volunteers on the nonprofit scene is what they see as a growing need – in today’s rapidly changing and ever more challenging and competitive world – for high-level, conceptual input into the process of fashioning long-range growth targets and strategies. They point out that while there will always be a need for volunteers to be engaged in traditional nuts and bolts “doing” (such as planning the annual gala), especially in small, leanly staffed nonprofits, higher-impact volunteering is the preeminent need these days. Higher level volunteer involvement does, however, come at a price, albeit well worth the cost: meticulous design, management, and coordination of volunteer effort. Significant impact isn’t achieved by accident!
Mick and Susan are happy to report that all is fundamentally well on the governance front in their associations, which haven’t had a problem finding qualified and committed volunteers to fill board seats. However, building a diverse-enough board membership at any given time to grapple with the strategic issues – both opportunities and threats – on the horizon is a never-ending challenge.
You’re invited to comment on Mick’s and Susan’s look at the changing nature of nonprofit volunteerism, sharing your experience and questions.