In 2018, nearly a third of Americans volunteered a total of 6.9 billion hours – the equivalent of $167 billion in economic value.
Our passion for service is one reason why America has one of the highest per capita volunteer rates in the world. But it's time we think about not just how much we volunteer, but how we volunteer.
For many, volunteering means an afternoon ladling soup, handing out blankets, or picking up trash in a neighborhood park. This work is important; many missions and homeless shelters across the nation rely on this kind of generosity to keep their doors open. But the reality is that most organizations often don’t need more of it. In fact, many have a waiting list for these opportunities.
We have Fortune 500 CEO’s, top-notch accountants, world-class marketers, talented artists, exceptional mentors, and so many other skilled individuals on waiting lists to serve food or clean-up after a meal.
Can you imagine if we leveraged the unique skills of each of those 77 million Americans – their 6.7 billion hours – to help others improve their lives?
What most non-profits don’t have are skilled volunteers – people willing to donate their time to crunch numbers, write donor letters, develop a marketing strategy or craft engaging social media posts. Some of the most effective nonprofits are run and staffed by people who have a direct connection or experience with the problem they are trying to solve. The personal passion that fuels their work is what drives their initial success. But oftentimes, these leaders lack the background in business, marketing or other areas needed to grow and scale an organization.
Olivier Ballou, a graphic designer and a father of two young children, found it difficult to make time for traditional volunteering. He also had the nagging feeling he wouldn’t actually be providing much help in the limited time he could commit.
Then, while working on a design project for Stand Together Foundation, he came across its Needs and Offers Marketplace. Within minutes, he was able to identify an already-vetted organization that interested him – the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project, which focuses, among other things, on services for youth aging out of the foster care system or who may be experiencing homelessness.
“By applying my design skills – which I’ve been honing for years – I felt like I was providing real value for the time spent.”
As summer sets in, think about seeking out organizations whose mission overlaps with your personal passions and your professional skills – and get in touch.
There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in America. Most, if not all, would welcome volunteers willing to share their relevant skills. Are you an artist with a passion for mental health advocacy? Connect with an organization that does art therapy for individuals working through trauma. Are you a wizard financial planner and a sports junkie? Look for a nonprofit that supports at-risk youth through sports and ask what you can do to help them maximize their assets. Or maybe you’re a communications expert who has been moved by an article about human trafficking. Find out if there’s a safe home for recovering victims near you and let them know you’d love to help raise awareness about their work.
The rise of remote work also means that you may be able to partner with organizations across the country – from the comfort of your living room or favorite coffee shop.
Your skills could be worth a lot more than your donations, especially if it means not having to hire out expensive work. Nonprofit employees can accumulate new skills by working alongside professionals. Skills-based volunteering has also grown in popularity among businesses, which are making volunteering part of their corporate culture.
There’s a lot to be proud of about our country – and our culture of volunteerism is no exception. In the coming months and beyond, let’s strive to think outside the box when it comes to donating our time and talents. This will not only help strengthen and sustain our nation’s nonprofits, but it will also allow you to pursue your passions with a deeper sense of purpose.
Leverage your knowledge and skills to make a bigger impact.Current Volunteer Opportunities