This is the fourth year that Tobi Johnson and Associates, LLC is conducting the Volunteer Management Progress Report. Over the past three years, she’s identified some really interesting trends that can help the field of volunteer management identify opportunities and challenges as it grows.
Recruitment is our top concern and retention is becoming more of a challenge.
When asked about the biggest challenges in our profession, recruitment consistently tops the list.
While there was a decline in volunteering rates a few years ago, volunteering in the United States is more popular than ever. So why are struggling to recruit and engage volunteers? Are we actually designing the impact-driven opportunities that volunteers want? Could we do a better job of incorporating flexibility into our opportunities so more people can volunteer?
Does volunteer management have a diversity problem?
The field of volunteer management is overwhelmingly dominated by older, white women. In 2017, 88% of the survey respondents were women, 90% were white and 47% were ages 45-64. In 2018, 91% of participants were women, 91% were white, and 48% were between the ages of 45-64.
Does the lack of diversity influence who volunteers?
Traditionally the people who volunteer reflect those who manage and engage volunteers — predominantly older, white women. If you fit into those buckets, as I do, you may never have had a volunteering experience where the other paid and volunteer staff don’t look like you. What does that feel like? And would you come back and volunteer again?
Implicit bias has been a big topic in the news recently; from Starbucks to Silicon Valley companies are asking themselves, “Is saying ‘everyone is welcome’ really enough?” As leaders of volunteer engagement and those responsible for guiding and influencing the culture of volunteer engagement in our organizations, what can we do to create real inclusion and diversity in our volunteer corps?
Perhaps we can reach out to community-based organizations and faith-based organizations to create partnerships to ensure more diverse volunteers are not only welcomed but have a place in our organization. We can hire, mentor and support more diverse leaders of volunteer engagement. And we can ask ourselves are we doing enough to create a culture of inclusion within our volunteer engagement strategy or are we just saying “everyone’s welcome” and wondering why we don’t have more diverse volunteers?
There’s a feeling that there isn’t enough respect and buy-in for the work of managing, engaging and leading volunteers.
Before Tobi started the Volunteer Management Progress Report, thought leaders in the space talked quite a bit about the lack of buy-in from leadership. For the first two years, the survey only asked about agency leadership support.
In 2017, however, many of the write-in responses commented on support from co-workers. When the 2018 survey included a question about this, the results were illuminating.
While 20% of organization leaders were Exceptionally Good at supporting the work of engaging volunteers, the same could only be said of 14% of co-workers. It’s clear that it’s important to communicate up in our organizations about the value of volunteers and the work they do, but we can’t overlook the need to build buy-in from our organizational peers as well. Ask yourself, are you doing enough to encourage your co-workers to participate in engaging and managing volunteers?
What do we do with all of this information, and what’s next?
The Volunteer Management Progress Report is very valuable for me as well as for other trainers in the space. It helps me identify the most important topics and learning outcomes for VolunteerMatch’s trainings and the trends that might be influencing the work of engaging and leading volunteers now and in the future.
The Progress Report is valuable for individuals too! You can see how your priorities and challenges align with others. And if you’re advocating for more responsibility, a title change or a raise, you can get a sense of the range of titles and salaries for other leaders of volunteer engagement.