Nonprofit leaders need to become savvier about what they are asking funders to fund, according to new research.

The research[1]Activating the power of Strategic Volunteer Engagement for a  Better World found a gap between what funders and nonprofit leaders thought about volunteer engagement. While nonprofit leaders cite recruiting sufficient volunteers and finding skilled volunteers as two main challenges, funders believe the biggest challenge to strategic volunteer engagement is financial resources.

Strategic volunteer engagement

We argue that volunteer-involving organisations need to get more strategic about volunteer management and how that is funded. We know that while volunteers give their time and skills freely, managing volunteers takes resources and planning.

As the recent Australian National Strategy for Volunteering 2023-33 states (p63):

“Proper investment in volunteer management has the potential to profoundly transform volunteering in Australia. This investment must be both internal — from within volunteer involving organisations — and external — through funding, grants, and other mechanisms. Volunteer Managers are exceptionally passionate and talented professionals and elevating this critical role and function is long overdue.”

Funders investment

We believe this is also an important mindset change for funders – the perspective of another research document, The Funders’ Guide to investing in Volunteer Engagement[2].  This paper notes that investing in volunteer management will make a greater impact of grant-making dollars. It will strengthen the ability of the volunteer-involving organisation to deliver on its goals.

What can be done to bring these two perspectives from community organisations and funders closer together?

We advocate for the community and voluntary sector to practice strategic volunteer engagement. That includes:

  • Supported and resourced volunteer managers
  • Nonprofit Managers and Boards that value volunteering as a key strategic asset
  • Investment in training e.g. Volunteer Best Practice Guidelines
  • Strengthen ways to assess and report the impact of volunteer service
  • Budget lines that detail volunteer management investment
  • Funding requests and conversations that prioritise volunteer engagement

Find out more about Strategic Volunteer Engagement and watch webinars on this topic here.

[1] Activating the power of Strategic Volunteer Engagement for a  Better World (Initiative for Strategic Volunteer Engagement, May 2023)

 [2] The Funders’ Guide to investing in Volunteer Engagement (The Leighty Foundation, 2017)