Anyway, while we can be proud of the work of the nonprofit sector providing direct supports and advocating for policy change to correct income imbalances, we also must acknowledge our own sector’s contribution to the income gap.
How many of our own workers are we paying poverty wages?
How many of our own workers lack health care coverage?
How many of our own workers will lack pensions when they retire?
- Are volunteers a finite or infinitely renewable natural resource?
- Does each nonprofit have an obligation to our whole sector to create satisfying experiences that regenerate volunteers?
- Are poor volunteer practices not only driving people away from the offending organization but also souring volunteers against any volunteer service in the future?
These are some of the questions provoked by an intriguing article in the article “It Ain’t Natural: Toward a New (Natural) Resource Conceptualization for Volunteer Management” in the August 2009 edition of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly .
While the title screams academia, the ideas raised by the authors Jeffrey L. Brudney of Cleveland State University and Lucas C. P. M. Meijs of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, deserve serious discussion and wide exposure within our sector.
Citing a a study done by the Corporation for National and Community Service, Brudney and Meijs warn that “a staggering one in three Americans evidently dropped out of volunteering between 2005 and 2006.” They note that other studies document similar problems in other countries.
The authors suggest that nonprofits in general are too preoccupied with recruiting volunteers and don’t pay enough attention to retaining them.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone lament (and maybe even have said it yourself): “we can’t find enough good volunteers.”
What if, the authors suggest, instead of treating “volunteer energy” as a resource with an inexhaustible supply, we perceived volunteers as a resource that could actually run out?
How would our behavior need to change?
I find this concept incredibly intriguing, especially because it fits very nicely into my”we’re all in this together” framework of civil society.
Imagine that you are a first time volunteer. You’ve been thinking about doing something good for your community so you’ve found your way to a volunteer job through family, friend or volunteer center. You’re excited, but a little unsure of your role and how you might contribute.
It’s likely that it may take quite a while before you hear from the organization at all. Or, they contact you quickly but they don’t really have any volunteer needs right now. No one takes the time to find out what skills you have or what else you might have to offer.
Or maybe they have a job, but in reality it is pretty undefined. You are assigned to a staff member (or another volunteer) who simply doesn’t have the time to train you and makes you feel as if you are in their way. You never really get a good idea of what you should be doing or how to Read more